The Science of Gardening

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent science based lectures Presented very professionally with a little humor thrown in. Very good information and I love the myth busting. Highly recommend for the beginner and the experienced gardener.
Date published: 2020-12-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Content very good, production issues The content of the course was first rate and very useful. The issue I had was with the production of it. In many of the lectures, there would be a glitch where a line of the audio would repeat itself—and the rest of the lecture would be out of sync. And not just slightly. You would see graphics on the screen that wouldn't match what she was talking about. I ended up just listening and not watching—not a great solution when you pay for video. Valuable and practical information I can't wait to put into practice this upcoming spring.
Date published: 2020-12-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good viewpoint for gardening I’m a fairly experienced gardener so I found her gardening philosophy interesting, especially her emphasis on using arborist chips as a mulch. It’s always instructive to listen to someone else’s opinion on how to do things. And I’m glad that herbicides and pesticides are no longer considered the goto solution for plant problems.
Date published: 2020-12-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it! Now feel much more confident working in my garden. Thanks for the tip of the carnivorous plant.
Date published: 2020-10-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely phenomenal! Indispensable information for every gardener! I've been through the entire course and am amazed at how little I understood before. For years, 80% of the trees planted in our middle-sized yard by a professional local tree company have been dying - though after 3-4 years, so out of warranty. Many factors were blamed, from our cold Wisconsin winters (although the trees were at least zone 3 hardy) to the amount of light we had in the yard. At one point, I dug out a dead tree & sent the head arborist a picture showing the trunk buried almost 4 inches into the soil. Just this year after they planted several arborvitae, I went to look for myself and found myself literally digging out entire branches with leaves from beneath the soil. I asked the head of the Co to check on this, which he did, but he became incensed and asked me to find a different tree company to work with. I felt I had made an erroneous assessment and wanted to educate myself on the science of gardening. This course came to my rescue! Professor Chalker-Scott covers the most important areas of plant science as they relate to gardening. Of-course, in 24 short lectures, not everything can be included, but all the most important topics are discussed. She has a no-nonsense yet highly engaging style. I found myself riveted & really raced through the course. I truly feel empowered with my new-found knowledge and am eager to start digging in those trees & shrubs myself. I'd always been intimidated because I'm not very strong (5'1", 98 lb female) - but now know how to tackle my plantings and maintenance, armed with sound scientific information.
Date published: 2020-09-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Evidence light, but some good applications. If you're interested in horticulture, especially the kind you can't eat, these are useful lectures. It's not particularly helpful to me, because outside of one episode, there are no citations, and I'm supposed to be skeptical and require evidence here, and without those citations I don't know what is the professor's opinion and what is settled science. She definitely has a viewpoint, and this does bias her opinions in ways a viewer should understand. She is not coming from a food producing angle, and seems to be primarily interested in restoration projects and ornamental gardening. Because of that some of her opinions are focused on those goals and not the best advice for other goals or perspectives. One pet peeve I had with her advice is her dislike of high levels of organic matter in the soil because it depletes over time and needs to be periodically renewed, but she endorses wood chip mulching, which is organic matter that you have to periodically renew. She's really into these wood chips. I have a yard full of them, so it's not that I disagree, but I don't think her reasoning is fair. Thank you. I'd find this course a lot more helpful just if I knew what kind of science supported some of her statements, to separate them from her personal insights and opinions. So this is a light course, not much rigor, but does have several practical demonstrations that would be useful to any gardener.
Date published: 2020-09-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I have a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture and additional horticultural classes. Was shocked to learn so many new things. This was outstanding. Can't wait to finish it and learn so much more.
Date published: 2020-08-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Science of Gardening This course was alright. She apparently does not have rabbits as she does not think the plastic tube is needed around the young trees to protect them. I lost 2 apple trees and a cherry tree from rabbits eating the bark around the tree during the Winter. There was a lot of wasted video time when she went to the garden in Virginia. One episode I believe there were 4-5 times when the introduction to the Virginia garden took place.
Date published: 2020-08-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not at all what I was expecting. This lecture series is strictly geared to suburban ornamental conventional gardeners. Definitely not me! I live on a rural homestead and practice stictly organic agriculture growing food in my garden and orchard. I absolutely refuse to use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. She lost my interest in the 1st lecture when she stated that glyphosate ess perfectly safe. I want my money back.
Date published: 2020-08-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Entertaining I have not finished viewing the DVDs. However, I am looking forward to continuing my viewing of these informative DVDs.
