11 Soil Science Books to Help You Get Your Hands Dirty
by Genevieve Hartman
Soil science books: the best way to learn about the earth
Gardening season is in full swing! Lots of delicious fruits and vegetables are to come.
Anyone who has ever planted a seed knows that sometimes things work out and sometimes they don’t. It depends on a variety of factors, one of them being knowing what you’re doing.
So let’s read more about it.
While it may seem simple at first (it’s just dirt, right?), these books explore some of the amazing complexities of soil science. It’s time to immerse yourself in the world beneath your feet.
The titles in this list range from practical guides for those newly interested in getting some dirt under their fingernails, to philosophical musings on humans and our relationship to the earth, to books for your little ones to read beside you. Basically, everything you need to get you started in your soil science journey.
And of course, they’re all indie books!
Here are 11 soil science books to help you get your hands dirty.
1. Soil Science for Gardeners
This is an easy-to-understand and rich resource for gardeners. Full of helpful definitions, information about the microorganisms living in the dirt, and techniques for diagnosing and improving your soil health, this book is endlessly practical.
If you’ve got a question about your soil, Robert Pavlis probably has the answer. (Fun Fact: We included this title on our Books of the Month in April!)
2. The Living Soil Handbook
You probably already knew this, but the dirt is alive!
In this in-depth guide to no-till gardening, Frost instructs readers to disturb the soil as little as possible, keep it covered as much as possible, and keep it planted as much as possible.
With these tenets, Frost believes gardeners will not only have successful crops, but also come to steward the soil and care for it like the precious resource it is.
3. Composting for a New Generation
For the folks who want to start reducing waste and benefiting their gardens at the same time, check out this one!. Balz goes over the different kinds of composting, how to start your compost bin, and how to use your compost once your kitchen scraps have broken down into nutritious soil, and everything in between.
Are you a mycophile too? Check out our must-read mushroom books!
4. The One-Straw Revolution
This classic text from 1975, reissued by the New York Review of Books with an introduction by Wendell Berry, is a guide to natural farming—a no-plow farming method developed in Japan by Masanobu Fukuoka.
This book is for the soil scientist who is skeptical of modern farming techniques and agribusiness. It highlights how chemical farming is degrading soil, and how this alternate and more natural method of sowing seeds not only preserves soil structure, preventing erosion, but actually enriches the earth over time. Fukuoka’s farming is rooted in the wisdom of Zen Buddhism and the desire to grow food that nourishes the body without destroying the earth.
5. A World Without Soil
The Past, Present, and Precarious Future of the Earth Beneath Our Feet
Author: Jo Handelsman
Genre: Ecology & Environmentalism
Print Length: 272 pages
Publisher: Yale University Press
Written for the general public, this is one biologist’s plea for the end of soil erosion and degradation. This book elaborates on soil’s incredible capabilities and outlines the growing threats that our dirt faces due to changing global climates.
Importantly, Handelsman remains hopeful that through increased awareness about the soil crisis and through collaborative action, we can reverse the negative impacts of increasing erosion and save our soil.
6. Dirt to Soil
Part memoir and part guidebook, Dirt to Soil follows Gabe Brown and his family on their journey to healing their farmland and creating a system of regenerative agriculture that replenishes the soil. Brown offers personal and practical lessons for no-till farming and using livestock to help promote soil growth.
7. Soil and Spirit
Soil and Spirit is full of beautiful prose and thoughtful ruminations on the relationships between people and the earth. Poet, writer, and farmer Scott Chaskey honors the First Nations whose ancestral lands he resides on, traces natural histories, and recounts years of farming around the world, all the while guiding us toward a practice of living in the world that is attentive and insistent on working in harmony with nature.
8. The Country of Magic
This list wouldn’t be complete without one of Wendell Berry’s books. I read this tiny volume of poems in college and have found myself returning to it over the years.
Berry has written extensively about farming and life in the American South through novels, essays, and poetry. I especially love the “Mad Farmer” poems, including one that tells readers to “Put your faith in the two inches of humus / that will build under the trees / every thousand years.” If you need a break from the garden, or just from nonfiction, sit down with this collection, which is a love letter to the fields of Kentucky.
It’s a bird! It’s a crane! It’s a bunch of great bird books!
9. Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt
This book is a perfect introduction to the complexities of soil for elementary-age kids. I’m a sucker for illustrations, and this book does not disappoint.
With vibrant pictures by Christopher Silas Neal, Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt depicts the many critters living in and around the soil of our gardens, and explains in simple terms how animals and insects relate to the plants and the earth. It also celebrates having a curious mind, gardening with family, and the changing seasons.
It’s impossible to talk about soil science without talking about erosion. This children’s book examines both science and history as it tells the story of Hugh Bennett, the scientist whose research and expertise helped to end the Dust Bowl in America in the 1930s. This is a great way to introduce the importance of soil conservation!
This kid-friendly guide to composting will help make soil science interesting for the whole family, and will help you make soil at the same time!
With bright pink earthworms wiggling around the pages, simple explanations of the composting process, and plenty of hands-on activities, this book will ensure your compost bin will turn out nutritious soil fit for the garden in no time.
What is your favorite nature book? Let me know in the comments!
About the Author
Genevieve Hartman is a Korean American poet and reviewer based in upstate New York. She is the Social Media & Outreach Coordinator at Adi Magazine and an Art Editor for Gasher Journal. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, EcoTheo, River Mouth Review, Stone Canoe, and others. Follow her on Instagram at @gena_hartman, on Twitter at @gena_hartman1, or find her at genahartman.com.
Thank you for reading “11 Soil Science Books to Help You Get Your Hands Dirty” by Genevieve Hartman! If you liked what you read, please spend some more time with us at the links below.