304. The Organic Gardener Soil Food Web Expert Jeff Lowenfels | What would Greta Do? |

Jeff Lowenfels Teaming With Nutrients Author Lord of the Roots

Jeff Lowenfels author of the Teaming With Microbes Soil Trilogy shares his system for creating healthy organic ecosystems and how we can all work to save the world if we just answer the question What would Greta think?

If you wondered why we changed the name to the GREEN Organic Gardener Podcast there will be no doubt when you finish with this amazing episode. Get ready for Jeff to drop Golden Seeds Galore!



Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener's Guide to the Soil Food WebTeaming with Fungi: The Organic Grower's Guide to Mycorrhizae (Science for Gardeners)Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition

Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web

Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition



The Organic Grower’s Guide to Mycorrhizae


DIY Autoflowering Cannabis: An Easy Way to Grow Your Own https://amzn.to/33G6QAA

DIY Autoflowering Cannabis: An Easy Way to Grow Your Own

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was a lawyer, I worked for a fortune 500 company

always been a gardener

Tell me about your first gardening experience?

my father had to take over a family

8 acres

frustrated farmers

all the magazines

JI Rodale

came over to the house for dinner

I must have been about 10-11

How did you learn how to garden organically?

My first memories are being pushed around in a wheel barrow by my father in the garden

The first thing I planted was a wedding cake strawberry planter

Im in Anchorage Alaska, the longest running garden columnist

My new book is on a brand new kind of cannabis

It will be the next tomato plant

remember when the snap peas came out

everybody had to grow them

still growing them today

has no photo period

  • same size as a tomato
  • produces from seed to harvest
  • just like a tomato plant
  • small plant

one of the things I love about the books is the diagram in the back with the plant diagram, leaves

plant leaves

nitrogen deficiency

if you don’t know what the photoperiod thing is

cannabis has to have 12 hours day 12 hours night

they require

12 hours + one minute



triggered by length of light

If you take a christmas cactus and leave it in a situation where it gets more daylight then darkness it won’t bloom no matter what.

A Russian guy was wondering around in 1923.



Says he what is that? looks down and sees this little plant

cannabis plant must have escaped from a hemp plantation growing for rope or something of that it thought. oh my gosh it’s gonna get cold here and I haven’t started to flower


In 1973 a bunch of hippie

they came out with a commercial but the size of the whole plant was the size of a thermos bottle the whole plant

it wasn’t very good the cannabis wasn’t very strong

people lost interest continued to breed them in the background

  • 5 years ago
  • 3 years ago started to get great
  • 2 years ago they were phenomenal

And now if you go to a commercial dispensary in lots of places they are actually selling auto flower cannabis. When you use cbd products a lot of that comes from auto flower cbd plants. So if you are a home grower and you want to grow your own cbd auto flower. you could do that.

I’m getting a little a little bit a head of myself. A lot of listeners are thinking,

It’s all over Canada now, if you are not in a state where cannabis is legal, but it will be no question about it. It’s coming!

DIY Autoflowering Cannabis: An Easy Way to Grow Your Own https://amzn.to/33G6QAA

DIY Autoflowering Cannabis: An Easy Way to Grow Your Own

As gardeners exciting event to wait for!

these plants are spectacular.

different colors

different chemical extenuates

It’s a whole new aspect of gardening!

you can bread your own

just like a tomato plant!


so there you go, now I have 4 book

I am looking for a 4th book for the series

tell us little more about eh teaming series in general

the teaming with microbes was a different type of book, when it came out so Timber Press my publisher, the publisher scratched their head

they weren’t sure any of this was true!

What I was talking about was how plants feed themselves!

in a nutshell here’s the system:

they use the photosynthetic energy about 50-60% of it actually, not to produce a tomato or cannabis flower. They use that to produce exudates these are substances that contain carbons that drip out of the roots into the soil!

Now, we’re talking right now, you’re exudating right now, your sweating, Your doing the same thing the plant is, and so that sweat is going onto that skin and what does it do? it attracts bacteria and fungi. That’s what these exudates in the soil do, they attract bacteria and fungi!

The reason why people use deodorant they want to contain the bacteria and fungi etc.

