The Science of Gardening

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wholistic Sustainable Approach One of the most informative and enjoyable courses I’ve taken on this subject in a while. Professor Chalker-Scott cuts through the plethora of remedies and biases and busts a few myths along the way potentially saving us time, effort and money. The lectures on Plant CSI- case studies, water wise gardening, pesticides and integrated plant management for me were worth the price of the course alone. I like the way she moved between her workshop and the arboretum to show us examples of her subjects in the field. She is very articulate, knowledgeable and very clear and obviously enthusiastic. She moved through each lecture at a comfortable pace. I was in awe of her command of Latin names not just for plants but chemicals as well and her encouragement for all of us to become our own citizen scientists. The case studies at the end which included the naturalization of a wetland and her own home showed how she applied her research for everyday applications while encouraging wildlife and pollinators for a more integrated wholistic sustainable approach to gardening. Thank you Linda for this well organized research based course. I’d highly recommend it!
Date published: 2021-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Valuable treasure I learned a great wealth of information.This course is easy to follow and applies to many garden situations. I highly recommend this course for a beginner gardener, as well as an experienced gardener.
Date published: 2021-04-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from learned nothing This was the most worthless lecture series I have ever seen. I'm sure this lady is well qualified but she doesn't seem to know much about gardening. Some of the tired and true methods she brushed aside as worthless. How can they be worthless when time and time again they have shown to be effective. I think she has some kind of agenda pushing her theory that you only need wood chips. Total waste of time and money.
Date published: 2021-03-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great spectrum of basic background to application The lecturer provides specific examples of garden needs and practices in a pragmatic manner. Content focuses on peer-reviewed, scientifically-researched practices for which she provides resources and rationale for their credibility. The lecturer also walks the viewer through soil science with at-home tests and other information to support healthy use of any property type. The course includes critiques of common practices which are assumed practical but may not be scientifically-proven, giving the listener tools to promote critical thinking in one's own gardening approach. Overall, this makes the course valuable and relevant to any level of gardener. I was very pleased with the course quality.
Date published: 2021-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The information is very valuable I bought this DVD about a year ago, and have watched it two times now. The instructor gives very valuable information for the average home owner who might not know how to plant a tree or shrub properly, so the plant has the best chance for a long life. I have learned a lot and am applying what I have learned to my own yard, with success. Thank you Linda, it is a great course!
Date published: 2021-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loads of information and beautiful pictures. What a wonderful course! I am so glad I took it. So much information. I am semi- retired and will be beginning my gardening experience. A very helpful course to get started. Happy wood chipping and myth busting.
Date published: 2021-02-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Want a better Garden? Take this Course. I ordered this course because I was getting tired of buying plants and having them die! Nothing I was trying seemed to work and no one I talked to gave me answers that made sense. With a degree in Chemistry, I thought that if I looked at gardening more scientifically it might improve my results. I found her lectures on “Plant Selection: Native versus Non-Natives”, “Planting for Survival”’ and “The Art of and Science of Pruning” to be worth the value of the course by themselves. Yes, Dr Scott, the neighbor behind me has English Ivy. I have a beautiful older Magnolia Tree next to his English Ivy and have to every couple of months remove the Ivy by hand, a very time-consuming process. I do intend to follow your recommendations for handling this problem. As soon as I finished doing the lecture on Pruning, I followed the lecture on how to remove a large dead spot on a shrub I have in my front yard. It is winter in the Atlanta area as I write this; I am looking toward spring to try the techniques mentioned for roots. Having watched the way she handles roots and parts of it a second time I am convinced that this is a large part of why so many of the plants I purchase do not survive. I intend to try many of her other recommendations as Spring approves.
Date published: 2021-02-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting But Limited I appreciated Dr. Chalker-Scott’s clearly stated perspective, articulate delivery, and position on misinformation, which has been an increasingly relevant and important aspect of public discourse. Like martimedes2, however, I was taken aback by her almost dogmatic position around “peer-reviews, scientific literature” as the arbitrator of truth. As an integrative medicine clinician, let me draw some parallels with medicine. Like gardening, medicine is empirically-based and will always be empirically-based. Why? Because doctors don’t have the luxury of waiting 50 years for the scientific literature to come to a consensus before they treat sick people. The treatment of COVID and the very truncated rollout of its vaccines is a current example. “Scientific” and “Evidence-based” are larded on top as a sort of status balm, but it doesn’t change the empirical foundation. It is simply putting lipstick on a pig. Given the intensity of the striving for status and relevance, it is understandable why true believers like Dr. Chalker-Scott find this very hard to swallow. How do I know this? Because she provides no disclaimers, boundaries, or limitations of the application of science to the empirical practice of gardening. What could these be? PLOS Medicine wrote an essay in 2005 on, “Why Most Published Research Findings Are False”. It talks about false-positive findings, biases, and the like. Beyond this, the field of research is full of problems due to the presence of strong, confounding variables; often weak experimental design; incorrect use of statistical models; and corruption by 3rd parties (in medicine, Big Pharma, etc.). Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of The New England Journal of Medicine, has written a whole book on the corruption of medical research by the pharmaceutical industry. Hardly an arbitrator of “the truth.” To give another example, this is from Wikipedia on the current “replication crisis”: “Because the reproducibility of experimental results is an essential part of the scientific method,[6] an inability to replicate the studies of others has potentially grave consequences for many fields of science in which significant theories are grounded on unreproducible experimental work.” It is for these reasons that one of my clinical instructors commented that studying medicine through the lens of randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled studies is like studying Notre Dame Cathedral at midnight with a penlight. Ironically, botanical medicine serves as an excellent example. Just look at the issues with using Cannabis as a therapeutic agent. Despite millions of dollars and hundreds of research studies, I am still relegated to treating my patients pretty much empirically, in part due to the complexity of this one plant and partly due to the caving in of the scientific community to the sadistic, racist, xenophobic agenda of one entitled white man. There is certainly a place for the science of horticulture in the study of gardening. But there is also an esteemed place for the master gardener with 25 years of experience in my ecosystem. Both have limitations and strengths. The student of gardening is better served by the synergy of both.
Date published: 2021-02-11
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The Science of Gardening
Course Trailer
Garden Science: Weeding Out the Myths
1: Garden Science: Weeding Out the Myths

