||Last Updated: Feb 6, 2017 - 2:32:04 PM
Simplicity of a garden is sometimes easy to grasp when you’re looking at the garden from the top layers, but often the bottom layers are the key to what’s going on with life in the garden as a whole.
A few weeks ago I went to offer a helping hand to a beginner to the backyard farming lifestyle to give some input on what I thought he should do to help improve the soil. We talked about improving what little soil he had and when he made mention of his use of pesticides I almost cringed, because the very thing that we as gardeners should be protecting is our soil, and the many elements that make up our soil, like the fungi. Instead, we focus so much on the plants that we are completely decimating our soil and other elements that reside in the soil.
The issue many organic farmers like me find with pesticides, herbicides and fungicides is that they completely destroy crucial elements in the soil while producing food that has lost its potency via natural means and we wonder why our biggest problem today is health related. There are many other means to farming that destroy the soil food web like drip irrigation that focuses on the plant solely, and not the garden as whole. We need to understand that as farmers we should conserve the right way and not destroy the soil food web in the process.
I guess that’s why farmers like me are beginning to pay more attention to the soil and its many elements that make up the soil food web. Personally, I enjoy observing and writing about the soil, maybe because I am just beginning to tap into how important soil health is to my generation and ensure continued soil health for the next generation to build upon.
This organic movement that I am a part of didn’t just appear out of nowhere; this was the destined time for this practice because this very movement will help the process of saving this planet precious soil resource for the future of children to come. Organic farmers believe in the conservation of soil thereby promoting a healthy eco-system with no use of pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. Our practices are natural so therefore we are bestowed with healthy nutritious crops as the gifts for this practice.
I can say with absolute certainty that I have found happiness in doing research like this for my personal garden because it in facts helps me understand and respect our delicate planet. So today I’m going to focus on one of those crucial elements of the soil and that is the “Fungi” and its importance to the garden. Why fungus? Well to most people the mere mention of fungus is a cause for disgust, but a keen eye on certain issues brings the relevance of them as well.
Here is the question I have spent asking myself time and time again for the past three months. What are the fungi? And why it should be a cause of concern for me and the many others that I will encounter that are interested in gardening as a whole. Well according to “Mycologists” (people that study fungi) fungus are so unique and important to the planet they belong to their own kingdom, completely separate from plants and animals. That statement alone is one of the reasons I spent so much time on the fungi.
How can something so small in my garden be classed as a completely different species and why does it goes unnoticed by many? How am I going to better understand and deal with something that is unseen to the untrained eye? Well, there lays my journey to the pivotal state of one man’s awareness. And with that new found awareness begins the onslaught of
questions. How is the “fungi” connected to plants? And what is the “fungi” doing in the soil? Is it filtering the water while absorbing a macrocosm of nutrients that is unseen by the naked eye or any scope that have been built to date? What sort of knowledge is the fungi spreading while it travels because we notice the fungi’s presence through mushrooms, so what are those mushrooms transferring? Is it on the energetic level? What are we without the fungi?
Fact is although the fungus is the smallest organism in my garden it is in
fact the largest organism on the planet, a “mushroom” that spreads for hundreds of acres in Oregon. It is said that this mushroom began as a spore some 2,400 years ago and its living body the Mycelium has spread its network of filaments though the forest that it is killing large trees . It became so much of a worry that scientist were called in to explain this phenomenon. One of those scientists Catherine Parks with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in Corvallis, Oregon spoke of the moment when she heard of big trees dying from the roots. After conducting DNA test they found that the organism that was destroying the trees was a fungus and it was coming from one source. Which was unbelievable to say the least but what
they didn't expect was a mushroom so large it was staggering. Its network of
filaments stretches as long as 1,665 footballs fields, truly extraordinary and shows the capability of the fungus as a formidable organism within nature.
