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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

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  477 ratings  ·  72 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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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,244)
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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
(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
Alysha Thompson
May 10, 2010 Alysha Thompson rated it 4 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Georgia Gross
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.
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
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
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
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
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
OK, I know this site is more geared toward FICTION, but I just want to give kudos to this amazing book. It totally demystifies one of the most mysterious things there is: microscopic life in dirt. Plus, it's a fun read! Give it a try.
Latoya Crick
This is a wonderful book!
It is very easy and informative read, especially if you are not familiar with soil micro-biology.
I recommend this book if anyone is interested into understand what soil micro-biology do and how they function in the soil food web!
Really a great resource. The authors break down the science behind their recommendations which make me that much more convinced of their argument. I'll have to get this one for myself so I don't have to keep renewing it from the library.
Jul 07, 2007 Mome added it
Recommends it for: parsa
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I'm taking notes as I read this, loving the refresher course on soils, food webs, etc.
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
Narin Olankijanan
An amazing book on the science of soils!
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
Larry Rinaldi
Game Changer in the garden.
Mar 10, 2014 Sally marked it as to-read
Note: see revised ed. 2010
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
Marty Miller-Crispe
Teaming with microbes is a good introduction to soil science aimed squarely at the 'layman'. No where near a university text book on the subject, but a good, easy read giving the basics of soil science with practical solutions for the everyday gardener.
A nice addition for permaculturists and organic gardeners to add to their collection.
This review is based on the Kindle version of the book
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.
Jul 11, 2008 Adam rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
Eliza A. H. Lord
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).
Clear and readable, this book gave excellent information as well as actions to allow gardeners at all levels to use only compost for beautiful gardens. I slowed down towards the end because I didn't really want to finish the book. Though I don't often purchase books (this was checked out from the library), I did have to order this one so I will have it for future reference.
There was a lot of information to compost (digest), but I did feel like I learned a lot. I don't feel as though I can be a master composter, but I feel like I can use the book to answer some questions that might come up.

He probably gave me more info than I need to know, but he felt it was important for me to know, so I read it (the first half of the book.)

Charyla Olsen
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.
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.
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