Jerry Baker, Still Quacking


Like a rubbernecker eyeing an accident, I was mesmerized by Jerry’s – shall we say? – advice, and I found a few more gems.  Ever heard of doing this?

Root prune all spring-flowering shrubs in late August to stimulate
heavy blooms next year. Follow up by sprinkling 1/2 cup of Epsom salts into
the cuts.

Or this?

When transplanting anything this time of year, add nitrogen
and protein for root development by working a mixture of oatmeal and human
hair into the soil.

And because you can just never spray enough, it turns out we’re supposed to spray our mulch, too.

Overspray any mulch with my Mulch Makeover Tonic: 1 cup of ammonia, 1 can of
regular (not diet) cola, 1 cup of antiseptic mouthwash, and 1 tbsp.
of dishwashing liquid mixed in a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer.

And although not mentioned in this month’s missive, let’s never forget that his favorite home remedy for the garden is tobacco juice.  Nicotine – it’s all natural!

Before you laugh off Baker as the quack that he indisputably is, remember
that he’s the number one gardening educator, so to speak, in the whole
U.S. of A., thanks to public television, 217 radio stations, Wal-Mart, and his own amazing
publishing machine – 40 books and counting.  Since ranting my pants off last March about Jerry and discovering that everyone thinks he’s a quack (well, except people making money off him), I’m frustrated as hell by his continued success, especially on public broadcasting.  I understand that his videos are great fund-raising products for the stations, so I wasn’t surprised when Washington’s affiliate, WETA, failed to acknowledge the letter of complaint I sent them on behalf of a local garden club.  Nationally only a couple of stations have so far stopped broadcasting his videos after complaints from mainly academic sources.

I’m left with the conclusion that if we want to get this self-described environmentalist (!!) off the air, we’ll have to come up with something better for PBS to use.  So how about it?  I bet the collective wisdom of the garden blogosphere, even just using the technology we’re seeing on YouTube, could be a huge service to the public and their oversprayed yards.  For funding I wish we could tap the Extension Services all over the country – it’s their job to educate the public, after all – but they’re mum on the subject, except to complain that Jerry’s use and trademarking of the term "America’s Master Gardener" is bogus.

So maybe it’s up to us and if not us, who?  I’m only half kidding, guys.

[Link to Jerry’s August 2006 Newsletter.]


  1. It sounds like Jerry’s tapping into the ‘something for nothing’ theme that always sucks people in — no need to buy anything special, just reach in the fridge for that can of Coke.

    Add a dash of anti-elitism for those Ivy League horticulturists sneering at the pink flamingoes in the yard — ” ‘The redwood trees grew just fine before we had garden centers and people with academic certificates,’ he says” — and voila, instant empire.

    It’s interesting that none of the ready-made things he sells use the formulas he’s pushing. I bet he’d get in trouble with the Federal Trade Commission if they did, because then he’d have to pony up and prove that they do what he claims.

    It’s hard to combat something like that. You might not be able to convince someone who will listen to that hoo-hah that they’re mistaken.

    I’ve never heard of the guy, and PBS in Maine, as far as I know, has never used his videos for fundraising.

    Maybe Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman threatened them with pitchforks.

  2. I’ve heard of Jerry, and every once in awhile someone will ask me about one of his “formulas” and I just tell them it is a bunch of hooey. Honestly, I don’t know of anyone who tries to do anything that he says. I wonder who is buying his books?!

    … I really don’t know where to go with this. I’m rather at a loss for words. Might have something to do with falling off my chair–or maybe it was the laughing so hard that I couldn’t breathe.

    How’s that gardening hunk thing going on the site here? Got anyone with good looks AND charisma that we could get onto his own show, pronto?

  4. Waaay back in the early 1970’s when he still had hair & I was a new gardener, Jerry Baker appeared as a frequent guest on Chicago television shows. He was folksy rather than nutsy, and his inexpensive books had clear, helpful illustrations on basic techniques like dividing plants. At that time, he recommended sensible things like compost, pyrethrum and mulch along with then-current chemicals such as malathion, diazinon, dicofol and chlordane.

    I saw him on a PBS fund-raising show a few years ago and was freaked out!

  5. The guy actually recommends hair as a “protein” source? For plants? Even though plants manufacture their own amino acids for protein-building, and don’t need protein supplements? Even though human hair is made of keratin, a protein that can resist decomposition for years, decades — even centuries under the right conditions?

