July 30, 2018

Why mycorrhizal fungi is a good thing

Over the past few years we have seen much more interest in using less chemicals in our gardens. Most pesticides have been removed from our store shelves as we all try to learn more ‘green’ ways to grow garden plants. On the fertilizer side we see a good trend to homeowners being more accepting of such ideas as low P (phosphorus the middle number in N:P:K) lawn foods as we try to have less run-off issues. All these things are better for the environment but can be challenging to the homeowner trying to keep their plants healthy.
 
As a result of this push to greener solutions a number of clever ways to healthy plants are gaining momentum. One of these ideas is using mycorrhizal fungi as a soil and plant food additive. 
 
Adding mycorrhizal fungi to your soil – are you NUTS? Fungus is generally a big unknown for most of us – we know we like to eat mushrooms on pizza – but also know that some mushrooms are poisonous. We know that some fungus cause disease – athlete’s foot is a fungus and who wants that – and our roses hate mildew and that is a fungus too…
 
What many of us do not realize is that healthy soil for plants is generally full of helpful microbial activity that protects plants or in some cases helps plants grow.  Folks who preach about the benefits of organic gardening are often talking how important it is to have a rich soil full of organic matter and living things and most of us agree that adding compost and manures to our garden soils to keep things alive.
 
Mycorrhizal fungi are one of the good guys – and too often they are missing in garden soils. Greenhouse growers have been using professional grade soil mixes for years with these fungi added.  When mycorrhizal fungi colonize the plant's root system, they create a network that increases the plant's capacity to absorb more water and nutrients such as phosphorus, copper and zinc. This process in turn enhances growth and favors rapid development of roots and plants. We don’t talk about roots much – but root growth is really key to a happy garden.
 
And we like it when our garden plants grow both faster and healthier. Roots with mycorrhizae have a greater capacity to absorb nutrients from the soil. Therefore, you get plants that are healthier, more vigorous, and more resistant to stress. Up to 80% of phosphorus absorbed by plants is by mycorrhizae and this gets more important if we are cutting back on phosphorus plant foods.  Adding mycorrhizal fungi will reduce watering needs by 30% as roots with mycorrhizae have more surface area to absorb water.
 
In the ‘old days’ – when you transplanted a plant or planted new shrubs or trees or petunias- we would tell you to use a transplant fertilizer with very high ’P’ as a way to get roots growing. Today – a more green approach would be to make sure you add mycorrhizal fungi when you transplant – as it will encourage root growth too.
 
Adding mycorrhizal fungi is easy as you can buy it in the garden centre. Growth Supplements can be added to the roots when you are planting any new plants. You can also add as a top dressing mixed in plant foods – or in special potting mixes.
 
We like this approach as a nifty way to grow better plants while be good stewards of the environment. Think happy fungus! From Garden Centres to Landscape Construction – Find all your landscape needs near you

Photo credit: Whispering Pines Landscaping
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