|As clear as mud|
I keep reading it should be and then find myself informed of a research finding I think inappropriate. Why should my hackles rise when evidence based action in life is my fundamental philosophy?
An alternative expression of the importance of evidence is it should be supported by experimental data or that horticulture should be science based.
I think my problem is that evidence is frequently flimsy and often contradictory. Not just in gardening but through the world over.
|I spend hours avoiding 'fat free products'|
Where excellent research has been done in fields such as health and nutrition it is usually overlaid by misreporting, wrong conclusions, special interest lobbying, propaganda and fear of litigation. How often do I read a report of good science interpreted by a none scientific journalist whose account is littered with repetition of fashionable dogma. Even scientists themselves sometimes seem to say “my research points another way but carry on eating fat free food and taking the statins”
Much good science is lost for the sake of a cheap headline or company profit. Much is rejected because it does not sit with established belief.
Reasons to be cautious
I sometimes lose confidence in horticultural research for the following reasons.
1. Much research is of poor quality. It is frequently done with insufficient duplications, very few safeguards and is statistically invalid. However feeble it may be, it is often represented as fact on the net! Worse it is inflated and republished by vested interest.
|Insights come from very simple things|
2. Although excellent insights worthy of further investigation often come from very simple trials carried out by inexperienced or ‘narrow’ researchers it is premature to proclaim it as fact.
|Peter likes to see for himself|
3. Much research is carried out with vested interest in sight. Scientist Peter Williams says before I believe it I should ask who is paying. Ask the right research questions and you get your required answer. If the answer does not suit you there is no legal requirement to publish.
4. I fear much research is contradictory and cannot be repeated by others.
|Many professional composts are honed to grower's needs and are unsuitable for the gardener. Many amateur's composts are just rubbish|
5. Components of gardening knowledge comes from a vast diverse range of specialist fields such as agriculture, commercial glasshouse production, market gardening, ecology and garden centre trade - and that merely scratches the surface of numerous fields of endeavour and their subsidiary components. I have always considered there was much transferable knowledge between them but unfortunately precise research is honed to a sector’s individual needs.
6. Gardening is so diverse and there are so many variables such as the crop, soil, weeds and climate. Such criteria might change from day to day, season to season or one place to another.
|It makes me happy|
7. What is a gardening measure of success? Is it beauty, yield, profit, labour saving, producing pristine produce, supporting the environment or personal satisfaction? Every gardener’s needs are different. To me the measure of success is to be happy and healthy even though to critics a gardener’s methods might not pass muster!
8. And of course many so called facts are supported by no evidence at all. There are few restrictions on gardening product claims
A more positive view
There is high quality gardening information out there and without unbiased investigation where would we be? My own personal view is that a knowledge of biological sciences helps you sort the wheat from the chaff but then some of the best gardeners I know have no science at all. Gardening takes its adherents from diverse fields of endeavour.
In my youth I got even more satisfaction than now from gardening and perhaps made my best garden when I had no technical knowledge at all.
Here are a few suggestions how to build up gardening knowledge
1. Initially devour all gardening reading you can, but learn to question its provenance. Is it written by a hack journalist who has trawled the literature or a gardener writing from genuine experience?
|I try something different with my tomatoes every year|
2. Go beyond the level endlessly recycled by gardening television and gardening magazines. It’s often good stuff but after a couple of years you will have heard it all before.
|Decent gardening courses are rare and college extension none existant|
3. Listen to gardeners within their own specialist fields but don’t let your respect for them blind you when they spout nonsense about things like bonemeal. They too have grown up with recycled information.
|Read related science|
4. Read about plant related things from diverse sources and in your mind file them away
5. Be suspicious of so called gardening experts. Some of the best gardening knowledge resides with amateurs who have followed their own passion.
6. Search out information on the net but duplicate your sources to take in diverse opinion and filter the chaff. A sound source of advice is ‘gardening extension information’ published by states in the US and Australia and no doubt elsewhere. Dare I promote the RHS despite their sometimes sloppy journal and their extreme PC?
|You can water at any time of day|
|It's a juicy centipede|
|Large cut nicely healed at the edges after a year|
7. Most gardening myths are harmless and an endless source of amusement. Never the less they are sometimes seriously wrong. Blogger Robert Pavlis will debunk them for you. The ‘Garden Professors’ blog is a good independent source of ‘gardening extension information’ (Something sadly lacking in the UK). I fear the professors rely excessively on so called evidence base.
|What on earth?|
7.Try things out yourself and always be ready to move on in your methods. Unlearn your early lessons. My own gardening is never the same from one year to another. In my opinion too many gardeners do things precisely the same way every time!
8. Break the rules and find ways to be a better gardener.
|There are so many exciting things in a garden|
|Every year brings new challenges|