How to Get Rid of Spider Mites?

It is easy to feel defeated when you turn over a leaf and find them there waiting for you— spider mites. They find their way in through air ducts and find the warmer indoor growing temperatures to be inviting. Once they have found their way into your grow space, it is best to action as fast as possible to save your plants.

Due to the fact that spider mites are so small, they can take you by surprise and be well-established before you even know they are there. Adult spider mites can lay hundreds of eggs in just a couple of days. Knowing how to take action against these pesky invaders is what will help you to save your grow.

Hands On Approach

At the first sighting of mites, get your hands dirty and take those suckers on. You can pull their webs from the underside of the leaves, use a high pressure hose to spray the colonies off and apply a silica spray on your plants to create a slick surface that the mites can’t reattach to. If you have the time and willingness, washing the underside of each individual leaf by hand has proven to be very effective in removing spider mites. If you do decide to jump right in, make sure to shower or deep clean your hands and arms to erase the evidence of all possible eggs, mature mites or other fungus from your body before stepping back into your grow room.

Green Combat

The team at Way to Grow likes to grow as natural and organically as possible to avoid unneeded powerful chemicals. Alcohol spray is a great alternative to heavy pesticides. It kills the mites on contact, is not harmful to the plant, and doesn’t leave behind a residue that you can taste after your plants have come to full maturity. To create a mixture that your plants can tolerate, mix one part Isopropyl alcohol to one part water in a spray bottle and apply to the underside of the leaves as needed.

Girl Power

Bring on the ladybugs! These powerful ladies are a predatory insect that won’t cause your plants any harm. They will eat up every mite in site and cut the mite population in your grow in as little as two weeks. Ladybugs have a short life span, so you may need to introduce another colony as others die off. If you spray them with sugar water for them to eat and use as energy, it will keep them from flying off to help out in your neighbor’s garden. Using bugs to fight off unwanted bugs is using the awesome powers of nature to help your grow thrive!

Oils, Soaps and Detergents

There are a number of soaps, oils and detergents that exist on the market that are all natural and safe for your plants. Neem oil is an all natural option that helps to repel and deter mites from returning. There are natural products that also disable mites ability to breathe and metabolize such as Green Cleaner and Castile Soap. To be effective natural oils and soaps must be applied regularly. Even though these treatment items are all natural, they can still have an affect on your plants. Make sure to check the pH levels and pay special attention to the leaves of your plants to avoid over treating them.

Bombs Away

Sometimes there is an infestation that is so strong that you have to pull out all the stops. Some of the Way to Grow crew’s other recommended chemical applicants to rid their grows of mites are:

  • Azamax
  • Pyrethins
  • Spinosad (WARNING: Can be harmful to honeybees)
  • Avid (Can be irritating to human skin and eyes)
  • Capsaican (When used in combination with rosemary oil is very effective)
  • Floromite SC’s (Only to be used during veg stage)
  • Pyrethroid (Rooms need to be heavily aerated after use)
  • Bonide System Insect Control (Lingers up to five days after use)

The More You Know, the Better Your Grow

To avoid making your grow a hospitable place for a mites to come and breed, create a clean, dry, humid environment that is more suitable for your plants than mites. Check your plants daily to be able to utilize more natural and organic options and not have to break out the bombshells to rid your grow of pests.

Sources:

https://www.getridofthings.com/pests/bugs/get-rid-of-spider-mites/
http://horizon.documentation.ird.fr/exl-doc/pleins_textes/pleins_textes_7/b_fdi_53-54/010020799.pdf
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1439-0418.1997.tb01381.x/full
https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/houseplant-pests/spider-mite-control/


Urban Farming: How to Get Started

Kill your lawn, grow food, start an urban farm. This is the new mantra of farmers in cities across the country. These farmers are redefining how (and where) we grow our food. As arable land is is growing more scarce and drought conditions restrict water use, the need to be more innovative and efficient is becoming more of a necessity than ever. Looking to get your own urban farm started? Here’s how:

Make a Plan

Creating an urban farm from the ground up requires a large initial investment of time, resources and hard work. Developing a plan will help to layout your vision and goals for what you are aiming to do with your farm. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is it that you are trying to achieve?
  • Why are you starting an urban farm?
  • Who are you serving?
  • How long do you see yourself doing this for?
  • Are you doing this for personal use or profit?

The answers to these questions will help to develop the broader picture. You can assess how much space you may need, how many workers that it will require and the resources you will need to reach your goal.

Land Grab

Obtaining land may be as simple as converting your backyard into your growing space. If you want to keep your home and garden life separate, look for plots of land that are available for sale or rent in your city. Location is key when considering where you will put your roots down. There are some things to consider before investing in land. Look at the site’s security, the amount of sunlight, access to water, the history of the soil and the distance you have to travel to get there.

A quarter of an acre is a good size of land to start your work. If you work efficiently, a quarter of an acre can produce a plentiful amount of food. There are zoning laws in some states that prohibit land use within city limits for agricultural use but they tend to not be enforced unless an issue arises. As long as you have permission to use the land and water where you wish to start your farm, there should be little to stop you from moving forward. If it is in your plan to have chickens, bees, or goats, you will have to check your city ordinances to avoid any legal trouble down the road.

Soil Health

Before you begin to get your hands too dirty, assess the soil where you want grow your farm. Do your soil research before purchasing or signing a lease agreement. Find out if there is too much clay, high acidity or if heavy amounts of chemicals have been used on the soil. If you have access to the history of the plot of land, it may be as simple as contacting the previous owners to ask these questions. You can also send out soil samples to have them lab tested to learn more about the soil. This is a crucial step if you intend to become organically certified.

In the event that the soil is not prime for planting due to various reasons, don’t worry. You can build raised beds or grow hydroponically in a greenhouse on the land. Beware, this can be more labor and resource intensive. However, it will give you the comfort of knowing that you are providing a hospitable environment for your future garden.

The More You Know, The Better Your Grow

Take a tour of other gardens and urban farms in the area to see what has been successful for them. Learn how many days you have in a growing season, how to best utilize greenhouses, and what to plant and when. If you are looking to make a profit, explore what niches need to be filled in the local market. If the university or college near you offers horticulture or permaculture programs, enlist the students of those programs to come and apply their knowledge to help support your efforts. Take advantage of the programs in place that can help to get you started and lean on your community to help you get up and farming.

Sources:

https://www.urbanfarm.org/
http://ucanr.edu/sites/UrbanAg/
https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/urban-agriculture-toolkit.pdf
http://www.beginningfarmers.org/urban-farming/
https://www.growingformarket.com/articles/start-an-urban-farm
http://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/garden-planning/how-to-start-an-urban-farm-ze0z1408zhou
http://urbanagnews.com/


8 Steps to DIY Bokashi Composting

Bokashi: The Composting Samurai

Effective microorganisms (EM) are tiny little living entities that help break down compost and organic matter. They operate in a different way than beneficial bacteria or fungi in how they affect your plants. They turn up the volume on compost and aid in creating a soil that is rich in microbes and nutrients that you can integrate right back into your grow. Let’s dig into Bokashi.

