“Decoding Gardening Advice: The Science behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations” – Book Review


Hi. With the garden winding down and requiring less of my time, this is the perfect time of year to catch up on my reading. And today I thought I’d do something a little different and let you know about a book I recently finished reading. One of my goals as a gardener is to do my best to figure out which gardening products and practices really work, and which ones don’t. This interest led me to Jeff Gillman and Meleah Maynard’s book “Decoding Gardening Advice: The Science behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations”. As the title suggests, the authors put together a list of what they believe to be the 100 most commonly made gardening recommendations. Drawing on the latest scientific research, as well as Gillman’s expertise as a horticulturist, and Maynard’s as a master gardener, the authors categorized each recommendation as either “Good Advice”, “Advice That’s Debatable”, or “Advice That’s Just Wrong”. Even if you’re new to gardening, you’re probably familiar with many of the recommendations covered in the book, and you may be surprised by how many of them end up in the “Debatable” or “Just Wrong” Categories. For example, from the following list of 10 recommendations, 4 are considered to be good correct, 3 debatable, and 3 wrong. 1) Create an environment favorable to earthworms 2) Use mycorrhizae to promote healthy plant growth 3) Use pine needles to make soil acidic 4) Use vermicompost to improve garden soil 5) Avoid watering overhead to control plant diseases 6) Apply compost tea to help enrich soil 7) Add lime to soil to raise pH 8) Always mulch gardens 9) Add sand to clay soil to improve drainage 10) Water deeply and infrequently to encourage a strong root system If you’d like to venture a guess at how the authors categorized these recommendations or share how you’d categorize them, please do so in a comment below. Given that they only consider 4 of the recommendations to be good advice, don’t be surprised if the book challenges some of your views. . It certainly challenged many of mine, but I think this is a good thing. Only if I’m open to having my views challenged and questioned will I be able to learn and grow. In the near future, I hope to do a series of videos exploring gardening products and practices from an evidence based perspective much like the video Stephen Legaree and I made recently on pine needles. Many of the topics will be inspired by this book and others by my own curiosity. So, I definitely recommend “Decoding Gardening Advice”. If you’re interested in learning more about the science behind common gardening recommendations, this book is a great place to start. My hope is that by continuing to use effective products and practices and avoiding ineffective ones, I’ll save money and time while still getting great results. Well, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching, and until next time remember you can change the world one yard at a time.

50 thoughts on ““Decoding Gardening Advice: The Science behind the 100 Most Common Recommendations” – Book Review

  1. I am really looking forward to your future videos and analysis.  Should be interesting and spark some discussion as well.  Thanks!

  2. Here goes, though if I didn't know that only 4 were good, I would have said that almost all were good:
    1. Good
    2. Wrong
    3. Wrong (from your other video)
    4. Good
    5. Debatable
    6. Good
    7. Good
    8. Debatable
    9. Wrong
    10. Debatable

  3. I like this Patrick. We should all learn something here.  Fact base is a good thing.

    1.  Debatable
    2.  Good
    3.  Wrong
    4.  Good
    5.  Debatable
    6.  Debatable
    7.  Good
    8. Wrong
    9. Wrong
    10.Good

  4. I really like this book and Gillman's other books. I followed his advice in my garden in Illinois. It saved me time, money, and resources. It did challenge some of the things I had heard about and a few of the things I had been doing. A great book. 

  5. Great clip Patrick.. Went through the other posts so cheated a bit 😉 
    #6 surprised me a bit but I can see how the main benefit is to the plant & not the soil.. I suppose our non brewed compost tea is basically a rudimentary organic based liquid fertiliser..
    Might just have to go shopping now 😉
    Cheers sir 🙂

  6. Thanks for the heads up on that book, no time to read yet, still processing food for winter, saving seeds, making origami envelops to store them in, still working a ''regular'' part time job…geesh I'm tired, but not to the point to dream of snow 😉

  7. thanks patrick, i absolutely LOVE watching your videos!! You are so passionate and it is very contagious 🙂 Thank you so much for your time and effort, it really is appreciated and im learning a lot, i now have a working garden that i know will only get better with time and to top it off my 6 year old really likes getting involved, she is quite the little gardener. You ARE changing the world one yard at a time. I find young Huw at huwsnursery to be very enjoyable aswell, i really enjoyed the Q&A vid that you both did. (just a small side note, generally i find gardening forums to be very diplomatic (no trolls) and the same can be said about the comments below your vids, wonderful bunch of people who are truly here to learn and enjoy. its wonderful and heart-warming.) Im down in australia, so just starting my warmer season crops 😀

  8. 1 Good
    2 Debatable (might help if the soil is deficiecent but no benefit if already in soil)
    3 wrong
    4 Good
    5 Debatable
    6 Good
    7 Debatable (depends upon composition of the soil)
    8 Good
    9 debatable
    10 Good

    I have 5 goods but I think I could be close and this is what I think personally.

  9. Here we go 😉 Don't fail me now Science!

    1. Correct
    2. Debatable
    3.Wrong 
    4. Correct
    5.Debatable
    6. Debatable
    7. Correct
    8.Correct
    9. Wrong
    10.wrong

  10. Now I need that book lol I've been discovering myths on my own, through permaculture and no-till. There are long-standing gardening practices at our garden club and I find that people copy each other rather than knowing why. For example: someone that's been gardening there for 20 years, had no clue why you spray plants with milk and water if they have powdery mildew or blossom end rot. I'm new to gardening and people copy me! I like to know facts, whether it's about gardening or religion. =)

  11. CameraGuy-nice job.  I really enjoyed listening to you.  I also like how you and the book encourages us to "think about it and decide on our own instead of just asking for the answers" ….  part of the fun of all of this is trying different things on our own and going for it.  Looking forward to more.  CameraGuy

  12. I'm in the middle of "Carrots Love Tomatoes" by Louise Riotte. It's about companion planting and very interesting, I plan on trying a few next year. Thanks for your book review, I may need to get that one too.