How many of your horticultural practices are based on anecdotal evidence from your neighbor or grandmother, and how do you assess their validity? In the midst of an unregulated “Wild West” of gardening products and practices, you can learn to access science-based information to create your sustainable dream garden.

25 min
Site Analysis: Choosing the Right Spot
2: Site Analysis: Choosing the Right Spot

Many of us make our landscape choices based on plant aesthetics. Instead, learn to first identify your location’s topography, prevailing winds, hydrology, soil type, and other environmental factors. Then you’ll be able to choose a plant well-suited for the long term. And you’ll avoid season after season of frustration.

27 min
Soil Analysis: What Makes Soil Great?
3: Soil Analysis: What Makes Soil Great?

Unless you live in a completely undeveloped area, chances are your home garden soil is not native. Learn what makes a “great” soil and how to determine your own approximate amounts of clay, silt, and sand; texture; nutrients; pH; and more—before you purchase that “must have” soil addition from the gardening store.

30 min
Living Soils: Bacteria and Fungi
4: Living Soils: Bacteria and Fungi

Just as humans cannot grow without our supportive microbiome, neither can plants. Plant roots, bacterial sheathes, and long filaments of fungus all function together to support the plant’s growth, enhancing the uptake of water and nutrients and improving soil structure. But what happens to this crucial symbiosis when you add unnecessary fertilizers?

29 min
Plant Selection: Natives versus Non-Natives
5: Plant Selection: Natives versus Non-Natives

Native plants are always a better home-garden choice than non-natives, right? We know they are best suited to thrive in the soils and ecosystems of the area, and will create the best wildlife habitat. But does garden science support those “truths”? You might be surprised to learn how introduced species can enhance your garden and landscape biodiversity.

30 min
Plant Selection: Function and Form
6: Plant Selection: Function and Form

In addition to its aesthetic value, your landscaping can provide privacy, protect soils from erosion, moderate temperature, manage storm-water runoff, provide wildlife habitat, and more. Learn how to select the appropriate plants with respect to morphology, growth rates, and physiology to help achieve your specific goals for various locations on your property.

