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Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web
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Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web

4.39  ·  Rating Details ·  749 Ratings  ·  93 Reviews
Smart gardeners know that soil is anything but an inert substance. Healthy soil is teeming with life — not just earthworms and insects, but a staggering multitude of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. When we use chemical fertilizers, we injure the microbial life that sustains healthy plants, and thus become increasingly dependent on an arsenal of artificial substa ...more
Hardcover, 196 pages
Published June 29th 2006 by Timber Press
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May 28, 2013 Emily rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and will work to implement many of the ideas in this book into my own yard.

Here are a few things I wrote down to remember:

A mere teaspoon of good garden soil contains a billion invisible bacteria, several yards of equally invisible fungal hyphae, several thousand protozoa and a few dozen nematodes. Pg. 19

Root exudates are in the form of carbohydrates (including sugars) and proteins. Amazingly, their presence wakes up, attracts and grows specific beneficial bacteria an
Apr 15, 2010 Oldroses rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gardening, science
(This review was originally written for The Garden Bloggers' Book club)

After slogging my way through the last book I read, I was disheartened to read in the Preface to Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web that the first part of the book would be difficult to get through. I pressed on. Very science-y. An excellent sleep inducer. No joke. I did fall asleep while reading it one warm afternoon. But it was definitely worth it. Like the authors, I urge you to read the entire
Aug 16, 2015 Tinea rated it really liked it
What a phenomenal book! Soil science for lay people, soil science for chemistry-phobes, soil science tailored and sifted for direct usefulness for gardeners. Lowenfels and Lewis do not shy away or dilute the science. They use the words, they draw the symbols, they do the math. But they simplify. They explain. They cut out the extraneous information that overwhelms would-be agronomists like me who literally had all the credits for an environmental science degree save chemistry, and walked without ...more
Mar 01, 2010 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction-read
The book is informative and readable with great illustrations. The soil science is rudimentary, but the discussions of the soil food web are well done. Some of the taxonomy is a bit dated but good enough for non-specialists. The section on actively aerated compost tea is excellent and that on compost is quite adequate. I do have some quibbles with the pH recommendations and think the authors may have given too much weight to the pH buffering effects of both bacteria and fungi. Maximum nutrient a ...more
Jul 25, 2009 Erica rated it really liked it
I think most of us see soil as the neutral backdrop against which all the "action" of plant growth takes place. Far from it, the ground beneath us is a veritable metropolis of creatures frenetically eating each other and producing valuable nutrients for their neighbors and plants. That this ecosystem has been so wholely ignored and decimated by modern industrial agriculture is frightening. Never fear though -- these microorganisms, neatly summarized here in short chapters for the soil science ne ...more
Should be required reading

This book should be required reading for every gardener. It is a guide to nurturing plants the way Mother Nature intended, through cooperation with the natural order. The symbiotic relationships that plants have with their neighbors and dependents is a beautiful system that will inspire us all to be better stewards over whatever land we take into our care.
Alysha Thompson
May 10, 2010 Alysha Thompson rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all gardeners
Recommended to Alysha by: My Physical Geography professor
I have taken quite a few college science courses, which made the reading pretty easy but I have a hard time seeing a personal without this background get through some of the stickier sections in the book. Teaming with Microbes provides excellent detail and microbiology background. There philosophy has a “going green” approach which I appreciate and wish to try on my own future lawn and garden, although I am not sure how well things will take in the short growing season up in northern North Dakot ...more
Aug 11, 2012 Barry rated it it was amazing
One of the most important books I've ever read. It's not easy for a nonscientist to understand quickly, partly because a certain amount of chemical and biological terms are needed (Latin and Greek helped me, but not everyone has the benefit of a thoroughly anachronistic education), but also because the sequence of ideas are not always sequentially presented in a paragraph. All the same, the book presents fairly recent research by Dr. Ingham of Oregon Sate U. on the tiniest critters beneath your ...more
Jul 07, 2007 Mome added it
Recommends it for: parsa
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Jul 30, 2011 Lalena rated it really liked it
This is a great intro to the idea of gardening as a form of eco-system management instead of chemistry. The rules they lay out and explain can be incorporated by anyone regardless of climate. However, since they are located in Alaska all of the examples given are based on a more northern climate. I'm in Texas and we are in the middle of an extreme drought, so some of the advice about lawn care (i.e. grass) makes no sense to me at all right now. I'm not wasting any water on grass. So you may need ...more
Georgia Gross
Sep 17, 2007 Georgia Gross rated it really liked it
I recently have renewed my garden from a giant dog potty to a place where one can sit and enjoy the scenery. This slim book is packed with information about composting, undersoil critters, and the benefits of renewing the earth. With lots of pictures and clearly written for the beginning gardener, this is a terrific guide though the science of dirt.
Sep 30, 2007 Owen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who grow plants
Shelves: farm-and-food
i love a book that gets me to think of bacteria and fungi as little bags of fertilizer. and then along come the protazoa and nematodes to release that fertilizer as manure right in the root zone, or the rhizosphere. love it. my inner ecology/farm nerd gives this book two green thumbs up. if you garden, you should read this book.

