Book Review: Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon March 29, 2016 07:47
The book challenges the Rodale school of organic gardening through repeated applications of compost. If the minerals aren't in the soil from your region, they won't be found in compost produced from that soil, and compost can't magically add back minerals it doesn't have. As a result of natural geology, local weather conditions, and bad agricultural practices, typical soils in North America and around the world are seriously depleted and incapable of growing truly nutritious food. So in addition to adding compost, we should add specific soil amendments based on the results of yearly laboratory testing of soil samples.
The book is primarily a chemistry-based approach to soil, with the idea that healthy biological soil ecology will naturally follow from soil with high nutrient levels. The role of microbial, fungal and animal life toward contributing to mineral availability is considered secondary to the existence of those minerals in the soil (as seen by a soil test). The book does not specifically address any techniques toward encouraging the soil ecology, and how that relates to mineral availability.
The book might also be science-heavy for some. The approach is based on soil chemistry and there's some math to figure your optimum amendments. If you're not into all that, the first half of the book may be all you need. After discussing the background and motivations for soil remineralization, he author offers a simple do-no-harm recipe for a complete organic fertilizer, that while not as effective at remineralizing with a bespoke mix, will be effective at improving the nutrient content of your soil without putting your soil out of balance.
I'm eager to learn about about the potential of soil testing for remineralization. If you'd like to do some soil analysis of your own, I'll be sending out soil sample batches for testing from Homestead Junction this spring, and I'd like to host a workshop on analysing test results to create optimum soil amendments. Send me an email at email@example.com or ask at the HJX if you're interested. Happy Gardening!