Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners

I have had a copy of Life in the Soil since it was published, although, to look at it, you might be forgiven for thinking I’ve had it for far longer. Well-worn (and watered once!), this groundbreaking book provides a wonderful introduction for anyone interested in how soil is formed and in understanding the great diversity of life found beneath our feet.

Nardi begins with a clear and helpful background on soil formation, but the heart of the book is about the organisms that live in the soil. Even as the instructor of a course in soil resources, I could scarcely turn a page without adding to my personal store of knowledge. I learned that actinomycetes are responsible for the wonderful aroma of forest soils, and that tiny pseudoscorpions, found in leaf litter, use larger arthropods to hitch a ride to new localities. The beautiful drawings scattered throughout the book invoke the many curious microbes that live in the soil, help in the identification of arthropods and other invertebrates, and, sometimes, elicit a smile.

The first of several Garden Allies articles on soil builders appears in this issue. Life in the Soil is the ideal companion, inviting you to dig deeper into the mysteries of life in the soil. The soil, we come to realize, is far more than simply a canvas on which to paint our plant pictures; it is the very foundation of our gardens.

Frederique Lavoipierre, garden ecologist
Sebastopol, California