Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

20150316 This is actually one of the best bits of gardening advice anyone will ever give you, and it couldn’t be simpler to apply. Whenever everything is going well, simply don’t change your habits.

In the gardening world, there is always someone to suggest a new technique, perhaps something he saw on the Internet or that a neighbor told him. Unless the technique actually solves a problem you have, lightens your workload or it saves you money – and even if it seems highly logical! – if you’re already getting great results, why risk the change?! I get a lot of gardening questions, most about legitimate gardening problems, but quite a few simply from people who are concerned that their method might be wrong, since a neighbor or friend does something else. In such a case, I always ask if they are satisfied with their results, and if they say yes, that I suggest sticking to it.

I hear some pretty crazy stuff – from applying birth control pills to African violets for better bloom to cleaning plant leaves with mayonnaise – but it may only seem crazy to me. It’s a bit like how a placebo can effect human health: when you take a pill that you are convinced might help you, it may just do so, even if it’s only a sugar pill.

With plants, my theory is that when you believe something works, you may inadvertently give that plant better attention and care and thus get better results, even though it wasn’t really because of your technique. I suspect that repeatedly pregnant lady feeding birth control pills to her African violet was simply giving it really good care.

So, I repeat: when your garden is doing well, just leave well enough alone.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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