What is Bokashi?

bokashi-branBokashi is a Japanese word that means “fermented organic matter”. The term refers to both the method used and the inoculant mixture (the kick starter) used to power the fermentation process. The inoculant mixture consists of lacto acid bacteria (Lactobacillus casei), photosynthetic bacteria (Rhodopseudomonas palustris), and yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae).


Freshly fermented bokashi doesn’t usually stay alive very long. Therefore, the inoculant mixture is made up of either bran or sawdust that has been soaked in water with molasses and beneficial microbes. This mixture is then dried out, packaged and remains shelf stable for up to two years for use in your grow.  

Composting with Bokashi

Bokashi Applications

Bokashi has a number of benefits, which is why we love it. You can use it to compost, to add nutrients to your soil, or to brew in into a compost tea. The most common known use for it is its amazing power and efficiency fermenting compost. Many people use bokashi bran to create a simple, closed compost bucket in their kitchen.  After a few weeks, you have usable compost right there under your sink.  If you aren’t into composting in your kitchen, adding bokashi straight to your grow can improve the rhizosphere of your plants, as well. 

bokashi-fermentationFermentation

The composting method involves layering the bran with layers of your compostable material and leaving it to ferment. A big benefit of using the bokashi composting method is that it doesn’t require heat or air the way that traditional compost heaps do. It can work its magic in a sealed container with no access to fresh air or sun.  The bran acts as a compost accelerator. In just ten to twelve days, this miracle bokashi will have fermented your food scraps and plant waste to create healthy beneficial compost, full of microbes and nutrients, for your garden!  There are a few different bucket methods, but the basic idea is that as you throw food scraps into your bucket, you then toss some bokashi bran on top.  This article has really great instructions on how to use any of the simple bucket methods.
Due to the fact that bokashi decomposes waste so fast, it doesn’t create nasty odors that you usually get coming from compost piles. It may smell a little like vinegar or beer because of the yeast that is present but it should never smell putrid. You may see a light white layer of mold on top of the compost while it is fermenting, it is totally normal and not a fungal infestation. If you see black or green mold, however, that is a sign of contamination and you will not want to use it in your garden or grow.

Bokashi and Bacteria

The bacterias that are created during the bokashi fermentation process are the same as some of the bacteria that have been found in the soils of oak trees and fruit trees in Asia. They help to produce ATP in plants and enable them to grow bigger and stronger. These bacteria use the energy of the heat of the sun in the soil and convert the secretions of the plant’s roots by eating it and producing a nutrient that is easier for the plant to take in as food.

Breaking All the RulesComposting Melon

Thanks to the anaerobic processes in bokashi composting, you can throw more than just plant waste and your rotting vegetables in there. The environment in bokashi fermentation buckets doesn’t allow for pathogens to live or grow. This is because bokashi composting is an anaerobic process, which means that it does not require oxygen. No need to worry about sprouting unwanted pathogens while turning waste into nutrient dense soil. The only thing you will be adding is more micronutrients to your soil. So feel free to scrape your dinner plates directly into your bokashi bucket!

Adding Meat, Dairy, or Egg Products to Your Bokashi Compost

Bokashi has the ability to break down meat (not bones), cheese, and egg products in addition to your typical compost additions. Just make sure to add a layer of bokashi bran to the top of your bucket when throwing these protein items in. Charles Sturt University says there is no need to worry about those protein items messing up your microbial ecosystem with pathogens such as salmonella and e-coli.

There is little risk of a pathogenic infestation because of the lack of air available in the sealed bokashi composting bins, as well as the acidic presence of lacto bacillus. With an airtight seal, the only thing that has the ability to grow is the bokashi bacteria that actually help in making its own pathogen-fighting environment. To really make sure that you are not passing along salmonella or ecoli to your plants or gardens, let your compost ferment completely. If the idea of throwing meat and eggs in your compost bucket is too freaky for you, just leave it out.

How Do I Use It?

You can always use the composted material from you bin, but if you don’t want to commit to composting with bokashi, there are a few other ways to reap the benefits of what it has to offer. You can mix bokashi bran right into your soil, you can make a compost tea, or you can spray it directly on your plants. By mixing the bran directly into your soil, you are introducing tons of awesome micronutrients into your growing medium. It increases microbial activity and helps your plant to uptake nutrients as a higher rate.

Bokashi in Your Compost Pilebokashi-composting side-by-side

You can use bokashi bran to speed up your regular compost pile outdoors by just adding it to your existing pile or composting bin. We prefer to use the bokashi airtight bin in our kitchen to get the fermentation process started and then move the pickled goodness to the outdoor heap. Also, worms love bokashi. You can expect to see them more frequently in your outdoor piles doing work to your soil when you feed them nutrient dense bokashi compost.

Bokashi as a Top Dressing

When you use bokashi as a top dressing, add 1/3 cup of bokashi bran to every cubic foot of soil. Apply the top dressing once every two weeks to see awesome results.

Bokashi Tea

By making a compost tea, you ensure that your plants are receiving a uniform application. Additionally, a liquid application will be absorbed by the root system at a faster rate.

For a five gallon brew, begin with a mixture that is 0.5 liters of bokashi compost and then add 5 gallons of unchlorinated water.  For best results with the tea, let it brew for 20-40 hours before applying to your plants. You can use that same diluted brew to spray directly on your plants, as well. If you are using bokashi to compost your vegetable and plant matter, simply add that compost to your grow or outdoor garden when it is done fermenting and watch your plants thrive!

Tried and Tested

If you want to see the difference that effective microorganisms and other added nutrients have on your soil, consider purchasing a BRIX meter. A BRIX meter measures the mineral, sugar, and nutrient density in your soil and plants. This handy tool can help you determine a more appropriate feeding schedule specifically for your grow. It can also help you better understand how added nutrients affect your plants.

Is It Compatible With My Grow?

You can use bokashi with any system- hydroponic, aquaponic, or soil medium. You do not want to add a bokashi brew to your hydroponic reservoir but instead should apply it directly to the root system. Bokashi can also be used with synthetic nutrients but that is where it gets a little bit of a grey area. Bokashi is meant to help foster a natural and organic grow- a step towards biodynamic farming. If you are using synthetics, you may not see all the benefits that you would in an organic system.

Why Use It?

Bokashi is an all natural additive that is not harmful to you, your plants, or the environment. Unlike regular composting, it doesn’t emit any greenhouse gasses, nor does it require any additional heat or churning. Another added benefit is the cost savings when compared to other fertilizers and synthetic nutrients. It provides micronutrients to your soil and is a renewable resource that you can even brew yourself.

Beneficial Microbes, Yet Again!

Developing beneficial microbial life through the bokashi process helps to diversify the microbial life of your soil. This creates a healthier ecosystem within your growing medium that is a huge benefit to your plants. These microorganisms help your plants grow bigger and stronger while becoming more disease resistant. Diversifying the microbiome helps your plants build up resistance to potential threats!

Elevation Organics Bokashi Root Zone InoculantWhat Would We Do?

