Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ignorant gardeners specialise in propagating factoids

This is an image of one of the organic garden gnomes who currently have a gig as eccentric presenters on Gardening Australia. The eccentricities of the presenters are standard boiler-plate stuff - studied, contrived and irritating. But that's not the reason for this post.

This post is about the relentless tendency on this tendentious and useless show to present factoids as facts. I saw a good example today on a repeat of an earlier broadcast - I quote from the linked fact sheet (actually a WTF? fact sheet - otherwise known as a factoid sheet... or fallacy sheet).

Jerry (pictured) explains the uses of powdered sulphur. "Sulphur is one of the oldest garden remedies and it is as good today as when people first started using it. It's got multiple uses in the garden and it's organic."

No Jerry, Sulphur is an element, whether powdered or not. It is not an organic compound. Organic is not a synonym for "like, really nice warm-fuzzy type stuff which really like, um you know, peaceful spiritual gardeners who are at one with the Gaia Earth-spirit like to use".

Hemlock on the other hand (for example), is organic. Chow down on hemlock Jerry, and you'll be compost yourself before you have time to dust yourself down with a liberal sprinkling of protective Earth-spirit naturally occurring Sulphur. (Of course, the "naturally occurring" Sulphur Jerry has in his little sprinkly-can has had to be mined and then extracted from Sulphur compounds by industrial chemists.)

Jerry concludes his piece (link here) with the ultimate inanity: "So sulphur is a great natural product that is useful for a variety of purposes in the garden".

If Sulphur can be said to be a "natural product", then so can any other element or compound - including cyanide, arsenic, mercury and radium.