The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon is not just a good book, it is an important book. Steve opened my eyes to the fact that sometimes "compost is not enough".
I found this book when researching what was going wrong in my vegetable garden a few years ago. For two years in a row, my peppers had been severely stunted, despite my having dug in 3" of awesome homemade, balanced compost yearly for several years prior.
For decades, organic gardening writers (myself included) have sung the praises of high-quality compost, concluding that if you put on enough, of the right kind, you don't need to add anything else because the compost will provide nutrition.
Compost does rock, don't get me wrong. Compost does add a few nutrients, but most importantly, it adds beneficial microorganisms that are necessary for the natural cycling of nutrients in the soil and the uptake of those nutrients by the plant.
But here's what I didn't get: even on organic farms, the continual export away from the land of commercially-produced crops slowly mines the soil of its minerals. So all the lovely organic food I buy at the store from these farms is now lower in nutrients than produce used to be. And therefore the kitchen scraps that go into the compost are lower in nutrition than they used to be. So like they say in computing: garbage in, garbage out, only in this case we're talking about low-quality literal garbage, which we always thought was full of nutrients for plants.
I highly recommend Steve's book. While it may not be the most, well... efficiently written work, it covers the bases well and gives you charts to figure out EXACTLY what and how much organic fertilizer to add to your soil based on an accurate soil test. But more than that, you'll come away knowing why each nutrient is important, why the most accurate soil tests are still ballpark numbers, and why human health is tied to the health of the soil.
For those who don't want to go to the trouble of a soil test and just want some basic help, Steve gives an excellent Complete Organic Fertilizer recipe (with suggestions for minor adjustments based on your soil type).
Read The Intelligent Gardener and learn to grow really nutrient-dense, flavorful food that just cannot be bought at the store, anywhere.
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