The product that we recommend is BOKASHIplus from Elevation Organics. It comes in 3.5 pound, 15 pound and 35 pound bags full of alfalfa meal and grain substrate fully inoculated with EM. BOKASHIplus has an added biochar that provides even more beneficial fungus, bacteria, and protozoa to the mix.

We recommend brewing a compost tea for a 24 hour period before adding it to your soils. The micronutrients then flourish before being added to your grow and they supply your plants with immediate benefits. You can expect to see more resilient plants as a result of a higher biodiversity in the soil, and as a result, higher yields.

For a detailed feeding schedule, visit the Elevation Organics website. The measurements in the chart are listed in measurements per gallon of water. It is laid out to account for both vegetative and flowering schedules. There are different measurement listed for whether you are growing with soil or coco too!

DIY Bokashi!

If you feel like taking on a new pet project, making your own bokashi bran could be right up your alley. It is pretty easy and cheap so you can save a few bucks when taking the time to make it yourself.

What you will need to gather for supplies:

-EM (effective microorganisms)- We recommend buying a prepared EM serum to ensure that it contains lactic acid bacteria, yeasts, and photosynthetic bacteria.

-Molasses

-Chlorine-free water- If using tap water, be sure to let it sit out for at least 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate.

-Wheat or rice bran

-A big tub or tarp to mix it all together

-An airtight container to ferment your bran

DIY Bokashi Instructions

For 10 pounds of bokashi, you will need 4 tablespoons of EM, 4 tablespoons of molasses, 10 cups of water, and 10 pounds of bran.

Step 1: Add molasses to water and stir until dissolved.

Step 2: Add EM microbes to water/molasses mixture and stir.

Step 3: Place bran into a container large enough to hold it (or onto a tarp if mixing a large amount).

Step 4: Add the liquid mixture and stir it with your hands.  This mixture should be moist and crumbly, but not sopping wet.  If it is too wet, you run the risk of growing pathogenic mold. You can adjust the moisture content by adding a bit more liquid or a bit more bran.

Step 5: Place the damp bran into your airtight container and fasten lid on tightly.

Step 6: Let it sit in warm place for 2 weeks or more.

Step 7: Check your bokashi bran.  White mold is totally okay, but black or green mold is no good.  Your bran should not smell bad.

Step 8: If you are storing this mixture long-term, be sure to dry it out completely after fermenting and store in an airtight container out of light for up to 2 years. Happy fermenting!

Check out this awesome video for the live DIY version:

The More You Know, The Better Your Grow

When your intention is to grow a high-quality product in a natural way, implementing bokashi into your grow is a must have. The price is right and allows to you to diversify the microculture of your soil that richly benefits your plants. Why would you not want to feed your plants, simultaneously build up their disease resistance, and increase your yield?!  Because bokashi is all natural and organic, you don’t have to fear your plants may have a bad reaction. Just remember, this is potent stuff and you don’t want to overdose your plants. To learn more, drop into one of our seven stores and come rap with one of our knowledgeable staff!

Resources:

  1. http://elevationorganics.com/soil-amendments/bokashi-root-zone-inoculant/
  2. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J144v03n01_16
  3. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J144v03n01_21
  4. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J064v19n04_10
  5. http://gro-kashi.com/
  6. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effective_microorganism
  7. http://www.hawaiihealingtree.org/how-to-make-your-own-em-1-inoculant-and-bokashi/
  8. https://www.biodynamics.com/what-is-biodynamics
  9. https://emrojapan.com/how/
  10. http://www.wmrc.wa.gov.au/library/file/Earth%20Carers%20Fact%20Sheets/Factsheet%20-%20How%20to%20Bokashi.pdf
  11. https://www.csu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/136685/bokashi_bucket.pdf
  12. http://www.gardensfromgarbage.org/home/faq_about_bokashi_composting
  13. http://www.ems.psu.edu/sites/default/files/u5/students/AnneTamalavage%20Paper_Honorable%20Mention.pdf
  14. https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/indoor-composting/bokashi-composting/

Biofilm of antibiotic resistant bacteria, closeup view. Rod-shap

The Quick & Dirty Wrap-Up of Beneficial Microbes

Types of Beneficial Microbes

The idea of working with microbes can be a bit intimidating or confusing for those that have never done it before. Introducing strains and colonies to your soil culture has a number of benefits that can increase your plant yield, overall health, and vigor.

Beneficial microbes often work within the rhizosphere (the area that surrounds your plant’s root system) of your soil. This is where these beneficial buddies hang out, eat, digest and positively influence what grows above the soil.

They form mutually beneficial relationships with your plants. These bacteria and fungi help to digest potential pathogens and then convert them into food or beneficial nutrients for your plants. They have a little more going on for each other than just the mutual back scratch.

Don’t Wash Off That Rhizobacteria

Bacteria have gotten a bad rap as the reason that we get sick or a reason that your plants die off. However, rhizobacteria is the good kind of bacteria that you should literally pay money for to add to your grow if they are not already flourishing naturally. These beneficial bacteria inhabit the rhizosphere of your plants, working to help increase nutrient uptake and fight against potential harmful pathogens. The most common strains of beneficial bacteria you will find in commercial products are are Bacillus, Streptomyces and Pseudomonas.bacteria azospirillum

It’s All About That Azos

Azospirillum is another type of rhizobacteria that you will often see sold as its own additive. It is some pretty powerful stuff and worth learning all about.  

Azospirillum, along with the other rhizobacteria, are nitrogen fixers. This means that they convert the unusable nitrogen into a form that your plants can use. They take in the atmospheric nitrogen, digest it and excrete it so that your plants grow bigger and stronger!

Bennies of Fungi

Although mushrooms are great for you, this fungi is not the type you put on your pizza. Mycorrhizae, Trichoderma, and Glomus are all beneficial fungi strains.

Trichoderma"Fungus, Trichoderma reesi, growing on plant material."


Trichoderma
are key in helping your plant reach full potential. They protect the root zones from parasites. After melting the cell wall of the ill-intended pathogens, Trichoderma digest pathogens converting them into nutrients for your crop.  Additionally, Trichoderma act as immune support for your plants as it surrounds and protects the roots against disease.

Mycorrhizae

mycorrhizae arbusculeMycorrhizae is a wild fungi. They extend the root system of your plants. By extending the root system, Mycorrhizae thereby increase the surface area covered in the soil, expanding your crop’s nutrient supply. It does this by forming a thin covering around the root that continues to replicate, elongating the root.

This is a mutually beneficial relationship. The fungi feed on carbohydrates (photosynthesis by-product) that the roots give up in exchange for the extended ‘root system’ and added nutrients mined by the Mycorrhizae.

Just like Trichoderma, Mycorrhizae help build the immune systems of your plants. These two work well together and can be found in one of our favorite products, RECHARGE.

Trichoderma is more resilient when used with synthetic nutrients and will continue to feed even with use of  synthetic, salt-based nutrients. Salt-based nutrients conflict with Mycorrhizae,  sending signals that the plant is getting all the nutrients that it needs, rendering Mycorrhizae useless.

Glomus

Glomus is also a beneficial fungi, and a genus of Mycorrhizae. It thrives in the rhizosphere’s environment. Its main reason for praise is due to its ability to convert soil bound nutrients into plant available nutrients. This is very useful when working with mineral rich soils and growing media because Glomus can use it as food.

