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Healthy Reading: Teaming with Microbes, The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis

Welcome to the MicrobiomeTeaming with Microbes teaches the reader all about the nutrients needed in our soil, and explains how depleted our soils currently are. There is a beneficial biology taking place within our soil, and when we use chemicals and fertilizers we are killing off beneficial bacteria. This in turn impacts the health of the food grown in the soil, which the animals we consume are eating.

The authors review all there is to know about the microbiology of the “soil food web.” There are fascinating colonies of life within healthy soil. These complex communities of bacteria, fungi, ants, and insects work together symbiotically to create nutrient rich soil. When we upset this delicate symbiotic relationship, we upset the integrity of our gardens, our food, our health, and the health of the environment.

In addition to all the living organisms you can see in garden soil (for example, there are up to 50 earthworms in a square foot of good soil), there is a whole world of soil organisms you cannot see, unless you use sophisticated and expensive optics. Only then do the tiny, microscopic organisms – bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes-appear, and in numbers that are nothing less than staggering. A mere teaspoon of good garden soil, as measured by microbial geneticists, contains a billion invisible bacteria, several yards of equally invisible fungal hyphae, several thousand protozoa, and a few dozen nematodes.

Teaming with Microbes is divided into two sections. As mentioned above, the first section is an explanation of soil and the soil food web. The authors believe that the reader has to learn the science behind soil quality before they can actually apply it into their own gardening practices. The second section teaches the reader how to “work” the soil food web to the advantage of the gardener. They provide fascinating information on how to preserve the integrity of soil, and still have that amazing garden!

In this book, there is a strong emphasis on biology and microbiology of the soil. All soil science is covered! The authors want the reader to appreciate the synergy between soil organisms, and to become a better steward to the environment. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who cares about the impact soil diversity has on our environment, and wants to truly understand the delicate life of soil!