Thursday, May 9, 2013

The real dirt on gardening

The Truth about Garden Remedies
What Works, What Doesn't, and Why
by Jeff Gillman

I'm always wary of books with "truth" in the title because they usually peddle a witch's brew of pablum, propaganda and paranoid fantasy. But I could not resist the beer-drinking slug on the cover of The Truth about Garden Remedies. Thank heaven for that slug! If not for him I might never have read anything by Jeff Gillman, who has become my go-to garden adviser.

Gillman is a scientist, with degrees in entomology and horticulture from UGA, and a professor, with a laboratory and research assisants just waiting to put every sort of garden remedy to the test. His books differ from most how-to guides in being based on laboratory and field trials, not opinion or library research.

Gillman also is a relentless skeptic. Two unspoken assumptions underlie his work: 1) Product X or Method Y probably does not work and may in fact be harmful, and 2) Even if Product X or Method Y is effective, you almost certainly do not know how to use it properly and someone is trying to sell you more of it than anyone could ever need. Ordinarily, such contrariness would come across as abrasive know-it-all-ism, but Gillman's glee in getting to the bottom of things is unmistakable and his enthusiasm is irresistible.

He has little patience with those he calls "gardening gurus," and he takes special delight in debunking the folksy baloney peddled by one guru who styles himself "America's Master Gardener." If you've ever been tempted to whip up a green grass "tonic" of ammonia, beer and baby shampoo, read The Truth about Garden Remedies first. And when you're done, go ahead and read the rest of Gillman's books. Your yard will thank you.

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Review by Don Beistle

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