When to Use What?

Propagating with AzosCloning with Xtreme Gardening Azos

Some beneficial microbes work better in certain situations than others. For instance, when you are propagating it is beneficial to soak your seeds or roots in Azospirillum. This  will kick-start the growing process.

Use Azos to soak your growing media in a light solution (4 tablespoons to a gallon of water) before placing your clones in them. Don’t forget the tips! Soak your root tips in a more concentrated solution (one part Azos to two parts water) for about 15 minutes and then plant them in your media.

 

From Transplant to Veg

Clones are very sensitive to environmental stress. Plants in the cloning stage of life are at a high risk for a potential pathogen invasion. During this point in their life-cycle, we are fond of adding RECHARGE to the mix. RECHARGE contains four different strains of the bacteria, Bacillus, as well as our favorite fungi- Mycorrhizae and Trichoderma.

Using RECHARGE on your transplants and through the vegetative stage is the proactive and recommended approach. Remember the old adage: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. A healthy plant will much more easily fight off invaders and maintain vigorous growth than a weak one. By allowing your plants to build up their own defenses and protect themselves against possibly harmful intruders- such as mold and parasites, your crop will be able to maintain stronger growth and better yields.

For  best results brew RECHARGE and Mykos together to create a powerhouse immune booster for your plants. You should notice white, healthy roots and a girthy stalk that you wouldn’t have without Scotty Real’s special sauce.

As an alternative to a Mykos and RECHARGE blend, if you are looking to only use one product, we would go with Oregonism or Great White. See the comparison of the products below:

OregonismAurora Innovations' Oregonism

  • 16 species of Mycorrhizal fungi
  • 14 species of beneficial bacteria
  • 2 species of Trichoderma

Great Whitegreat-white premium mycorrhizae

  • 7 species of Mycorrhizal fungi
  • 13 species of beneficial bacteria
  • 2 species of Trichoderma

RECHARGERecharge Natural Soil Conditioner - Realgrowers

  • 4 species of Glomus (Mycorrhizae) 
  • 4 species of Bacillus
  • 2 species of Trichoderma
  • Plus kelp, molasses, humic acid, fulvic acid and amino acids

Bigger numbers don’t necessarily mean better. Great White is double the cost of Oregonism. All three products have shown to improve yields, increase nutrient uptake, and build up tolerance within the plant’s defensive systems. You can use any of these products along with your synthetic nutrients, but make sure to time the addition correctly so you get the most out of your Mycorrhizae.

Not a One Hit Wonder

You can’t expect to hit it and quit it with microbes. They are living organisms that eventually die off. The bacteria and and fungi will self-replicate but they will get weaker every time that they go through the cycle.

It is best practice to inoculate your plants weekly by giving them a healthy brew of their favorite blend of beneficial microbes. It helps to keep the population of do-gooders at a level that will make sure to give your plants all that it requires. The microbes are non-toxic and you cannot oversupply your plants, although you can over-water them if applying too much microbe brew too often.

When in Bloom

It is always an exciting time when your plants transition from veg to flower. Everything seems to come alive and all of your hard work is finally paying off. It is during this time that you will want to take a step back from introducing bacteria and fungi to the rhizosphere.

During flower, your plants don’t require nitrogen at the level that these bacteria will provide. If you continue to use beneficials, we recommend only using RECHARGE, Oregonism or Great White. Although the fungi and bacteria are non-toxic, it is during this stage that your plants will not benefit from it as much as it had in veg state.

For novice growers, we recommend that you stay away from using beneficials altogether when entering flower. If you are feeling the need to continue using beneficials, consider purchasing a solely Mycorrhizae additive. Orca is a liquid Mycorrhizal additive that you can make a very light solution (1-5 mL/gal) to apply to your plants during flower.  Mycorrhizae will not harm your plants and will simply die off if is not needed.

The More You Know, the Better Your Grow!

Know that you have a complete guide to using microbes to enhance your grow, there is no reason to not begin inoculating immediately! Creating this community of bacteria and fungi has so many benefits that you just can’t pass it up.

A few things to remember:

  • When making your brew teas, make sure that you are using water with a pH of 6.0 or are mixing with distilled water
  • Store your microbes in a room temperature environment to ensure they do not die off due to extreme temperature changes
  • Reinoculate weekly for the best results
  • Soak your roots in a denser solution than your growing media
  • Always follow the supplier’s user recommendations when first starting to use them
  • They are non-toxic
  • A natural way to boost your plant’s immunity, growth and nutrient uptake

For more information about beneficial microbes and other useful growing information, visit our blog page or come visit us at one of our seven locations!

Resources:

  1. http://www.bioworksinc.com/products/shared/beneficial-soil-microorganisms.pdf
  2. http://www.bioworksinc.com/in-the-news/nm-pro-8-11.pdf
  3. http://www.aurorainnovations.org/oregonism-xl.html
  4. http://www.plant-success.com/wp-content/uploads/Plant_Success-How_To_Use.pdf
  5. http://www.plant-success.com/product/great-white/

"Fungus, Trichoderma reesi, growing on plant material."

Trichoderma a Biofungicide

 

Trichoderma (Trike-oh-Derm-ah)

Colonies of puffy mold - mycelious fungi (Penicillium, Aspergillus, Mucor, Trichoderma genus) from biologically damaged constructions on a petri dish. An object is manually isolated on a white.

 

Trichoderma is a beneficial fungus that helps to protect your plants against molds and bacteria. These tough little guys stand up against root rot and grey mold, protecting your plants from being destroyed. They create a barrier that make it impossible for harmful bacteria and pathogens to pass through.

 

Trichoderma surrounds your plant’s roots releasing compounds that trigger their natural defense systems.

 

Fungi That Flexes

These guys aren’t messing around. Not only do they strong arm potential pathogens but they also have the ability to kill those that may already be present. Additionally, Trichoderma reduces Pythium, Fusarium and Rhizoctonia. These enzymes attack harmful soil bacteria and fungi. They wrap themselves around the harmful fungi, releasing these enzymes that then dissolve the invaders cell wall. Think of how a snake’s saliva breaks down its prey after it has swallowed it whole. Yeah, kinda like that. The sexy action term for it is “microbe parasitism.”

 

They produce mainly two types of enzymes: cellulase and chitinase. Cellulase is an enzyme that breaks down cellulose (the structure of plant cell walls). On the flipside, chitinase is an enzyme that breaks down chitin (the structure of fungal cell walls). Chitinase is also what breaks down the crunchy exoskeleton of insects but as far as studies show, this fungi isn’t an omnivore as of yet. Trichoderma is some mind-blowing stuff. They know when to activate which enzyme depending on what root system and soil that it is residing within to not cause harm. Is there anything that these beneficial fungi can’t do??

 

Who Are These Fungi?mold on rye bread, macro photography

 

Kingdom: Fungi

Division: Ascomycota

Subdivision: Pezizomycotina

Class: Sordariomycetes

Order: Hypocreales

Family: Hypocreaceae

Genus: Trichoderma

 

There are four different species of trichoderma- harziamum, viride, longibrachiatum and reesei. Each of these have defining characteristics and qualities but mainly are separated by what they eat.