Jul 05, 2015 Reiden rated it it was amazing
I started this book just before taking a college level soil class, and it ended up being a great supplement to the class material. I learned quite a bit about the importance of microorganisms and how to aid their proliferation with compost tea. This book completely changed how I look at my own yard/garden, and how I will manage it moving forward.
Mike Moskos
Mar 15, 2014 Mike Moskos rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book, 2014-read
Really comprehensive.

You probably can pick up everything in this book on the internet in a few hours (and I probably have). But, reading the whole book makes it sink in.
Kevin Goff
Mar 13, 2017 Kevin Goff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gives a new perspective on your garden

Great book, the first half covers the soil biology to a degree that some may consider boring, but to me really opened up the door to learning about the vast complexity of the ecosystems underground, and what makes them thrive.

Only thing I wish they had gone into detail more on was the compost teas; They talk briefly about cell counts in varying teas but dont show how to extrapolste that by using a microscope (yes some people are that into this). They even en
Feb 25, 2017 Tymmaaaay rated it it was amazing
Great resource to understanding how gardens work. Lots of good information.
Feb 17, 2011 Jenn rated it it was amazing
This is another one for the reference library. I found it highly enlightening. It's not just 'dirt' beneath our feet but a microcosm of activity. The earth is alive with bacteria, fungus, nematodes, centipedes, springtails, worms, ants and any number of other living creatures, most of which help in some way to support plant life. It's an amazing feat of symbiotic "love" between this microscopic world of 'bugs' and the plants they live with. I would suggest to anyone considering taking up gardeni ...more
Feb 13, 2013 Carlie rated it liked it
Dirt is full of all kinds of tiny "critters" we can't see. Nature is best left undisturbed. Compost is good. There, now you know most of the book's secrets.

