Garden Rant turns 10, Ministry of Controversy

#TBT: Jerry Baker, Still Quacking

Susan first ranted about home remedy-hawker Jerry Baker (“America’s Master Gardener”) on her own blog in March of 2006, and it was that rant that caught the attention of Amy Stewart and Michele Owens, who were then scheming about a team blog. Here’s Susan’s July 30, 2006 follow-up post about Baker, her first rant on the new blog.


My all-time favorite rant subject is at it again.  In his latest newsletter Jerry Baker offers these pearls:

Once a month before watering, aerate the soil by walking around the yard wearing Aerating Lawn Sandals. Then overspray your lawn with my Lawn Freshener Tonic: 1 can of beer, 1 cup of dishwashing liquid, 1/2 cup of ammonia, and 1/2 cup of weak tea water mixed in your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, and applied to the point of run-off.
Every now and then, I like to water my lawn by hand. And whenever I do, I give it a refreshing drink of my Summer Soother Tonic: 2 cups of weak tea water, 1 cup of dishwashing liquid, and 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide mixed in your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, and applied to the point of run-off. Try it next time you’ve got a hankerin’ to putter around your yard.

Look out, worms, insects and other beneficial inhabitants of garden soil, coz when old Jerry gets a “hankerin’ to putter around” his yard it’s like Cheney and Rumsfeld puttering around the Middle East – scary shit!!  Ya gotta wonder how much plant and soil life can survive regular dousings of beer, soap, tea, ammonia, and hydrogen peroxide.

Like a rubbernecker eyeing an accident, I was mesmerized by Jerry’s – shall we say? – advice, and I found a few more gems.  Ever heard of doing this?

Root prune all spring-flowering shrubs in late August to stimulate heavy blooms next year. Follow up by sprinkling 1/2 cup of Epsom salts into the cuts.

Or this?

When transplanting anything this time of year, add nitrogen and protein for root development by working a mixture of oatmeal and human hair into the soil.

And because you can just never spray enough, it turns out we’re supposed to spray our mulch, too.

Overspray any mulch with my Mulch Makeover Tonic: 1 cup of ammonia, 1 can of regular (not diet) cola, 1 cup of antiseptic mouthwash, and 1 tbsp. of dishwashing liquid mixed in a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer.

And although not mentioned in this month’s missive, let’s never forget that his favorite home remedy for the garden is tobacco juice.  Nicotine – it’s all natural!

Before you laugh off Baker as the quack that he indisputably is, remember that he’s the number one gardening educator, so to speak, in the whole U.S. of A., thanks to public television, 217 radio stations, Wal-Mart, and his own amazing publishing machine – 40 books and counting. Since ranting my pants off last March about Jerry and discovering that everyone thinks he’s a quack (well, except people making money off him), I’m frustrated as hell by his continued success, especially on public broadcasting.  I understand that his videos are great fund-raising products for the stations, so I wasn’t surprised when Washington’s affiliate, WETA, failed to acknowledge the letter of complaint I sent them on behalf of a local garden club. Nationally only a couple of stations have so far stopped broadcasting his videos after complaints from mainly academic sources.

I’m left with the conclusion that if we want to get this self-described environmentalist (!!) off the air, we’ll have to come up with something better for PBS to use. So how about it?  I bet the collective wisdom of the garden blogosphere, even just using the technology we’re seeing on YouTube, could be a huge service to the public and their oversprayed yards. For funding I wish we could tap the Extension Services all over the country – it’s their job to educate the public, after all – but they’re mum on the subject, except to complain that Jerry’s use and trademarking of the term “America’s Master Gardener” is bogus.

So maybe it’s up to us and if not us, who?  I’m only half kidding, guys.

Posted by on March 31, 2016 at 8:36 am, in the category Garden Rant turns 10, Ministry of Controversy.
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4 responses to “#TBT: Jerry Baker, Still Quacking”

  1. Kermit says:

    It seems he’s still at it. From his current website:
    “ANTISEPTIC MOUTHWASH does the same thing in your garden that it does in your mouth. Yep, it actually destroys those nasty germs that cause big-time trouble if you don’t get after them. ”

    After recently reading “Teaming with Microbes” by Lowenfells and Lewis, I am horrified by Baker’s use of this witches brew. He does specify diluting these concoctions, so I suppose the damage is not immediately apparent.

  2. Eliz. says:

    There is still a lot of bad advice being given by “professionals.” I have been following a very interesting discussion on the Garden Professors group about epsom salts, which are still (wrongly) recommended for roses by many.

    On a related topic, there is an interesting article in the WSJ about natural products and their dubious claims. If you get to it through google news, you can avoid the paywall.

  3. Harvey Bernstein says:

    “Maybe the deal is for every beer you use in your garden sprayer, you drink one”…

    Yes, and when the beer passes through you, you stimulate the garden by applying it in a biologically converted state.

    I guess that the lesson to be learned is that if you don’t know what your talking about, say it loudly enough and people will believe you.

  4. Laura Munoz says:

    I first learned about Jerry Baker’s garden tonics from a neighbor some 12 years ago. She was frugal, and his tonics fit the bill or so she thought. However, gardening isn’t a “one size fits all” endeavor. What works in other states doesn’t necessarily work in Texas. She had 2-3″ of very poor soil over caliche. His tonics were not going to cure her lack of organic matter or thin soil.

    I looked at his website, and saw his books are pretty pricey, in my opinion.

    I do think his “glory” days are waning. I’m all for inexpensive and/or homemade solutions to gardening, but ‘buyer beware’ fits. Where’s the scientific evidence his solutions actually work?

    Maybe the deal is for every beer you use in your garden sprayer, you drink one, and by the time you’re finished spraying your lawn with his beer concoction, you feel pretty good so it doesn’t matter anymore. Oh, and that’s when you give yourself a haircut to get the human hair to work into your soil.