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Building Soils Naturally Paperback – July 31, 2012
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Phil Nauta is a certified organic land-care professional, and his comprehensive book could have been titled, 'Everything You Wanted to Know About Soil (But Never Knew to Ask).' Nauta describes what healthy soil looks and feels like, how plants use that soil for growth and contribute to it by their decomposition, and the soils' chemical composition and teeming biological life. More than just another treatise on compost, humus, mulching, and fertilization, Nauta focuses on building up the unseen inhabitants of soil, the billions of ''effective micro-organisms'' that make it all happen. Nauta's program, which includes a battery of tests for both soil and plants, may seem daunting to even active, experienced gardeners. But those willing to follow his recommendations, he says, will end up with healthy soil that will produce plants resistant to disease and, if they are edible, more ''nutrient dense,'' flavorful, and resistant to rot. --Adam Levine, Better Homes and Gardens - Country Gardens, Spring (March) 2013 issue
About the Author
Phil Nauta grew up working for his parents in their garden center, maintaining the nursery stock and landscaping. He was also in charge of maintaining their 9-hole golf course while he went to university, obtaining his business degree. He then completed a Certificate in Organic Landscape Management from Gaia College and later taught courses there.
Since then, he has played many roles in the organic gardening world, starting a gardening business called Only Organic, and then The Organic Gardener's Pantry to supply high quality organic fertilizers. He received Permaculture Design and Sustainable Building and Design certificates and became a Certified Organic Land Care Professional.
Phil works with his wife Heather, a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, to help people improve their health and the health of their gardens and the planet through the SmilingGardener.com website, sharing innovative methods with organic growers worldwide.
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Sections like this one on paramagnetism are annoying on multiple levels:
"Soil is paramagnetic [...] highly paramagnetic soils are more energetically aligned with the earth and even the universe, and actually invite energy into them [...] Increased paramagnetism brings increased water retention, [...] Plants are diamagnetic [...] I imagine it's a good thing, too, because it gives the soil and plants a kind of yin-yang relationship." Oh, ok.
Now this is broken up to save you some time and it's only a small section of the book - but the... mindset in the above snippets permeates this book. None of the specific claims are backed up with specific footnotes and sources (though a general bibliography is provided).
The most useful information revolves around soil testing and the actions to take when the results of the test are received. You can find that same information online for free. So too with soil inoculants, compost tea, etc.
If you're interested in understanding Mr. Nauta's world view then I recommend this book. If you're interested in building soils naturally you're better off with free online sources.
Despite this here are some points of critique:
1. I have no problem with the more esoteric thoughts, but the book sways a bit around between esoteric and science. It lacks a bit of a red thread which holds the thoughts together.
2. There is a plethora of stuff mentioned which might help my garden, and applying this would cost a fortune if I can get it at all (Australia). While he mentions sometimes what he would buy when he only could buy one ingredient, I miss here a bit of overall clarity too.
3. The list of weeds and the soil properties they are indicating is far too short and I really missed a thorough chapter on this topic, together with photos to identify these weeds properly.
4. He has a certain liking of sprays. This is much more work intensive for a home gardener than just piling some comfrey leaves around the tomato plants.
5. I am not interested how to grow a greener lawn, grass is for sheep.
Still one of the best books on soil.
This book has so much useful information that, by the time I reached the fifth chapter, I was highlighting so much of the content that the very purpose of highlighting became useless, so I stopped doing so. I (now) especially appreciate the chapter summaries because, coupled with the content list, it is a very handy way to locate what you're looking for; far too few authors use the "summary" wisely.
This is a truly valuable reference for anyone wishing to grow anything; from the casual weekend gardener to the dedicated organic farmer.
Perhaps, the most significant contribution of this book, however, is that it updates the knowledge base of soil management strategies for real-world gardeners. It's one thing to know a concept, but an altogether different thing in knowing why, when and how to apply it. Nauta bridges this gap by providing how-to subsections with examples for each approach. In the process, the author introduces readers to concepts such as microbial inoculation, effective microorganisms (EM), cation exchange capacity (CEC), ERGS (Energy Released per Gram of Soil), anions, and radionics among others, and translates their meaning and importance without ambiguity. That is no small task.
Whether you are a beginning gardener (but especially if you are a beginning gardener) or a seasoned veteran Building Soils Naturally is a book that needs to be on your top 10 go-to list of reference books. The broken spine on my dog-eared copy testifies to where I go most often.