Date published: 2020-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating, and a lot of good Gardening advice I liked this course a lot and burned through it all in a week. There's a lot of good gardening advice. The professor debunks a lot of gardening myths and popular practices that cause more harm than good, or are unnecessary and a waste of money and time that could go into more beneficial practices. While there is a lot of good to this course, there is a lot left unexplained. There were things introduced that she didn't elaborate on, which I would have liked to known more about. The professor tells us to go read peer reviewed journals, which if you don't have a university tie to access those things, they aren't accessible or are expensive. Plus there's not much need to do so, unless you like to get into 97 percent tedium and triviality and narrowness that most overblown peer reviewed articles get into. Sorry academia, you're not the only experts on the planet, regardless if you have doctorates. So take them with as much critical thought as you should with Joe-blow from YouTube. Most things were common sense about putting harmful substances into the environment. And She does give some excellent alternatives to using various products and chemicals for different applications. She does give good advice on planting and soil development and care. I do wish there were more on food gardening in the course, and most was spent on the decorative type of gardens and plants. Yet not enough. I really do recommend this course, there is plenty of what is exciting, enjoyable, and relaxing and the fulfillment you derive from a good gardening experience. This course and it's information can definitely help guide you in a good direction to growing healthy and strong plants. I was planted firmly in my seat throughout and fascinated with the lessons, going from one to the next like a good novel, you need to know what's in the next chapter.
Date published: 2020-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Science of Gardening This course,my first with Great Courses, is everything I hoped it would be and more.Dr.Linda Chalker-Scott has provided me a much needed education on soils and general gardening science. She has provided me with knowledge and skills for which I am forever grateful.
Date published: 2020-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Helped fix my previous uninformed errors This professor addressed my many common problems and uninformed solutions. She proposed solutions that worked. Her many explicit suggestions will inform my future projects over the next several years. I especially enjoyed the science based approach. It is a pleasure to deal with facts and solid information, rather than hearsay, anecdote and myth. I wish she included more "case studies" as in the last lecture when she outlined her 18 year revamp of her own yard. Seeing the same in more environments would also have been interesting.
Date published: 2020-05-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from All in all, too pejorative L C-W seems to think that if some concept has not been supported by scientific analysis, then it is worthless. Her early dismissal of Permaculture is an example. It is like saying that 3,000 years of information as produced by Traditional Chinese Medicine is rubbish because latter-day ‘scientists’ have not validated it (yet, increasingly, they are doing so). Scientific measurements are useful, but not definitive. Looking at what your neighbours are successfully growing can be a valuable addition. It is true to say that advice from nurseries can be misleading, but I think one has to be intent on putting together all pieces of information which might be relevant to your patch. Living on 250 acres in Western Australia, I let the surrounding bush tell me what will work... While her observations on gardening are interesting, to any practical gardener, they are somewhat superficial. Some of her lectures are mindless (eg, 30 minutes on getting soil off the roots of plants !). And the brain-dead interlude when going from the studio to an arboretum or such, repeated endlessly, is really annoying. It must be understood for anyone purchasing this course, that it is TOTALLY orientated to North America. If you are new to gardening, then this course might offer some useful insights. Otherwise…
Date published: 2020-05-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love puttering in my garden. This course has taught me so many new things to improve upon what I have. Lots of excellent ideas for testing soil, what to watch for in nurseries, pruning and more. “Less is sometimes more!”
Date published: 2020-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am learning so much vital information I am so impressed with the information being presented on all critical aspects of gardening. The professor’s Demonstrations are amazing! She has busted so many of my long standing gardening Myths and given so much pertinent information to improve my Gardening and landscaping akills. Thank you so much!
Date published: 2020-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding Fabulous course. It provided scientific answers to many of my gardening questions and exploded so many gardening myths. The result is that I will save time and money in the future. I only wish I had seen it years ago - my garden would be in much better health if I had. I eagerly await another instalment from Dr. Chalker-Scott.
Date published: 2020-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative I really have been enjoying this course. The instructor, Linda, is very knowledgeable and informative. I was hoping to get a bit more knowledge of lawn care, but I knew going into this course based on the summary and reviews that it was more around plants and shrubs. Regardless, I learned a lot and I will be watching this again for sure. I wish there was a mechanism for asking questions though. Linda, thanks so much for sharing your knowledge and putting this wonderful course together. Hopefully you can do one on lawn care and managing weeds (I know you touched on that in this course but would love one focused on lawn maintenance).
