Once You Learn About Soil, It WIll Never Be Dirt Again

Don’t you just love the first whiff of fresh peat moss when you open a brand new bag of seed starting mix? It’s the middle of winter, the air in the house is stale with the odors of whatever you cooked for dinner, but that is all forgotten when you open a new bag of seed starting mix and smell that smell you’ve been missing, but didn’t know you were missing. It’s like opening up a fresh can of ground coffee. You pause just for a minute to savor it before getting down to the business of sowing seeds.

I know from the comments on my post yesterday about seeds that I am not the only one who loves to sow seeds. So I assume I’m not the only one who likes the smell of good soil. I’m not! (Am I the only one? I was recently tagged to write 6 weird things about myself, and I haven’t done that (yet). Maybe my confession about liking the smell of fresh peat moss is weird thing number one?)

Anyway, good soil is what the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club is all about in January. Our official book is Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.

But as noted when this book was introduced, if it isn’t your cup of compost tea or you can’t get the book, find another good book on soil or compost and read it. Just learn something new about the soil we are all dependent on for our gardening success and write and tell us about it on your blog. And you have all month to do so! All month. Or nearly so. I will post the round up post around January 28th. Just let me know via a comment to my blog that you have posted about soil or about the official book selection, so I can get your link to include. Our motto for the month: “Once you learn about soil, it will never be dirt again”.

I do realize that reading a book about soil isn’t for everyone, so I am curious to know what others think of the book. I’ve started to read it, and it is bringing back some memories of some of the things I learned about soil in college. (What? You didn’t learn about soil in college? What kind of school did you go to?)

By the way, Jeff Lowenfels has commented to let us know that there is an error in the 1st printing of Teaming with Microbes. I quote:

“There is a major mistake on page 41 where the definition of pH is incorrect. The proper definition is if you have lots of hydrogen ions, you have a low pH or acid...and fewer, higher pH and basic. Sorry about that. Big goof-up. Now corrected! Let me know if you have questions!”

Yes, the author has found us, given us some useful information, and offered to answer questions we have. A first for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club! So if as you read you have a question, we’ll figure out how to contact the author to ask or do it telepathically over the Internet to see if he’ll comment. (He probably has Google Alerts turned on to find references to his book, would be my guess on how he found out about our book club in the 1st place.)

(Yes, I am aware that this is the first real live author we’ve picked and therefore the 1st who could comment, because technically Jamaica Kincaid was the editor of the last book, and Henry Mitchell passed away several years ago, as we all know. But, it’s still a noteworthy first around here.)

Soil and seeds, the beginnings of the garden, for the beginning of the year. That’s what I’m thinking about these days.

In the next few days, by the way, I’ll post my own answers to the questions about seeds that I asked yesterday. Feel free to post your seed answers on your blog, to reveal more about yourself as a gardener.


  1. CArol,
    I just started reading "Teaming with Microbes" this afternoon, and I'm happy to find that I'm really enjoying it! If anyone's thinking about passing this book up out of fear that they will be reading a textbook about soil, I'd urge them to give it a try. The authors are also luckily very good writers, and so far are doing an awesome job of explaining the more technical/scientific jargon. I'm looking forward to getting more into the book.

  2. That is so cool that a real, live author found you! I can't wait to read this book. I have another one I am slogging through now. Not nearly as interesting as I thought it was going to be. I'll be reviewing it on my blog when (if?) I finish it. Then on to soil!

  3. The thing I remember learning about soil in college in an Environmental Horticulture class was never to call it 'dirt' when asking a question!

  4. I agree with you, but in the moment I can not go out to do something, it is wet and I feel like going in water. But today I will place some seeds outside in a pot, a friend has given me yesterday for camassia.


  5. Just hang in there you gardeners. If the next2-3 months go as fast as the last few. you will all be out there in no time

  6. Ah, Carol, you're betraying your Boilermaker roots. They didn't teach soil tech at ND! I am looking forward to reading this book, especially since learning how many millions of microbes are actually in a handful of soil oh-so-long-ago (i.e., high school). I know I love to feed the soil around here.

  7. So, does this mean if I give you a bag of dirt for your birthday, opps-- I mean soil, then you'll be oh so happy?

  8. Garden Bloggers’ Book Club? How come I haven't heard about this yet? I guess I've been too busy studying my seed catalogs that I've been forgetting to check Garden Voices lately.

    Count me in. Soil and Microbes are right up my alley.


  9. Sister with the Homestead... I would be delighted with a few bags of soil for my birthday, but I'm kind of particular about which brand it is... not just any "dirt" will do!

  10. There is an interesting post on one of my regular reads. I don't know if he is aware of the book club, but this essay made me nod my head:

    Whoreticulure on bacterium and nutrition

  11. Yes I love the smell of soil too. And the eel of it. I never wear gloves just to keep my hands from getting dirty, because it is so easy to wash up after gardening.

  12. FYI...amazon is on backorder for this book. Just ordered it yesterday for a review of it on a future podcast in January. this book club was a great idea!

  13. Awwww..I don't like homework with this blogging...I like reading so maybe just maybe..in the meantime it's always fun popping by to see what you are up to! Busy lady!hugs NG

  14. Sure hope you are all enjoying Teaming with Microbes...I am waiting for questions!


    Jeff Lowenfels


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