Soils & Compost

Building Soils for Better Crops:  Sustainable Soil Management, 3rd edition, by Fred Magdoff and Harold Van Es.  2009.  USDA Sustainable Agriculture research and Education (SARE, http://www.sare.org), Handbook No. 10.  294 pp.
This handbook provides excellent practical information on the physical (texture, tilth, drainage, aeration), chemical (nutrients, pH, cation exchange capacity), and biological (soil food web, soil-plant-microbe interactions) aspects of soil health and soil quality, and the links between soil health and plant vigor and pest resistance.  Ecological soil management, the book’s largest section, is packed with practical information on sustainable soil and nutrient management, crop-livestock integration, and dealing with specific soil conservation and macro- and micro-nutrient issues associated with particular soils and production systems.The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, by Barbara Pleasant & Deborah Martin.  2008. Storey Publishing.  319 pp.A truly comprehensive look at the materials and techniques of composting for the homeowner, including slow and fast composting, vermi-conmposting, sheet and hole and trench composting, eliminating weed seeds, making custom soil mixes etc.  Amusing sidebars from the authors’ diaries. Gorgeously illustrated.

The Nature and Properties of Soils, 14th edition, by Nyle C. Brady and Ray R. Weil.  2008.  Pearson Education, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ.  965 pp.

The newest version of the classic academic soil science text has incorporated much of what has been learned over the past 100 years (by organic farmers and soil scientists) about the vital importance of soil organic matter, soil life, and ecological soil management in sustainable soil fertility, crop production, and carbon sequestration.  The authors emphasize the importance of knowing the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of a particular soil in relation to climate and production system in management decisions.  The in-depth treatment of soil properties and processes, the 12 main soil orders (types) and their many variations, crop nutrient cycles, moisture, acidity/alkalinity, salinity, organic matter, and soil erosion make this an invaluable reference for the serious student of soil, whether grower or consultant.

The Soul of Soil, a short and very readable explanation of soil dynamics, by Grace Gershuny.

Let it Rot – A short and very readable primer on the principles of composting.

The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin.  2008.  Storey Publishing,  paperback, 318 pp.