Congratulations to Diana Kirby, whose name was chosen at random from the pool of 51 entries to win a copy of The Truth About Organic Gardening by Jeff Gillman. Below you will find the questions and the “correct” answers.
To tell you the truth, I didn’t expect anyone to get all the answers right. For one thing, it’s the nature of a true/false test to change things from shades of gray to black and white, and if you’re focusing on a particular shade of gray, and it looks closer to black to you than it did to the test writer, well, you’re not going to pick the answer that the test writer intended to be the correct one.
For another thing, this quiz was written by the marketing department at Timber Press, based on Jeff Gillman’s book, The Truth About Organic Gardening. So it is Timber Press’s interpretation of Jeff Gillman’s interpretation of “the facts.” You may disagree with Jeff’s conclusions or you may disagree with Timber Press’s understanding of Jeff’s conclusions. Either way, you’ll answer the question differently. And there were a few questions that almost everyone answered differently.
And if English is not your native language, or you don’t garden on the North American continent, you are further handicapped for taking this particular quiz, and are especially to be applauded for being a good sport.
Yes, I thank you all for being good sports. If this quiz made you think, and perhaps alerted you to gaps in your knowledge, that’s great. That’s all it was intended to do. So here are the answers. My own comments are in italics.
Surprising facts from The Truth About Organic Gardening
1) True or false? Beer traps are an effective way to control slugs.
A: True. If the traps are placed into the ground with the lip of the container level with the surrounding soil, slugs will be attracted to the aroma of the beer, fall into the trap, and drown. A lot of “ifs” here; the trap is effective only if properly constructed.
2) True or false? Manure is always a desirable soil amendment.
A: False. While composted manure is a wonderful addition to the soil, fresh manure shouldn’t be used because it can release ammonia, which can badly injure plants. Fresh animal manure can also contain human pathogens. For example, E. coli can live in uncomposted manure for up to 21 months!
3) True or false? Garlic not only repels vampires, it will also repel whiteflies, aphids, and many beetles.
A: True. Sprays made from garlic extract and water will repel a large variety of insect pests, as long as the spray reaches every part of the plant you want to protect.
4) True or false? Corn gluten meal can suppress weeds when applied to the soil.
A: True. As long as you give it enough time to work (usually a couple of years) and reapply it each year, corn gluten meal is a safe and effective pre-emergent herbicide.
5) True or false? Any kind of mulch is good for the soil and for plants.
A: False. Some kinds of mulch, such as wood chips, can rob the soil of nitrogen, and are not always effective at suppressing weeds. If used incorrectly, mulches can damage plant stems through heat build up, and can harbor insects and diseases. On the whole, Jeff was in favor of mulches, but he did point out potential problems.
6) True or false? Japanese beetle traps are an effective way to control insect pests in the garden.
A: False. In most cases, these traps attract more beetles than they trap.
7) True or false? Praying mantises are useful for controlling insect pests in the garden.
A: False. Mantises do not eat enough to effectively control harmful insects. This is one that almost everyone got wrong. Jeff says, “Yes, it’s a predator and will certainly attack some of your pest insects. The problem is that the mantis is too big and these insects don’t tend to congregate together in large numbers, reducing their efficacy. The praying mantis is a big insect, so it can attack larger insects than those that many of the other beneficials will take on. This insect doesn’t eat enough per mantis to be a particularly effective predator for the gardener’s purposes.”
8.) True or false? Natural fertilizers such as bone meal, blood meal, seaweed extracts, and fish emulsions are a safe source of nutrients.
A: True. Natural fertilizers are a great source of nutrients and rarely need to be reapplied more than once a year because of their slow release.
9) True or false? Kaolin clay can prevent attacks from a number of insect pests.
A: True. If applied frequently, kaolin is both a safe and effective way to reduce populations of insect pests, particularly those that damage fruit trees. This is also one of the ingredients in the anti-diarrhea remedy Kao-pectate.
10) True or false? Rotenone, because it is organically derived, is a safe pesticide.
A: False. This compound is dangerous to beneficial insects and aquatic life, and is more toxic to humans than most other pesticides, organic or synthetic.
11) True or false? Compost tea and manure tea are great ways to provide nutrients and control diseases.
A: False. Although these teas may provide a small amount of nutrients, they have thepotential to spread nasty bacteria and their long-term benefits have yet to be proven. This was the other question almost everyone got wrong, and the one most open to debate. Read Jeff Lowenfel’s book Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web for a pro-compost tea viewpoint.
12) True or false? Choosing disease-resistant plant varieties is one of the most effective ways of ensuring a healthy garden.
A: True. Plants that have been bred to be disease resistant usually suffer far fewer losses to bacteria and fungi.
13) True or false? Beneficial nematodes (tiny roundworms) can dramatically lessen Japanese beetle infestations.
A: True. If soil conditions are warm and moist,these worms can kill up to 80% of Japanese beetle larvae in the area to which they are applied.
14) True or false? Insecticidal soaps are completely benign.
A: False. Although soaps are generally considered safe for humans, they can kill beneficial soft-bodied insects and damage certain plants if improperly used.
15) True or false? Vitamin D3 can be effective in controlling rodent populations.
A: True. Although it should be used with caution, vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) can kill rodents by causing elevated calcium levels in their blood. (That “3” should be a subscript.)
Thanks to Timber Press for providing this quiz.