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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Soils & Fertilizers for Master Gardeners 2012

David and his assistant, Tre'

David King

Phone number redacted - get it from a fellow class mate if you need it.
Email: OR Any email sent to one, also goes to the other. If you send it to both,I will get the email FOUR times. This does not amuse me.

Born in rural Kansas, I grew up about 80 miles from the edge of the Dustbowl about 20 years after it started to rain again. My Grandfather lost his farm in the 30's and became a sharecropper on the land he had once owned for the rest of his working life. I learned to garden at his side. In 1986, I took the Gardening & Horticulture classes at UCLA Extension and have been active in teaching and writing about gardening ever since. I teach UCLA Extension classes now and am the Gardenmaster at The Learning Garden, located on the campus of Venice High School. This is my 7th year teaching soils to Master Gardener trainees. My experience has taught me the value of less fertilizer and more biological activity in the soil as the route to true fertility. 

I can be found on the web at: This is the site of my personal blog. I post articles and other writings here, you will quickly see I have no other life. Well, other than a black dog I don't think I'm one dimensional... No... really? Another blog site where you'll find more musings of what we should do to grow food gardens they neighbors will find acceptable to the neighborhood. This is where you will find me, Wednesday through Sunday, 10 AM to 5 PM. I call this my ‘job.’ The up to date calendar and a frequent up dates can be found at Here is the Record of the Seed Library of Los Angeles (SLOLA), You can learn why saving seed is important and how to do it. You can join the library and will soon be able to check out your seeds, returning a portion of your crop after you have harvested.


Berry, Wendell, © 2009; The Gift of Good Land: Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural, Counterpoint, Nothing much to do with working the soil, but essays on what it means to till the soil and why it is important. Berry was one of the first to note that all culture begins with agriculture. Anything he has written is thought-provoking and challenges the assumptions of the land and the food we eat from it.

Eagen, Timothy, © 2006; The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl, Mariner Books Although I was raised very close to the area we know as the Dust Bowl, I, a history buff, no less, didn't realize the awful story of how bad farming practices and greed impacted the entire center of the United States. Sobering but page turning reading.

Gershuny, Grace, © 1986; The Soul of Soil; A Guide to Ecological Soil Management, 2nd Edition, Gaia Services Easy to understand, but emphasis is on farming, hence the measurements are in ACRES not square feet making it difficult for gardeners to use. The ecology is sound and the advice understandable. Get on the internet and convert the acres to square feet and you'll have a useful text.

Hillel, D. J. © 1992 Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil, Reprint Edition, University of California Press Not a book for application to your garden, but a thorough understanding of the relationship of soil to civilizations including dire warnings for our world today. One of the most passionate and knowledgeable authors writing on soil today, this book is worth every penny and every minute you spend with it. I recommend this above all others. 

Logsdon, Gene, © 1975; The Gardener’s Guide to Better Soil, Rodale Press Out of print, but if you find one in garage sale, snatch it up! It is a delightful and easily understood book on soils by one of our best garden authors of the last 50 years. 

Kohnke, Helmut, © 1995; Soil Science Simplified, 4th Edition, Waveland Press For a science text, this is a good, digestible book that explains everything to do with soils with clarity; something really rare in this department. 

Lowenfels, Jeff & Lewis, Wayne, © 2010;Teaming With Microbes, 2nd Edition, Timber Press This is the book that changed my gardening completely. I had begun to suspect that all we knew about fertilizers was slightly skewed towards fertilizers and by the time I finished this book, I was finished with fertilizers too. This book is the cutting edge of what we know about soils and the critters that make our gardens fertile.

U S Department of Agriculture, © 1938, Soils and Men: Yearbook of Agriculture 1938, US Department of Agriculture I put this book in to show that I have done my research on this topic – about 200 pages of this thick volume (at the back of the book, mind you) proves that microbial activity was understood enough to make a case against fertilizer in 1938. The other pages of this four pound book describe the use and application of those same fertilizers. Why? America 1938 needed everyone to buy more things; if your soils already have microbes, you won't buy fertilizer.


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