Teaming with Microbes

A Book Review of

“Teaming with Microbes”

by Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis
Timber Press

Teaming with Microbes:
The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition

© A Book Review by Eddie Rhoades

What you will learn from this book will forever change the way you garden because gardening is not just about plants, it is about the soil. This little book brings to you in laymen’s terms an overview of what scientists have learned from years and years of staring through microscopes. The book is divided into two parts: The first is the basic science of the symbiotic relationships of the living organisms in the soil. You must know the science before you can apply it. As a timeline for the planet, if you drew a line from one end of a football field to the other then the last half inch of that line would represent how long life has existed here on earth. Four hundred and fifty million years ago plants began growing on the earth’s surface only after fungi entered into relationships with aquatic plants. In talking about the soil food web, the authors are talking about life itself. If there were no life in the soil there would be no plants and if there were no plants there would be no animals, including us humans because there would be no air to breathe and nothing to eat. The authors define what makes a healthy soil. It is not just minerals, silica, organic matter, air and water. It is the microbiology of the living organisms like bacteria, microbes, amoeba, protozoa, roots, anthropods, fungi, nematodes, worms, invertebrates and others that are all interdependent on each other and make up the soil food web.

The second part of this book is about how to cultivate the soil food web and apply it to our gardens. It is a revolutionary way of thinking about how we tend our garden soil that sometimes goes against convention. The authors have convinced me that I should till less, if at all, that I should mulch and compost more and that I should make AACT: Actively Aerated Compost Tea to use as a soil drench. I am also going to begin using mycorrhiza to inoculate existing plants plus any new plants I obtain. This book tells us existing soil tests, as performed by the Extension Service, are good up to a point but are devised to tell NPK deficiencies and pH levels when what you really want to know is biomass numbers of bacteria and fungi to determine if your soil is healthy. I told you it went against conventional practices.

The soil food web does not require a lot of hard labor – if the gardener understands and teams up with the soil food web and lets its microscopic members do the work. For me this book went beyond its intended purpose. There was so much that I could share with you but I want you to read it for yourself. I truly believe that this is a very important book which is foremost on this topic. I feel it should be read by nurserymen, soil & water conservationists, all gardeners, teachers, in fact, I think this book should be taught in our public schools.

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