Sunday, April 30, 2006

Book Reviews

I was recently asked if I would review the book 1001 All-Natural Secrets to a Pest-Free Property in this space. I responded by saying sure, send it along and I'll take a look at it. So they did, and I am.

The book, written by Dr. Myles H. Bader (aka HGTV's "Wizard of Food"), was originally printed in September 2003 and falls under the As Seen On TV product line. Keep that in mind as you continue here.

First of all, let's examine Dr. Bader's credentials. In the book's About the Author preface, it states Bader "has studied extensively in the field of zoology (bugs and critters) before receiving his Doctoral Degree from Loma Linda University in Preventative Care."

That's a direct quote: "bugs and critters" as a definition for zoology. Gosh Gomer, he must be an expert!

So, in other words, the guy isn't an entomologist, a horticulturist, or anything moderately close to either. Of course, being unqualified hasn't stopped many hacks from writing books about something they know nothing about.

Let's move on and look at the book's title: 1001 All-Natural Secrets to a Pest-Free Property. Once you open the book and start reading, the problems with this become evident. Many of the "tips and tricks" shared inside aren't natural, most aren't "secret" (whatever that means) and the idea of creating a "pest-free property" is the kind of thing no organic gardener or naturalist would EVER recommend.

Moving on to the actual content of the book, I'll just throw out a few eyebrow-raising zingers that come directly from its pages:

Controlling Fire Ants pg. 23 "ONE OF THE BEST ORGANICS. The product is called "SevinTM" and contains a combination of pyrethrums and DE. It is safe to use in vegetable gardens, which most other pesticides are not."

Uh, no. SevinTM is simply another name for the chemical Carbaryl. While the jury is still out on how toxic Sevin/Carbaryl actually is to humans, it sure ain't organic.

On a related, strange note, absolutely no mention is made of controlling fire ants with Spinosad, one of the safest and most effective remedies to come on the market as a fire ant bait in recent years.

Controlling Termites pg. 31 "Diatomacious (sic) earth (DE) is one of the safest and most effective termite controlling natural substances."

Natural DE is an effective termite controller. However, Bader should emphasize repeatedly that he is referring to NATURAL DE and NOT swimming pool grade DE. This is a common and potentially deadly mistake people make in using DE. Also, Bader recommends spraying wood surfaces in the attic with a DE and boric acid mixture. I wouldn't do this. Long term exposure to any type of DE can be harmful to the lungs and skin...and just think if your home's air system is located (like mine is) in the attic. Bad idea. Natural DE should be used as a soil amendment pretty much exclusively, with the gardener wearing gloves and a mask during application.

Throughout the book, Bader also mentions the use of cigarette smoke to kill spiders and insects. Wow.

Well, you get the idea. In a nutshell, Bader is basically trying to cut in on Jerry Baker's folksy, irresponsible brand of garden remedies made with various foods, household products and other so-called "natural" items.

Format-wise, the layout of the book is a mess, and there are no photos, just goofy, low-quality drawings. Also, there is no page reference index at the end.

My main complaint is that I could find no mention of the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) method of handling insects. But then, of course, I guess that sounds a little too snooty and scientific for the average moron who sees an insect and just wants to kill it.

Rating: One Trowel Out of Four

A better book is one I recently bought myself: Jeff Gillman's The Truth About Garden Remedies: What Works, What Doesn't and Why. Gillman is a Ph.D. and an associate professor in the Department of Horticultural Science at the U. of Minnesota, not some tacky circus carny just trying to make fast bucks.

The book is well laid-out, easy to follow and incredibly informative, with results from Gillman's own testing. Each supposed remedy is introduced with a brief paragraph about what it is, how it is used, what it's supposed to fix, whether or not it really works and what the test results mean to gardeners. Gillman gives both sides of the synthetic/organic story and actually mentions IPM on pg. 102.

Rating: Three Trowels Out of Four

8 Comments:

Anonymous said...

Tamara,

Thanks for your comments on Bader's book.

I have been looking for just this sort of commentary. However, you lost me when you advocated Gillman, who is a "Ph.D. and associate professor" at a university.

Common people, not gardeners, want common solutions. They want common language, not specialties like IPM.

The little commentary on Bader's book and the one you cite for Gillman, suggests to me that anyone wanting to know more should buy both books, learn for themselves, and draw their own conclusions.

Tamara said...

Thanks for the comment. Allow me to respond:

Common solutions don't necessarily have to come from idiots. I was making the point that Gillman's information was more accurate because it had been tested by someone who knew what they were doing. Bader doesn't share any testing techniques in his book; you're just supposed to trust him because he's been on Oprah, I guess. His error in citing that Sevin is "organic" was jaw-dropping, and enough for me to label him an idiot.

Secondly, I don't know of anything more simplistic than IPM. Your choice of words baffles me; it's not a "specialty". It's basically allowing a moderate amount of bad bugs to exist in your landscape so good bugs have something to eat.

Lastly, I would like to see "common people" change their perceptions and preconceptions about insects. I guess the idea behind Bader's book is what you would call a common solution: kill everything by whatever means necessary. That is a reckless, disrespectful and irresponsible way to treat the environment, and it is the attitude that has gotten this planet into the trouble it's in now.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the first reviewer.In addition,the telephone number takes you through an impossible set of questions and ads for other products.I wanted to order ONE book and received TWO. No invoice or contact information. S&H charges are way out of line. There's a return address, so I hope I'll get my money back. The book is a hoax! Sue P California

firefly said...

Crikey. "Common people, not gardeners"? What does that mean, pray tell?

I looked at Gillman's book the last time I was in the book store and would have bought it except I'm on a budget. (Gotta buy plants, y'see.) I thought it was excellent.

Tamara, how did I miss your blog? I must be stone blind or something -- I've been looking and looking for eco-gardening sites for weeks now. Thanks for posting a cross-link at Garden Rant!

Anonymous said...

When ordering the books a recorded message prompts the caller to pay a little extra for the hard cover edition. You are prompted to say yes or no. When I said no the message repeated it self 3x and each time my response was no. Guess what? The hard cover editions were sent! It was impossible to speak to a live person to obtain my cost plus shipping charges. When the box arrived it weighed 28 pounds. The shipping label was generic. For 2 sets of books the cost was more than $170. I called the company and requested a return label and was advised it would take 7 to 10 days before it could be mailed. I believe this operation is a total rip-off and the TV infomercials should be terminated. Stay away from these people.

mickeykes said...

8/18/2009 - wish I had read this page before ordering. Bader is a scam artist. The books (see below) unedited, often just plain wrong, sometimes dangerous, and mostly useless. Serious quackery here. Also, I got suckered into spending nearly $100 on many more books than I actually wanted, mostly because they charge $5 PER BOOK for shipping - so all those BOGO offers are fraudulent. Someone should put this guy behind bars.

Anonymous said...

I ordered on book of Baders. However this from a tv ad.
I was sent 4 books with a big bill. Rip off. How do I return them and where. l.hoover

Tamara said...

Hoover, you should contact Telebrands Customer Service. Here's the info:
http://www.telebrands.com/contact_CS.jsp