Gardening is a fun activity that can make your home more aesthetically pleasing and can provide you with produce. Make sure that what you do in your garden is safe, necessary, and productive because there are a lot of gardening myths out there and not all of them are true.
Pine needles and soil acidity
It is a common concern that pine needles add acidity to the soil and it needs to be amended after removing the tree to plant new grass. It is also the factor that is blamed for poor grass or other plant growth around a pine tree.
It is true that needles from pine trees are somewhat acidic when they first drop from the tree. However, as the needles break down they neutralize and begin to decompose almost immediately after falling from the tree. Leaving needles around trees as they fall makes a great natural mulch for the tree and won’t change the soil composition.
As for the concern of an acidic pH reducing growth of turf and other plants nearby, the problem really is due to shade and competition. As evergreens grow they become increasingly shady. They will cause full sun plants to die in such shady growing conditions. Also, pine trees have a lot of shallow roots that compete for water and nutrients and this can also cause problems and sometimes death of plants growing too close.
Epsom salt in the garden
Epsom salt is regarded by many as the fertilizer to use in the garden for the best tomatoes. I have even heard that it is used for disease and insect control. Epsom salt is simply magnesium sulfate, which would have no effect on disease or insect problems in the garden.
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As for a fertilizer, it is looked at for a source of magnesium in the garden. It is important to remember to always do a soil test prior to using soil amendments, even organic matter can get too high in the garden and cause problems with growth. Magnesium is found in sufficient quantities in most Nebraska soils and it is readily available to plants. Some soil types will bind more tightly with some nutrients, making it difficult to get that nutrient into the plant. However, magnesium typically binds to the soil in highly acidic soils. East coast states have acidic soils and therefore in those states, some literature does discuss using Epsom salt as a method of applying a magnesium fertilizer to the soils for better plant growth, but in Nebraska that is simply not true. If you are unsure, do a soil test, most that I look at have sufficient or even high amounts of magnesium in the soil and if you do need magnesium, it is best to just apply a general fertilizer to your plants that was designed as a plant fertilizer.
Trees don’t need to be pruned annually or even on a regular basis. Only prune to correct damage from storms, line of sight, remove disease or insect damage, and if necessary increase clearance for mowing. Pruning wounds the the tree, even when done correctly. Most arborists would agree to avoid pruning if at all possible.
It is also a common misconception that pruning wounds need to be painted or covered with some type of material to help protect the wound. It is best to just make a good pruning cut and then leave the wound alone. The tree can naturally seal up the wound on its own, if paint or other materials are used it can inhibit the natural processes. If the pruning cut is done correctly, it will seal up well.
Where to go to find correct information
Nebraska Extension is an outreach sector from the University of Nebraska. We provide research-based information to help people manage their gardens and landscapes in practices that have been researched and tested for best results. In today’s world, there are a lot of sources for information on the internet, but they may not all be the best practices. Land-grant universities will provide the most correct information that is unbiased. If searching online try adding the word extension to your search or look for .edu sources of information. Or just call your local Extension Office for assistance.