Date published: 2020-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Honestly, I have not had a chance to complete The Science of Gardening and I do not need to in saying it is wonderful because all of The Great Courses are wonderful. Great Courses are wonderful because you can take the courses at your own pace, the information is outstanding with outstanding lectures, the courses are affordable with many to choose, and I can rewind in order to take notes or review. During the COVID19 pandemic, I've been telling friends and family to take a course of your choice through The Great Courses!
Date published: 2020-04-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Exceedingly boring I wanted to know the science of gardening, but this has yet to relate to growing a garden. It's the science of plants. Not once has it connected the information to growing a garden. I wanted to know why my tomatoes and eggplant aren't growing. I wanted to know how and why to adjust the soil, the watering, the pH, the sunlight, etc., to have a great garden. The instructor is knowledgeable and clearly excited about the subject. However the title should be changed to The Science of Plants. I've yet to see a garden or hear one word about how this information relates to specific plsnts one would find in a garden. Very disappointed.
Date published: 2020-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from science of gardening Have just begun watching and have already learned many things that I was doing wrong..excited to finish
Date published: 2020-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear and scientific content Clear and scientific content. I love this speaker. I have also heard her in person twice.
Date published: 2020-02-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Who Knew !? A home gardener for 50 years and I thought I was doing everything the right way. I was surprised to learn otherwise and pleased to also learn how to look at my landscape differently and how to diagnose and improve it. Fantastic couse I recommend to all aspiring home gardeners,
Date published: 2020-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not universal I’m halfway through. As a soil scientist she did a great job simplifying it. Her mulch recommendation is fine, but don’t use it against structures in fire environments.
Date published: 2020-02-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Information Linda Chalker-Scott is the best! Science based, peer-reviewed information that will improve your gardening skills, be good for your environment, and save you money in the long run. Keeps it simple and interesting. Weird switching back and forth between cameras, but great course!
Date published: 2020-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Information! This is not a "how to" gardening course, but you can use the information to improve your gardening. It gives great practical information and examples in easy to understand language, not a lot of dry, scientific talk. Some of the myths exploded may be controversial to some gardeners, but Dr. Chalker-Scott gives you the science behind why they don't work, or might work just a little. I've been gardening for 60+ years and am an ISA Certified Arborist--I'd recommend all gardeners take this course! You will learn things that you either hadn't thought of before or hadn't heard before. Thanks, Dr. Chalker-Scott, I really enjoyed the course and will be referring back to it and re-watching it again in the future!
Date published: 2020-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course It was a good course. I found it very informative. The information was up to date. It did not preach anything.
Date published: 2020-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Have been working in the garden for years and discovered after a blitz review through this course that I've been making lot's of mistakes. Will approach the garden next spring differently.
Date published: 2019-12-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This was a great way to learn new things about gardening, debunk myths and affirm what I already know. Great to complete the course where and when i wanted.
Date published: 2019-12-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This Course Is Wood Chip Mulch for Thought Initially I wasn't sure about what I was viewing and how I felt about it, but then I recognized that this course is basically theory-based, which allows listeners to apply concepts to their particular region and home landscape. If you are looking for grab and go tips, this isn't the course for you. Stick to blogs and Google searches. But if you can take the time to listen and learn what Professor LCS is teaching, the course is valuable. If I had watched this course a few years back, I could have saved myself a lot of money and eliminated some of the sadness and discouragement of dealing with dead and dying trees and shrubs. Although I consider myself well-educated, a few segments of a few of the discussions were a bit above my head, but it's certainly better than a dumbed-down course that left me wanting more. My only suggestion would have been to scale back discussion on source credibility and pseudoscience (the point was made a bit often) and instead share more examples from a wider range of homeowner properties, such as mine with heavy clay soil and very intense sun and heat. I have two questions I hope Professor LCS will answer. I am trying to preserve the last patches of Mexican narrow leaf milkweed on my property for the threatened monarchs but need to control weeds before the city comes after me for code issues. Is my only choice to mulch around the milkweed I can see growing, and once done blooming leave empty spots where I am hoping it will come back next season? Also, I have these vine-like weeds which have extremely deep roots. They are actually scary smart weeds that will find the smallest amount of sunlight and poke up through a tiny opening. They root even under the mulch and vine until I have lots of weeds growing out and up right up next to the trunks of my trees. How do I stop weeds from growing up and around the trunks? I hope you see my newly delivered pile of chips!
Date published: 2019-09-12
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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.


Oregon State University


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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