Throughout the dirt in your garden lay tiny particles that make up a vast ecosystem. Even if you aren’t aware of what is happening, your garden needs this diversity to thrive. Today we’ll dive into the topic of mycorrhizal fungi and why they are so important to your garden.
What are mycorrhizal fungi: A microorganism that attaches itself to the roots of plants, mycorrhizal fungi play an important role in your garden. It helps with soil aeration, brings nutrients to your plants, and makes your plants healthier and stronger. While you will naturally find mycorrhizal fungi in your soil, you can also add extra.
What do mycorrhizal fungi do?
As the name implies, mycorrhizal fungi are a type of fungus. These microorganisms have a symbiotic relationship with the roots of plants, which means both the fungus and the roots benefit from the relationship.
A network of mycorrhizal fungi will attach themselves to the areas around your plant roots. While alive, the fungi take in nutrients from the surrounding soil, especially deep parts that the roots can’t access. As a result, these nutrients are distributed to the plant roots, which increases growth.
Even though mycorrhizal fungi are tiny, they can rapidly grow, thus increasing their network and drawing in more nutrients from deeper into the soil.
Can I use mycorrhizae in my garden?
Mycorrhizae are already present in your garden. This is a naturally occurring fungus that exists in most soil.
However, you can actually purchase extra mycorrhizal fungi and add them to your garden. You can find it in both powder and liquid form.
Benefits of mycorrhizal fungi
One of the main reasons for plant disease and rot is because of too much water in the soil. If your soil is too compact, water won’t be able to drain through and instead will pool around the roots.
Mycorrhizal fungi work their way through the soil, in effect aerating it. This will allow water to drain away from plant roots.
The roots of plants spread out through the soil to gather nutrients and water. However, they are limited by how large they are and how deep they can go.
Mycorrhizal fungi act as an extension of the plant roots. They can go deeper and farther and then transplant the nutrients and water that the plants need.
Less need for fertilizer
The more nutrients your plants have access to nature, the less you need to amend the soil. With enough mycorrhizal fungi in your soil, you won’t need to add a chemical fertilizer.
How do you add mycorrhizal fungi to the soil?
Even though mycorrhizal fungi are already in your soil, you can purchase more and add them to your garden. However, you can’t simply pour a bag into your garden.
If you can, introducing the mycorrhizal fungi to your seedlings is the best way to promote their growth. If you have a seedling tray, add the mixture as it will interact directly with the seedlings and start reproducing right away. Then, when you transplant your seedlings, you will take the fungi in the soil with you.
If you miss this step, an alternative is to add the fungi mixture into the hole you have dug for your seedlings. Then, as your transplant them, their roots will come into contact with the fungi, which will be attracted to them.
Those who are transplanting larger plants or ones that are storebought will still have a chance to add mycorrhizal fungi to the garden. In this case, rubbing the substance directly onto the root ball will be extremely beneficial.
If you have a bare root ball and a liquid fungi mixture, another alternative is to dip the root into the liquid. Hold the roots in the liquid for a few seconds to allow the fungi to take hold.
Those that want to plant seeds directly in their garden have yet another way to add the fungi. In this instance, you will need to start with a powdered form of it.
Mix the seeds and the mycorrhizal fungi powder together. Then, spread the mixture out as you would with normal seeds.
Even though we often think of mycorrhizal fungi benefiting plants in our garden, they can also be used with grass. When you are laying down sod, take advantage of the exposed roots.
It takes a bit more effort, but spray the underside of the sod, where the grassroots are, with a liquid fungi mixture. Then, when you lay the sod down, it will create a better soil ecosystem.
If you already have grass down, you should aerate the area to provide access to the soil. Then, spray the area or sprinkle fungi powder as this will go through the holes in the grass and into the soil.
Finally, you can try adding mycorrhizal fungi to your general landscaping, including around trees and shrubs.
To do so, take a metal rake and punch holes into the soil. This should be within the area where the roots feed but not too close to any tree trunks.
Then, spread or spray the mycorrhizal fungi. It will penetrate into the holes and find its way into the soil.
How to support mycorrhizal fungi?
There is a new trend of no-dig gardening which aims to strengthen the bonds of mycorrhizal fungi. Any time you use a shovel in your garden, you are disrupting the long chain of this fungus, thus preventing it from being as beneficial as possible.
To help make your garden as healthy as possible, try to limit how much digging you do. Instead of turning the soil over every spring, add layers of compost and then bark mulch as this will slowly break down to support the soil.
There are many ways to naturally enhance the health of your soil and one of them is through the use of mycorrhizal fungi. Even though your soil should have this microorganism in it already, you can add more in the form of a powder or liquid.