Articles written by Darryl McCullough (unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Going Underground

This story begins last July 11, when Tammy Kovar spoke at our MRFC meeting. I had read about the use of mycorrhizal fungi to stimulate the ecology of plant root zones and provide multiple symbiotic benefits to the host plant. And I had heard about Tammy's Sustainable Landscape Supply company here in Sarasota. But it took her informative presentation and passion for mycorrhizae to spur me into action.

So a few weeks ago I stopped by Sustainable Landscape Supply and purchased 50 pounds of mychorrhizal fungi for my fruit trees. That's a lot, but kept in controlled conditions it will stay alive for three years and that will be plenty of time for me to use it all. Thanks to heavy mulching and other ecologically oriented techniques, most of my fruit trees look very happy, but the multiply challenged citrus trees have been on a long downhill slide. So naturally I'm starting with them.

The challenge with mycorrhizal fungi is to get them growing on the roots of the tree. On healthy soil, most every other fertilizer or soil builder can just be top-dressed around the tree. Over time, the action of rain and the constant nutrient circulation in a healthy ecology will move the tasty stuff underground where the tree's roots will find it. But soil mycorrhizae can't survive exposed to this above-ground nightmare world of UV bombardment and wild temperature swings. They need to be placed on or near the roots. Once in contact with the root system, they will gradually spread and colonize it, and life will be good.

It's easy peasy with new plantings--- at the point when you are loosening the roots from their potbound condition and fluffing them out to help them start into the surrounding soil, just wet them and smear on some of the fine mycorrhizal granules.

Bu when the tree is already established in the ground, it's not so simple. Next week we'll learn about MRFC Secretary Josh Starry's ingenious method, and see photos of it in action.

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