In the plant world the exudates go out into the soil and they attract bacteria and fungi. Why? Because they contain carbon and the bacteria and fungi need that carbon, so they eat the carbon. They don’t eat everything else that’s in the exudate, so they poop it out right there and it contains nitrogen in plant useable form . But more important the bacteria get eaten by protozoa and nematodes.

Nematodes are blind microscopic hairlike worms and protozoa are the things you studied in high school but don’t remember anymore.


parameciums. They eat the bacteria and fungi and they poop out the excess. So you get plant usable nutrients being created as a result of these exoduses being consumed and then the bacteria and fungi being consumed so the plant is indirectly feeding itself

And if it wants a different mix of food it changes the exudates by attracting and makes the different mix themselves

bacteria and fungi

bigger guys eat the

soil food web

food chains

every now and then something looks up and sees another food chain

and connects it

two chains connected

form a web

All these things running around in the soil are creating tunnels where air can get in, water, a reservoir

spaces from water for the little guys to hide from the big guys

bacteria and fungi are producing all sorts of substances

acids that decay things

bacteria produce slimes that enable them to stick together but also enables little particles of soil to stick together

soil structure comes from these bacteria and protozoa on up.

You start to get a picture as a result of putting out there exudates creating its own food and changing the recipes to its own like

soil structure improve and created

So the plant is in charge of what’s going on, we tend to think plants are these stupid sedentary

now there are even stories about sounds plants make, I read a story a couple of days ago, the sound plants make when they are attacked and cut


How the p

really delve into how the plant attracts it’s food




all the way on up to us

By us I mean the gardener

we come along and we rototill

what does it do?

destroys the fungal network

up not he surface

Rototilling cuts a worm in half, when you cut a worm in half, you don’t get two worms.

what do we do now?

When you put the chemicals down, the plant says to itself, because they aren’t stupid, why are we expanding so much of ourselves to produce exudates to produce food?

you have to become

have to apply these fertilizers every 2 weeks because you have destroyed the soil food web

you’ve scared it away

In some instances the worms for example don’t like these chemicals so they go away!

Sometimes you get a microbe that loves the chemical you are putting down and you get an imbalance and the system doesn’t work right.

The whole system becomes screwed up when we step forward and try to artificially create

so much better then we can

I always end talks by pointing out to people The Red Woods

375 feet tall!

Over 500 years old

How did they get that big without anyone putting any Miracle Gro on them?

They teamed with the microbes!

They put out the exudates, they attracted the bacteria and fungi, who in turn attracted the protozoa and nematodes who ate the bacteria and fungi, pooped out the excess and fed the plants!

This is what they are doing today

So this is the system!

There’s no arguing about it. Timber press, realized about 6 months in when they went to the second printing

this is the system!

There’s no arguing


democrats arguing

this is what happens!

if we don’t accept then we’re bucking the system

THAT’s the BASIS of why you should become organic!

team with these microbes

so much easier

why do we have to roto-till? It’s a stupid thing to do.

to plant a pea plant



You rototill for that? why?

if you are having problems getting it into the soil, take a dowel and make a hole, you don’t need to destroy 16 feet of soil structure to plant a seed. You take a 2 by 4, run it down the garden, make a furrow.

Well, won’t the weeds overrun it, or if there is sod there to start a garden, isn’t that why people use rototillers?

That’s why people use cover crops, that’s why as I point out in my books, there is no such thing as bare soil in nature.

We use mulches. So when I plant my garden, I cover the non-planted areas in mulches.

That does 2 things.

It feeds the microbes in the soil and it prevents the weeds from coming through.

If I don’t plant mulches, I plant a living mulch which are cover crops.

The only thing you have to worry about is competition if a weed is coming up, it doesn’t make a difference you’re plants doing fine.

you’d never know

that anything has never been rotated

want to use the right much

You want to use the right mulch. It turns out the bacteria creates the kind of soil that annuals and things that are in the ground less then a year like




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About the author, Jackie Marie

I'm an artist and educator. I live at the "Organic Oasis" with my husband Mike where we practice earth friendly techniques in our garden nestled in the mountains of Montana.

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