Why do we have a Garden Professor’s blog?

As (relatively) young professors at major universities, Linda, Jeff, Holly and I are busier than the proverbial one-armed paper-hanger.  Every week is filled with the endless pandemonium of grant deadlines, students at our door, requests to review papers, committee meetings, speaking engagements that we agreed to 6 months ago and forgot about, calls from media, calls from growers, calls from homeowners, and on and on and on.  Then, in the middle of all this tumult and chaos, we decide, like we got nothing better to do, to start posting on a blog every week.  Pardon my French, but what the f*&@ were we thinking?!


Then I run across a web-link like this:


and it all comes rushing back to me like a wave:  Exposing charlatans.  The fight against landscaping ignorance.  The battle of science against quackery and snake oil.


I’m actually having a hard time settling down long enough to write about this.  You know how you get that warm, flushed feeling you get right before you ask guy to step outside?  I’m getting there.  While I calm down, maybe we’ll let the readers take over.  We’ll make it our Monday contest – how many stupid things wrong can our blog readers find in this video?  Painful as it may be; watch the whole thing, it keeps getting better (or worse, depending on your point of view).  To keep things fair, only one item per customer.   In the meantime, I’ll just keep breathing into this paper bag…

21 thoughts on “Why do we have a Garden Professor’s blog?”

  1. Whoo hoo! You go, Bert! (I haven’t watched it yet but just wanted to give you thumbs up in the righteous indignation department.)

  2. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry…I watched more than one video…not something I’d recommend for the faint of heart.

  3. Rule #1 – never identify what you’re using, just refer to it as your “magic elixir”

    Rule #2- Measuring is for sissies

    Although I did like the background music. It had that feel of when the protagonist was spying on the enemy training camp in American Ninja. Good stuff!

  4. Ok – 1 observation per person: Not really sure how the contraption connected to the house works. But I would be a little concerned about backwash into the household water system.

  5. Well, thanks Bert. I’ve had to go find a paper bag for myself. This was painful to watch. “Gardener Gone Wild?” I’ll say. My one thing…? He keeps referring to everything as “food.” I was taught that the sugars produced from photosynthesis can legitimately be called food, but not macro- or micro-nutrients (or worm poop either, for that matter).

  6. This was horrible, right down to the fly crawling on the lens. But I liked when the host pretended he was the tree and said, “feed me.”

  7. okay, this is pretty annoying. most people are saying “OMG! that’s so bad!” but not actually pointing out what he’s doing wrong. I see a few things that I know are wrong or pointless, the rest of stuff I’m just not informed enough to judge one way or the other, and that’s why I come here, to learn. why don’t we have an actual critique of what he’s doing rather than just mocking him for poor production values and cheesy music. I’d really like to know which of his techniques are ineffectual a
    nd which ones are just plain harmful. If he’s reading this string of comments right now, I’m sure he probably just thinks you’re a bunch of annoying snobs.

    It’s hard to tell from the grainy video, but is that actually a mimosa tree? His description of the problems with the tree roots in the clay soil don’t make much sense to me. I live in the PNW where we have heavy clay soils and I’ve never heard someone complain about clay in that way before.

  8. Ryan, you are absolutely right. Here are a few things that I felt were wrong with what this video said.
    First was the off-hand comment that the tree “must have a disease” but then going on to “treat” it without identifying the problem. You don’t have to be a scientist (or even very smart) to know that you have to identify the problem before you can fix it. You can throw all the plant supplements you can buy on a tree with an insect infestation problem or with a disease, and it won’t resolve the problem.
    Second, maybe you all have better eyesight than I do, but with I couldn’t even tell what type of tree it was he was “treating” and I sure didn’t hear him identify it.
    Third, if you have determined that the problem is a lack of a specific nutrient and you are going to feed it, the feeder roots for trees are the ones you want to feed. They typically lie at or beyond the drip line – the outer branches of the tree mirror the start of the feeder roots. Every time he took that root feeder stake and jammed it into the ground – actually probably jamming it into and thru primary roots – it just made me cringe.
    Fourth, I would have liked to have known what was in the bags he was dumping. He said one was rock dust that he then identified as bacteria and than he then further identified it as “worm poo poo.” Really? Was he trying to say that he had found a product that was a mix of rock dust and worm castings? It just was never clear, but rock dust is not bacteria.
    Fifth, he recommended that you should go and cultivate the top couple inches of soil under the tree because the ground was “too compact.” For most trees, a lot of the root system is within the top foot of soil so if someone took him seriously and went in to hoe or dig under the tree to “loosen” the soil up, they could do serious damage to the roots.

    There’s more, but that’s all I have time for. Anyone else want to chime in??

  9. Don’t worry about this guy. Very much time spent applying all those (unknown) products with bare hands and no dust mask will put him out of the business anyway. But I think he’s having a bit of fun, not doing a serious demonstration of care for a tree. (Sort of like the “24 Ways to Kill a Tree” publication from VA Tech!)

  10. I agree with Ryan in that you need to address what he was actually doing wrong. Any homeowner in the US would allow him to do this because he sounds like he knows way more than they do. I can’t believe how many friends have landscapers and garden maintenance people that they believe without a single question. They are the experts and some of the advice they have been given drives me crazy! thanks for the post Bert, it allows me to vent on someone besides my friends about these people.

  11. I also agree with Ryan that we need to focus on substance, not style. Just because someone sounds like a doofus and puts out a video with lousy production values doesn’t mean they don’t know what they’re talking about. The single thing that got me – and from whence most the other problems follow – is the notion that if it’s organic, it’s safe. “Don’t panic, it’s organic!” Jeff covered it as well as anyone could in his book; there are lots of nasty things out there that are organic. I don’t know that this guy was using anything especially toxic, but there’s certainly no need to spread fertilizers around willy-nilly until you know for certain you have a nutrient problem. Then we can get into the rest; no soil test, no insect or disease diagnostics, no personal protective equipment, no back-flow prevention, no rate calculation, no spreader(!) calibration, no foliar diagnostics, and on and on.

    By the way, how many readers are familiar with the ‘Parable of the invisible gardener’? Google it or look it up on Wikipedia. Since you’re smart enough to read this blog you won’t miss the irony.

  12. direct from Wikipedia: “Two people return to their long neglected garden and find, among the weeds, that a few of the old plants are surprisingly vigorous. One says to the other, ‘It must be that a gardener has been coming and doing something about these weeds.’ The other disagrees and an argument ensues. They pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. The believer wonders if there is an invisible gardener, so they patrol with bloodhounds but the bloodhounds never give a cry. Yet the believer remains unconvinced, and insists that the gardener is invisible, has no scent and gives no sound. The sceptic doesn’t agree, and asks how a so-called invisible, intangible, elusive gardener differs from an imaginary gardener, or even no gardener at all.”

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