Fake News From the Garden: 5 Plant Myths Debunked
By Brian Barth
Did you know that you can tell the sex of a bell pepper by how many bumps it has on its bottom?
Actually, you can't. But lately, plenty of Internet memes on Pinterest and elsewhere suggest that you can. The problem with this claim is that bell peppers are not male or female. Botanically, it's a meaningless statement. The flowers of some plants can be classified as male or female, but peppers are not one of those plants—their flowers have both male and female parts.
There are actually quite a few garden myths floating around out there. Let's deflate a few.
You might have seen this meme floating around the Internet. It's not true.
Droopy Plants Just Need Some Water
This is certainly logical, and it's often true. But several other things can cause wilting, including disease and insects or rodents gnawing on the stem. Better to stick your finger in the soil first to make sure it's actually dry before inundating a droopy plant with water. If disease is making the leaves wilt, excessive water will only make it worse.
When Planting a Tree, the Bigger the Hole the Better
Tree planting instructions often say to dig the planting hole twice as wide and deep as the root-ball. This is hogwash, and can actually shorten the life of the tree. If you loosen the soil under the root ball, the tree will slowly sink as the soil settles, causing the base of the trunk to be below grade — a sure-fire way to end up with fungal diseases. Make sure the rootball is on firm soil when you plant. You can dig a wide hole if you want, but this, too, is unnecessary.
Pine Needles Acidify the Soil
A number of popular garden plants, including blueberries, rhododendron, azalea, and gardenia, grow poorly unless the pH of the soil is fairly acidic (they like a pH in the 4.5-5.5 range). Some parts of the country have naturally acidic soil, especially in high rainfall areas like the Deep South. Perhaps because there are so many pine trees in the Deep South, the notion that easily available pine needles can be mixed into the soil to lower the pH took root. But it's baseless.
Bloom Booster Fertilizers Make More Flowers
On the garden center shelf, you'll find many fertilizers, both organic and synthetic, claiming to promote bigger and more bountiful blooms. These products are invariably high in phosphorus, which does have an indirect relationship to flowering but is just one of many things that a plant needs to flower profusely. Furthermore, phosphorus-deficient soils are rare, and adding more phosphorus to soils that already have plenty has no impact on your plant's flowers. Excess phosphorus is a pollutant, however, and if your plants aren't absorbing it from the soil it will likely end up in the nearest waterway.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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