Chelsea Green Publishing

The Soul of Soil

Pages:173 pages
Book Art:Black and white illustrations and tables
Size: 6 x 9 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781890132316
Pub. Date June 01, 1999

The Soul of Soil

A Soil-Building Guide for Master Gardeners and Farmers, 4th Edition

Farm & Garden

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
June 01, 1999


Soil is the basis not only for all gardening, but for all terrestrial life. No aspect of agriculture is more fundamental and important, yet we have been losing vast quantities of our finite soil resources to erosion, pollution, and development.

Now back in print, this eminently sensible and wonderfully well-focused book provides essential information about one of the most significant challenges for those attempting to grow delicious organic vegetables: the creation and maintenance of healthy soil.

Chapter 2, "Understanding the Soil System," is alone worth the price of admission. Gershuny and Smillie give lay readers and experts a clear explanation of subjects--soil life and nutrient cycles--that have confounded most authors. Nowhere will the reader find simpler and more coherent descriptions of key concepts including cation exchange capacity and chelation.

There are other books about soil available, including Grace Gershuny's comprehensive Start with the Soil, and there are books that feature chapters on soil building. What distinguishes The Soil of Soilis the authors' concise presentation; they give readers important information, including technical essentials, without getting bogged down in scientific or quasiscientific mumbo-jumbo. In addition, useful tables list specific compost materials, green manures, and other resources that allow growers to translate into action the more general information provided by the book.

The soil-building techniques featured include:

  • Organic matter management
  • Building and maintaining humus
  • On-site composting
  • Green manures and rotations
  • Cultivation and weed control
  • Nutrient balances and soil testing
  • Using mineral fertilizers
  • Planning for organic certification

Updates to the 1999 edition include analysis of Proposed Rules for the National Organic Standards, and expanded recommendations for private testing services and soil-testing equipment for home gardeners and organic farmers.

All of us involved in the cultivation of plants--from the backyard gardener to the largest farmer--need to help regenerate a "living soil," for only in the diversity of the soil and its creatures can we ensure the long-term health of ourselves and our environment. The Soul of Soil offers everyone a basic understanding of what soil is and what we can do to improve our own patch of it. Seen in this light, this practical handbook will be an inspiration as well.



Joseph Smillie

Joe Smillie is the senior vice-president of Quality Assurance International, a leading organic certification agency. He is co-author of the books The Orchard Almanac and Rodale's Chemical-Free Yard & Garden, and is a founding member of the Organic Trade Association, and the International Inspectors Group. He lives in Richmond, Vermont.

Grace Gershuny

Grace Gershuny, in addition to her position on the staff of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program, has worked for many years as an educator, organizer, and market gardener. She is nationally known in the alternative agriculture movement, is the author of Start With the Soil, and Compost, Vermicompost and Compost Tea: Feeding the Soil on the Organic Farm as well as co-author of The Rodale Book of Composting and The Soul of Soil. She is on the faculties of the Institute for Social Ecology and Goddard College, and lives in Barnet, Vermont.


Compost, Vermicompost and Compost Tea

Compost, Vermicompost and Compost Tea

By Grace Gershuny

Part of the NOFA Guides series. 

Information on composting techniques, including:

  • Principles and biology of composting
  • Temperature, aeration and moisture control
  • Composting methods
  • Materials (additives and inoculants, biodynamic preparations)
  • About costs (site preparation, equipment, labor and time)
  • What do you do with it?
  • Compost tea and other brewed microbial cultures
  • Compost and the law

With extended appendices including a recipe calculator, potting mix recipes, and a sample compost production budget sheet.

Available in: Paperback

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Compost, Vermicompost and Compost Tea

Grace Gershuny, Jocelyn Langer

Paperback $12.95


Perennial Vegetables & Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (Book & DVD Bundle)

Perennial Vegetables & Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (Book & DVD Bundle)

By Eric Toensmeier

Imagine growing vegetables that require just about the same amount of care as perennial flowers and shrubs, need no annual tilling or planting, yet thrive and produce abundant and nutritious crops throughout the season.

Get the best information on growing these easy and interesting crops from Eric Toensmeier's award-winning book Perennial Vegetables, and tour his own lush forest garden in the new DVD, Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier

About Perennial Vegetables:

In Toensmeier's book, Perennial Vegetables (Chelsea Green, 2007), the adventurous gardener will find information, tips, and sound advice on less-common edibles that will make any garden a perpetual, low-maintenance source of food. In his book, readers will find perennial vegetables are perfect as part of an edible-landscape plan or permaculture garden. Profiling more than a hundred species, with dozens of color photographs and illustrations, and filled with valuable growing tips, recipes, and resources, Perennial Vegetables is a groundbreaking and ground-healing book that will open the eyes of gardeners everywhere to the exciting world of edible perennials.

About Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (DVD):

In the DVD—a culmination of workshops recorded in Mexico, Florida, and Massachusetts—plant specialist Eric Toensmeier introduces gardeners to more than 100 species of little-known, underappreciated plants. Ranging beyond the usual suspects (asparagus, rhubarb, and artichoke) to include such delights as ground cherry, ramps, air potatoes, the fragrant spring tree, and the much-sought-after, antioxidant-rich wolfberry (also known as the goji berry), Toensmeier explains how to raise, tend, harvest, and cook with plants that yield great crops and culinary satisfaction. Toensmeier also takes viewers on a plant-by-plant tour of his garden in Massachusetts.

Available in: Mixed media product

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Perennial Vegetables & Perennial Vegetable Gardening with Eric Toensmeier (Book & DVD Bundle)

Eric Toensmeier

Mixed media product $59.95

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

By Peter Burke

The Low-Tech, No-Grow-Lights Approach to Abundant Harvest

Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening offers good news: with nothing more than a cupboard and a windowsill, you can grow all the fresh salad greens you need for the winter months (or throughout the entire year) with no lights, no pumps, and no greenhouse.

