The Truth About Organic Gardening

When I took the dog out this morning there was a good six inches of snow on the walk, literally obliterating yesterday’s shoveled path. No wonder that these days I'm gardening in my mind only.

When I do I head to the bookshelf for a little gardening knowledge – and one of my favorites –Dr. Jeff Gillman’s The Truth About Organic Gardening.  His books (he also wrote The Truth About Garden Remedies) are go-to references for me when I come across many of the assertions I see on the Internet.  I love to read science based materials because so many of the arguments and assertions about gardening that I see online are just plain – well baloney!

In his book about organic gardening Gillman talks about how people like to pick sides in just about everything: politics, team sports and more… gardening is no different.  He divides them into three groups:

  1. those who want everything grown naturally – no fertilizers or pesticides for sure,

  2. those who will use commercial products to help plants grow but only things considered natural; i.e. not made in a lab and

  3. the extreme opposite gardeners that will add anything – and I do mean anything – to help plants grow.

Gillman’s book leads you through the rhetoric and into the realm of science-based information.  I appreciate Gillman’s book also because he talks about growing up on a small Pennsylvania fruit farm where his father, a chemist, went from using “synthetic” pesticides to nothing at all.  The resulting produce were what he calls “insect motels”.  Gilman would offer that fruit to visitors who would turn it down and that led him to quickly realize that to produce fruit that most people would eat you had to apply pesticides. I too grew up on a fruit farm in the days when lots of very toxic pesticides were staples for the farmers in our area.  And my father sold synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. I grew up knowing their benefits and their dangers and as a result have a healthy respect for their toxicity but not the fear of them that so many people have. 

Gilman also talks about his graduate studies where he found the differences between chemical controls “more satisfying, albeit short-lived results” and cultural controls that “usually worked well over the long term but were rather disappointing in terms of quick results.”

In researching his book Gillman concluded that every pesticide needs to be researched individually and that not all dangerous pesticides are synthetic.  That’s an oversimplification of the wealth of information that’s in this book but I hope it intrigues you to further research and study.  And this book is a great place to start because it’s full of information explaining the basics of organic gardening, giving a good short course in pesticide use, in soil enrichment, in fertilization, weed, insect and disease control and more.  In his discussion he lays out the benefits and the drawbacks of a variety of treatments and then draws a conclusion on each case he presents. He also talks about organic practices and our ecosystem and about organic foods – definitely hot topics between people on both sides of the issue.

Gillman’s books are great to read but if you ever get the chance to hear him speak it’s well worth your time to do so.  To get a quick view of what you can expect listening to Gillman check out this blog with a video of him reviewing products in a garden center. Jeff Gillman is definitely leading the way to thoughtful organic gardening and if you’re serious about gardening as organically as possible this book is for you.  

For another great read on the attacks on scientific claims check out this article from the Garden Professors Blog, for which Gillman is a contributor.  Gillman’s satire is dead on and he deftly skewers those who belief that education and expertise don’t matter – at least when it conflicts with their long-held and cherished beliefs. 

There are several ways you can purchase these books. You can contact your local independent bookseller or find them on Amazon by following the link below.  

Note: I'm a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to If you do buy a books by following a link in this article, I may receive a commission.

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