Sunday, January 29, 2012

Book Review: The Informed Gardener

I don't quite remember why I put "The Informed Gardener" on my Christmas wishlist - I just remember that I asked for it a few years ago and since I tend not to remove things from my wishlist until I get them, my mom finally decided she was sick and tired of seeing it on my list so she got me the book for Christmas.

Linda Chalker-Scott is a horticulturist who, in 2000, started writing newsletter-type articles for use by landscape professionals in Washington State.  Within a few years, more people had started reading the articles and requested they be made available in book form.  This book is the requested anthology.

The book has some great information and all the chapters are quick reads without getting too into the science nitty-gritty (though all of the scientific papers used in research are listed at the end of each chapter).  The articles are separated into subsets (e.g. Understanding How Plants Work, Miracle in a Bag/Bottle/Box) and all start out with "The myth of XXX" where XXX is anything from "Fragile Roots" to "Organic Superiority."  The super nice thing about the articles is that they provide, in bullet-list form, a summary of what the article was about for quick reference.  Without that bullet list the book would become much more of a "well, that was a nice read" book where you may remember to get it out every once in a while when you had a question, but would then spend time reading multiple articles looking for the one you were thinking of.  With the bullet list, the book becomes much more of a reference you can access whenever you want because while you may have to read a few lists, it isn't going to be the same amount of time lost as if you had to re-read each article.

My only complaints about the book are that 1) it's in book form which means that unless the book is updated every so often, it's quite possible that some of things that are mentioned in the book may end up being false or slightly modified in the future when more research has been done (and it likely wouldn't be one of the Myths, but instead one of the factoid points within the article itself). And 2) As with most books, it's more applicable to the Pacific Northwest (I know, I know - if you want a book for Central Texas, you get a book for Central Texas).  In the book, multiple times, she mentions using wood chips over any other type of mulch because the plants do best with that.  However, those of us in the Austin area also know that using wood chips usually means having a larger amount of cockroaches.  Something, which I'm sure is uncommon in the Northwest.  Of course, it could be that what she means by "wood chips" and what I think when I hear "wood chips" may be completely different things. Another article is about using pruning sealer on trees (as in, 'don't').  But again, down here we know that if we prune our oak trees during certain times of the year (i.e. Feb 1 - June 30), we really should use something to prevent oak wilt.  Of course, her article mentions the fact that if you live in an area with oak wilt, you may need to use "a fungicide or insecticide", but it's at the end when, for national publication, it seems like it might have been better to put a disclaimer at the beginning of the article (I honestly almost skipped the article since it's called "The myth of wound dressings")

But, overall, it's a very good book and I highly recommend it to the home landscaper.

1 comment:

Garden seeds said...

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