 

Trichoderma harziamum is the most commonly known species of this beneficial fungi. It likes to hang out in temperatures between 86 to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. It is used as a fungicide and a biocontrol for a number of different fungal pathogens.

 

Trichoderma Viride was thought to be the only species of trichoderma for a long time. It is also known as the “green mold disease of mushrooms”. It breaks down both chitin and cellulose and uses them as its food source. According to our beloved grow expert, Scotty Real, “Its ability to break down both compounds make it very adaptable.” This species can grow on wood (cellulose) and fungi (chitin).

 

If you are considering doing any mushroom farming in the future, make sure to keep this particular species far away from any mushroom cultivation. Trichoderma Viride have voracious appetites for all fungi.

 

Fungi Aspergillus niger, black mold, which produce aflatoxins, c
Black Mold

Trichoderma longibrachiatum is not used as often as some of the other species of this fungi. This new kid on the block is the most recently discovered Trichoderma. It is particularly powerful and is often genetically modified to make enzymes that enable it to perform as a bioremediator (meaning that they can clean up heavy metals).

 

 

Just as great as they can be in cleaning up, they can be just as terrible when found in the wrong place at the wrong time. Trichoderma longibrachiatum pose a high potential for causing allergic reactions in humans. It is the common black mold found in air filters and the corners of your windows.

 

Although beneficial in your soil, those that have lymphoma or have recently had a bone marrow transplant should fear this strain like the plague because it has been known to colonize in recovering patients….

 

 

"Fungus, Trichoderma reesi, growing on plant material."
Trichoderma reesi

Scotty Real is a pretty big fan of Trichoderma reesei. He shared with us that it was first discovered during World War II on the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. The allied soldiers were finding that it was eating the cellulose off their clothes and wearing holes in the canvas of their tents. Present day fashion designers now use Trichoderma reesei to create the “stone washed” jeans effect that keeps going in and out of style.

 

In addition to eating cellulose, Trichoderma reese excretes antibiotics for the plants. These antibiotics trigger the resistance response within the plant to help it to fight off fungal pathogens.

 

Trichoderma, Naturally.

 

You can find Trichoderma organically in nature in native soils on nearly every continent of the world. They can be found in soils of varying temperatures but thrive between 77 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Outside those temperatures, the fungi begin to lag or die off.

 

Trichoderma is very resilient and can survive in the face of pathogens, heavy metals and bacteria. These spunky little fungi can handle just about anything that you throw at them. But humans are giving them a run for their money by interrupting their natural balance and ability to organically exist in soils.

 

Just like we are responsible for salt build up and alkaline soils, we are killing off these beneficial bacteria with mining, construction, pesticides, drought, flooding, and extreme heat waves. We now find ourselves having to add it back to our soils instead of benefiting from its naturally occurring colonies. Just one more reason to give a shit about environmental practices, and how your food is grown…..

 

Getting Heady

 

 

mold on rye bread, macro photographyIn addition to helping your plants keep themselves healthy and fight off diseases, Trichoderma also help increase nutrient uptake, increase growth, increase yield and increase the amount of seeds they are able to germinate.

 

Trichoderma and Other Microbes

Trichoderma work well with other microbes, buddying up with anything that is going to increase the health of its rhizosphere. It will literally melt any pathogenic fungi causing ZERO negative effects.

 

Scotty Real is a believer in combining Mycorrhizae with Trichoderma for even more stellar results. So while Mycorrhizae extend the root system, mining the soil for life-sustaining molecules, Trichoderma protect against and even kill off the bad guys. Both of these improve the health and overall vigor of the plant.

 

Biopriming with Tricoderma

Biopriming with Trichoderma is a fancy trick that requires just a few supplies and resources. By soaking your seeds in a Trichoderma-rich solution, you are giving that seed a leg up by empowering them with all the benefits of that fungi. It’s not exactly a Bubble Boy scenario, but it kind of is. Trichoderma provide everything your little seeds need to protect themselves against infection!

 

Hydro Versus Soil

 

Although the benefits of Trichoderma are usually researched within soil, it can be a big benefit in hydroponic grows as well. However, there are notable differences in the two different types of growing media. Trichoderma will take less time to inoculate within soil because the soil provides a host and food immediately upon arrival. There is no initial food source for the colony to take a hold of in a hydroponic system. It is only when the root system grows in length that they are provided with a food source. Until that time however, the colony will begin to break down the cellulose of the coco or peat to use as a food source.

 

In both systems, you have to reinoculate (add a Trichoderma brew) about once a week. The Trichoderma will replicate itself but it loses its strength over time. It is best to introduce new, strong fungi to replace the withering guys on a steady schedule to make sure that your plants are always being taken care of by this powerful workforce.

 

Beware! Trichoderma is an opportunistic pathogen and will adhere anywhere it is applied. If you drop some sprinkles on or near something that you did not intend and there is a food source, it will thrive. This is particularly useful information for mushroom farmers!

 

How to Use Trichoderma

 

Trichoderma has a lifecycle of about 28 days. It will replicate itself again and again all on its own but the quality of its performance will weaken over time. Thus, you must reapply to maintain the desired effects on your plants.

 

The great news is that it is all natural and won’t hurt your plants if you exceed recommended dosages. We recommend the “once a week treat”. The only danger is over-watering your plants if applying the tea too often.

 

You want to apply your microbial brew right to your plant’s soil or media. Putting it into your reservoir allows for potential putrefaction caused by dips in oxygen levels. Trichoderma prefers to live in the same pH level that is recommended for your plants, 5.5 to 7.5 pH. So you shouldn’t see any issues when adding it to your growing media.

 

Trichoderma is like homeopathic medicine when you have a cold. It is just as much about prevention as it is early detection. If you start applying them too late into the game you will sadly let down by the results.

 

Trichoderma Product Recommendation

 

RECHARGE today, RECHARGE tomorrow, RECHARGE forever. It is the best bang for your buck, with over 400 million of those little beneficial microbes per gram.  Most importantly, it has years of proven results with growers everywhere. You literally won’t find one of us that don’t use and love this stuff!

 

“Recharge is a Natural Soil Conditioner that enhances the quality of any crop, potted plant, lawn or landscape material.  If it grows in soil, Recharge will grow it bigger, stronger and most importantly, the way nature intended.”

 

 RECHARGE is compatible with any fertilizers or nutrient that you may be using in your grow. All you should look forward to is a healthy root system and a resilient plant. Just add a 1/4 teaspoon per one gallon of water, and water-in once a week.

 

My-Core-Rah-Zee.. What?

arbuscule mychorrizae

If have been or are planning on doing more research on beneficial microbes you will likely run across products touting the powers of mycorrhizae (and we love mycorrhizae, but…). Both Trichoderma and Mycorrhizae are fungi, but have notably different qualities. Mycorrhizae is a symbiotic fungus, meaning that the fungi and the plant benefit from their relationship by working together.

