Don’t get me wrong, I love porridge as much as the next person. But, despite recent viral posts, it doesn’t seem that your garden feels the same way.
TikToks suggesting that applying oatmeal to your plants can help to nourish their soil have raked in thousands of views. One has racked up over 26,300 likes, while another, older post claiming that oats and tea can save ailing plants has amassed an enormous 218.7k hearts on the app.
However, while the affordable hack has garnered significant attention, it turns out the logic behind it is incomplete. In fact, you may end up harming your plants more than helping them.
Here’s why your plants appreciate a tasty bowl of porridge a lot less than we do:
There’s a certain logic to the theory
“Oatmeal has so many nutrients, especially phosphorous and iron, which plants need to flourish,” a TikToker stated. So far, so true ― both nutrients are important to your soil, and both are present in oats.
Therefore, the theory goes that applying oats to the soil at the base of your plants once a month will transfer the good stuff from your brekkie to your begonias. The creator of the video then points out that we all know how good oatmeal, or porridge, is for humans ― so why not plants, they ask?
It turns out there are an awful lot of reasons why not
Anyone who has ever experienced heartburn will know how strong the acid in our stomach, which is partly responsible for breaking down our food, is. And while plants follow a different process when it comes to absorbing nutrients, it’s not as straightforward as simply placing food on top of their soil and waiting for the good stuff to transfer.
We’ve written before about how banana water is a bad idea for gardeners, because simply soaking the peels won’t release enough of their nutrients to reach plants. The best way to unlock foods’ soil-feeding benefits is via decomposition or composting, because the fungi and microbes that rot the food make their nutrients more readily available to plants.
On top of that, oats retain a lot of moisture (you’ve likely seen how they swell when cooked into porridge). Leaving them on top of your plant’s soil can trap damp, potentially leading to root rot.
The oats can also attract unwanted, hungry visitors (like mice and birds) to your plants.
There’s also the question of accuracy. Sure, your soil might need more or certain nutrients ― but you can’t calculate how much of those the oats will spread to the soil, and unless you test it yourself, you can’t compare that to how much your soil actually needs.
But perhaps most worryingly of all, oats can be harmful to your pets. “In particular, raw oats can be difficult for your dog to digest and may cause stomach upset,” Healthline says.
So, if you’re worried about your plant’s soil, consider testing it and creating or buying specific fertilisers. But, for now, keep your plants far from your porridge, thanks.