The Informed Gardener

Linda K. Chalker-Scott

  • Published: July 2015
  • Subject Listing: Natural History; Nature and Environment
  • Bibliographic information: 240 pp., 36 illus., 5.5 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Winner of the Best Book Award in the 2009 Garden Writers Association Media Awards

Named an "Outstanding Title" in University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries, 2009

In this introduction to sustainable landscaping practices, Linda Chalker-Scott addresses the most common myths and misconceptions that plague home gardeners and horticultural professionals. Chalker-Scott offers invaluable advice to gardeners gardeners who have wondered:

Are native plants the best choice for sustainable landscaping?

Should you avoid disturbing the root ball when planting?

Are organic products better or safer than synthetic ones?

What is the best way to control weeds-fabric or mulch?

Does giving vitamins to plants stimulate growth?

Are compost teas effective in controlling diseases?

When is the best time to water in hot weather?

If you pay more, do you get a higher-quality plant?

How can you differentiate good advice from bad advice?

The answers may surprise you. In her more than twenty years as a university researcher and educator in the field of plant physiology, Linda Chalker-Scott has discovered a number of so-called truths that originated in traditional agriculture and that have been applied to urban horticulture, in many cases damaging both plant and environmental health. The Informed Gardener is based on basic and applied research from university faculty and landscape professionals, originally published in peer-reviewed journals.

After reading this book, you will:

Understand your landscape or garden plants as components of a living system

Save time (by not overdoing soil preparation, weeding, pruning, staking, or replacing plants that have died before their time)

Save money (by avoiding worthless or harmful garden products, and producing healthier, longer-lived plants)

Reduce use of fertilizers and pesticides

Assess marketing claims objectively

This book will be of interest to landscape architects, nursery and landscape professionals, urban foresters, arborists, certified professional horticulturists, and home gardeners.

For more information go to:
Linda Chalker-Scott is an extension urban horticulturist and associate professor at Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University. She is the Washington State editor of MasterGardener magazine and for six years she authored an online column,

"This book is a must-have for every gardener. We've been led down false garden paths by too many for too long."
-Ginny Stibolt, author of Sustainable Gardening for Florida

"What a godsend to have so many competing claims about gardening examined from a scientific viewpoint and explained in an easy-to-read format."
-Susan Harris, and


The Myth of Absolute Science
The Myth of Indisputable Information
The Myth of Organic Superiority, Part I
The Myth of Organic Superiority, Part 2

The Myth of Fragile Roots
- Pruning Flawed Woody Roots Before Transplanting
The Myth of Mighty Roots
The Myth of Top-Pruning Transplanted Material
The Myth of Tree Topping
How Big is Big?
The Myth of Hot-Weather Watering

The Myth of Instant Landscaping
The Myth of Native Plant Superiority
- Going Native? Or Not?
The Myth of Well-behaved Ornamentals
The Myth of Plant Quality
- Choosing the Best Plants at the Nursery
The Myth of Drainage Materials in Containers
The Myth of Collapsing Root Balls
The Myth of Tree Staking

The Myth of Soil Amendments, Part 1
The Myth of Soil Amendments, Part 2
The Myth of Soil Amendments, Part 3
The Myth of Phosphate Fertilizer, Part 1
The Myth of Phosphate Fertilizer, Part 2
The Myth of Beneficial Bonemeal
The Myth of Polyacrylamide Hydrogels
The Myth of Wandering Weedkiller

The Myth of Landscape Fabric
- Using Arborist Wood Chips for Weed Control
The Myth of Clean Compost
- How Does Mulching Reduce Pesticide and Fertilizer Use?
The Myth of Paper-Based Sheet Mulch
The Myth of Pretty Mulch
- Characteristics of an Ideal Landscape Mulch

The Myth of Compost Tea
The Myth of Compost Tea Revisited
The Myth of Mineral Magic
The Myth of Vitamin Shots
The Myth of Vitamin Stimulants
The Myth of Wound Dressings
Essential Garden Tools and Products

"This groundbreaking book belongs in every gardener's library. Rather than pushing one viewpoint over another, the author brings a voice of reason to gardening without the usual hype."

"Chalker-Scott is a one-woman Consumer Reports on gardening practices. Her book takes a look at what we think we know and what we've heard to be true, then holds it up against what research shows."
-The Patriot News

"A succinct and easy-to-navigate resource . . . . Chalker-Scott's instructions are clear enough for even a first-time gardener to follow."
-The Bloomsbury Review

"This enjoyable book should find its way into the hands of almost every gardener. . . . Highly recommended for public libraries with gardeners ready to tackle the literature, as well as academic and special libraries with interests in horticulture and gardening."
-Library Journal

"Chalker-Scott's approach is unique in that she speaks about gardening as a genuine expert - with academic credentials - who debunks numerous myths. . . . in a manner that is easy for us laypeople to understand and absorb. . . Her conclusions are good advice for all of us to follow."
-Washington State Grange News

"In her first book she takes on common garden myths about fertilizer, mulch, transplanting, staking, compost tea, watering and many more potentially confusing topics. She skillfully debunks them with current research as well as her experience in extension horticulture."
-Seattle Times

"The Informed Gardener is a thorough, well-written guide and is highly recommended to any gardening enthusiast."
-Midwest Book Review

"An informative, helpful guide to sustainable landscaping, with valuable emphasis on cutting through many of the myths and misunderstandings that now surround this increasingly hot topic."
-Seattle Post-Intelligencer

"[Linda Chalker-Scott's] book does great service in helping the urban gardener move past common practices that hinder instead of help, looking to nature itself as the ultimate teacher of truths."
-Cascadia Weekly

"Linda Chalker-Scott is gardening's version of television's 'MythBusters.' Ok, so she isn't so keen on blowing things up, but she does use scientific research to explain why many traditional horticultural practices aren't suitable for urban landscapes."
-Tacoma News