    Maybe Baker and the show’s producers have conversations like this:

    Producer: “So what crazy thing will you recommend today for the garden?”

    Baker: “I dunno. I hadn’t thought about it yet. What’s in the janitor’s closet?”

    Producer: “Let’s go look — hmm, I see some spray cleaner, a container of hand soap, a bottle of asprin, and a Playboy magazine.”

    Baker: “Great. Throw ’em all in the blender. I’ll call it a yard clean-up tonic.”

    Producer: “Even the Playboy?”

    Baker: “Yeah. Sure. I’ll tell people that, um, let’s see… it’ll enhance the reproductive processes in plants so they’ll bloom like crazy. Yeah, that’ll do it. Now where’s my makeup crew?”

  6. We just got a forwarded bill the other day “second notice” for a book of his that we never ordered – supposedly from an address we hadn’t lived at for weeks.

    I’m so glad google found this rant! I had no idea what the bill was talking about! Sheesh people pay money for this crap??????

    Here’s today’s timely tip:


    Keep spider mites away from your blooms with my Super Spider Mite Mix:

    * 4 cups of wheat flour,
    * 1/2 cup of buttermilk, and
    * 5 gallons of water

    Mix all of the ingredients together, and apply to your plants with a handheld mist sprayer. Spray to the point of runoff. This mix will suffocate the little buggers without harming your plants.

    My roses will look lovely with pancake batter all over them! Spew! 🙂

  7. Well, you seem like you are about as informed about lawn care as you are about the War on Terror. I guess speculation and theory is good enough for you? God forbid you actually test his formula out and see results (one way or the other) before you make an ass of yourself and post your unfounded opinion.

    Perhaps you would like to know where I come from on this. I just came from a neighbor’s house who I asked how they got their lawn so thick, green, and beautiful. She told me she applied Jerry Baker’s recipe described above. When I looked it up online, I found this site. So, I have personally seen the results of Jerry’s solution. The ingredients may sound kooky, but the results speak for themselves. Those results are the best looking lawn in our neighborhood.

    So, perhaps you should quit speculating and get some facts before you open the pie hole. And do the same regarding the War on Terror while you’re at it. Why don’t you take your anger out on the terrorists instead of the Bush administration?

  8. Not much on my mind right now. I haven’t been up to anything. Today was a complete loss. That’s how it is. Not much exciting going on these days.

  9. well personally i love jerry baker’s nutball style, i hope to be a garden nutball myself someday…

    i have used his tonics on some things ant not on others, for instance i use his tonics on my lawn, trees and bushes in the front yard which i douse with chemicals and dont care how healthy it is so long as it looks good…

    however i dont use them in my backyard where my year round organic garden and small orchard are…. not because i dont think they will work but because i dont concider amonia and listerine organis…

    i do however regularly feed my tomatoes in the summer with doses of beer and coffee, which gives me gigantic tomato plants with boosted yields compared to growing without them….. i have studied this,

    so it seems to me that jerry has some good ideas and some bad ones, like any gardener… but i dont buy his books, and would never use his tonics in an all organic setting…

  10. I love gardening and was wondering if there is a all natural/organic tonic that I can spray on my flowers, vegtables, fruit trees, grapes that is not harmful to benificial bugs/worms ect…
    Reading the article above concerning tonics consisting of Ammonia,Epson salts are devestating for earthworms!
    I depend on those little buddies to cultivate my soil when I’m not..

  11. Replace ammonia with urine – it is organic. Epson salt is inorganic, but quite natural – mostly Mg salt. Unless you will use too much of it, it is beneficial for plants and not dangerous for earthworms. Liquid soap – detergent – not organic, but in modest amounts will remove dust from leaves and will improve permeability of soil surface… most likely it will not stay on your plants and will not be absorbed by plants, but degraded by bacterias. So, in small amounts it will not spoil your “organic” life. If you will use it without control – at some point you may contaminate the ground water (maybe)… so make your own conclusion!
    Reasoning for the most of remedies can be found…

  12. His stuff works.

    You crack pots who think they don’t are really the ones who should be studying each ingredient and the purpose it provides for plant life.

  13. I sprayed his pest tonic on my plants. The tonic had urine, hot sauce, tobacco. It brought my yarrow to it’s knees and it has yet to recover. The lambs ear was burnt up by all that urine. My vegetables look like they have been doused in gasoline. Thanks Jerry, you are the best. I’m embarassed to say I tried all this quackery

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