Monday, April 1, 2013

Book Review - Liquid Gold

Since I plan to use urine as a fertilizer on the garden this year, I decided that it made sense to re-read Liquid Gold: The Lore an Logic of Using Urine to Grow Plants by Carol Steinfeld.

The book is a very quick read. It has only 96 pages, and uses a larger than normal print. I like to read before going to bed, and finished the book in three days. I would guess I spent maybe 60 to 90 minutes total reading the book. In other words, you're not going to have to invest a lot of time to dig through the information it presents.

The primary focus of the book seems to be trying to convince the reader that using urine as a fertilizer is a good thing. Of course that is mostly wasted on someone like me, who is already on board with the concept and is looking for practical methods for doing so. There are also several examples of how communities throughout the world handle urine diversion and transportation, but they are all basically the same; urine diverting toilets are used to separate the urine into holding tanks, which get pumped out regularly and then the urine trucked to a farm where it is stored until used on the fields. It is nice seeing that this method is used in many different communities all over the world, but in a book this short, a single example would have been sufficient.

Another issue is that the book does not feel very cohesive. The topic of discussion seems to jump around quite a bit, and there are some inconsistencies. Early in the book is a section on urinals, in which urine diverting toilets are mentioned. Later in the book, however, urine diverting toilets are mentioned, as if they are a new concept to the reader.

Practical information is mostly limited to the topics of urine diversion and storage, and these aren't really covered in detail. I was hoping for some useful information on using urine in the garden, but this was  limited to very brief summaries indicating that urine should be applied to a field, or used as a foliar spray, which are things I already knew. Even information on dilution was inconsistent, as it was only mentioned in terms of what others are doing, rather than as actual suggestions from the author.

There is some good information in the book regarding the Nitrogen value of urine, and a discussion of how urine compares to traditional fertilizer. There are also two pages of references, which I suspect could be a great source of more detailed information on the topic. I hope to go through the references at some point and see if I can dig up any other books or articles that provide more of the type of information I was looking for.

Even though my review of the book probably seems more negative than positive, I would still recommend it. Because the cost is low, and the time investment required in minimum, I feel that there is enough good information to warrant a read through. If you're not convinced that using urine on the garden is for you, then I would definitely suggest reading the book. If you're already saving and using your urine, however, its likely that there is little additional information that the book can offer.

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