I’ve been experimenting with my own vegetable garden for the last three years. Part of this has been because I’m not one of those people who has a green thumb, mine is definitely brown. Nevertheless, if something happens to our country, I hope to be able to use my garden to help feed my family; so, I need to get it up and running, as efficiently as possible.
Efficiency is important to me. I don’t have a lot of time to spend on gardening and I really don’t like spending a lot of time out in the heat. When it gets to over 100 degrees every day, I’d much rather stay inside in the air conditioning. So, I need my garden to operate efficiently, doing as much as possible, with as little work as possible.
That’s why I was so happy to encounter mycorrhizal fungi. This naturally occurring fungi forms a symbiotic relationship with plants, attaching itself to the roots of the plants and extending them. In doing so, it brings nutrients and water to the roots of the plant, helping it to grow.
You can buy mycorrhizal fungi and add it to your garden very easily. It’s not even all that expensive. But what it does makes it more than worth the investment. Basically, mycorrhizal fungi make plants grow faster, larger and provide higher yields.
The first time we used this was to fix up some bare patches in our lawn. Adding the fungi brought the grass in those areas back to life, repopulating the lawn in areas which were nothing more than bare dirt. Now, the grass in those areas actually grows faster than the grass in other parts of our lawn. It was this that led us to try using it for our vegetable garden as well.
In the vegetable garden, we’ve seen the expected results. Plants are growing faster, larger and producing more fruit. Since we put in raised beds and have created soil that is about half compost, with a healthy sprinkling of composted cow manure for flavor, there are plenty of nutrients in the soil for the plants to use, the mycorrhizal fungi just help them to use it more efficiently.
The fungi are to be added to the soil at a rate of ten pounds per acre. That works out to 4,356 square feet per pound or 1,089 feet of four foot wide raised bed per pound of fungi. Considering that you can buy a pound for less than $20, that’s a pretty cheap addition to your garden. The fungi can be sprinkled on the ground, sprinkled in a hole when planting or mixed with water and sprayed onto your garden. For a wet application, use about 2 tbsp. per gallon of water. Drench the ground thoroughly.
Since the fungi are alive, they grow on their own, although they grow the best when attached to the roots of a plant. This makes it so that there are strands of fungi all through the garden’s soil. So, when we plant new seeds or seedlings into our garden, it doesn’t take long for the fungi to encounter the new plants and connect with them, providing almost immediate benefit.
Gardening with mychorrhizal fungi does require some changes to your gardening techniques though. The major difference is that you don’t turn the soil in your garden every year. If you want to add compost or other fertilizers, you add them on top and allow the worms and other subterranean insects to draw them into the ground, mixing them into the soil. This prevents damage to the fungi colony, allowing it to continue working. Turning the soil kills much of the fungi, breaking it up and exposing much of it to the air.
This practice of not turning the soil is actually being found to be more effective in farms as well. Farmers who are experimenting with not turning their soil are finding faster gestation and growth times, even without adding mychorrhizal fungi to their soil. Of course, there may already be beneficial fungi in the soil, but they are not adding any.
Since the soil is not being turned, something needs to be done with the plants at the end of the growing season. Most will die and can actually be left in place to compost. However, it’s more effective to pull them up out of the ground and add them to your compost heap for proper composting. This allows you to remove them, with minimal damage to the fungi colony. This is also an excellent time to top your garden beds with more compost, so that it can be mixed into the soil by the subterranean insects through the winter months.
Gardening in this manner also keeps your soil soft, the main reason why people turn their soil at the end of the season. The combination of fungi and insects keeps the soil moving and broken up, so that there are not hard clumps forming that the plants’ roots have difficulty penetrating.
A vegetable garden is a great way of providing for your family in a time of emergency, but it’s also a great way to stay away from GMO foods. Whatever your reason for growing your own, this step will help you have a better harvest this year.
Until next time… keep your powder dry and your survival equipment close at hand.