Review: "The Informed Gardener"
Like Jeff Gilman's The Truth About Organic Gardening and The Truth About Garden Remedies, Linda Chalker-Scott's The Informed Gardener takes a look at many of those gardening "facts" we hold as truths and explains why we may want to re-think our ideas.
For example, in one of several sections on myths about soil amendments, Chalker-Scott takes on the oft-advised practice of amending the backfill soil before planting a tree or shrub. It seems to make so much sense: amend that soil around the new roots so that the plant will get off to a good, vigorous start. And Chalker-Scott agrees; the problem, however, occurs when the plant's roots reach the edge of that lovely amended soil and reach native soil. They've been coddled, basically. Native soil is different in texture, it contains fewer nutrients, and has less aeration. So the roots basically behave the way they would in a container: they start circling, and eventually, you have a root-bound tree or shrub!
Information like this is something we all could have used when we started out gardening. So much gardening information is word-of-mouth, passed on to us from family members, neighbors, or others. So it is helpful to have books like this and the Gilman books mentioned above, to help us tell the difference between myth and reality.
In addition to the sections on soil amendments, Chalker-Scott tackles plenty of other myths, such as the myth of fragile roots, the myth of hot-weather watering, the myth of instant landscaping, and the myth of landscape fabric, among plenty of others. The sections on soil amendments and fertilizers are very informative, as is the information about native plants. I also particularly enjoyed the beginning sections on how to determine if a claim is scientifically correct or not.
If you want to know which gardening practices are worthwhile, and which are simply a waste of time, this is the book for you.
Quotes from "The Informed Gardener"
"What will you get from this book? You will get information that is science-based. There is a great deal of horticultural information available through scientific journals, but these resources can be difficult to find and even more difficult for a non-scientist to comprehend. This book is based on basic and applied science from university research , originally published in peer-reviewed journals, that has been compiled and presented in a readily understandable manner."
"Tree topping is never a justifiable pruning practice; it increases tree health problems and is aesthetically unappealing."
"Wet foliage is not susceptible to sunburn."
"Not all of our beloved garden plants behave themselves. The adjectives that epitomize some of our favorite choices -- like "fast-spreading," "self-sowing," and "tolerates poor soil" -- are also indicators of potential invasiveness."
"Hydrogels are organic compounds that will degrade after two to five years; they are not a long-lasting solution to droughty conditions. When hydrogels degrade, one of the byproducts is acrylamide, a deadly neurotoxin and potential carcinogen."
I highly recommend The Informed Gardener for any gardener, regardless of level of experience. There is always something to be learned, and those things you've always held as "fact" just may surprise you!