Garden bloggers’ book club: Teaming with microbes

It occurred to me, as Carol at May Dreams Gardens was organizing the first meeting of the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, that the winter is a perfect time to settle in with a good gardening book and learn something new.

I’m going to go ahead and state for the record that this has not been an ordinary winter. There’s been illness, and travel, and more illness. Instead of reading the book for January, I was waiting for it to arrive at our local library, but teeming with so many microbes of my own that I wasn’t much use for reading.

As a result, I’m careening toward the end of the month only halfway through Teaming With Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, and am only just now getting to my post for the book club. I’m not even sneaking in under the wire with this one, folks. The wire has already been taken down—Carol put up her post earlier this evening.

But even though I’m not finished with the book, I have to tell you…whether you’re a gardener who comes late to the party like me, or someone who has been in the dirt for a long time, you owe it to yourself to read this book. Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis have put together a fascinating, eminently readable look at the microscopic action that takes place within the soil that supports our vegetables, fruits and flowers.

I’ve been working my way through the front half of the book, which delves into the science of dirt. Lowenfels and Lewis, however, don’t write in traditional textbook style. In a discussion of the difference between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria, for example, they remind gardeners that they “have smelled the products of anaerobic decomposition, perhaps in the garden but certainly in the refrigerator.” A pedestrian description? Perhaps. But we all know exactly what the authors are describing.

Lowenfels and Lewis also have access to some incredible electron microscope photography of the tiny beings that populate our garden soil. Sure, I’d be freaked out if I ran across a nematode that was the same size as the gap-mouthed one in one of the brightly colored photographs, but in context of the book, the pictures aptly clarify what the various organisms look like.

Even though the month is coming to a close, I will be finishing this book before I move on to the next book club selection. As I said earlier, I’m finding myself to be fascinated by something that doesn’t seem to fit with my usual set of interests. But the ride through the smallest particles with Lowenfels and Lewis is, so far, consistently interesting and educational.

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2 Responses to “Garden bloggers’ book club: Teaming with microbes”


  1. 1 Carol January 30, 2007 at 10:33 pm

    Genie… You made it in! I just updated to include your review. I’m glad you liked the book and found it useful. Thanks for participating. Now, you’ve got to get caught up so you can start on the February book…

  2. 2 inadvertentgardener February 1, 2007 at 6:51 am

    Thanks, Carol! I’m going to go ahead and get started on the February selection regardless. Have no fear — I’ll get caught up eventually!


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