As a few of you may know I am taking the Mushroom Course from The Herbal Academy. It is absolutely fascinating to learn folklore, history, and the science behind all manner of fungi. One thing that truly grabbed my attention was that 95% of plants/trees on earth need fungus to thrive! Sounds pretty insane right? You also realize that many of the plants you buy at the nurseries are planted in sterile dirt with no fungus present? They require all types of fertilizers and chemicals just to grow into a beautiful plant. Here’s another interesting factoid: There are fungus that will “lasso” and kill certain types of nematodes and keep them from harming your plants.
Just for the sake of differentiating fungus. Mycorrhizae is the white stuff you see in the dirt when you move a rotting log or take a plant out of a pot that’s been sitting a while. The stuff that grows around the root systems of trees and plants without making a fruiting body “Mushroom” are called Endomycorrhizal. The ones that grow around the roots of a host tree and produce a fruiting body are called Ectomycorrhizal. “Endo” meaning within, and “Ecto” meaning without. Many of the fruiting body Ectomycorrhizal fungi are adapted to work with only certain kinds of trees. If you ever go out in the woods, identify your trees, then you’ll have an easier time identifying the mushrooms popping out of the ground under them. (I’m no professional at ID’ing mushrooms, but I’m learning a few easier ones)
I will digress slightly here and talk about another important kind of fungi called Saprophytic which decompose plant and animal matter. You find these on dead longs such as the Turkey Tail pictured here:
Back on track again….
I am trying new things in the garden to have the best I can have without the need for tilling and chemical fertilizers. Yes I said no tilling! If you’re trying to encourage the Endomycorrhizal fungi in your root systems, you don’t want to pull plants out of the dirt or disturb the soil. You end up bringing the mycorrhizae and spores up to the surface and killing them off. It’s a good idea to just cut the peas, tomatoes, etc off at the ground level, leave the root in the dirt for the winter and plant a cover crop that dies in the winter to make a green mulch. The fungi will love you and future plants in that ground will love you.
There is a product I am going to plug because the man in the class video I watched plugged them. MycoApply® Professional Products from Oregon. The only sight I could find that had any for sale was out of Milwaukie, OR called Concentrates, Inc. where I just bought 2 of the water soluble bags. They have both Endo/Ecto mixes and all Endo. I personally plan to buy the Endo powder and use it with seeds, bulbs, seedlings, etc. The Endo/Ecto might be better for fruit trees, or other types of trees.
I hope I opened some eyes to the benefits of fungi in your gardens! Please join Pacific NW Gardens and Orchards on Facebook for more great gardening articles, tips, and sharing!