  13. correct – 2,4,6,7,9
    debatable – 1,5,10
    wrong – 3,8

    I try to grow organically so I think some would be correct for me but debatable to others.

  14. I feel like these are almost trick questions. Just about everything people do can be debated. I do enjoy your analytic style and look forward to your future videos.

  15. Without reading others: 1, 4, 6 and 8 
    1. Yes – 
    2. Not sure mycorrhizae needs to be added – I don’t…but my house is…in a forest.
    3. NO to pine needles
    4. Yes to Vermicompost 
    5. Yes – Rain is good enough, otherwise something tells me it’s a bad idea to poor chlorinated  water overhead
    6. Yes – increasing beneficial bacteria can’t hurt
    7. Add Lime…No..I don’t do it, but I have alkaline soil
    8. No – The word ALWAYS is a trap. I’m sure there are circumstances where mulching may 
    Not be beneficial

  16. Oh boy, I'm not sure where to start with this one Patrick! Great video and thoughts about the book, thank you for doing it. You have me convinced to order. 🙂

  17. I will have to read that book! BTW: Every time I see your Jerusalem Artichokes, I am reminded by just how pitiful mine look. All that I can say is that my JA's must be some sort of dwarf variety!

  18. haha yep.. too many myths make a person obsessed in all the wrong areas
    plants don't require bacteria and fungus to grow… infact those things are more likely to cause root rot and many other fungal type diseases on your plants
    plenty of trivial myths and lies around about gardening that simply hinder your progress… the best solution is to go back to the old method.. keep it simple…
    water fertilizer and that's about it.. nothing else other than water and fertilizer 😉 plants really don't require much more than that..
    keeping it simple means.. keep it simple.. you are more likely to succeed if you do it the simple way

  19. I believe he would be a excellent candidate for you to compare your results against his as he also does extensive tests to see whether all these amendments are worthwhile or just gimmicks that wastes our time and money: –> https://www.youtube.com/user/BrightGreenThumb/videos

    your thoughts.

  20. I agree being open to others ideas encourages our development , but testing or analyzing those statements if you are able too is the  best approach.

  21. Hi Patrick, I am Annie from Malaysia Last year, I watered my organic garden wit compost tea, it florished and I had so many tomatoes that it was a pleasure snacking on them when I went to work on the garden. My home brew consisted of fish emulsion which I made myelf, dried cow manure and molasses with a 3 T of diluted EM1. This year I did not use any compost tea and I can see the marked difference, plants are not doing as well as last year. So I perked up and now water the garden with compost tea again. The Collards, Tomatoes and chilli peppers are doing great. The corn isn't, but its not their fault as I neglected them earlier in their growing stage and besides we had rain every day so much so that a few of my Cherry Tomato plants died. I had to replant a few and am quite happy with the new plants. The Ziinias are vibrant and so is the Sunflowers, Squashes and Syo long cukes, I harvested 2 giant Syo cukes. The Black Beauty Eggplants were delicious, I harvested around 50 from 6 plants. They were large palm size. So I will have to say, weekly application of compost tea helps.

  22. 1) Create an environment favorable to earthworms
    yup
    2) Use mycorrhizae to promote healthy plant growth
    debatable
    3) Use pine needles to make soil acidic
    debatable
    4) Use vermicompost to improve garden soil
    yup
    5) Avoid watering overhead to control plant diseases
    wrong
    6) Apply compost tea to help enrich soil
    debatable
    7) Add lime to soil to raise pH
    yup
    8) Always mulch gardens
    debatable
    9) Add sand to clay soil to improve drainage
    wrong
    10) Water deeply and infrequently to encourage a strong root system
    yup

  23. Nice one Patrick! Always good to decode things. It's high time I pruned the gooseberry and red currant bushes at the back of the garage, they've been neglected for years (a bit like me). Pruning is a task I am unfamiliar with so I've watched a few short video clips on the subject and, you guessed it, I can only hope that I will receive the spiritual wealth to accomplish this work well, the material wealth also necessary (my house mate's secateurs need replacing) and the good fortune required in this latest endeavour. I've read that gooseberries aren't as popular in The US. Is this true? And what does that book have to say about using piss as fertiliser?

  24. 1. create an enviroment favorable to earth worms is correct
    2.use mycorrhizae to promote healthy plant life is debatable
    3.use pine needles to make soil acidic is wrong.
    4. use vermicompost to improve garden soil is correct.
    5.avoid watering overhead to control plant disease is debatable.
    6.apply compost tea to help enrich soil is debatable.
    7.add lime to soil to raise ph is correct.
    8.always mulch gardens is debatable.
    9.add sand to clay soil is WRONG on so many levels!😂
    10.water deeply and infrequently is correct.
    using mycorrhizae and rock dust completely baffles me. if you have your garden set as mother nature would why are these things even being brought up? and i'm talking about from people who have been at it for years and have been on youtube for a long while. all of a sudden it was the rage. then i compared them to the books i read long ago and had to change channels. but i would like to fill a knee high stocking and bury it just as a fun thing to do. if i don't get at least half of these right i'm going to be 🙁

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