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I just listened to The Rev, Kyle Kushman and Clackamas Coot on The Adam Dunn Show and thought I'd come back and edit my review. Great episode! I highly recommend it! I still agree with most of the things I said in my original review. I'll just make a few revisions and correct my misspellings.
The Rev seems like a friendly fellow, and I don't mean to attack the dude personally. I just think his book is in need of revision.
I gave this book two stars because it has turned a lot of people onto organic gardening, including myself. In the 'suggested reading' section, one will find Teaming with Microbes by Wayne Lewis and Jeff Lowenfels. This is an excellent place to start re-learning how to garden. As is the sequel, Teaming with Nutrients. Ok, enough book pimping....
Back to this book..... The Rev does a very good job of making organic gardening a hell of a lot more complicated than it needs to be. As I said in the title, I think he needs to reread Teaming with Microbes a few times and revise his book. There are several problems with TLO:
1] His soil mix is over-the-top, amendment-focused and relies on either (a) bagged soil or (b) recycled soil. You can build a way better soil way easier folks. (Kind of hard to use recycled soil when you have none! Lol) Bagged soils that you find at the garden or hydroponic store are basically low grade peat moss, some aeration, (maybe?) some worm castings/"humus", and some amendments. Why pay a premium for something made with low-quality ingredients? Who knows how long that bag of soil has been sitting on the shelf collecting dust? Chances are that the only living thing in bagged soil is a family of fungus gnats. If you already have bagged organic soil on hand, you can certainly use it.
If you want to make a water-only, living organic soil, try out this mix:
This is (basically) Clackamas Coot's soil mix... It's very similar to a Cornell mix or "LC's" Mix.
1/3 sphagnum peat moss
1/3 aeration (perlite, pumice, lava rock, rice hulls, etc.)
1/3 HIGH QUALITY compost and/or worm castings
To every 1 cubic foot (~7.5 gallons) of the base mix add..
1/2 cup kelp meal
1/2 cup crab shell meal
1/2 cup neem or karanja cake
[Coot would disagree with me here:] A source of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) should be used to stabilize the acid pH of peat moss. This is often called a 'liming agent'. It's not going to hurt anything to add some extra Ca, so I suggest using one. I do not recommend Dolomite Lime, but you can use it. Avoid "fast acting" or "hydrated" lime.
1 cup CaCO3 (oyster shell flour, calcitic lime, etc.)
4-5 cups rock dust per cf (basalt, granite, glacial rock dust)
Rock dust should be super fine: the consistency of flour.
Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly, moisten the pile to about the consistency of a well wrung-out sponge and allow it to compost for 2-4 weeks (for best results... longer is better).
That's it! The key here is quality compost/worm castings. That is the LIVING part that makes this whole soil mix work. So it must be HIGH QUALITY. How do you know it is high quality? Ask for a microbial test showing that there are sufficient numbers and diversity of fungi, bacteria/archaea, nematodes, protozoa, etc. Water with dechlorinated water and you are set!! I'M SERIOUS THIS IS SO EASY. No pHing, no checking the TDS of run off, no cal/mag, no flushing, no BS!
2] His Aerated Compost Tea recipes are pretty silly. Unless you are checking the dissolved oxygen levels in your brewer and looking at it under the microscope, how can you possibly have any clue what microorganisms are lurking in there?? Save all of the amendments for topdressing or better yet, put them in your soil. ACT's are meant to multiply and feed beneficial microbes. Overloading your brew with amendments will pull dissolved oxygen levels down and yeasts will exhaust the oxygen fast. If you want to learn more about ACT, check out Tim Wilson's website (microbe organics). It is recommended at the back of Teaming with Microbes.
3] The spikes and layers recommended in this book are totally unnecessary and really don't make sense from a living soil perspective. In a living soil paradigm, the soil amendments serve as "food" for the microbes in your compost and vermicompost. They are not directly available for plants and they are not immediately water soluble like those in bottled synthetics. They must first be digested by the microbes and the microbes then mineralize and feed the nutrients to the plant. (That is overly simplified, but it is the general idea). Feed the soil, and the soil feeds the plant. This makes it so that plants get the exact amount of nutrients that they need, when they need them. (No more "nute burn"!)
To make these nutrients available as quickly as possible, you should mix everything thoroughly. This makes it so that more surface area of the "food" is open for decomposition.
Layering is totally unnecessary too. With living soil, the plant is in control of what nutrients it takes up when. There is no need to have a "veg" layer and a "bloom" layer. Instead, just mix it all thoroughly and let the plant and the microorganisms in the soil do the work.
4] He recommends bottled Cal/Mag products! Hello! This should be a red flag! He does not recommend what he calls "soup-style" organics and yet it seems to me that this is what he is practicing here.... believe me, Crab Shell and Kelp Meal will provide plenty of Ca and Mg.
I hope that this review has been helpful, and I hope that The Rev reads this and feels encouraged to read more and up his game! This book has reached many people and that is great. Organic gardening is easy. Just keep it simple and your plants will be healthier and more vibrant than you've ever seen before.
If you are really stuck in the whole myth based-NPK-feed the plant-bottled "nute" method of growing, then this book might serve as an ok transition to living soil, but I don't suggest following his recommendations. Read the Teaming books and browse the internet. Some internet cannabis forums have great organic gardening sections to check out.
Get your hands in the dirt and grow some beautiful, fragrant flowers the way mother nature has for thousands of years!