Imagine sitting down and making a list of things you would like to accomplish for and with your family on the weekend. At the top of the list would be obvious, necessary things. And down near the bottom would be fun, enjoyable projects. It’s possible to have a list of twenty, thirty, or even more items—much more than you know you could ever accomplish. But if some things weren’t on the list the kids or spouse would be very disappointed. You set your alarm for an early start and quickly look at your list. Breakfast, wash, closet-cleaning, wash dishes, clean the front yard (so guests won’t hurt themselves when they visit), and on and on it goes. The children would really like to go swimming, and the spouse is looking forward to a romantic bike ride in nature with you.
Then something happens.
A team from the local Do-Good Congregation arrives unannounced at 8:30 in the morning. They come with cleaning equipment, tools, baking supplies, and many other helpful aids and start to work. In two hours the work on all the essentials is done, leaving you breathless (but not from over work). There are even entrees in the freezer for every day of the week. You look at your list and all you see are the fun things, the things that cement relationships and provide children with fond memories of their childhood.
What would your family be like if this happened every weekend?
This is what can happen in your garden! If the soil has the right amount of inorganic nutrients and water, plants can very well take care of themselves. However, they do respond positively to other things doing the work for them. And what energy and time is saved is spent on the “fun” stuff, like enhancing flavor, increasing yields, and improving pest control.
Since the whole kingdom of God is centered around this concept of one helping another, it shouldn’t surprise us that He designed the garden to work this way, too. As a faithful steward of your garden, do you think it wise to ignore these heaven-provided helpers for your plants?
Let’s look at the roots, for example. Part of microbial life in the soil is a special fungus that obtains its sugar directly from root cells. This gives it a huge survival rate instead of having to compete with other microorganisms for decaying organic matter. Even though it can drain 5% to 30% of the roots’ “lifeblood” (the plant’s photosynthate production), it provides an enormous benefit in return. The fungal “roots” (called hyphae in fungus language) grow out into the soil 5 to15 cm from the infected root, reaching into the tiny soil particle’s pores, which root hairs are unable to do. You can get a better idea of the increased absorptive ability from this photo.
What you are looking at is a tiny root hair with even tinier fungus hyphae growing out from it. Believe it or not, but these tinier rootlets can increase the root hair’s absorptive capacity up to 10,000%! These mycorrhizal fungi increase nutrient uptake not only by greatly enlarging the surface absorbing area of the roots, but also by releasing powerful enzymes into the soil that dissolve hard-to-capture nutrients, such as organic nitrogen, phosphorus, iron and other “tightly bound” soil nutrients. This extraction process is particularly important in plant nutrition and explains why non-mycorrhizal assisted plants require much higher levels of moisture and fertility to maintain their health.
This video will also help explain the powerful benefits of using mycorrhizae in your garden. It’s really a match made in heaven!
It’s something like bringing God into our life. We might be reticent because He asks for a part of our time—in morning and evening devotions and Sabbaths (to get better acquainted with Him), and unselfish service to others (to show our neighbor what His love is really like). Plus, like the mycorrhizae requires of the plant, He also asks for part of our income, our life blood—in tithes and offerings to support His work and encourage in us the spirit of generosity. We think we can’t really afford such an outlay of time and means, so we go through life on our own. But when we find ourselves thinking this way we just need to look at that picture again. The “infection” of God’s presence in our heart brings with it many more blessings and prosperity than it requires. Just read Deuteronomy 28:1-13, for example. In God’s kingdom, what appears as less is actually more, and what may seem to be a death is really a whole new beautiful and highly productive life.
An alternative source of inexpensive food that will help feed the hungry mycorrhizae is regular blackstrap molasses. It is rich in carbon, sulfur, and potash, which mycorrhizae love. Normally it is applied at 1 -2 ounces per gallon. Besides helping mycorrhizae and beneficial bacteria, molasses increases potassium levels to the plants, promoting fruiting and flowering, and it also helps chase fire ants away.
Later we will touch on other things designed to help the plants flourish. Gardens are not intended to be a battleground where only the strongest survive. They are to be a sanctuary for both plants and people (Exodus 15:17).
Nature is so full of these kind of relationships, where both benefit by helping each other, it’s a wonder we humans don’t catch on. This I-can-do-it-myself attitude causes us to miss many great blessings. Anyway, in spite of human reticence, plant roots and mycorrhizae get along just fine. In fact, so much better that gardeners that don’t use the plan are left in the dust!
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