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The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why Paperback – February 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With graduate degrees in entomology and horticulture, Gillman brings scientific rigor to the topic of commercial, homemade and "traditional" garden remedies. Eschewing the received knowledge of "garden gurus"—albeit admitting that he is one—he exhorts readers to "[s]earch for the why behind everything you do for your plants." His concise review of factors affecting plant growth and development provides the backdrop for chapters that evaluate fertilizers, soil and media amendments, water, biostimulants, pesticides, protectants and other remedies. Within each category, Gillman describes the practice, explains the theory behind it, reveals the truth and describes what all that means to the home gardener. His findings about methods involving such materials as buttermilk, coffee grounds, humic acid, hellebore, silicon and salt are based on scientific literature, which is cited throughout, as well as many original experiments. Never didactic or preachy, Gillman takes pleasure in testing techniques for treating plants and urges readers to "[d]ivide off a section of plants in your garden just for experimenting and have fun with them." Gillman teaches gardeners to think about what they do, know why they're doing it and observe the results, trusting their knowledge and experience over claims made by companies, "experts" or garden folklorists. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Gillman teaches gardeners to think about what they do, know why they're doing it, and observe the results, trusting their knowledge and experience over claims made by companies, 'experts' or garden folklorists."
Publishers Weekly (Publishers Weekly )

"The results are fascinating and occasionally disappointing. . . . The Truth About Garden Remedies is a book many of us will want to consult frequently."
The American Gardener (American Gardener )

"Whenever I hear someone offer a solution to a garden problem, I immediately check [The Truth About Garden Remedies] to see if it will work."
Horticulture (Horticulture )

"While entertainingly relating his experiments and his research, Gillman also packs in a wealth of useful information."
The Chicago Tribune (Chicago Tribune )

Although Gillman writes that gardening gurus are necessary to dole out knowledge of plants and the traditions that surround growing them, he also winces at all the superstition and half-truths flying around, hence, this terrific book. Biology Digest 20060501

With graduate degrees in entomology and horticulture, Gillman brings scientific rigor to the topic of commercial, homemade and 'traditional' garden remedies. ... Never didactic or preachy, Gillman takes pleasure in testing techniques for treating plants and urges readers to 'divide off a section of plants in your garden just for experimenting and have fun with them.' Gillman teaches gardeners to think about what they do, know why they're doing it, and observe the results, trusting their knowledge and experience over claims made by companies, 'experts' or garden folklorists. Publishers Weekly 20060301 We found it highly entertaining to browse through the book, enjoying Dr. Gillman's frequently humorous presentations of both common and strange ideas. -- Greg and Pat Williams HortIdeas 20060301

Smoothly written in Jeff's folksy, conversational style, this is a terrific book for beginning and advanced gardeners alike. Not only will you learn which homemade and commercial products work and which don't, you'll gain a solid layman's understanding of the science and chemistry behind plant growth and plant protection. RenegadeGardener.com 20060222

The book offers something for everyone, no matter what your experience might be. -- Randy Miranda Minneapolis Star Tribune 20060516

Some of these may come as a shock or upset your favorite long-held ideas, but the book is worth it and is a fun read. It gives you lots to talk about with your gardening friends. -- John Van de Water Newark Star-Ledger 20060606

A good read full of unusual information, making it an ideal present for a keen gardener. -- Angela Youngman Monsters and Critics 20061022

Jeff Gillman has the answers. He's tested bunches of the theories, and the results are published in this fun and informative new read. -- Danny C. Flanders Atlanta Journal-Constitution 20070322

From Dr. Jeff Gillman, Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, comes another must-have book for your garden reference bookshelf. ... This is the perfect companion to [The Truth about Organic Gardening]. -- Carol Bishop Miller Gerry's Jungle 20080311

[A] fine resource, full of solid scientific information in a highly readable presentation. Gillman's research can help you to save time, money, effort and the environment. -- Tom Karwin Monterey County Herald 20080211

Gillman goes out of his way to approach each topic without bias, but with an attempt to evaluate critically how a particular remedy actually performs in a garden situation. -- Dan Gill New Orleans Times-Picayune 20080329

A fascinating read. All organic products are not necessarily safe, and this book informs you of the benefits and drawbacks of each of them. Gillman tests and evaluates more than 100. -- Robert Haehle South Florida Sun-Sentinel 20080301

Brings scientific rigor to the topic of commercial, homemade, and 'traditional' garden remedies. [Gillman's] conclusions may surprise even experienced gardeners, as his objectivity inevitably debunks some untenable ideas and separates fact from fiction. Michigan Gardener 20080701

