Truth and myths about how the garden grows

Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott is Associate Professor of Horticulture at the Center for Urban Horticulture at the University of Washington. On request, she compiled scientific information in the book “The Informed Gardener”.

The book included research and resources that confirm the information as being truth or misinformation. I found this book fascinating as one of our requirements as Master Gardeners. We need to learn science-based horticultural information and then share it with gardeners and anyone else interested in the environment.

She reminds us that gardeners and landscapers should be more interested and committed to promoting a sustainable environment rather than an instant result more suited to an agricultural area where production is the goal.

Here are some of the truths and myths mentioned in Chalker-Scott’s book.

Myth: If it’s published, it must be true

How much of our gardening information do we get from advertising for a product or promoting a theory that is often unproven techniques?

Just because it’s in print, on TV, or on social media doesn’t mean it is. Or, just because an article or book was written by an author with a PhD, you might not be sure what their field of study was.

When reviewing the research, were subsequent tests performed with identical results and who funded the research.


Information is generally valid if published by an educational institution.

Is the author trying to sell you something?

Many times research has been funded by the company selling the product, creating an ulterior motive to achieve a particular result.

Myth: Nursery brochures and employee instructions are always the best source of information

The nursery may be understaffed with limited time to educate the employee so that they are properly trained to educate the public on horticultural information.

Horticultural and product information should be reviewed frequently as this changes as research is completed.


The information provided may not be suitable for your gardening situation, such as soil type, drainage, sun exposure, area, etc.

Usually, the priority of a retail establishment is to “sell” and not “to educate”.

Myth: Organic products are safer than chemicals

To assume that products derived from biological sources can never pose a threat to humans or ecosystem health is wrong and even dangerous. (examples: marijuana, heroin, ricin and organic cigarettes are just a few)

Truth: Everything on earth, natural or otherwise, is made up of chemicals

The terms “chemical-free” and “organic” are oxymorons in chemistry or organic farming.

According to the EPA, homeowners use about 10 times more chemicals per unit of land than farmers.

Whether a substance is natural or synthetic is not necessarily the question, but are the properties safe for the environment and for consumption?

Any substance can cause problems if used in excess. (eg your meds… Just because a little is good for you, a lot more is not better.

Read the label. Read the label. Then follow the label.

(To be continued)

New class formation: The new Sandusky / Ottawa County Master Gardener class is scheduled to run from September 1 to October 1. 27. The group meets from 9 am to 3 pm and in various locations. Call the Sandusky County Extension Office at 419-334-6340 for more information.

The cost of the Ottawa / Sandusky County Volunteer Master Gardeners training is $ 100 if your registration and payment are received by today and $ 150 thereafter. The registration deadline is August 25; $ 50 will be refunded at the end of the training and after the first full year of active membership.

Call the Sandusky County Extension Office at 419-334-6340 for more information.

Submitted by Elaine Mylander, Member of Sandusky-Ottawa County Master Gardeners.

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