Longtime gardener Peter Burke was tired of the growing season ending with the first frost, but due to his busy work schedule and family life, didn’t have the time or interest in high-input grow lights or greenhouses. Most techniques for growing what are commonly referred to as “microgreens” left him feeling overwhelmed and uninterested. There had to be a simpler way to grow greens for his family indoors. After some research and diligent experimenting, Burke discovered he was right—there was a way! And it was even easier than he ever could have hoped, and the greens more nutrient packed. He didn’t even need a south-facing window, and he already had most of the needed supplies just sitting in his pantry. The result: healthy, homegrown salad greens at a fraction of the cost of buying them at the market. The secret: start them in the dark.

Growing “Soil Sprouts”—Burke’s own descriptive term for sprouted seeds grown in soil as opposed to in jars—employs a method that encourages a long stem without expansive roots, and provides delicious salad greens in just seven to ten days, way earlier than any other method, with much less work. Indeed, of all the ways to grow immature greens, this is the easiest and most productive technique. Forget about grow lights and heat lamps!  This book is a revolutionary and inviting guide for both first-time and experienced gardeners in rural or urban environments. All you need is a windowsill or two. In fact, Burke has grown up to six pounds of greens per day using just the windowsills in his kitchen! Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening offers detailed step-by-step instructions to mastering this method (hint: it’s impossible not to succeed, it’s so easy!), tools and accessories to have on hand, seeds and greens varieties, soil and compost, trays and planters, shelving, harvest and storage, recipes, scaling up to serve local markets, and much more.

Available in: Paperback

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Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening

Peter Burke

Paperback $29.95

The Backyard Orchardist

The Backyard Orchardist

By Stella Otto

For novice and experienced fruit gardeners alike, The Backyard Orchardist: A complete guide to growing fruit trees in the home garden has been the go-to book for home orchardists for over 2 decades. This expanded and updated edition--organized into 6 easy-to-follow sections--offers even more hands-on horticulture. Award-winning author Stella Otto starts by systematically guiding readers through the all-important first steps of planning and planting the home orchard. Learn to:

•    evaluate and build healthy soil

•    choose the best planting site

•    select fruit trees that are easy to grow and appropriate for your climate

Become familiar with the growing requirements of popular temperate zone tree fruit: the pome fruit—apples, pears, Asian pears, quince, and the novelty medlar --and stone fruit—cherries, apricots, plums, their new hybrid pluots and apriums, peaches and nectarines. In-depth chapters on each fruit offer recommendations on:

•    disease-resistant varieties to save you time and reduce unnecessary spraying

•    size controlling rootstocks choices for smaller spaces

•    compatible varieties to achieve proper cross-pollination that leads to a bountiful harvest

For urban gardeners in apartments, condos, and small lots, Otto walks you through the essentials of container growing and even how to winterize figs and other potted fruit trees.

Horticultural fundamentals are simplified into practical techniques for ongoing care and maintenance of a thriving orchard. Gain understanding of soil biology and how nutrient availability impacts the tree. Master how to prune with precision, including the when, how, and why of pruning and its importance to tree health and disease prevention. Water with confidence: learn when why, and how much.

The pests and disease sections are extensively illustrated to help with identification. Control solutions, both biological and synthetic have expanded greatly since the original edition, offering the gardener numerous choices based on their individual situation.

Harvest hints, use, and storage recommendations help you enjoy your fruit at its peak flavor or preserve it for the off-season. A seasonal to-do calendar, resource list, additional reading suggestions, glossary, illustrations, charts, and an index put all you need to know at your fingertips.

Available in: Paperback

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The Backyard Orchardist

Stella Otto, Glenn Wolff, Peter Hatch

Paperback $24.95

Fresh Food from Small Spaces

Fresh Food from Small Spaces

By R.J. Ruppenthal

Books on container gardening have been wildly popular with urban and suburban readers, but until now, there has been no comprehensive "how-to" guide for growing fresh food in the absence of open land. Fresh Food from Small Spaces fills the gap as a practical, comprehensive, and downright fun guide to growing food in small spaces. It provides readers with the knowledge and skills necessary to produce their own fresh vegetables, mushrooms, sprouts, and fermented foods as well as to raise bees and chickens—all without reliance on energy-intensive systems like indoor lighting and hydroponics.

Readers will learn how to transform their balconies and windowsills into productive vegetable gardens, their countertops and storage lockers into commercial-quality sprout and mushroom farms, and their outside nooks and crannies into whatever they can imagine, including sustainable nurseries for honeybees and chickens. Free space for the city gardener might be no more than a cramped patio, balcony, rooftop, windowsill, hanging rafter, dark cabinet, garage, or storage area, but no space is too small or too dark to raise food.

With this book as a guide, people living in apartments, condominiums, townhouses, and single-family homes will be able to grow up to 20 percent of their own fresh food using a combination of traditional gardening methods and space-saving techniques such as reflected lighting and container "terracing." Those with access to yards can produce even more.

Author R. J. Ruppenthal worked on an organic vegetable farm in his youth, but his expertise in urban and indoor gardening has been hard-won through years of trial-and-error experience. In the small city homes where he has lived, often with no more than a balcony, windowsill, and countertop for gardening, Ruppenthal and his family have been able to eat at least some homegrown food 365 days per year. In an era of declining resources and environmental disruption, Ruppenthal shows that even urban dwellers can contribute to a rebirth of local, fresh foods.

Available in: Paperback

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Fresh Food from Small Spaces

R.J. Ruppenthal

Paperback $24.95