This column was planned to provide a closer look at Jeff Lowenfels’ new book, Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition. I confess that I have read only the early chapters, due partly to other demands on my time and partly to the book’s demand for concentrated study.
In other words, Lowenfels gives this subject the scientific detail it deserves and that approach requires slow reading.
The book opens with chapters on The Plant Cell, Some Basic Chemistry and Botany for Plant Nutrition. It then proceeds to The Nutrients, Water Movement Through Plants, and Nutrient Movement Through Plants.
The four remaining chapters address The Molecules of Life, The Importance of Soil Testing, Factors Influencing Nutrient Availability, and What and When to Feed Plants.
I’m still reading, but my early assessment of the book has two parts. First, the text offers clear but not easy reading. Second, it provides basic science that is fundamental to successful gardening.
We can approach gardening as an aesthetic exercise, choosing and arranging plants to provide a pleasing display. If they succeed, we are delighted; if they do not, we either move them to spots that might be more hospitable, or discard them in favor of other trials.
If we approach gardening from the more scientific approach of Lowenfel’s Teaming with Nutrients (and his previous book, Teaming with Microbes) we can achieve very high degrees of success and plants with vigorous good health. And good health in plants means more beautiful foliage and blossoms, and stronger resistance to diseases and insect pests.
There is a middle ground. This is the territory of “green thumb gardeners” who succeed because they enjoy intuitive knowledge but don’t know why their plants flourish.
I respect green thumb gardeners and I am grateful for the occasions when my efforts qualify me to join their ranks temporarily.
But perhaps we prefer that our gardens hold a measure of mystery!
Most garden books emphasize gardening’s aesthetic aspects; Lowenfels’ book provides a rare example of plant science and nutrition from the perspective of a dedicated gardener.
Mark Your Calendar
As you consider adding this book to your reading list, consider these events for avid gardeners:
• Annual Iris Rhizome Sale I, Monterey Bay Iris Society, Saturday, August 3rd, (yes, today!), Deer Park Shopping Center, Aptos;
• Annual Rhizome Sale II, Monterey Bay Iris Society, Saturday, August 10th, Aptos Farmer’s Market at Cabrillo College, Aptos;
• Annual Show, Monterey Bay Dahlia Society, Saturday, August 31st, 1:00–5:00 and Sunday, September 1st, 10:00–4:00, Soquel High School, Soquel.