Gardening: Be careful what you read

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News
This knitted bug perches on a red yarn-covered tree, one of several trees wrapped and adorned with creatures of all sorts in a park in Birmingham in 2012.

When it comes to gardening, you can’t always believe what you read or see in social media or in print.

Last week an ad from a local garden center suggested in their fall to-do list adding lime to the soil to enrich it. Lime will increase the pH of soil and should not be used unless a soil test is done and the addition and the proper amount is recommended. Adding lime to soil around plants that dislike high alkaline conditions can do more harm than good. A half-inch layer of good quality compost is a much better and safer choice.  

In a YouTube video, a popular presenter opened a container of herbicide and peeled back the inner seal with her bare hands. I consider Nitrile disposable gloves a must when working with any chemical used on the lawn or garden – no exceptions.   

Leafing through the current issue of Women’s World while waiting in the grocery store checkout, I came across a notice that Oct. 19 is "I Love Yarn Day." Mandy Moore, co-author of "Yarn Bombing," (Arsenal Pulp Press) a how-to book about making graffiti art with knitting and crocheting, suggests the trees in your backyard  are wonderful targets.

I’ve seen displays of this sort of crafting, and they can be true works of art.  However, leaving tree trunks and branches wrapped with yarn or other materials for any longer than a month can be injurious to a tree. When the yarn gets wet, it attracts insects and disease. In the winter, it can cause bark to split.

Wrapping a dead branch attached to a tree speeds up rotting and it can become a dangerous falling limb in heavy winds.  So, if you’re thinking about creating a yarn bomb on a tree, leave it in place for a short period of time.  A fence or an old metal chair might make a safer canvas.

Exciting container gardening program at the DIA

If learning how to create stunning container gardens is on your bucket  list, make plans to attend the Annual Betsy Campbell Lecture at the Detroit Institute of Arts at 2 p.m  Oct. 19. This year, the Friends of Art and Flowers welcomes Paul Zammit , director of the Toronto Botanical Gardens, who will share his passion and talent for creating drama for every season. This dynamic speaker has enthralled audiences across Canada, the U.S. and Europe.   The good news is this program is free and general admission to the DIA is also free to residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties. 

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at