35 min
Plant Selection: Finding Quality Specimens
7: Plant Selection: Finding Quality Specimens

Half the battle of successful landscaping is starting with the healthiest specimens—not, as we sometimes prefer, the largest. Learn how to inspect nursery plants from the crown to the ground for evidence of quality and health, and how to estimate root health by checking for suckers on single-trunk trees, root flare, surface roots, and the “tippy test.”

28 min
Soil Preparation and Protection
8: Soil Preparation and Protection

“Don’t plant before you fertilize!” Chances are you’ve heard that admonishment more than once. But gardening science has revealed that many popular practices—including fertilizing every time you plant—are neither necessary nor sustainable. Learn about a more natural way to add organic material to your garden to protect soil structure and nourish your plants.

24 min
The Truth about Mulch
9: The Truth about Mulch

Learn about the wide variety of mulch types—from glass to wood to compost—and the science-based pros and cons of each. By considering your specific site conditions and personal aesthetics, you can blend a variety of mulches to transform a struggling landscape into one that’s healthier and more sustainable.

30 min
Planting for Survival
10: Planting for Survival

Current research supports the need to radically change the way we’ve been planting trees for the past half century. Although considered controversial by nursery professionals, learn why plant science supports the “old” method of bare-root planting. This technique can improve tree survival because a vigorous root system will better support a healthy crown.

37 min
Aftercare for New Plants
11: Aftercare for New Plants

Once your new plant is in the ground, how should you take care of it? Learn the basics of watering, mulching, fertilizing, staking, and pruning newly transplanted trees or shrubs—and why this care might change in subsequent seasons when the plant is well established. Not sure if your newly planted tree is experiencing healthy root growth? Try the wiggle test.

29 min
Plant Nutrition: Evidence-Based Fertilizing
12: Plant Nutrition: Evidence-Based Fertilizing

The goal of fertilizing is to match your soil and plant needs—micro- and macronutrients, and other chemical requirements—with the appropriate sources of nutrition. By understanding your specific soil test results, you can determine which nutrients are deficient, which might already be present in toxic quantities, and whether or not to buy organic.

30 min
The Art and Science of Pruning
13: The Art and Science of Pruning

Have you ever seen a tree cut painted with tar or another sealant? Or seen a crown chopped completely bare? Both are common practices that we now know are harmful to the plant. Using applied plant physiology and science-based guidelines, learn the best timing and methods for pruning that will lead to healthy tree growth for the long term.

31 min
Creating Safe Food Gardens
14: Creating Safe Food Gardens

While it seems intuitive that vegetables grown in your home garden will be safer and healthier than those purchased at the supermarket, that could be a dangerous assumption. Does your garden soil contain elements of concern, especially cadmium or lead? If so, learn how to best respond—whether in plant choices or creative garden design.

30 min
Water-Wise Landscaping
15: Water-Wise Landscaping

Learn how to reduce water use and protect water quality using knowledge of plant biochemistry, transpiration, and photosynthesis. Designing garden modifications, choosing appropriate plants based on morphology and color, and incorporating shading and mulch to reduce evaporation are just some of the water-wise techniques that will help conserve water.

30 min
Diagnosing Diseases and Disasters
16: Diagnosing Diseases and Disasters

The most common cause of death for home garden plants is poor horticultural practices, not disease or pests. With this step-by-step guide to diagnosing plant problems, you’ll learn how to appropriately remedy any problem—and when the plant will heal on its own. You’ll also be able to identify the warning signs of future problems, so you can treat the issue before it’s too late.

31 min
Gardening CSI: Case Studies
17: Gardening CSI: Case Studies

Take a virtual field trip to see examples of unhealthy plants and learn how to diagnose their problems based on the science of plant physiology. You’ll see tree girdling, plants that become smaller over time instead of larger, scorched shrubs, and more. Once you understand the physiology behind these problems, you’ll be better able to diagnose and treat any of your garden’s plants that might be failing.

