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Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition (Science for Gardeners) Hardcover – February 24, 2010

4.7 out of 5 stars 242 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Sure, it's a gardening book, but it has all the drama and suspense of an extraterrestrial thriller. A cast of characters without eyeballs or backbones. Battle scenes with bizarre creatures devouring one another. Only this book is about as terrestrial as it gets." —Debra McKinney, Anchorage Daily News

“A breakthrough book…well worth owning and reading. No comprehensive horticultural library should be without it.” —American Gardener

“Exceptional…A brief, clear overview of scientific information with which every gardener should be familiar.” —Monterey Herald

“Digs into soil in a most enlightening and entertaining way.” —Dallas Morning News

“Required reading for all serious gardeners.” —Miami Herald

“This intense little book may well change the way you garden.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“All good gardeners know healthy plants start with healthy soil. But why? And how? In Teaming with Microbes Lowenfels and Lewis reveal the new research in the most practical and accessible way.” —The Oregonian

“Read this book and you’ll never think of soil the same way.” —Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“The authors have given gardeners an inside scoop on the scientific research supporting organic gardening.” —Pacific Horticulture

“Sure, it’s a gardening book, but it has all the drama and suspense of an extraterrestrial thriller…Read this book and you’ll never look at soil the same way.” —B & B Magazine

“[This book] is a must read for any gardener looking to create a sustainable, healthy garden without chemicals.” —Virginian-Pilot

“It takes readers underground to meet the critters that live if you let them under the garden.” —Rockland Courier-Gazette

 

From the Back Cover

Winner of the Garden Writers Association Gold Award for Best Book Writing
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 substances, many of them toxic to humans as well as other forms of life. But there is an alternative to this vicious circle: to garden in a way that strengthens, rather than destroys, the soil food web—the complex world of soil-dwelling organisms whose interactions create a nurturing environment for plants. By eschewing jargon and overly technical language, the authors make the benefits of cultivating the soil food web available to a wide audience, from devotees of organic gardening techniques to weekend gardeners who simply want to grow healthy, vigorous plants without resorting to chemicals.

This revised edition updates the original text and includes two completely new chapters—on mycorrhizae (beneficial associations fungi form with green-leaved plants) and archaea (singled-celled organisms once thought to be allied to bacteria).
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Product Details

  • Series: Science for Gardeners
  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Timber Press; Revised edition (February 24, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1604691131
  • ISBN-13: 978-1604691139
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.8 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (242 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the beginning of Teaming with Microbes, but as I went on through it, I began to be uncomfortable with some of its tone. The authors seemed to be wanting to put their attachment to non-organic industrial lawn and garden products behind them, but they also seem to be doing advance work for a new bio-tech industry, rather than just proposing to work "with" the soil life in an organic way.

They relate [p.69] that one of them wrote a weekly gardening column for 30 years and never once mentioned mycorrhiza "out of sheer ignorance." On the same page they write, that it was only in the 1990's that the term mycorrhiza started to "creep into the agricultural industry's lexicon, much less the home gardener's." Most organic gardeners are aware that it is with home gardeners and "soil pioneers" progress is made in soil science, and not in an entrenched industry.

On p. 125, with the section "a quick look forward," they write, "Given the advancing scientific techniques, the high degree of interest in the subject, and the human as well as the monetary implications of usable bio-products, it is certain more will be taken up - more and more often - as additional tools for restoration and maintenance." In other words, more industry involvement.

Further, on page 126, the authors disclose their wish for the bio-tech development of "an endophytic fungi that rids the lawn of dandelions." The development of such a fungi that kills dandelions could be an ecological disaster. Besides the value of dandelions as a food source for many nations outside of the U.S., dandelions are a nitrogen fixing soil improving plant. Then too, did the authors consider that the bio-tech created endophytic fungi might adapt to also kill other root vegetables, such as sugar beets, and carrots?
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The first part of the book is pretty good. But then it comes completely off the rails in the second part. The author admits that mycorrhizal fungus is new to him. Adding a chapter on the subject for this latest revision was insufficient. The facts about mycorrhizal fungus means his theories about plant succession and bacterial vs fungal soil is completely wrong. Some vegetables are very dependant on mycorrhizal fungus. He should have completely rewritten part two. Example link:[...]
I agree that people should not till in the spring just before planting. But tilling in the late fall and working in organic matter and then planting a mycorrhizal cover crop will renew the fungus and achieve superior results. Buy this book for the first part and then ignore the second part.
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This is written in such a way that the average gardener can understand the fairly recent scientific research discoveries regarding the world of activity taking place in their soil. This explains why some things that were considered good gardening practices in the past actually inhibit the natural processes of healthy plant growth. Understanding the biology of the soil, you can implement low/no cost processes to greatly improve the life of it.

Very interesting reading even if you are not a gardener.
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Such a paradigm shift! I had started out learning about organic gardening, then began learning about Gaia's Garden, Second Edition: A Guide To Home-Scale Permaculture and recently found Teaming with Microbes. I will never think about gardening or the earth the same way again. Dandelions = a calcium deficiency in your lawn? I used to think they were just lawn weeds who's leaves could be purchased at health food stores for a high price as a foodie delicacy. Love. Love. Love this book. It teaches you, in a very easy to understand way, how the soil food web works and what you can do to naturally improve your soil and crops/plants for sustainable and efficient growth. Now that's a gardening book. Brilliant. 5 stars!
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I have been reading a lot of books related to 1) Gardening 2) Composting etc. and most of them leave a lot to be desired in terms of the scope of information contained.

This particular book is detailed, while at the same time reading like a novel. It is full of excellent information about microbiology of soils. When you read a book on a particular subject, what you are really looking for is clarity and answers to your questions. This book provides all of that, and more.

Wonderful book. Highly recommended to anyone who is interested in 1) Organic Gardening 2) Composting, or organic mulches or compost teas 3) Soil microbiology
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Format: Hardcover
As a long time organic gardener, I thought I had things pretty well figured out - compost, no chemicals, mulch. But this book (which, surprisingly, I was unable to put down) opened my eyes to the world of soil microbiology, and in a fascinating, often funny style. I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't realize the best thing about compost is not the nutrients it contains, but the germs. And that disturbing soils kills mycorrhizae (something I'd just been reading about in Paul Stamets' books on fungi).
The authors have arrived at the perfect mix of science and readability - this book fed my hunger for solid science, AND was fun to read. It's my go-to book on soil microbes. Get it, and keep it next to the dictionary on your Important Books Shelf.
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