 

One defining difference between the two fungi is what they eat. Mycorrhizae eat only very specific sugars, and they work hard to get it. Mycorrhizae works by sheathing plant roots, weaving a fungal web that increases the surface area of the root. It attaches to the root tip and seeks out plant nutrients, increasing the absorbency of the root by up to 8,000x. Do the math: more food equals more growth and stronger plants. A by-product of vigorous growth and healthy plants is disease resistance. So yeah, there is that too.

 

Another thing that sets these fungi apart is that mycorrhizae do not do well with salt-based nutrients. When Mycorrhizae are exposed to salt-based nutrients they interpret it as a signal to stop searching out nutrients. At this point, nutrient uptake comes to a screeching halt. The difference here being that Trichoderma will continue to eat and work no matter the amount of fertilizers or nutrients that are present. As long as there is food on their plate, Trichoderma will continue to gorge.

 

Two Fungi are Better Than One

Mycorrhizae are highly beneficial for organic long-term gardens but when working with a 90 day crop cycle, Trichoderma will benefit you more in a shorter amount of time. However, the two make a great team. They are not competitive in anyway and when applied to your grow, you will reap the benefits of both being present. In our experience, when the two work together they help to create the most resilient plants that you can grow, with the bonus of using organic and natural products.

 

Can You DIY This Fungi?

 

Although we recommend purchasing your fungi from a retailer for safety’s sake, you can make it at home if you are feeling super domesticated. What you’ll need is:Black mold fungi Aspergillus which produce aflatoxins and cause pulmonary infection aspergillosis.

  • Small amount of Trichoderma powder
  • Three cups of rice
  • Two cups of water
  • Rice cooker (or pot with lid)
  • A stirring spoon
  • Some ziploc baggies
  • Rubber bands
  • Sewing needle or thumbtack
  • Safety glasses and gloves

 

Here we go:

  1. Put your water and rice in the rice cooker. Turn it on. If using a pot and lid, bring the rice and water to a boil then lower to a simmer and put the lid on it. Cook until the moisture is gone (about 25 minutes).
  2. Put a couple spoonfuls of the cooked rice into a new and clean ziploc baggie. Squeeze all the air out, packing down the rice and then seal the bag and wrap it to keep any spores or air from getting in. Let the rice cool until you can handle it comfortably.
  3. Once the rice is cool, open the bag and add a 1/2 teaspoon of Trichoderma powder to the rice. close the bag again. Don’t squeeze the air out this time. Seal it with a rubber band at the top, not the ziploc part. Let the bag naturally fill with air. Shake the bag and spread around the fungi on all the rice. Create two sections to the bag.  Pack the rice tightly again at the bottom, leaving the air at the top of the bag.
  4. Take your needle and poke about 10 holes in the air-filled part of the bag.
  5. Do this repeatedly with as many bags until all the rice is gone.
  6. Place the bags in a clean area that is room temperature that is not too dark.
  7. Shake the bags again in two days, pack the rice down again and let sit for another 7 days.
  8. The fungi is ready to use. It will remain usable for 3-4 weeks. The Trichoderma could be anywhere from dark green to light yellow to white. If it is healthy, it should smell vaguely like coconut sunscreen.

 

Once you are ready to use your homemade fungi, dilute 1 kg of rice with 200 liters of water. Any unused fungi can go into your compost or simply placed in the trash. Be very careful to not spread any unwanted spores in your home or garden!

 

The More You Know, The Better You Grow!macro of fungi on petri dish

 

By using Trichoderma in your grow, you are taking action to create a healthy root system and plants that are more resistant to pesky pathogens. It is all natural and saves you from having to resort to applying nasty chemicals. Once you find out how well it works for you, tell a friend about your new little fungi friends!

 

Resources:

  1. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/Trichoderma-The-fungi-that-also-works-as-bio-fertilizer/articleshow/52595258.cms
  2. http://www.rd2.co.nz/uploads/Understanding%20and%20Using%20Trichoderma%20Fungi.pdf
  3. http://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/optimal-physical-parameters-for-growth-of-trichoderma-species-at-varying-ph-temperature-and-agitation-2161-0517.1000127.php?aid=22743
  4. https://c.ymcdn.com/sites/echocommunity.site-ym.com/resource/collection/F6FFA3BF-02EF-4FE3-B180-F391C063E31A/Producing_the_Fungi_Trichoderma_and_Beauveria_at_Home.pdf
  5. http://www.realgrowers.com/garden/
  6. http://dudegrows.com/captain-uses-recharge/

 

 

 

 


Spirillum bacteria

5 Ass Kicking Applications for Azospirillum

Azospirillum, Fixing Nitrogen Like a Boss

Flatulance, while this might be an oversimplification, is essentially the process from which Azospirillum convert nitrogen gas to plant usable, ammonia (NH3). When it comes to nutrition nitrogen is the limiting factor in plant growth, playing a key role in almost every process of a plants life. In effect, azospirillum also affect almost every process of a plant’s life. So yeah, it’s pretty important!

Passing Gas

Nitrogen exists in our air and ouNitrogen- Element of Mendeleev Periodic table magnified with magnifying glassr soil. Actually, 78% of our atmosphere is made of nitrogen (N2). The way it exists in our atmosphere doesn’t do much for our plants unless it can take on a solid form. Nitrogen-fixing bacteria take in nitrogen the way that we do oxygen.
Then they excrete it as a solid form that plants can use. When nitrogen is taken from gas to solid, it is called
nitrogen fixation.Cloning with Xtreme Gardening Azos

There are two main types of nitrogen-fixing bacteria: free-living and mutualistic. The free-living bacteria are the self-sufficient, independent radicals of the group. Azospirillum is a mutualistic type of bacteria that creates symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship with the soil and the roots that grow in it. They are also known as root-colonizing bacteria or rhizobacteria.

The efforts of azospirillum can only be matched by a couple of other rare events in nature that require much more energy than releasing a few little bacteria to do the dirty work.  Other natural elements responsible for nitrogen fixation include: ultraviolet radiation, electrical equipment and being struck by lightning. We suggest sticking with picking up a bag of Xtreme Gardening Azos for your azospirillum fix.

Are All Bacteria Created Equal?

There are three different strains of azospirillum- amazonense, brasilense, and lipoferum. Along with a few other defining characteristics, it is their cell size and shape sets them apart from one another.  They all have been found to work well with grasses, sugarcane, rice, maize and sorghum. Although, Spirillum bacteriatheir little bacteria-sized magic works when applied to other types of plants as well.

Azospirillum amazonense differentiates itself from the other two common strains due to its ability to be more resistant to soil acidity than the others. This is good to know if dealing with soil that has a lower than ideal pH score.

Azospirillum brasilense is probably the most well-known and common bacteria used in plant growth. It has been studied more than other species of azospirillum. It is the species of azospirillum that is most often used in fertilizers and growth supplements available today. To get heady, what chemically sets this specific bacteria apart is its ability to use the beneficial carbohydrates ribose and mannose. Without the presence of Azospirillum brasilense your plants would have a hard time making use of the sugars that ribose and mannose provide.

Azospirillum lipoferum’s name can be translated to “small, fat bearing, spiral”. This species of azospirillum is set out from the others for elongating the roots in plants more than the other species.

