Pinterest Puh-lease! Pinterest tips you'll want to ignore

Isn't Pinterest just the best? So many ideas! So many pretty pictures! So many great tips!

Except, um, when the tips aren't really tips at all.

There are some hilarious blogs that feature Pinterest tips gone wrong and sometimes it's because people just don't have the crafting/cooking skill of the person who originally created the tip/recipe/craft to begin with. But then there are some that are just plain wrong.

Unfortunately I'm finding more and more of these in the gardening realm. It's gotten to the point where I am pretty cynical about most of the "tips" I find there unless they link back to a really reputable source.

So I thought it might be fun to bust a few Pinterest Gardening myths. I'm not going to take credit for this idea. Spring Meadow Nursery's Stacey Hirvela, who I follow on Pinterest, started a board for gardening tips gone wrong and it got thinking about what other myths might be a load of bunk.

Pinterest says: Plant egg shells with your tomatoes to give them a calcium boost.

The Truth: Don't bother. First of all, most soil is not deficient in calcium to begin with. Secondly, it takes years for the calcium in egg shells to break down and by then your tomato plants will be long gone, since like most vegetables, they are annuals. I don't think throwing some egg shells in the hole with your tomato plants will hurt as it's sort of a method of composting, but why not throw them in the compost bin to break down there?


Pinterest says: Use Epsom salt for everything from greening up your lawn to growing great tomatoes to having oustanding tomatoes.

The Truth: I think the Epsom salt lobby has an active PR department. Seriously, I don't understand how epsom salt became the thing for the garden. (Upon further review there actually is an Epsom Salt Industry Council, so I guess that's how.)

Espom salt is magnesium and sulfate. Epsom salt will only do anything for your plants if your soil is lacking in magnesium (and most soil isn't). The only way to know is to do a soil test, and the best way to do that is to contact your local university extension, most of which do soil testing for a very small fee. But let's be honest, most gardeners don't do soil tests. Magnesium deficiency does happen and Epsom salt can help fix it, but that is in intensively produced crops, not what is happening in your home garden.

The problem with all the Epsom salt misinformation is not just that it's not going to help your plants. It can hurt them too. Spraying Epsom salt on foliage can cause leaf scorch. And magnesium build-up in soil (which can happen despite what Pinterest and the Epsom salt industry says) has shown to cause root rot in some plants, according to Linda Chalker-Scott, a Washington state horticulturist who wrote a paper on using Epsom salts in gardening.

According to the paper, "One researcher (finds that) 'Magnesium residues from fertilizer unused by plants accumulate in the topsoil and are not rapidly removed by leaching.' Unfortunately, this evidence is generally ignored in advertising literature and application instructions.'

The use of Epsom salt in growing roses is often touted as helping everything from basal cane growth to lush foliage, but again, there are no studies that show this to be true.

And if you want to use Epsom salt on your lawn, as Pinterest will also tell you to do, if you have an intensively managed lawn, like a golf course or a pasture where cows are constantly munching, you might see an immediate improvement by applying Espsom salt. That's because those types of grasses are likely to be deficient in magnesium. The effect, however, will be short lived. Your normal, average back yard lawn, though, probably has no magnesium issues and all you'll accomplish by putting Epsom salt on it is looking a bit silly in front of the neighbors.

Basically, it comes down to this: Epsom salt will only help if your soil is deficient in magnesium. That's pretty rare, but if it is, it might be because you're overdoing it on the fertilizer. A lot of specialized fertilizers, like tomato fertilizer, are high in potassium, and potassium affects a plant's ability to take up magnesium. Nutrient imbalances in the soil are not a good thing.

Use Epsom salt to soak your feet, not your garden.

Pinterest says: Put a diaper in your hanging baskets to help them retain moisture.

The truth: Um, gross! Is it just me or is this a really disgusting tip? I can just imagine pulling that thing out the container at the end of the season. Ick. OK, but let's get onto why this is not just gross, but also an all around bad idea.

Pots do dry out and hanging containers are particularly prone to it. One way to limit how quickly they dry out is to be aware of what kind of container you use. Wire containers lined with coconut husk mats are beautiful (and my favorite for hanging baskets) but they dry out really quickly. Using a plastic container can help a lot and if your hanging basket is going to drape down and completely cover the container, you'll never see the difference.

You can also add hydrogel crystals, which help hold water in the soil that plants can draw from. Yes, there is something similar in diapers, but the difference is that when they are trapped in a diaper, the plants can't draw moisture from them.

Remember drainage is good and if you stick a diaper in there, you will be creating a big plastic dam. Basically nothing is going to drain out of the bottom of that pot. And then the plants' roots will rot and then you will have a dead container planting. And one very soggy diaper.

What do you think? Have you found pins that you know are just plain wrong on Pinterest? Is it starting to bug you as much as it bugs me?


  1. THANK YOU! I don't understand what makes people think that just because something looks like it could/would/should work means that it is actually a good idea worth sharing with others. There is a difference between theory and practice here, people!

    And the diaper thing - ugh. Seriously - who would rather pull a soggy, muddy diaper out of their planters instead of just watering enough in the first place?!?

  2. Great post, Erin. I mist say that when I see these on Pinterest it makes me cringe. Last year I wrote a post on home made seed starting containers that people saw on Pinterest and put them to the test. Egg shells as seed starters are super cute but just not practical for most veggies as they are just too small.

  3. I really really hope that none of my projects ever pop up as a Pinterest DONT. Although my baseball cookies are probably dangerously close.

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  5. Love it, Erin! So many people use Pinterest wrong - me included probably. It's always about the "perfect" and not the reality. Your tip debunking is spot on.

    Guess I wasted my time throwing those egg shells in the tomato holes last year. Oh well, I'll go back to my original use for them which is to put them around my hostas to discourage slugs - that seems to work.

  6. Thank you! I saw that diaper tip on Pinterest and was immediately grossed out as well.

  7. I completely agree with the diaper pins-- they gross me out! Although I'm a believer in using epsom salt to reduce tomato blight. My grandpa passed the "trick" down to my dad who passed it down to me, and now I do the same. I've never had blight problems, so it may be the epsom salt trick (or it may also just be good soil, rotation, dumb luck, etc.). Who knows.

  8. the diaper/nappy idea isnt gross, you'd bust open a fresh one- theyre full of water retaining crystals!

  9. I love, love, LOVE this post! I too have gone astray using a Pinterest tip that didn't work! Thanks for sharing these...I had no idea!!!

  10. This is why I stayed away from web recipes for a long time. But I decided I am a good enough good to tell the good from the bad before I make them. I pretty much stick to public garden and university web sites for garden info unless I follow a gardener and know they know their stuff. This was a fun read and a good laugh on another rainy day.

  11. Love this post Erin! Yes, that diaper "tip" had me grossed out when I first saw it. The trouble with using the cocoa husk liners in hanging planters is the birds and squirrels! They pick off most of it for their nests! What about green "moss" in sheets? Have you tried that? I know Terrain has a huge roll of it (for a hefty price too) but I might try.

    1. I never even thought about the birds (and squirrels) ransacking the coco husk liners for nests! Those buggers! Definitely try the moss sheets. That's actually my favorite "look" for liners, although it will still dry out fairly quickly.

  12. Yes! wrote a post a while back on gardening wives' tales with the same mission in mind. It makes me nuts when the big scraper sites spread these myths to the masses. Some are harmless and dumb, but others are harmful, often to the environment, or a serious waste of money. I hope your pin travels far and wide.


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