Review: The Informed Gardener


by Susan
Linda Chalker-Scott, university researcher and educator, not to mention editor of Master Gardener magazine, has compiledInformed
the best of her famous "Horticultural Myths" columns into a book, The Informed Gardener.  The back cover asks:

  • Are native plants the best choice for sustainable landscaping?
  • Are
    organic products better or safer than synthetic ones?
  • What is the best
    way to control weeds—fabric or mulch?
  • Are compost teas effective in controlling diseases?
  • How can you differentiate good advice from bad advice?

Gee, could she get any MORE relevant to our hottest topics here at the Rant?  And you may remember we’ve already dissected her "Myth of Xeriscaping" here.  But with this juicy collection, where’s a reviewer to start?

First, what a gorgeous cover!  My nongardening friends are even picking it up.

And I certainly agree with this quote on the back cover:

"What a godsend to have so many competing claims about gardening examined from a scientific viewpoint and explained in an easy-to read-format." Susan Harris, and

Look, Ma, I’m blurbing!  Bloggers and webmasters take note – those www’s are right up there with the credentials of a print blurber (Ginny Stibolt, author of Sustainable Gardening for Florida) and a famous radio blurber (Ketzel Levine of NPR’s "Talking Plants"). Ginny and Ketzel describe the book as "a must-have for every gardener" and "no-hype, nothing-to-sell-but-the-truth," and I say damn right!  But what we’re all saying is that the good Dr. Chalker-Scott has slogged through hundreds of peer-reviewed academic articles for us gardeners, figured it out, then boiled it all down to really simple language, including a "Bottom Line" for every topic.  THANK YOU.   

We all remember learning about the scientific method back in high school, right?  Apparently it’s still recommended!  Peer review?  Same deal.  So I guess we can all stop arguing with each other about the hot topics of eco-gardening and agree to rely on her science-based conclusions.

Like hell.  Most of us can learn a lot from this book and become sustainable gardeners, save money we might have spent on unnecessary products, and "feel better mentally, physically, and spiritually," as the author says.  But people who base their opinions on ideology or fear won’t be convinced by her common-sense reasoning anyway, so the ranting will never stop, I’m afraidOh wait – that’s a good thing for my favorite team blog.


  1. Hi Susan,
    Yes, it was fun to meet you on the back of Linda’s book. I agree with you on the cover and I will be bringing this book to my publisher as a good example of a great cover. People really do judge a book by its cover.
    And then the contents really are most helpful. So many old gardeners’ tales have been discarded when under the bright lights and scrutiny of scientifically designed testing. My favorite busted myth is that a layer of gravel in the bottom of a pot enhances good drainage. It doesn’t, but this is so widely believed that many so-called experts have continued the myth with exact descriptions of how much gravel or potshards you “need” for good drainage. Ginny

  2. I found Dr. Chalker-Scott’s web page about 2 years ago and found it to be an excellent source of information. She’s serious about getting quality research out there to the people who can use it and she does a great job of breaking it down so that the average person can easily digest it. I haven’t read her book yet, but if it’s anything like the other things she’s written I’m looking forward to it.

  3. I’m a member of WSNLA here in WA. Linda had a monthly column in Ball’s & Burlap, our nursery trades magazine. I’ve made changes in my business because of her not to sell products that are unneccesary or useless. I haven’t yet recommended hosing off the soil like she says of potted or balled & burlapped plants before planting. I’m rooting for the easiest, cheapest, best way for plants to flourish. So does’s Linda! Or you ranter’s. Love this site!

  4. As an eco-friendly landscape company, we (at Greener by Design in NYC)have been tracking this author, and receiving master gardener magazine, for some time now. We especially appreciate pieces like why natural controls like compost teas are not all the eco-friendly world has been pushing them as.
    I think we all want “silver bullets” and when something good comes along, like compost teas for example, we make more of them than they are. Then an academic like Ms. Scott comes along and helps us all gain some perspective. Yes, the cover is sweet as well!


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