Most plants rely on the fungus to helps extend their reach of their roots though its filaments. To better describe it: these filaments are the fingers of the fungi that connect with the roots of plants and extend up to 20 meter in a teaspoon of soil though a network called, “mycorrhizal” a symbolic relationship between plants and fungi. In fact at least 90% of plants rely on this “mycorrhizal” fungi root system. Scientists have realized that without the fungi we wouldn't have plants without the plants we wouldn't have fungi. Most mycologist believe that there wouldn't be a world without the fungi and I believe them to be right in that statement because the fungi are the earth blood vessels almost the tendrils that intertwines and creates the symbiotic connection to the planet and they are vast because there is about 1.5 million species that have been identify so far and Mycologist has estimated that there are about another 4 million that hasn't been taking yet into account and with every habitat lost were in fact losing a vital pieces of nature. It is estimated that with each plant that is lost we are losing up to 6 fungi since the fungi out number plants 6 -1. Fungus grows everywhere from rocks, tree bark, leaves, shells and the
list goes on so the fungi is constantly working.
Now most avid gardeners know that not all fungi are good because Oregon’s predicament shows how overpowering and dangerous the fungi can be but fact still remains: the fungi have existed since the conception of plants and couldn't exist without plants. So this important relationship must exist in a natural garden because the fungi is always breaking down organic matter such as leaves, branches and other elements left on the forest floor. It is
also breaking down dead animals as well; it’s as if the fungi are the cleaners of the forest floor and it is constantly recycling everything and during this process it gives waters, phosphorus and nitrogen to plants through its roots. Plants would then give up to 50% of the carbohydrates, sugars and enzymes to the fungi to insure its survival a truly remarkable system Mother Nature has set in play.
As farmers we are suppose to understand this system but most backyard farmers skip this process and while it has been taught to a lot of us sometime during school many of us have completely forgotten this important element of the soil. We then began focusing on plants and not the soil itself but it is up to us to understand and treat this important element of the garden to created a healthier more suitably rich garden. The mature aspect of our organic garden is the fungi it’s the connection from which mother earth shares her nitrogen, phosphorus from dead plants and animals and bring it back to plants to release into this planet through oxygen and food.
Personally, I awake every morning at 5 am from "sheer" discipline to water my garden. I created a huge compost pile for the garden during its peak season.
So the question I pose to you is this, what do you think I am trying to maintain? Is it the plants, or the soil? If you guessed the soil then you are beginning to understand, because the most important aspect
of my garden isn't the lovely green plants, but the soil and the organism
that reside within. I can grow plants, but how long will that last if I am not effectively helping to maintain this critical aspect of the garden.
If I am right in my belief that this planet is alive then my soil needs water
and organic matter to feed organisms like the fungi that bridge the connection.
They need my constant care because I am the one that introduce plants that feed on the soil heavily to feed me and although I try to maintain a certain level of balance of what I plant I know that I am causing more problems with my interference. What I am effectively doing in my garden is not really natural so I have to add ingredients to solidify what I have used thereby helping the soil become more balanced.
My understanding of this crucial system will help me to obtain beautiful healthy crops for years to come. Hence the reason why I don’t support the use of chemicals in my garden and won’t sit and listen to anyone that preaches of their use in a garden. And when I meet potential farmers that want to use them I try to teach them of this element of the garden.
Lately, we have been tampering with plants from pest resistant crops, harsh chemicals to gene sequencing just to name a few. I am not here to judge, but I am willing to debate these methods. My only concern is the effects of these foreign methods on the garden, the body and the planet itself. Moreover, what are the repercussions of this new approach? If these new methods are affecting the insects then what else are they effecting in the soil. The relationship between the fungi and plants almost seems destined like the blood vessels are to the human body. I often wonder, what is the effect of altering this symbiosis relationship between plant and fungi? If all life on this planet rely on plants and trees for our very survival and we know that plants cannot survive without the fungi then what is life without the fungi? The connection between the soil, food and the people are vital but it’s important that we understand what actually bridges this connection and that I think is the fungi. I wonder if someone is out there that can explain my curiosity because the human body is interconnected with this planet it relies on her as a whole for everything and as we know without the fungi we wouldn’t have healthy trees and plants and therefore we wouldn’t have the very air we breathe. If that is so then what else are we reliant on the fungi for?
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