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An homage to Jeff Lowenfels’ and Wayne Lewis’ “Teaming With Microbes,” perhaps the most important book about gardening I have ever had the pleasure of reading. They explain how the nutrients and disease-controls created in the soil by the presence of bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and other organisms prove vastly superior to all chemicals; and how by encouraging micro-organisms, a gardener can re-establish the natural balance and health in the soil which makes chemicals obsolete.

To dig, or not to dig, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the yard to suffer
The clods and furrows of outrageous topsoil
Or to take hoe against a bed of compost,
And by upturning blend them. To dig-to till-
To chore; and by this chore to say we end
The compact and the thousand natural weeds
That dirt is heir to. ‘Tis a cultivation
Devoutly to be wished. To dig-to till.
To kill-perchance a worm: ay, there’s the rub!
For in that churned up earth what worms may come
When we have shoveled up this fertile soil,
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That heeds diversity of soil borne life.
For who would tear the worms from head to hind,
The rhizosphere’s mob, the strong root’s exudate,
The paths of nematodes’ hunt, the long hyphae,
The excellence of fungi, and the health
That teeming soil with its bacteria makes,
When life itself might its nutrients take
From our fair garden? Who would these marvels tear,
To grunt and sweat rototilling away life,
But that the dread of formal structure’s death-
The all-organic garden, in whose wilds
No fertilizer burns-doubles our till,
And makes us rather dig those hills we have
Than pile up layers of mulch and compost?
Thus science does make stewards of us all,
And thus the native course of evolution
Is given pow’r to reclaim what was lost,
And biologies of great strength and balance
With millions of bacteria boldly thrive
And bloom with satisfaction.