Building Soils Naturally (Innovative Methods for Organic Gardeners) by Phil Nauta – Review
Phil Nauta has been spent his life with plants. He grew up working for his parents in their garden center and later was in charge of maintaining their 9-hole golf course. As an adult, Phil started two businesess which created and sold organic fertilizers; received certificates in Permaculture Design and Sustainable Building and Design; and is a Certified Organic Land Care professional. He also writes and maintains a website, SmilingGardener.com.
Now with the release of his first book, Building Soils Naturally (Innovative Methods for Organic Gardeners), Phil can add “author” to his list of accomplishments. Building Soils Naturally is a gardening book focused on what goes on beneath the surface of our garden soils and how we can use that knowledge to create soil which protects our plants from pests and disease, create high yields for fruits and vegetables, and produce food which packs more nutrition than supermarket equivalents.
The main thrust of Building Soils Naturally is how to balance your garden and lawn soil. An unbalanced soil, that is, soil which lacks the proper nutritional components in the proper ratios, may cause any number of problems with plants: weak blooms on flowers, insects infesting your fruits and vegetables, and weed infestation to name a few. Phil’s theory is that garden problems are the result of “weak” soil and when soil is balanced, i.e., when it’s healthy and functioning properly, few problems present themselves which can’t be cured (weather issues aside).
“Organic matter is as important in the soil as yeast is to bread”
Phil Nauta is clearly a guy who likes numbers and he provides many illustrations and mathematical formulas for how to add the proper nutrients in the proper combinations and percentages to achieve a soil which functions at peak performance. But he also presents these ideas so that gardeners who can’t wrap their heads around formulas and things like cation exchange capacity won’t be left out in the cold. After all, sometimes the simplest answer to a soil or plant problem is one that can be gleaned from the original method – a visual inspection: What color is your soil? What plants – intended and unintended – are growing there? Does it hold water? Does it stick together? Is insect life teeming or absent?
“Weeds are there because they are the most suitable plant for the job, more suitable than what we’re trying to grow there”
My favorite section was on how to increase your garden’s soil microbe web by adding a number of preparations (innoculants as Phil refers to them), which create more hospitable conditions for bacteria and Mycorrhizal fungi to multiply. Phil also explains how to properly brew compost tea; what pH really means and how to interpret it correctly; why adding organic matter like compost is essential for your garden’s health; how soil is formed; how to use cover crops; and a primer on weeds and why they grow where they do.
“pH is the result of elements in our soil, not the cause”
Phil hasn’t forgotten about lawn lovers, either. After all, he has a lot of experience caring for golf greens and creating organic lawns for his customers. You can apply much of this information to create healthier lawn soil that produces beautiful, plush green grass with a minimum of weeds.
Building Soils Naturally will be especially helpful to those transitioning to organic gardening for the first time or who have garden or lawn soil which has been decimated by years of neglect or chemical abuse.
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