I wanted to like this book waaaay more than I did. I can't remember where I heard about it (maybe at a composting and soils lecture?) but I think it was a long while ago and the intervening time amped up my expectations. The book is fine, no major issues, I think I was hoping it would be more fun to read, more filled with inspiring informati
Apr 23, 2012 Chris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great little entertaining mix of popular science and gardening know-how. The first part is an introduction to the soil food web, which I suspect people who read this book for the gardening tips found boring, but if you're into science at all you'd probably love it. Sure, plants are green things with parts above the ground, but they really dominate under the dirt, attracting and controlling an entire microbe and animal ecology for their own benefit. You get to learn about nematodes, art ...more
Well put together primer on soil web health. Simple (and complex) language describes process and practice, most everything needed to understand and proceed. diagrams and pictures included.
Oct 25, 2007 Carla rated it really liked it
Shelves: gardening
This book has really vital gardening information on a topic many people are not familiar with-the life in their soil. It has a forward by Elaine Ingham, the guru of soil science, and it is easy to understand. The part I don't like is that the authors spend the first part of the book cajolling you to PLEASE read through the science stuff, we know its not exciting but you really need to know it. C'mon guys, I'm reading your book because I want to know this stuff, I'm not a child! But that somewhat ...more
David Debruyne
Dec 01, 2016 David Debruyne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Het heeft mij een aantal maanden gekost om dit boek volledig door te lezen. Toch is het een boeiend boek dat een relatief onbekende wereld beschrijft. Het boek is opgedeeld in twee delen. Het eerste deel is eerder theoretisch, behandelt de klassieke bodemwetenschap en vervolgens alle componenten (oftewel bewoners) van een gezond bodemvoedselweb. Het tweede deel is meer praktijkgericht en beschrijft hoe je het bodemvoedselweb in jouw tuin kan gebruiken. Deze opdeling vind ik wel geslaagd, maar je ...more
Nov 18, 2009 Eric rated it really liked it
Compost Teas, the relationship of fungi, bacteria, and pH. Plant preferences for fungi/low pH or bacterial/high pH soil. Surface areas of soil texture (silt, clay, sand, loam). Cation Exchange Sites, the more of them there are the more capable the plants of getting the nutrients it needs. Endo- and ectomycorrhizal fungi symbiotic relationships with roots—getting difficult to reach nutrients (phosphorus) and increasing surface area for nutrient absorption. Ammonium, nitrates, and nitrite—relation ...more
Jun 18, 2012 Deb rated it it was amazing
Mind-blowing info for an amateur scientist like me. The first part is an overview of soil science and detailed sections about each type of creature that lives in the soil. The second part is practical ways to put that information to work in your garden. It's a real how-to book for those who already know how to plant seeds and water plants and want to be more scientific about it. The instructions for making a Berlese funnel to capture the microarthropods in your soil is worth the price of the boo ...more
Dec 20, 2013 Noodle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gardening
A very good book on what is happening in the soil. I learned a lot. First do no harm to the soil by not digging or disturbing it or compacting it. Then add compost or other organic matter to the surface of the soil to feed the soil microbes. Then suppliment by spraying the soil and plants with well made aerobic compost tea.
Charyla Olsen
Jul 14, 2009 Charyla Olsen rated it it was amazing
This book will revolutionize what you see when you go outside--what you put on your lawn, your roses, your vegetables and what you choose to keep vs. "exterminate." If you are sincerely interested in upgrading your corner of the planet, this book is a must read--given to me by my wonderful daughter who is my inspiration to create a garden vs. a yard.
Eliza A. H. Lord
Jul 30, 2013 Eliza A. H. Lord rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great detail on the soil food web (although I thought the authors were a little too phobic of composting manure and that it was weird they'd learn this much about ecosystems and still want to kill their dandelions... but those are very minor complaints given that they made things like mycorrhizae and archaea accessible and entertaining enough to loan this book to your neighbor).
Jul 11, 2008 Adam rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: gardeners with a scientific bent
This book, despite the sort of gross looking cover (the illustration in the lower left looks like rotting picnic fruit) is THE BEST BOOK I have ever read about the soil food web and how the amateur gardener and scientist (like myself) can use the soil food web to one's advantage in making fertile soil. This is where the biology and the permaculture and the tasty tomatoes all come together.
Aug 20, 2009 William rated it liked it
I bought this book off the sale table at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Autographed by Jeff Lowenfels with the inscription "May the microbes be with you at all times."

The book is an offshoot of the crass commercial endeavor started by Dr. Elaine Ingham at Oregon State University.

Informative, but tends toward preachiness.

A good, but not outstanding, introduction to soil biology.
David Koblos
Oct 04, 2015 David Koblos rated it it was amazing
The more life there is in the soil, and the greater its diversity, the better it is for the plants, for the ecosystem, including the gardener. This much I knew. But this amazing book goes so much further: it talks about bacterially or fungally dominates soils, pH levels, and which type of plants plants prefer which. A lot of science, brought down to the gardener's perspective.
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