Those who know me know that poo is a subject I get quite excited about! So when I was asked to take a look at a book about soil and poo I jumped at the chance. I was not disappointed.
It's not often a book about such a 'mucky' subject has such stunning photographs! I would happily display Good Soil on my coffee table, if it wasn't for the fact that its more likely to be found in my grubby mitts whilst I'm at My Flower Patch checking the particulars about cow poo versus chook poop.
It has been a fascinating read, and I have learned lots whilst devouring the information contained in Good Soil. I have already altered my planting out practices, and have more confidence about my choices of soil amendments, when to use them, how to use them, and which ones to choose.
Possibly most startling is just how good urine is for plants. I have always encouraged the other half to relieve himself onto the compost heap to "help break it all down a bit", but from now on I will be encouraging him to pee into the watering can every now and again - my nearly six year old son will find this great fun too! As watered down urine is one of the best plant food boosts according to the author. The author goes as far as to call it "the uncrowned queen of the fertiliser family".
There are sections about the various types of manures, information about what nutrients are contained in what proportions in which animal dung, and how fast acting they are which in turn has implications for how quickly they are depleted. So I will take this information into account and use a mixture of different manures when I can access them.
Useful information is displayed in a visually stunning way such as this table, which shows what your weeds are telling you about your soil health and structure.
Or this page, which talks about PH, levels in your soil. The book then explains how to counteract any issues you might face.
I have always looked to naturally sourced soil additions to feed my plants. It has just felt right. But now I know that by using these natural sources I am providing much more than just N, P and K (Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium). I am providing the plants with the trace elements and micronutrients that are vital to plant health that are not necessarily found in synthetic fertilisers. This book explains the role these play in plant health and also discusses what symptoms to look for if there is a deficiency or even an excess of these nutrients.
Good soil covers veg growing, but pleasingly to me there is also lots of information about other plants, including annual and perennial flowers and specific information for Roses, Peonies and Clematis. In fact I could hear the advice ringing in my ears when I planted out my newly acquired roses earlier this month. They just need a pinch of wood ash in a week or so.
The only thing I found slightly surprising about this book was that throughout it talks about the good health of the soil, and increasing the humus of the soil, but it seems to be very strongly in favour of digging. I am trying to move to 'no dig' or 'low till' gardening. Interestingly this book seems to suggest that unless the manure is well dug in it will provide little benefit in terms of nutrients. That many nutrients will be leached away or lost to the air. I'm hoping that a combination of the information gleaned from this book, with my own take on no-dig gardening will work successfully to boost flower productivity and quality whilst hopefully continuing the reduce the weed burden if at all possible. However a good weeding session does boost my physical and mental health – so I doubt I will ever become entirely no-dig. There is something inherently satisfying about tracing a nettle along its bright yellow roots, or following couch grass along it’s pearly white strands.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in finding out more about what plants need to not just survive but to thrive, in fact I have already recommended it to several people.
The grass clippings will now be utilised as a Nitrogen boosting mulch, rather than just popping them into the compost bin, the duck egg shells will be crushed and applied to the roses, and I will take another look at using green manure crops on any bare beds (not that I often have bare beds!) But I have to say I don't think I will go as far as to look into human faeces as a manure, I draw the line at that ;-)
Good Soil, Manure, Compost and Nourishment for your Garden, is written by Tina Råman. It is published by Frances Lincoln and is available now. Go and get it!