Gardening, whether you want to grow vegetables and herbs, gorgeous flowers, or a healthy lawn, is ultimately all about the soil. Building Soils Naturally gives the reader a complete education in all things soil, from recognizing the effects of poor soil on our plants to helping us improve and care for it responsibly.
Review: "Building Soils Naturally"
I'll just admit to a personal bias here first: I love reading about soil. I do. As I mentioned in my review of Nardi's Life in the Soil I find it fascinating that there is, essentially, an entire world beneath our feet that few of us ever think about, or take the time to appreciate. So when a book that is all about soil comes my way....well. I'm in soil geek heaven. Happily, Phil Nauta's Building Soils Naturally did not disappoint.
Nauta takes this exploration of life in the soil and applies it to the practical concerns of gardeners. Wondering why your flowers bloom weakly, or not at all? Or why your veggies aren't fruiting? Or why your lawn just kind of struggles along, no matter how much water and fertilizer you give it? The answer, of course, is in the soil. As Nauta points out, when the soil is "out of balance," your garden won't thrive. Helping your soil get back into balance (therefore providing vital soil microorganisms with the conditions they need to thrive) is what will make your garden the beautiful, productive place you want it to be. Once you take care of the soil, you'll find that you have less work to do in your garden, in general.
So, what does Nauta cover in Building Soils Naturally? Well...pretty much everything. Seriously -- this is a dense, information-filled book. Here's a glance at what you'll find inside:
Section One: The Soil and Its Inhabitants
This section is all about soil dwellers, plants, and determining the health of your soil:
- The Soil Dwellers
- All About Soil
- Soil & Plant Testing
- Soil Nutrient Testing
Section Two: Six Steps to Creating Healthy Soil
This section makes up the bulk of the book, and it is an awesome crash course in building healthy soils:
- Organic Matter (compost, making compost, indoor composting, cover crops)
- Microbial Innoculants (compost tea and effective microorganisms)
- Supplementing Nutrients (calcium, phosphorous, other major nutrients, and a section about synthetic products that I wish every gardener would read.)
- Biostimulants and Micronutrients
Section Three: Garden Action Strategies
If Section Two was a crash course in soil health, then the third part of the book consists of the practical application of that knowledge. Here's what you'll find there:
- Plant Predators and Weeds
- Weeds: A Primer
- Amending Soil
- Garden Health Management Plan
I have to say that the chapter on Garden Health Management is one of my favorite parts of the book. Nauta begins by extolling the importance of really getting out there and observing your garden (something I've advised over and over again here on About Organic Gardening!) To grow a great garden, you have to know it. You have to really look at your plants. Not just at the pretty flowers or the developing fruits: look at the stems, the foliage. Take a good look at the whole picture. Do it regularly, and you'll be able to tell when something is off. After this advice about observing and testing to perform, Nauta has a seasonal breakdown of what to do to keep your garden healthy. I love this, because it's a veritable to-do list of soil care -- and if you do what he recommends, you will find that the result will be healthier plants, fewer pest and disease problems, and (yes!) ultimately, less work for you and more enjoyment from your garden.