You Wanna Put What in My What?

Kingdom: Bacteria

Phylum: Proteobacteria

Class: Alpha Proteobacteria

Order: Rhodospirillales

Family: Rhodospirillaceae

Genus: Azospirillum

Azospirillum is a grower’s little helper. When adding azospirillum to your soil, you are allowing them to go to work on the root zones of your precious plants. The bacteria reproduce and multiply on the root hairs and create little swollen bumps called root nodules. It is inside these nodules that these little bacteria do the work, you might say they can work from home… They convert nitrogen gas to ammonia (NH3), an important element that you find in fertilizer and is very beneficial to plant’s health.

Ready to brush up on your Latin root words? Azospirillum is considered a biofertilizer because it is living (“bio”) and promotes growth (“fertilize”). When you add azospirillum to your soil, it offers gas exchanges and nutrients that are beneficial to the growth of your plants. The use of biofertilizers helps to avoid using chemical fertilizers and helps you to enhance your grow in a more natural way.

Supplementing with azospirillum in your grow will help your plants convert nutrients into energy and grow at a faster rate. It is a growth tool and supplement. The benefits of using this bacteria have also shown to help plants become generally stronger all around. Scientific studies have proven that incorporating azospirillum in your grow will increase drought resistance in plants, provide protection against the adverse effects of salts, and increase resilience when faced with toxicity and pollution within their environment. Basically, azospirillum gives your plants superpowers.   

What Would WTG Do?

Product Recommendation

The best product we have come across to boost azospirillum content is Xtreme Gardening’s Azos Beneficial Bacteria Natural Growth Promoter. It comes in 2oz, 6oz, 12oz and 8lb bags to serve all sizes of grow operations. It puts to work the most commonly used  azospirillum brasilense to bump up the growth rates of your plants. Azos is a product with a history of helping to create world record-breakingly large plants and produce, such as the 2015 pumpkin that weighed in at 2,230.5 pounds! You can use this product on your fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs, or whatever else you choose to grow in your garden.

How Do I Use It?

Again we are going to emphasize using Xtreme Gardening’s Azos if you are looking to introduce Azospirillum to your grow, don’t waste your money on the other brands.

1) Raised Beds and SoilAzospirillum for raised beds

Azos can be used in all different growing mediums from soil to hydroponics to aquaponics. If you are going to use it in your initial setup or a backyard garden, add a tablespoon to the hole you will be placing your plant in. Alternatively, you can also apply it directly around plant roots or dust the entire root ball with one tablespoon of Azos.

2) Cloning

Cloning with Xtreme Gardening AzosTo make the best use of it when growing clones, make a mixture of four tablespoons of Azos and a gallon of 6.0 pH water. Soak your material of choice (i.e. coco, rockwool or plugs) in the mixture for about 10 minutes. While your material is soaking, make a more potent solution that is one part Azos and two parts 6.0 pH water. Use this dense solution to soak the root tips of your clones in for about 15 seconds before putting them in their presoaked plugs.

3) Automation

If you have an automated system that delivers your water and nutrients, you can add Azos to that as well. Make sure that your water’s pH is at 6.0 and add one tablespoon to every gallon of water in your reservoir. Your system will do the rest!

4) Watering-In

To have the same effect during the vegetative stage, you can mix a light solution and use it to water in your plants. You will want to mix two tablespoons of Azos to every five gallons of water that you add to your reservoirs or soil.  The manufacturer recommends applying this mixture once a week to see the best results. Use warm water (65-80℉) when mixing any type of solution to better allow the Azos to disintegrate and be evenly distributed.

5) Brew a Tea

For super crazy results, you could brew Azos with Xtreme Tea Brews at the rate of two tablespoons per gallon and applying it weekly.

Can I Make it Myself?

Azospirillum Root Nodules on LegumePlanting legumes and bean crops (i.e. clovers, alfalfa, peanuts and soybeans) help to fertilize the soil and fix the nitrogen in the areas they are planted. Leguminous crops are great for your garden. They already have root nodules that house nitrogen-fixing bacteria. When your plants are alive and thriving, they use the fixed nitrogen for themselves. The great thing about them is when they die, all that great fixed-nitrogen sticks around in the ground. By rotating your crops, you can release the benefits of those leguminous crops upon the next crop that are placed in that same area of soil. Make sure to let your nitrogen fixing plants die before removing them for the added nitrogen benefits.

The More You Know, The Better Your Grow

Who knew that these little buggers could have such a big impact on your grow? Nitrogen-fixing bacteria are a great tool to have in your arsenal to help your plants grow to the best of their potential. Releasing azospirillum into your soil to convert the nitrogen that exists in our air to a form that they can use is like being a great wingman. You’re giving them a leg up they wouldn’t have had before.

The thing we like the most about using azospirillum is that it is all natural. They eliminate the need to use chemically, genetically engineered fertilizer to get better results out of your grow. Way to Grow loves its Azos, and so will your plants!

Resources:

http://www.microbiologyresearch.org/docserver/fulltext/ijsem/57/3/620.pdf?expires=1474478433&id=id&accname=guest&checksum=81FF270DA766A6F8698579596E1E0323

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11104-015-2778-9

https://www.britannica.com/science/nitrogen-fixing-bacteria

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22805783

http://www.xtreme-gardening.com/azos

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2015/898592/

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1574-6976.2000.tb00552.x/full

https://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Azospirillum_brasilense

https://microbewiki.kenyon.edu/index.php/Azospirillum_lipoferum


5 Things You Need to Know About Beneficial Bacteria

Bacilli are a class of bacteria containing several well-known pathogens.

We had the awesome opportunity to sit down with Scotty Real of Real Growers and The Dude Grows Show. Scotty brought his 25 years of expertise to the table, helping us shed light into the dark corners of the soil world.

Before we jump into beneficial bacteria, we should first talk a little bit about the rhizosphere. Why? Because that is where you will find all of the bacterial action we are about to discuss. The rhizosphere is the microbial party zone.

Often called “the last frontier in agricultural science,”  the rhizosphere is the area around a plant’s roots. What makes the rhizosphere more special than other areas in the soil? Roots release special compounds called exudates with which microbes interact, basically functioning as all-you-can-eat salad bars for our microbial friends. Root exudation is a complex process and the many compounds released by roots are not fully studied or understood.  We do know, however, that some of these exudates are “amino acids, organic acids, sugars, phenolics” as well as polysaccharides.

Plant growth-promoting bacteria, or PGPB, are found within the rhizosphere of many plants and plant species.

All of these exudates create the ideal environment in which soil microorganisms thrive, and represent one of nature’s most important symbiotic relationships. For this reason, significantly more microorganisms are found directly around plant roots than in other areas of soil. We are talking about the first two millimeters around plant roots.

The amount of interaction between bacteria and plants plays a role in determining soil fertility and overall plant health.  Although there are many types of microorganisms on earth, for plant health you want to look for a good mix of mycorrhizae, bacteria, and Trichoderma.  If you want to learn more about mycorrhizae, check out our earlier post. For now, there are some special characteristics of bacteria that we want to focus on.

