Next spring there will two groups of products that I believe in five years will revolutionize the way gardeners and yardeners alike take care of their lawns, trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables. How’s that for setting myself way, way out on that proverbial limb?
Those products on the shelves of garden centers this spring will be packages of beneficial soil microbes and packs of mycorrhizae (mike-core-rise-eye). Those products containing microbes will include many species of beneficial soil bacteria and beneficial soil fungi – these are the good microbes. They fix lousy soil. Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that attach themselves to the roots of most plants and greatly increase the plant’s ability to absorb water and nutrients.
Why do I think these products will lead to a revolution in yard care? Because after using them in good soil for two or three years, we will no longer need to use much fertilizer, we will be watering way less than we do now, and the pest insects and plant diseases will seldom show up. We will have healthier plants taking much less time and money to care for them. I think that is an idea most yardeners can get their teeth into.
There are two problems with this new development. First, every manufacturer has a different approach to describing what these microscopic helpers are and how they function. I predict serious confusion as soon as these products hit the shelves. I will write two or three columns next year to help us get through that fog and learn how to use these exciting tools.
The second problem is that none of the manufacturers of soil microbes or mycorrhizae mention that they really don’t work well in soil that has a low percentage of organic matter; the condition found in most of the soils in home landscapes across America. You can lead a microbe to the soil but then you have to feed them. Organic materials are their food.
How’s that for a sneaky way to one more time push the idea that mulching everything on the property all the time is a good thing. If we add that mulch (organic matter) to our lawns, trees, shrubs, and gardens every year, we then will enjoy the magic of these two new products. Micorrhizae are usually used when planting a new plant or transplanting a plant already in your yard. The beneficial soil microbes come in granules or powder and are mixed with water. They are designed to be applied every month of the growing season – six months. They can be applied with a hose-end sprayer, one of the easiest and cheapest tools in our tool shed.
I am telling you about these products just as we go into the winter, because it will take some time to learn about them and there is still time to get out that mulch.