Decoding Gardening Advice: the Science Behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations – Jeff Gillman and Maleah Maynard, Timber Press, 2012.
Reviewed by Debra Knapke
Gardening is a blend of art and science. Art is in the eye of the beholder – and gardener. Science is based on experimentation, observation and outcomes. And, there are a lot of outcomes in the garden from chlorosis to chomped leaves to patchy lawns to blossom end-rot on your tomatoes.
There are times when the amount of information on how-to-garden is overwhelming. Just when you are ready to give up, a reference appears that presents a rational way to evaluate old wives tales, “common” knowledge and scientific “fact”. Jeff Gillman and Maleah Maynard offer three ways to look at garden advice that you have read or heard: good advice, debatable advice and advice that is just wrong. Gillman’s and Maynard’s responses show that the authors have done the research and also have personal garden experience.
One of my soapbox topics is the way we use and misuse mulch in the landscape. On this topic, Gillman and Maynard state:
Good Advice – Keep mulch away from the crowns of ornamental plants and the bases of trees
Debatable Advice – Use landscape fabric to control weeds
Advice that is Just Wrong – Always add extra nitrogen to the soil when wood mulch is used
Read the book to find out the reasoning behind the categorization of these common recommendations and many others.
This book is the third for Jeff Gillman that looks at the way we garden and how to understand the science of gardening. His first two: The Truth About Organic Gardening and The Truth About Garden Remedies, set the stage for Decoding Garden Advice. Much of gardening can be intuitive, especially when you observe nature and seek to understand natural processes in the environment. But when you are confronted by several conventional, organic or home remedies for a problem in the garden, it’s nice to be able to understand the cause of the problem and to wisely select a solution. Gillman’s earlier books are excellent references that are valuable for both novice and experienced gardeners.
And, did I mention, all this serious information is mellowed with humor? It will be difficult not to smile or chuckle as you explore gardening information and techniques through the pens of Gillman and Maynard.