Jeff's humor and his own hilarious experiments held me captive all the way until the end. -- Debra Teachout-Teashon Rainy Side Gardeners 20060504

[Gillman] maintains a good balance between science and fun and has produced a book that is highly informative and entertaining at the same time. -- Ethel Fried Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer 20060729

While entertainingly relating his experiments and his research, Gillman also packs in a wealth of useful information. -- Beth Botts Chicago Tribune 20060604

[Gillman's] efforts have given us a book that's filled with a great deal of relevant information. It's also well-organized, written with flair, and darn interesting. -- Sarah Robertson Albany Democrat-Herald 20060521

This book is the result of years of research into what really does and does not encourage plants to grow faster and what works to protect them from diseases and pests. Gillman is also very clear on what concoctions should be avoided. -- Valerie Easton Seattle Times 20060118

The book is organized in a no-nonsense and user-friendly manner, setting out the theory and practice of each claim as well as the bottom line for the gardener. The results are fascinating. -- Linda McIntyre American Gardener 20060901

This is a book that many of us will want to consult frequently. -- Linda McIntyre American Gardener 20060901

This thoroughly delightful book will make you a less gullible and hence better gardener. -- Luurt Nieuwenhuis American Rhododendron Society Journal 20060501

Worth its weight in gold as it clears up the mysteries behind all sorts of folklore remedies touted by gardeners for eons. -- Jody Headlee Oakland Press 20060507

It's kind of like Consumer Reports visits Jerry Baker and the neighborhood garden guru. -- George Weigel Harrisburg Patriot-News 20060608

Gillman meets his goal of helping gardeners get a better understanding of the science behind the practices and does so in an entertaining and engaging style. His analysis is always helpful and sometimes even surprising. Recommended for all gardening collections. -- Daniel Starr Library Journal 20060101

Looks at more than 100 home remedies and garden practices, reviews any past scientific research about them, and in some cases sets up experiments to determine if they work and how best to use them. ... [An] eye-opening new book. -- Charlie Nardozzi National Gardening Association Regional Reports 20060202

The Truth about Garden Remedies is a book that is sorely needed in the gardening world. ... The discussions are thoughtful and researched or tested by easily repeatable experiments. -- Luurt Nieuwenhuis American Rhododendron Society Journal 20060201

In The Truth About Garden Remedies, things like putting a cup of beer out to trap slugs and snails and playing music to get your houseplant to grow are put under the microscope and analyzed by a professor from the University of Minnesota. Those gardeners who like to pick things apart with science will love this book. GardeningGiftGuide.com 20060216

Gillman writes with a light touch, offering a horticultural version of David Letterman's 'Will it float?' In one hilarious scene, he's in the kitchen arranging slugs and crushed egg shells on a paper plate while his wife, Suzanne, bakes lime pies. In others, he's fertilizing tomato seeds with buttermilk or sprinkling orange peels on ant mounds. -- Marge Hols St. Paul Pioneer Press 20060304

Does music make plants grow more luxuriantly? Should you plant trees deeply so roots won't dry out? Do coffee grounds change soil pH? ... Be prepared to have some of your long-cherished gardening notions debunked. But you'll also learn how to spend your gardening time and money. -- Valerie Easton Seattle Times 20060118

You'll enjoy the wry humor and outside-the-box thinking of Jeff Gillman. He presents material in an easy-to-follow order. -- Sandra J. Sandefur Perennial Notes 20061201

Jeff Gillman provides a rating scale for remedies of one to five flowerheads, with five being the best. Using his own scale, I'd give this book five flowerheads. It does what it proposes to do and does it well. -- Greg Asbagh Let's Talk Plants 20060601

A great resource in a world where everyone is an expert and has a product to sell. Gillman, a professor at the University of Minnesota, has done extensive testing and research on gardening products and practices. -- Jack Kerrigan Cleveland Plain Dealer 20061228

"[A] book that shoots down many fabled solutions that are really a waste of time."

(Garden Compass )

“Both these books [The Truth About Organic Gardening and The Truth About Garden Remedies] are refreshing, lucid and enlightening. Their spare style, with no illustrations, and concentration on facts rather than ‘inspiration’ even gives them an old-fashioned charm.”

(BBC Gardens Illustrated )

“Wondering how best to keep your garden healthy? Let Jeff Gillman … do the research, so you don’t waste time and money trying to add nutrients to the soil, keeping slugs and deer away, or protecting your roses from powdery mildew and black spot.”

(Tri-City Herald )

"Gillman's goal is to get gardeners to think—to make sure there is a reason behind everything they do for their plants."

