How Does Your Garden Grow
In the Northern Hemisphere, it’s springtime and that means many people are preparing their gardens for planting. While our focus at Phenomenal Fungi is growing mushrooms, we also enjoy home-grown vegetables and usually plant a garden each year. There’s nothing better than a fresh tomato sandwich or a salad full of veggies you just picked.
As you get your garden ready, you’re probably clearing out weeds that have popped up with the warming weather or old vines and roots from last year. You may even be thinking about adding some supplements to boost the nutritional composition of your garden.
But do you ever stop to think about the dirt?
Dirt is complex. It’s a combination of rocks, clay, and organic matter. Its composition depends on climate and topography. Dirt is more than solid matter. About half of the volume of dirt is made up of air and water, essential elements for the survival of plants and the creatures in the soil. Both plants and worms and other creatures need oxygen, otherwise, they would suffocate. Aerated soil is also important for good drainage.
For plants to grow, they need nutrients from the soil. But where do those come from? Nutrients are released into the soil when plant and other organic matter decays and breaks down. Fungi play a critical role in this process. Other creatures help in the development of soil. Earthworms and animals like moles help to break up and aerate the soil, making it easier for plants to send their roots throughout, finding water and nutrients to help them thrive.
Anaerobic and aerobic organisms, such as bacteria, create very specific layers of soil depending on their function. Tilling soil actually contributes to the destruction of living soil mass and should only be done when absolutely necessary. The best way to start your garden is to break up the soil about six inches down. This allows the soil structure and the beneficial organisms - including mycelium and earthworms - to continue the work they started last year. Yes, it is often necessary to till a plot of land the first time you plant it. After that, you can rely on the work of worms, mycelium, and other organisms to keep the soil healthy.
Mushrooms can enrich the soil in other ways. Spent mushroom blocks or substrate can be added to a garden. Mushrooms are often cultivated on a substrate - frequently a combination of wood chips, grain, coffee grounds, and other organic matter. After the last harvest of mushrooms, there is still nutritional value in the substrate. This matter can be added to soil to provide structure and additional nutrients.
Companies that produce potting soil mixtures often use spent mushroom substrate in their product. The substrate enhances the structure of the potting soil mix, creating a nicely aerated soil perfect for plants.
You can even grow mushrooms in your garden with other plants. Consider growing King Strophoria alongside asparagus. Or winecaps with broccoli. This would work with any plant that provides some shade for the mushrooms during the growing season.
Adding mushrooms to your garden allows you to maximize the output of your space. In addition to a delicious supply of mushrooms, you may gain these benefits:
- Addition of organic matter to the soil as straw is decomposed by mushrooms
- The presence of desired fungi can prevent undesirable soil fungi from establishing a foothold
- Certain mycelia have been shown to kill nematodes
Don’t forget about earthworms. Worms help create ideal conditions for a thriving garden. And they love mycelia. Together, they provide powerful, natural support for a healthy garden. So go dig in the dirt!