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Don't Forget the Fungi
by John Harmon
June 8, 2003

With the trees leafing out and birds hatching new chicks you would think spring is finally here. Surely the frost on Wednesday morning in the Goldenhorn area was the last one but this time of the year you can never be sure. Many folks have told me they have already planted out some things and plan on planting out more this weekend. While you’re making your plans and hardening off your plants you might want to take advantage of a product from Premier Tech Biotechnologies called “MYKE” to improve most of your plants.

MYKE is a product that contains fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi have existed in good soil for 400 million years. Unfortunately we don’t find many areas of good soil with natural colonies of mycorrhizal fungi in the Yukon. Even if you garden organically and use lots of compost your soil can most likely use a boost.

These fungi create a beneficial association with plant roots to become mycorrhizae (from the Greek words "mukés" which means fungus and "rhiza" which means roots). It is especially beneficial in soils that have been tainted by residential construction or intensive cultivation with a high level of fertilization. In places where yards have been created with a thin layer of man-made topsoil over the gravel like in the subdivisions around Whitehorse the quantity of mycorrhizal fungi has decreased considerably and there are not enough left to have a significant effect on plant growth. This is also true in soil that has been built up from a mostly peat base with sand and manure like my own garden soil.

Growing in association with the roots of plants, the mycorrhizal fungus creates a network in the soil increasing the absorption capacity for water and nutrients like phosphorus copper and zinc. This added capacity enables better plant growth and development. The fungus also protects plants against environmental stresses such as drought and chilling as well as against some pathogen infections and harmful nematodes. With all of the benefits this stuff should improve your harvest of vegetables as well as provide you with bigger and better flowering plants. I used this stuff last year for tomato plants in the greenhouse and got bigger healthier plants along with bigger tomatoes.

It comes in four formulations for the home gardener. They are labeled for Flowers, Garden, Bulbs and one for Trees and Shrubs. They come in one-point five-liter containers of what looks like peat or a peat and pearlite mix. Each container has enough fungi spores to treat up to 95 plants except the Tree and Shrub mixture which will treat up to 20 plants. The three mixes for flowers, garden and bulbs all have different concentrations of the spores for the same type of fungus, Glomus intraradices. The one for trees and shrubs has four different kinds of fungi. They are very easy to use. Just sprinkle the right amount of MYKE into the hole before you set the plant in and your done.

These are all natural products so you don’t have to worry about what it will do to the environment. You also don’t have to worry about it harming your plants. You can’t apply too much by accident. Even if you use these fungi on any of the few vegetables that the fungus can’t colonize, like Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli cauliflower, beets, Swiss chard, radishes or spinach it won’t hurt them a bit. The spores of the fungus just won’t grow.

The fungus can’t survive on it’s own. It has to be associated with plant roots. That means the best time to apply MYKE is when you are setting out your plants. The MYKE mix should be put in the hole you plant in so the roots of the plant come in contact with the fungi immediately.

It's not going to last forever in your garden. When the soil is tilled it breaks up the network of mycorrhizal fungus and they die so it will have to be replaced every year for annual plants. With perennial plants the fungus will survive anything the plant can handle and with the symbiotic association between the microscopic soil fungi and the roots your perennial plants means they will survive even more severe conditions. With the use of these fungi it might be possible to expand the varieties of perennial plants that will survive here and will certainly help the marginal ones.

MYKE is available at Canadian Tire, Home Hardware and the Porter Creek Garden center that I know of and maybe other places around town. For more information on mycorrhizal fungi check out: http://res2.agr.ca/ecorc/fr/mycorhiz/index.htm or for information on MYKE go to www.premiertech.com.

If you remember to use the fungi while setting out your plants you can look forward to a better harvest.

 



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