Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Writing a book

There were several things in gardening that were confusing me.  So in order to sort them out in my own mind, I have decided to write about them.
I'm going to  start with where plant nutrients come from in nature, how they flow through the biological system and how they are recycled.  I am not interested in unsustainable industrial fertilisers.  I am interested in the nutrients that were there before.  They must have come from somewhere.  I have an inkling that they originate from the parent rock but how do they get from  rock to plant?  The geologists would have us believe that this is purely a physical process but biology plays a much bigger role than they are letting on.

I have read a lot of books about the soil in the past year but very few of them have really answered my questions clearly and none of them from a gardener's perspective.  Gardening books just seem to repeat the engineering geology of soils rather than anything of interest to the gardener.  The vast topic of the biology of the soil has only been scratched at.

Just repeating over and over that there are a lot of microbes in the soil is not really helpful either. There are a lot of microbes everywhere - what is special about the soil microbe community and how can it be affected by the chemicals we spread on the soil?  How can gardeners influence the soil community for the better and produce abundant yields while doing it?

Soil takes a long long time to be made naturally so leaving it to worms is not really an option for a gardener.  So this is where I am going to start.  Following the nutrients and where they go.


  1. Glad to hear ole' bro is doing well.
    Good luck on that book. We have a guy here in TX "The Dirt Doctor" who has a website w/ in depth info on the complex soil web you often describe. You and he are the only 2 people I have ever seen talk about soil paramagnatism and the importance of microbes for the bio availability of minerals in the soil. (I look forward to buying your book-hope it will be avail here in US. Amazon maybe?)

  2. Hi Barbee
    Thank you very much for your thoughts and I hope that the bad weather that Texas has been having has not affected you very much. My allotment has been knocked about by a storm in the last two days but it is nothing like what has happened to your country.
    I know your master gardeners are starting to think about the soil biology now. I knew it was important but it was not until I started to answer some of my questions that I realised just how much. It is good to know that at least one person understands what I am talking about especially as these blogs are a little like diary entries rather than a great literary manuscript. I may only publish it on the internet and donate any money I get for it to the charity Tree Aid. Really, I am more interested in getting information out there for gardeners than anything else.

  3. Surely they all fundamentally come from the original elements when the earth formed and subsequently from the rocks that formed and also external sources such as meteorites.
    En passant one might mention that some of the nutrient 'nitrate' comes from the the gases nitrogen and oxygen when lightening strikes.
    Most of the mineral sources such as rock phosphate similarly must arise from the earths past geology. Best of luck with the book. My neighbour works for a self book publishing company!

  4. Absolutely Roger but it was something that you said about me keeping stones to make a path and expecting them to weather away and provide nutrients for the allotment that set me thinking. You said any nutrients from your stones will be very, very small (4th March 2016). Well believe it or not the idea for a book came from this comment. It seems that nutrients are weathered from rocks but the rate at which this happens increases rapidly once higher plants are introduced. The process continues in soil and here it is mediated by the community of organisms living there. So the way that gardeners treat the soil is very important in soil fertility and degradation. Rock fragments and stones continue to weather in the soil and provide nutrients.
    However, this is not the only source of nutrients. Organic matter decomposition, nitrogen fixation and fixation of other inorganic minerals by bacteria are also sources of nutrients for higher plants and ultimately ourselves.
    But this is just the beginning of the process and what is most important is the way in which we can and are influencing the process through our gardening techniques. I don't know if I will have the courage to publish the book but I will see how it goes.