(Redding Record Searchlight )

See all Editorial Reviews
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Timber Press; Revised edition (February 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881929123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881929126
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #522,137 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

An Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota Jeff was raised in South Eastern Pennsylvania, and went to Franklin and Marshall College. He then moved South to Georgia where he received a masters degree in Entomology and a Ph.D. in Horticulture. He currently resides in St. Paul Minnesota. Besides teaching and research activities, Jeff runs a nine acre nursery at UMN.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By W. Peters on April 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Finally, the book I've been waiting for! I'm an avid gardner and a curious person. I am always looking for remedies for the various challenges I have in my garden. Whether it's insects, fertilizer problems, slugs and so on, I'm looking for solutions and not just myths with no foundation in reality. In 'The Truth About Garden Remedies', Dr Gillman covers a wide range of problems that can be encountered by me and my fellow gardners. The difference in this book, unlike most of the books I've read on the subject is that the answers are supported by real science and conveyed in a way that is completely readable. What is even more exciting, is that Dr. Gillman isn't a stuffy reseacher that is unwilling to consider alternative remedies, there are plenty of them in this book. I can't wait to mix up one of the garlic recipes to repel those pesky Aphids! Thank you Dr Gillmam.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Garden Goddess on March 28, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this book after reading several others by a so-called master gardener who recommends mixing up various potions in the kitchen. I'm glad I haven't used any of the old-time remedies, because I could have destroyed my garden in numerous ways. Beer, alcohol, ammonia used for house cleaning, and vinegar can all harm plants, although they are recommended for liberal use in the other books.

This book explains what helps and hurts your plants, and why. This will save you lots of trouble, time, and money. Ditch the old superstitions and go with what works!
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Dr Adam Weiss VINE VOICE on June 6, 2006
Format: Paperback
Gillman breaks down every known and some I never heard of remedies to help fight against those nasty bugs that attack our gardens and how to grow a more productive or colorful one. From fertilizers to soda pop and many more urban myths and legends are revealed with a very useful rating system that your neighbor or uncle Joe couldn't offer with their sure fire remedy they swear works on their gardens. A must read for all of those who love to garden.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Amanda Peck on May 3, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
All the home remedies and suggestions that some of us have used for years if not generations.

He's got space, time, interest, students looking for projects to check out stuff where we can only say things like "the year I added a bit of epsom salts to the tomatoes they did fine, but everybody else's tomatoes were fine that year too."

I was crushed to find that after all these years I didn't need to add a lot of crushed rock to the bottom of my pots. After all my parents did that!

(really? well no--I'd wondered a few times if a LOT of rock just took up space in the pot)

So I like the book a lot.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Brian Connors VINE VOICE on April 29, 2008
Format: Paperback
In an era where anti-intellectualism is on the march, where many people on both the conservative and liberal wings equate education to elitism and oppression, it's become increasingly difficult to stand for rationalist and scientific thinking. Keeping up on the latest in ecological science is almost pointless for a lay person, since the entire public face of the subject is an echo chamber of accusations of conspiracy and cover-up. In the face of all that, organic growing has grown mightily as agricultural science is tarred by association with the corrupt giants of agribusiness such as Monsanto. After all, natural is better than synthetic, right? So all-natural must be better... right?

I was wary when I first saw this book. Sad as it is, "truth" has become a loaded word in the modern press -- too often a book that purports to tell you the "truth" is little more than a fringe polemic, more political than evidence-based in nature, raving about cover-ups and frauds and gushing with prejudice and paranoia. This is not that sort of book. Jeff Gillman, a University of Minnesota professor of horticulture (and therefore a card-carrying member of The Conspiracy) puts forth a simple, well-researched book on gardening techniques in the tradition of skeptical writers such as James Randi, Carl Sagan, and Martin Gardner, with critical examinations of many gardening tips and nostrums both commercial and homemade. They're graded individually (from one to five flowers) based on how they conform to the body of scientific knowledge; extensive journal references are provided to allow the persistent reader to judge the facts for themselves.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By K. Hughes on July 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
I loved this book - I don't like to buy something I can make myself and I like to tinker in the garden. This book explains lots of agricultural science building blocks in a very informal, accessible manner - information that would usually only be available through heavy textbooks or a degreed horticulturist. I have a better understanding of soil, pH, nutrient availability, how fertilizers work, and more. It has the feeling of a friendly professor who really wants a beginner to understand spending a weekend sharing as much as you can digest.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ez on July 31, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very well-written book that explores a number of common (and not so common) garden fixes. This book does a good job of clearly explaining in the layman's term the experiments used and the findings, and infusing humor throughout. I have bought this book for myself, and then as a gift for friends. I would highly recommend it.
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