27 min
Integrated Pest Management
18: Integrated Pest Management

There is no lack of chemicals to get rid of the pests in your garden—whether that pest is a plant, insect, or other organism. But for long-term health, integrated pest management provides a better, systematic, science-based approach with a minimum of chemical inputs. With IPM, the goal isn’t to eradicate the pests, but to identify your tolerance level for their presence and implement appropriate management techniques.

28 min
Understanding Pesticides
19: Understanding Pesticides

Yes, there can be an appropriate time for judicious use of chemical pesticides in your garden—as a last resort to solve specific problems. Learn why you should always stick with those approved by the EPA and your state department of agriculture, and never use the home remedies promoted on the Internet or in non-science-based books. Are organics always safer ecologically than synthetics? You’ll be surprised.

33 min
What to Do about Weeds
20: What to Do about Weeds

If you have a garden in the U.S., chances are you’re familiar with the damage caused by English ivy, kudzu, purple loosestrife, and/or the tamarisk tree. Each of these hardy plants can quickly create a monoculture, driving out other plant species and limiting the availability of diverse animal habitat. Learn the best science-based mechanisms to control these plants.

29 min
What to Do about Insects
21: What to Do about Insects

Before you resort to chemical sprays—which can kill all insects, not just the pests you’re targeting—learn how to manage insects by increasing plant diversity, establishing “trap” plants, and using repellents and tools including your basic garden hose. But before you do anything, know your “enemy.” Understanding the life cycle and reproductive physiology of the insect will help you make the most effective management choices.

33 min
What to Do about Herbivores
22: What to Do about Herbivores

You could spend a lot of money trying to keep slugs, rats, moles, rabbits, squirrels, deer, and other herbivores out of your garden. But most of those purchases would have little, if any, value, especially if feeding pressure is high in the surrounding habitat. Learn about the few options that are both safe and effective. And remember, “man’s best friend” might be your garden’s best friend, too.

28 min
Tackling Garden Myths and Misinformation
23: Tackling Garden Myths and Misinformation

If you can’t trust the Internet home remedy or the local gardening salesperson, whom can you trust? Make science-based gardening decisions by assessing the credibility, relevance, accuracy, and purpose of the information you read. Learn to understand the significant role played by peer review, the crucial difference between correlation and causation, and how to watch out for over-extrapolation and misapplied science.

29 min
Applied Garden Science: Success Stories
24: Applied Garden Science: Success Stories

Two specific transformation stories—a wetlands restoration and a home garden project—reflect the benefit of science-based planning by considering soils, temperature, sunlight, moisture, water table, and likely pests. Learn how to become a citizen scientist and contribute to the field, not by looking for the easy way out, but by asking the hard questions and knowing how to assess the strength of the answers.

40 min
Linda Chalker-Scott

What we do have is a young and growing body of science-based information that can help us create and maintain sustainable gardens and landscapes. I'm excited to share the information with you throughout this course.

ALMA MATER

Oregon State University

INSTITUTION

Washington State University

About Linda Chalker-Scott

Linda Chalker-Scott is an Extension Specialist in Urban Horticulture and an Associate Professor of Horticulture at Washington State University. She received her Ph.D. in Horticulture from Oregon State University, focusing on environmental stress physiology of woody plants. She has worked at Buffalo State College and at the University of Washington, where she remains an affiliate faculty member. In addition to her academic credentials, she serves as a Certified Arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture and a Consulting Arborist with the American Society of Consulting Arborists.

Dr. Chalker-Scott has published in a number of peer-reviewed journals and written numerous science-based books for gardeners and landscape professionals. These include the award-winning The Informed Gardener; The Informed Gardener Blooms Again; and How Plants Work: The Science behind the Amazing Things Plants Do, which won awards from the American Horticultural Society and the National Association of County Agricultural Agents.

As an Extension Specialist, Dr. Chalker-Scott has an educational outreach program that includes homeowners, Master Gardeners, landscape professionals, restoration ecologists, and landscape architects. Since 2004, she has delivered more than 400 seminars, reaching more than 25,000 attendees. Dr. Chalker-Scott is also one of the founding Garden Professors, a group of university faculty who provide science-based information for gardeners through blogs and social media.

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