“From dead plant matter to nematodes to bacteria, never underestimate the cleverness of mushrooms to find new food!” ~ Paul Stamets
If spring is about roots, fall and winter about leaves and stems, then summer is all about fruits. But you can’t have these without expensive and environmentally damaging synthetic chemicals and pesticides, right? WRONG. All you need is fungi.
Tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, pepper, melon all grow in the garden with little inputs provided the soil is healthy and full of mycorrhizal fungi. Promoting this crucial soil/plant relationship is easy to do: just ditch all your fancy chemicals and fertilizers and forget what you learned at the Master Gardener class.
Come be a brown thumb with me instead … and mimic nature.
Fungi Mulch Mycelium (White ‘Fluff’)
Let the decomposing begin!
Carrot (Edible) and Fungi (not Edible)
Bosom Soil Buddies
Mulch fruiting trees liberally with leaves or chipped tree debris all the way out to the drip line and beyond — then water well to get the soil beings going. These (usually abundant and free) carbon inputs are loaded with carbon, the favorite hangout for soil fungi.
Just be sure not to mulch right up against the trunk of the tree; that’s a fungus problem you do not want your tree to have.
Turkey Fig Tree
Mulched 4″ To The Dripline
Even better, build a compost pile that is fungally dominant, that is, comprised mostly of leaves and cardboard and twigs (carbon), only minimally veggie waste and manures (nitrogen). Like any organic method, be sure to water well as you build it; this moisture will be held in like a sponge, slow-released into the soil as necessary. It’s quick and easy to do; you don’t even need to buy a ‘bin’ or a ‘cage’ or anything else for that matter. Just layer materials in a 4 ft x 4 ft pile, as tall as you can make it and with as many materials as you can collect!
Compost, mulch, and creature biodiversity are the keys to any successful organic garden.
Ripe Turkey Figs
Two Spoonfuls of Sugar!
For the ultimate in lazy gardening (like what I do), put all your work energy into building a compost pile properly instead, then plant straight into it. The pile will heat up quickly, breaking down as soil microbes do their decomposition thing. The fungi will then attach to plant roots (mycorrhiza) as it grows and matures, virtually extending the plant’s root system well outside its capable root zone.
You’ll do little else than just walk outside and harvest fruit in the heat of summer, the best part of having a home garden. (Okay, maybe not the best part; hand-sharing a ripe fig occasionally with my wonderfully, wild neighbor is living the dream!)
Can you say ‘Fig Cake?’
Kale, Squash Pepper
(Kale — Brassica family — does not depend upon fungi for growth.)
No ‘pest’ infestation.
Tomatoes!! And Apple, Carrot, Seeds
My favorite summer fruit.
From the School Garden
Eggplant, Squash, Broccoli, Tomato, Pepper
A mix of my garden + School Garden
Even More Tomatoes
All my T-shirt could hold.
Take care of the soil beings, and I promise you’ll have plenty of fruits to enjoy without all the fuss of a traditional micro-managed garden. All you need is your hands, some soil, a few seeds, and lots of fungi friends.
- Home Garden: 5 Steps to Stewarding Living Soil | DirtNKids, January 2019
- School Gardens: Building Friendships, Reviving Dead Soil | DirtNKids, November 2018
- The Big Green-Up | DirtNKids, April 2017