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Book reviews- composting and SFW

17 years ago

The wife and I like going to Barnes and Noble, getting coffee at Starbucks there, and sitting with reading material. Anyhoo- I'm usually looking at tattoo magazines or gardening and woodworking books.

Last night was compost night, evidently, as I picked up 2 books on composting (one of which had a picture of a wheelbarrow full of leaves on the cover, the other had a shovel full of beautiful compost upon which I almost drooled) and one on the soil food web.

First compost book (don't remember the name or which cover)- I opened it randomly and disagreed with about 3 things on the first page. One thing was that one should always innoculate a new pile with finished compost. If you build a new pile in reasonable weather with the right moisture and the right green/brown ratio (or anything even close)- the pile will start cooking HOT in less than 12 hours. Finished compost is going to have more microbes associated with the cooling/cold phase of the process- so what would it do for you? Nothing is my guess. That's the sort of parroting of concepts without thought that makes a text completely undifferentiated from the many other books out there on the subject. Follow the book's advice- and you'll get compost anyway- I know- but annoying little things like that make me shy away.

Second compost book- looked pretty reasonable actually. I only poked as it seemed a good primer, but I wasn't going to learn much from it at the depth it went.

The soil food web book, however- was pretty cool. Some real work went into this book. I believe that it was "Teaming with microbes: a gardner's guide to the SFW".

Now I didn't do an extensive read of the book, and frankly don't know enough to make a serious judgement on their conclusions etc- but I was fascinated. They weren't afraid to attack the hard science topics, and were able to bring the descriptions down to a level where the casual reader could grasp the concepts.

My one criticism is that at least a method or two were recommended that I would liked to have seen more evidence about. One example (I know, I know- I always ask about this...) is aerated compost tea. It's addressed in the book as settled science, but I'd like to see direct pointers to research that proves it's effectiveness. It's possible that the research exists, and it's also possible that there just wasn't enough room in the book to expound upon it, but I've yet to see anything that I'd call conclusive.

I've used it and had a friend try it to "cure" certain foliage diseases on a couple of occasions, but there was no control run or repetition so that all I have is anecdote.

(if anyone can point me to a reference- I would really like to see it. I honestly say this out of curiosity rather than skepticism).

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