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The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why

By Jeff Gillman

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.

Seattle Times

Can beer make plants grow? How about buttermilk? Or music — classical or rock? Is it true about planting trees in deep holes? And how about chasing insects with hot sauce and stopping slugs with eggshells? Remedies for all garden woes are there for the taking: the challenge is to know what will work and what won't. Fearlessly conducting original experiments and harvesting wisdom from the scientific literature, horticulturist Jeff Gillman assesses new and historic advice and reveals the how and why — and sometimes the why not — for more than 100 common and uncommon gardening practices. The results will surprise even experienced gardeners.

Media reviews

"Refreshing, lucid and enlightening. Their spare style, with no illustrations, and concentration on facts rather than 'inspiration' even gives them an old-fashioned charm."

—Noel Kingsbury, BBC Gardens

"This is a book that many of us will want to consult frequently."

—Linda McIntyre, American Gardener

"While entertainingly relating his experiments and his research, Gillman also packs in a wealth of useful information."

—Beth Botts, Chicago Tribune

"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

"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

"A fascinating exploration of which garden remedies really work."

—Stephanie Bruner, Des Moines Register

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

—Laura Christman, Redding Record Searchlight

"You'll come away with lots of to-do's and not-to-do's and the scientific explanations for everything."

—Penny Carnathan, Tampa Tribune

"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

"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

"[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

"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

"A good read full of unusual information, making it an ideal present for a keen gardener."

—Angela Youngman, Monsters and Critics

"It's kind of like Consumer Reports visits Jerry Baker and the neighborhood garden guru."

—George Weigel, Harrisburg Patriot-News

"[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

"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

"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

"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

"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."


"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

"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

"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

"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

"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

"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."

—Loretto Hulse, Kennewick (WA) Tri-City Herald

"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

"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

"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

"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

"[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

"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

"The book offers something for everyone, no matter what your experience might be."

—Randy Miranda, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"Jeff's humor and his own hilarious experiments held me captive all the way until the end."

—Debra Teachout-Teashon, Rainy Side Gardeners

"This thoroughly delightful book will make you a less gullible and hence better gardener."

—Luurt Nieuwenhuis, American Rhododendron Society Journal

"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

"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."


"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

About the author

Jeff Gillman

Jeff Gillman loathes advice that is given without concern for the consequences. He wrote a tell-all book after hearing self-proclaimed experts spouting things such as feeding syrup to plants, and lectures on a variety of topics including homebrewed remedies and organic pesticides.

Read more about Jeff Gillman

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