The Intelligent Gardener: Growing Nutrient-Dense Food
Steve Solomon with E. Reinheimer
New Society Publishers
On my shelf with many other gardening books The Intelligent Gardener stands tall, providing studied and specific information on soil remineralization with the purpose of growing nutrient-dense produce. This book is for all gardeners, and especially to be read by those who grow vegetables in an “organic” fashion. Also appropriate for educators in the agricultural and health sciences, we can hope this book might even get into the hands of politicians. Solomon champions the imperative message that human health is tied to the health of the soil.
Solomon begins with the undeniable rationale that we need nutrient-dense food to insure optimal human health. He summarizes the work of many corroborating early scientists like Drs. Weston A. Price and William Albrecht, as well as current researchers and practitioners. There is a glossary, a bibliography, a section explaining major/minor nutrients, plus a section on the complete organic fertilizer for those who don’t want to follow the soil testing route.
The book has wide application and is organized and written to be understood by backyard gardeners. Solomon says you need very little background in chemistry or math to use this book, and I agree. The book contains technical information, explained in layman’s terms, and is at the same time very complete. Careful attention to his precepts will be rewarded with accurate guidance for what is appropriate and useful for each grower’s specific needs, such as high soil pH or mineral excesses, for example. Solomon weaves in personal stories with humor and candor to illustrate his points and underscore the efficacy of his methodology.
Solomon’s unifying theme among all the topics of his book is to get the minerals in the soil to the proper levels and ratios, and then the soil will grow its own organic matter. As for adding compost, Solomon says, “Just a little dab will do ya.” He claims that many organic gardeners, organic gardening writers, and others have the misconception that compost is the end-all solution to a healthy soil. For these gardeners the solution to every problem is to add more compost. While containing some minerals, compost made from plants grown on poor, depleted soils simply can’t bring soil minerals to the ideal levels and ratios, Solomon explains. In fact, adding excessive amounts of poor quality compost can make the soil nutrition problem worse.
Chapter 5 deals with remineralizing the soil, and is the main thrust of the book. It lays out the need for a specific soil test (Mehlich 3, Logan Labs recommended), and then leads the reader through the procedures for calculating the amount of each mineral to add. While this is not difficult, it becomes a bit complicated when deciding which specific fertilizers to use. Math calculations are required at this stage, which might put off some gardeners.
Again, the keep-it-simple theme of the book comes to the rescue. The authors offer an alternative for those wanting to avoid the math. Alice and Erica Reinheimer have developed an app (GrowAbundant.com) that uses the same target levels as recommended in the book. When one punches in appropriate numbers from the Logan Lab report, soil fertilizer prescriptions pop up. The app is a real time saver and is easy to use.
For gardeners wanting a book with useful information for growing nutrient-dense vegetables, this book is number one on my list. It reflects the authors’ great knowledge and many years of experience. Should new insights on remineralization be revealed, Solomon promises to revise the calculation sheets. Even if a reader does not use the Logan Lab soil tests and/or the Reinheimer app, the book is loaded with good information and is well worth reading. Thumbs UP.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2015