10 March 2012

Decoding Garden Advice by Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard

You do not have to be an iconoclast to point out the fallacies of common wisdom. In their readable book, "Decoding Gardening Advice - The Science Behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations", Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard, have taken on the task of sorting out the wheat from the chaff.

Gillman is well-known for his truthiness. His previous books include "The Truth About Garden Remedies", "The Truth About Organic Gardening", and "How the Government Got In Your Backyard - The Truth About Environmental Policies".

Gillman is a tenured horticulture professor at the University of MN and his co-author, Meleah Maynard is a writer and master gardener.

This book takes on topics that are quite familiar to experienced gardeners and that are important for new gardeners. 

Topics include: Earthworms, organic and synthetic fertilizer, watering, insecticidal soap, corn gluten meal, mulch, hardening off seedlings, grow lights, phosphorus, plant division, pruning, fruit trees, companion planting, yard waste disposal, Borax, chemical safety on lawns, etc.

It is true that we gardeners hear a LOT of advice about what we are supposed to do and it is also true that it is not always applicable to our situations. I have a few pet peeves but this is about Gillman and Maynard's wisdom, not my irritations and disappointments with experts.


Here's how the book is laid out:
"In This Chapter" has 3 headings
Good Advice, Advice That's Debatable and Advice That's Just Wrong,
then under each heading there are lists of garden wisdom for each category.

Good advice in Chapter 1: Add organic material, keep the worms happy, get a soil test, etc.
Debatable advice in that chapter: Change the soil in planters every season, always fertilize in the spring, add soil bacteria when planting beans, etc.
Wrong advice for this chapter: Use balanced fertilizer, apply compost tea, add pine needles to make soil more acidic, etc.

Each of the 8 chapters is structured like that.

I think that if every gardener could get a copy of this book it would save them a considerable amount of grief, frustration, failure, wasted effort and money for more classes and books. Gillman knows his stuff and I assume Maynard should get credit for making it so readable. Congratulations to them both.

Decoding Garden Advice, 224 pages, paperback.
Timber Press, $17 list and $10 at online booksellers.

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