Gardening is full of received wisdom that is treated as gospel and handed down across the generations – from putting a layer of crocks at the bottom of pots for drainage, to the back-breaking work of Victorian “double-digging” to improve soil structure. But when tested scientifically much of this old-school advice turns out not to be supported by evidence. In fact, in the above two examples, they are actually likely to give you worse results than if you simply hadn’t bothered at all. Even scientists aren’t immune to repeating received wisdom, or potentially extrapolating more from the data than it actually shows, particularly if the claim supports our existing views. However, the wonderful thing about science, unlike gardening dogma, is that it is forever changing as new evidence comes to light. In fact, as a botanist, I think the freedom to change one’s mind, to hold your hands up to getting it wrong, is science’s greatest strength – particularly in 2020. So I am starting, in my own small way, right here.

 

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