The Truth about Organic Gardening: Book Review

The Truth about Organic Gardening by Jeff Gillman is a must-have for every homeowner serious about his or her lawn and garden.  Published in 2008 by Timber Press, it quickly shot to the top of best-seller lists of gardening books.  (There are such things!)  If you only ever own one book about how to care for your lawn and landscape yourself, this is the one to get. Another plus--Gillman writes in plain English.  Even someone without a background in horticulture can read, understand and act on the information.  There are too many well-intentioned books that get lost in the jargon of the profession, failing to communicate to the average consumer.  This book rises above the jargon and provides useful information for all gardeners and homeowners.

A Balanced View

The best part about Gillman's book is that it is truly fair and balanced.  He meticulously researched every aspect of the book, and presented both sides of every issue.  After reading many books that clearly lean so far in one direction or the other as to fall off the bookshelf, it was refreshing to come across a book that examines each component  individually, rather than issuing blanket statements about good vs. bad.  On the whole, Gillman sides with organic options, but he goes a long way toward debunking the myth that the word "organic" stamped on something automatically means that it is safe, or that synthetic chemicals are automatically "bad." Gillman starts with a short introduction to organic gardening-what organic gardening is, the history of it, and what it is not.  I have spent years in school, taking classes and reading books, and I learned many new things from the introduction.  One thing readers might be interested or surprised to learn:  the "organic" label is for large-scale production and agriculture, only.  There is no real way to become a "certified organic gardener."  After his comprehensive treatment of pesticides, fertilizers, weed control, insect control, disease control, and general organic information, Gillman concludes that it is in the best interest for all of us to work toward sustainable gardening and landscaping principles, but that doing so will require a multi-pronged, thoughtful approach rather than a one-track mindset.

Best tips from the Book

I recommend that everyone read the book.  Here are some of the best tips for readers, in my opinion.
  • An organic label on something does not mean it is safe.  There are thousands of naturally occurring, highly toxic chemicals and many synthetic substances that are harmless.  Do your homework before applying any type of treatment.
  • Japanese beetle traps are likely to lure beetles from neighboring yards to your yard as they are to make a difference in reducing the beetle population of your yard.
  • Most municipalities spray the synthetic version of pyrethrum, which is not as harmless as many make it out to be.
  • Even organic insecticides often kill beneficial insects.  It is a good idea to try to use the least toxic insecticide, whether it is synthetic or organic.
  • Gardening techniques highly influence the spread of diseases and insect problems, and thus your need for controls.
There are hundreds of useful tips in The Truth About Organic Gardening. The best way to benefit from the book is to read it yourself, take notes and start applying the principles in your own lawn and landscape.
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