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Wally Richards
Wally Richardshttp://www.gardenews.co.nz
Wally Richards has been a gardening columnist for over 30 years. Check his websites - for gardening news and tips visit www.gardenews.co.nz. For mail order products visit www.0800466464.co.nz. Wally also has a gardening problem help line on 0800 466 464.

Gardening with Wally Richards: Visiting life underground

Soil quality news

There is a saying which reads as… As Above So Below, and with plants and trees what is above the soil level is replicated to what is below the soil level.

With a tree it is the trunk and branches we see and mirrored under the soil is the tap root and the root system about a similar size as above.

It is the root system and the medium that the roots are in that is the focus of this article.

We often refer to ‘The Soil Life’ which is a teeming mass of microbes, fungi, and soil insects including earth worms that we find in a healthy soil or the growing medium.

Virgin soil with its canopy of plants, living naturally for hundreds of years has a wealth of soil life and to have a soil like that is the goal of every keen gardener as it will, with very little effort, produce great healthy plants.

A vital part of the soil life are the fungi family called Mycorrhizae.

From the internet we see: A mycorrhizal network (also known as a common mycorrhizal network or CMN) is an underground network found in forests and other plant communities, created by the hyphae of mycorrhizal fungi joining with plant roots.

This network connects individual plants together and transfers water, carbon, nitrogen, and other nutrients and minerals between participants.

Several studies have demonstrated that mycorrhizal networks can transport carbon, phosphorus, nitrogen, water, defense compounds, and allelochemicals from plant to plant.

The flux of nutrients and water through hyphal networks has been proposed to be driven by a source-sink model where plants growing under conditions of relatively high resource availability (such as high-light or high-nitrogen environments) transfer carbon or nutrients to plants located in less favorable conditions, (helping their mates).

A common example is the transfer of carbon from plants with leaves located in high-light conditions in the forest canopy, to plants located in the shaded understory where light availability limits photosynthesis.

In natural ecosystems, plants may be dependent on fungal symbionts for 90% of their phosphorus requirements and 80% of their nitrogen requirements.

Mycorrhizal relationships are most commonly mutualistic, with both partners benefiting, but can be commensal or parasitic, and a single partnership may change between any of the three types of symbiosis at different times.

These networks have existed for over 400 million years, with up to 90% of all land plants participating.

The formation and nature of these networks, is context-dependent, and can be influenced by factors such as soil fertility, resource availability, host or mycosymbiont genotype, disturbance and seasonal variation.

Some plant species, such as buckhorn plantain, a common lawn and agricultural weed, benefit from mycorrhizal relationships in conditions of low soil fertility, but are harmed in higher soil fertility.

Both plants and fungi associate with multiple symbiotic partners at once, and both plants and fungi are capable of preferentially allocating resources to one partner over another. End.

Back to me: You can see from the above what a incredible resource Mycorrhizal fungi is to the well being of your plants and garden and why you should encourage it and not damage it.

The No-Dig garden that we have often talked about over the years is ideal for building and maintaining these beneficial fungi.(Instead of digging your garden you simply put fresh compost over the soil with other natural manures and plant into this new layer. This is repeated for every crop)

Mycorrhizal fungi can increase a plant’s roots catchment area by up to 800%.

The bigger the root zone the bigger and better the plants.

We can encourage Mycorrhizal fungi to grow by drenching the soil with Wallys Mycorrcin every so often like once a month around preferred plants and crops.

What we should not do is to use chemicals that will kill the Mycorrhizal fungi and beneficial microbes in the soil. Chemical sprays and man-made chemical fertilisers that leach into the soil and the worst one is your chlorinated tap water you use to water the garden with.

A housing and filter that is 10 micron carbon bonded can be snapped onto your hose tap to remove the chlorine. See here.

Gardeners that have filtered the chlorine out of their garden watering remark on what a difference it makes to the health of their gardens and plants.

The chlorine is added to water to kill bacteria and it is caustic in nature which is not good for soil life.

We see that Mycorrhizal fungi connects plants underground through their roots and by that means can send messages to each other.

An example of this is a forest stand where the outer trees are attacked by a disease or insect pests and the trees send out a message to the fellow trees about what is happening which then allows the other trees to start building their defense systems against possible attack.

Some plants are very hard to establish and the answer to this I learnt many years ago is that you find a mature specimen of the plant you wish to cultivate and you take some of the soil from the mature specimen root zone and you place that in the planting hole of your specimen.

Plant up and then drench the soil with Wallys Mycorrcin to aid growth and that impossible plant to grow is away laughing.

Introduction of beneficial microbes to the soil is another way of improving your gardens and plants health.

Biologically active soils have the ability to retain moisture and release nutrients ensuring greater production, faster rotation and more rapid recovery from stress.

To build a healthy biological soil we need products that can feed living organisms.

Increasing public awareness of the environmental impact of using chemical-based fertiliser has created a demand for a safe, natural and environmentally friendly fertiliser.

Biological fertilisers increase nutrient availability and feed important soil organisms, such as earthworms and microorganisms (fungi and bacteria) – all essential for plant and soil health.

The product we have called Bio Marinus not only does the above but also introduces new beneficial microbes to your gardens.

Readers may recall the British comedian Kenneth Horne’s radio show “Beyond Our Ken” featured a gardener called Arthur Fallowfield, played by Kenneth Williams.

He often said “The Answer Lays in the Soil”.

Image credit: Eugene Deshko

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