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As a gardener I'm always looking out for resourceful ways of doing. Here's one that works! Use mycorrhizae fungi in your garden to reduce your watering needs and increase your plants' nutrient uptake.
Mycorrhizae ("myco" is Greek for mushroom, and "rhiza" for root) is the symbiotic relationship between certain kinds of fungi and the roots of plants. Literally, it's "root fungus." In this mutualistic relationship, the fungi will colonize plant roots and spread out a microscopic network of filaments underground called "hyphae," thereby allowing plants to uptake more water and nutrients, while exchanging simple sugars. On its own, this network of fungal hyphae is called a “mycelium” which have amazing properties, prompting mycologist Paul Stamets to call mycelium "Earth's Natural Internet."
We are more closely related to fungi than we are plants.
Fungi and animals are heterotrophs, unlike plants that are autotrophs. We ingest or absorb organic carbon whereas plants fix carbon from inorganic sources, such as carbon dioxide. Further, both fungi and animals use a process called extracellular digestion that secretes enzymes over food to assist in the breakdown of complex molecules.
The importance being any pesticides, poisons or "bad food" in the garden will be absorbed by fungi in a similar way if we were to eat it.
Types Of Mycorrhizae
There are two main types of mycorrhizal fungi endomycorrhizae and ectomycorrhizae.
Over 90% of plant species form relationships with endomycorrhizal fungi, for example; most of your vegetables, grasses and many ornamentals. Endomycorrhizae hyphae enter into the plant cells, producing structures that are either balloon like or divided into two distinct parts. The hyphae do not penetrate the interior of the cell, instead they fold back onto themselves to form a pocket in the cell membrane. The structure of this fungi greatly increases the contact area between the hyphae and the roots to facilitate the transfer of nutrients between them. The fossil record suggests that this mutualism appeared 400-460 million years ago.
About 5% of plants, including many conifers and some deciduous trees form relationships with ectomycorrhizal fungi. Ectomycorrhizal fungi do not penetrate the cell walls of the roots. Instead, they form an inter-cellular interface, consisting of highly branched hyphae forming a latticework surrounding root cells. Suzanne Simard's work shows how nutrients and carbon move between different plants from one tree species to another, via mycorrhizae, thereby promoting succession in ecosystems.
Methods and How to Use
I collect mycorrhizae and Indigenous Micro Organisms (IMO1) from a healthy soil population beneath the largest tree on my property. I place a couple of cups of nearly cooked rice, covered, at the base of an 80 year old eucalyptus tree. After about 5 days soil microbes move into the rice, creating a rubber like rice mat. I then mix the rice with an equal (by weight) amount of brown sugar to stabilize it. I apply a teaspoon of the IMO1 to roughly 2 gallons (8 liters) of dechlorinated water to everything, at every watering, transplanting and even seeds. Alternately, you can collect healthy microbe populations from your worm farm using the same method. I collect several samples from a variety of locations, such as wet, dry, hot and shaded. Therefore, as my soil condition changes, the microbes suited to the changing conditions kick into action.
There are commercial brands such as Great White Mycorrhizae and Real Growers Recharge that work just as well and are a convenient way to build healthy microbe populations in your garden or potting soil. However, the advantage of using your local soil microbes is that they have had generations to adapt to your growing conditions. Its also good fun and rewarding! The only requirements these microbes need is protection from the UV in light and remember they are alive, so they need to be stored in a breathable food grade container, I use glass jars; and its best to apply them late in the evening and cover with mulch.
There are many Benefits:
You can apply mycorrhizae at any stage of the growing season, the earlier the better, as it gives the microbes and plant more time to get associated. I roll seeds in the microbes before I plant them out. Its a very forgiving product and you cant over utilize it. Also, add them to your compost pile, coco coir and to rejuvenate used potting soil. There are some plants that don't form mycorrhizae such as cabbage, alyssum, sugar beets, spinach, carnations and Dianthus and most Crassulaceae such as Jade plants. However, adding mycorrhizae to them will not harm them in any way.
Thanks for reading the blog! If you like this article please leave a comment and share; and browse through the store Ohorizon. Also, theres high quality Super Soil amendments and Mycorrhizae for the garden, I’ve found the Cyco Ryzofuel, and the Worm Factory work well too. And Happy Gardening!