Sunday, October 16, 2011

Healthy Skepticism for a Healthy Garden

"Why, yes, I do have a confessional in my office," Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott replied. I was calling her to seek absolution for my horticultural transgressions.

"It has paisley curtains," she continued.

I just finished reading her book, The Informed Gardener (University of Washington Press, 2008). In this authoritatively written, sorely needed dose of science and skepticism, Chalker-Scott reveals the truth behind many of the dearly held myths surrounding gardening practices and products.

I worried: Would she pardon years of advising customers to "throw a little bone meal in the backfill. Helps the roots get started"? What about telling clients to tip-prune transplants "to keep the roots and foliage in balance"?

Hogwash! Clearly, I was guilty of unconsciously passing along what one of Chalker-Scott's colleagues calls "faith-based horticulture."

Chalker-Scott didn't set out to be a matador, hell-bent on goring gardening's sacred cows. Her first two degrees put her on a steady course toward a career in marine biology. In the 1980s, deciding instead to chase her passion for gardening, she completed her doctorate in ornamental horticulture at Oregon State University, focusing on the stresses affecting landscape plants in urban environments.

The contest is over, but there's lots more to read at Fine Gardening...

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