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The Soil Food Web: Taking Organic Gardening to the Next Level

The Soil Food Web: Taking Organic Gardening to the Next Level

Organic gardeners are faced with a unique challenge; by putting health and environment first, we set ourselves up for a neverending struggle against pests, disease, and lackluster growth. In the absence of chemicals, the organic grower has to get creative and work twice as hard to achieve the desired results.

This, at any rate, is the popular narrative, one that undoubtedly prevents many hobbyists from going the organic route. Sure, we'd all love to do the environmentally friendly thing, but we also want a flourishing garden without too many hassles, and we're conditioned to believe this is only possible through chemical applications. But what many people don't realize is that by relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, they actually create more work, rather than less, for themselves.

Most gardeners have probably heard that synthetic chemicals destroy beneficial organisms in the soil, but for many this concept is too abstract to grasp. Who are these organisms anyway? What are they up to? How can I know they're helping if I can't even see them? In their book Teaming With Microbes, Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis demystify the world of the soil food web, identifying key players and their roles and offering detailed advice on how to protect and manage this ecosystem for maximum results.

Lowenfels and Lewis make the compelling argument that many of problems plaguing our lawns and gardens are the direct result of the home horticulturalist's reliance on chemical products which destroy microbial life. The result is a garden that depends on application after application of fertilizer and pesticides in order to survive. Conversely, a healthy soil ecosystem controls pathogen populations, provide plants with essential nutrients, and form relationships that encourage vigorous growth and healthy immune systems.