Biology, Books for the News

Good soil = healthy plants

The Chicago Tribune ran an article recently featuring James B. Nardi’s Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners that gives some great advice on cultivating a bumper crop in your garden this spring. Writing for the Tribune Beth Botts’ article begins:

The part of the garden we love is above ground: flowers, leaves, stems, branches, bark, birds, squirrels. But that part can’t thrive without the part we hardly notice except when we dig.
James Nardi, an entomologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is so fascinated by that part of the garden that he wrote a field guide to it: Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners.
Some of the organisms he describes break down dead plant matter and release its nutrients to be absorbed by the roots of living plants. Others help make roots more efficient. Some improve the texture of the soil so plant roots can get air and water. And some eat others, maintaining the population balance that keeps the whole underground society—what scientists call the soil food web—humming along.

The article continues citing the best kinds of soils (“loam, with at least two sizes of mineral particles”) and what readers can do to help the underground ecosystems in their gardens thrive (compost).
Check out the full article on the Chicago Tribune website.