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The Truth About Organic Gardening: Benefits, Drawbacks, and the Bottom Line

By Jeff Gillman

A thoughtful and surprisingly entertaining guide. ... I don't know why it's taken so long for someone to write an objective analysis of horticultural products and techniques, but I'm glad Gillman came along and did it. This book belongs on every gardener's bookshelf and in every garden center.

Amy Stewart, GardenRant

Gardeners tend to assume that any product or practice labeled as organic is automatically safe for humans and beneficial to the environment. And in many cases this is true. The problem, as Jeff Gillman points out in this fascinating, well-researched book, is that it is not universally true, and the exceptions can pose a significant threat to human health. To cite just two examples: animal manures are widely viewed as prime soil amendments. When properly treated, they are; but if they are insufficiently composted, they can be a source of harmful E. coli contamination. Even more dangerous, potentially, are organic insecticides like rotenone, which is every bit as toxic as the synthetic compounds it is meant to replace.

Gillman's contention is that all gardening products and practices — organic and synthetic — need to be examined on a case-by-case basis to determine both whether they are safe and whether they accomplish the task for which they are intended. When gardeners are well informed about the precise nature and consequences of what they use and do in the garden, they are in a much better position to make responsible, effective choices.

If you've ever wondered about the merits of a specific insecticide, herbicide, or fungicide, or debated whether practices such as planting cover crops or companion plants are worth the trouble, you'll find the answers you've sought in these pages, along with a clear, careful, and good-humored analysis of benefits and drawbacks.

Ultimately, Gillman concludes, organic methods are preferable in most situations that gardeners are likely to encounter. After reading this eye-opening book, you will understand why, and why knowledge is the gardener's most important tool.

Media reviews

"Finally, someone who's not biased at either extreme of the long-brewing organic vs. chemical garden debate weighs in with an even-handed, fact-based approach. ... Few fields are more rife with half-truths and old wives' tales than gardening. It's really refreshing to see someone look past the claims to what research really tells us."

—George Weigel, Harrisburg Patriot-News

"I've come away from this book — a reference text masquerading as a beach read — with hands-on knowledge that is just plain useful. The book gives you the facts about synthetic and organic techniques and encourages you to do further research, then make educated decisions about your own garden. ... He is calm and even in his approach. His bottom line is that we all need to be more mindful about how we garden, and he encourages us to work towards a safer, healthier, and better world."

—Sara Begg, Horticulture

"To be the best gardener, tend your soil, plant a diverse garden, tolerate some imperfection and make informed case-by-case choices to deal with problems. [This] book can help."

—Beth Botts, Chicago Tribune

"Trying to find definitive, impartial advice is hard. ... How do you separate the hype from the facts? Spending 13 bucks on Gillman's new book ... may go a long way."

—Adrian Higgins, Washington Post

"You'd have to be a professional horticulturalist yourself not to learn something from Gillman's wide-ranging descriptions of the more arcane chemical and mechanical garden methodologies that are out there. ... He shares his knowledge and experience in a way that entertains, enlightens, and sometimes surprises."

—Elizabeth Licata, Garden Rant

"Gillman is a brainy University of Minnesota horticulturalist who is applying both science and common sense to the battle between 'organic' and 'chemicals.' It turns out there are things found in nature that aren't all that good for your backyard zinnias, or the planet, and that some man-made stuff actually serves both masters."

—Brian Lambert, Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine

"Gillman urges his readers to 'consider the long-term consequences' of the products they use in the garden. In writing this book he has given them a valuable tool to do just that. It belongs in every gardener's library."

—Ethel Fried, Manchester (CT) Journal Inquirer

"Offers a wealth of useful information. ... Gillman's great contribution is his even-handed attitude about his subject. He's not a tiresome and relentless zealot about organic gardening but rather an objective analyst about the benefits and drawbacks of organic methods in comparison with synthetic methods. ... [A] fine resource, full of solid scientific information in a highly readable presentation."

—Tom Karwin, Monterey County Herald

"Should be a well-thumbed reference on the bookshelf of every gardener who cares about making the right choices. Highly recommended."

—Jane Starwood, Suffolk Times

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

—Noel Kingsbury, BBC Gardens

"Finally, someone wrote a clear and concise book about gardening practices and products."

—Susan Randstrom, Chicago Sun-Times

"A highly readable, intelligent, and scientifically based discussion on the benefits and, yes, drawbacks of organic gardening."

—Susan Banks, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"If you're a gardener, run, don't walk, to your nearest laptop or bookstore to buy [this book]. If you think you already know this stuff, trust me. You don't. ... It's a tough, confusing world out there for gardeners. Best to bypass the gurus. Read this book."

—Virginia A. Smith, Philadelphia Inquirer

"A thoughtful and surprisingly entertaining guide to organic and synthetic practices, balancing the advantages and drawbacks of each and giving gardeners the information they need to make informed choices. I don't know why it's taken so long for someone to write an objective analysis of horticultural products and techniques, but I'm glad Gillman came along and did it. This book belongs on every gardener's bookshelf and in every garden center."

—Amy Stewart, Garden Rant

"Destined to be a bestseller. ... An easy to read, practical, and fascinating book for veteran gardeners or someone who just moved from an apartment to their first home with two feet or 2,000 feet of gardening space."

Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Next time you have a problem in the garden, don't just react, think. This book can help you make smart, safe choices."

—Laura Christman, Redding Record Searchlight

"Sure to cause controversy and heated discussion. ... What this book does is introduce more than 100 products and planting techniques and cite the latest university tests and factual results so that gardeners can make responsible choices and not continue to link the words 'organic,' 'safe' and 'effective' so firmly in their minds."

—Marianne Binetti, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"You will enjoy and learn from Jeff's clear, careful, and good-humored analysis of the benefits and drawbacks of organic gardening practices and products."

—Scott Conner, AM1090Seattle.com

"Many gardeners use both conventional and organic methods in their gardens, and may welcome a book that doesn't make them feel guilty for doing so. ... [This book] will appeal to open-minded readers who want to be able to compare organic gardening methods to their conventional counterparts."

—Tammy Biondi, Garden And Hearth

"Doesn't pull any punches. ... A thought-provoking eye-opener."

—Susan Brackney, PlentyMag.com

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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