1. They Work With Synthetic Nutrients

“Microbes are not ONLY for organics.” – Scotty Real, Realgrowers & The Dude Grows Show.

Many growers have long believed that if they don’t grow organic, soil inoculation is a waste of their money.  Scotty Real confirms this is not the case.

Bacteria strains are more durable than mycorrhizae when it comes to synthetic nutrients.  Synthetic nutrients kill off mycorrhizae, so myco-only products are best used strictly in organic gardening.  Bacteria, on the other hand, can withstand the concentrated nutrient levels found in synthetics.

If you are using synthetic nutrients, it is best to feed your plants first.  Inoculate them with beneficial bacteria after feeding.  Although beneficials works with synthetics, they don’t necessarily love each other.  If you wait to inoculate after feeding, you reduce the risk of synthetic nutrients causing any harm to your inoculants, especially if you use a mix that also contains mycorrhizae.

Although they work with synthetics nutrients, bacterial strains can be equally beneficial to the organic gardener, as well as the conventional grower.

“In organic growing, you are trying to create this ecosystem that grows itself.  So those mycorrhizae have to stay alive and those Trichoderma and bacteria have to stay alive so they can colonize and expand.”

2. They Increase the Bioavailability of Nutrients

“It is like a slow-release capsule of nutrition.”

Beneficial bacteria break down nutrients and minerals into smaller parts that plant roots can absorb more easily. These bacteria are an important part of the carbon and nitrogen cycles and increase nitrogen fixation in the soil.

According to the Annals of Microbiology, beneficial bacteria can also synthesize certain compounds, like hormones, that are good for plants.

They can have either a direct beneficial impact or an indirect beneficial impact on plants, depending on the type of bacteria present and its mechanism.

The production of plant hormones has a direct impact on plant growth. These hormones include auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins, ethylene and abscisic acid. The root tip is the biggest site of cytokinin synthesis.  Both cytokinins and auxins promote shoot development.  Gibberellins promote overall plant growth, including germination and flowering. Ethylene, on the other hand, stimulates later parts of the life cycle, including flowering, fruit ripening, and leaf shedding. Lastly, abscisic acid helps plants respond to stress and promotes wintering behaviors.  For instance, abscisic acid helps trees shed leaves, close stomata, and promotes seed dormancy.

Beneficial bacteria “enhance resistance to stress, stabilize soil aggregates, breakdown organic matter and improve soil structure. PGPR retain more soil organic N, and other nutrients in the plant–soil system, thus reducing the need for fertilizer N and P and enhancing release of the nutrients.”

Nitrogen cycle. process by which nitrogen is converted between its various chemical forms. This transformation can be carried out through both biological and physical processes. Important processes in the nitrogen cycle include fixation, ammonification, nitrification, and denitrification.Nitrogen Cycle

Nitrogen goes through various transformations as it becomes plant food.  Bacteria help with these processes.  Nitrogen gas (N2) is absorbed into soil, but is unusable by plants in this form. Bacteria then convert the Nitrogen gas into Ammonium ions (NH4+), which can easily be utilized by plants.  The only other naturally occurring usable form of Nitrogen is NO3-, which is converted by lightning in the atmosphere.  It then enters the soil through rainfall. Without the conversion of N2 to NH4+ by beneficial bacteria, plant would literally be waiting around for lightning to strike to receive nitrogen.


Nitrification
is the conversion of ammonium to nitrate, which plants can use as food.

Plants can also use ammonium as food, so the biological breakdown of nitrogen into ammonium (called Assimilation or Mineralization) helps to feed plants, as well.  This also feeds beneficial bacteria in the soil.

Nitrogen Fixation is the conversion of nitrogen gasses in the air to organic nitrogen for plants.  Only certain bacteria and lightning can do this.

Bacteria also have an indirect impact on plant growth by inhibiting pathogens.  Soil bacteria produce hydrogen cyanide.  This is a compound that degrades the cell walls of fungus. This weakens the defenses of the bad guys.
Many types of bacteria also produce compounds that give soil antibiotic properties.  Certain bacteria create their own biofilm, which acts as a protective layer. When bacterial colonies are covered in biofilm, it is much harder for pathogens to break into those areas of the soil.  In this way, established beneficial bacteria “elbow out” the pathogens by taking over all of the space around roots.

What does all of this mean for you?  In soil, you are unlocking the full potential of the nutrients already present.  You may also be ale to reduce the amount of pesticides needed in your grow.  These same benefits may be available in hydro, as well.

3. Each Type of Bacteria Has a Specific Job

“You gotta get lazier.  Let nature do more of the work.”

Naturally Occurring Bacteria

Bacteria comprise four main functional groups.Backyard compost bins

Many bacteria are decomposers.  According to the USDA, they “consume simple carbon compounds, such as root exudates and fresh plant litter. By this process, bacteria convert energy in soil organic matter into forms useful to the rest of the organisms in the soil food web. A number of decomposers can break down pesticides and pollutants in soil. Decomposers are especially important in immobilizing, or retaining, nutrients in their cells, thus preventing the loss of nutrients, such as nitrogen, from the rooting zone.”  In the words of Scotty Real, ” their cells are organics and naturally sticky so [nutrients] stay in the soil instead of washing away like salt on your skin after the beach.”  These decomposers include Actinomycetes, which give soil its signature “earthy” smell.  Bacillus strains are also considered decomposers.

Image Source

Mutualists are nitrogen-fixing bacteria that form symbiotic relationships with plants.  Rhizobium strains are mutualistic bacteria found in the root nodules of legumes. Mutualists also include Azospirilluma bacteria that is closely associated with grasses.

Pathogens are dangerous for plants.  These include Erwinia and Agrobacterium. Erwinia causes fire blight on apples and pears.  Agrobacterium causes Crown Gall disease in over 140 species of flowers. Just like with humans, pathogens make a plant sick.

Lastly, you have lithotrophs or chemoautotrophs, which get their “energy from compounds of nitrogen, sulfur, iron or hydrogen instead of from carbon compounds. Some of these species are important to nitrogen cycling and degradation of pollutants.”  For instance, Nitrosomonas oxidize ammonia into nitrite and then Nitrobacter turns nitrite into nitrate through the same process. Chemoautotrophs also include some Pseudomonas, as well.

Commercial Bacteria

There are tons of native bacterial strains found in soils, but only a few are available commercially.  Certain strains of Bacillus, Pseudomonas, and Streptomyces can be purchased or found in inoculating products.

A good microbial inoculant will contain multiple beneficial strains of bacteria, as well as mycorrhizae and Trichoderma. One of our favorite microbial products, Recharge, contains four different types of beneficial bacteria (along with some mycorrhizae and Trichoderma). Recharge contains the following four types of bacteria for very specific reasons.

First of all, these four strains are symbiotic, meaning that they live harmoniously together.  Not very many bacteria can do that, even beneficial ones.  Most decomposers will try to digest other bacteria, even if they are beneficial.

Bacillus Licheninformis has antifungal properties because it produces an antibiotic that can be helpful in preventing plant diseases.  It also produces enzymes that promote and facilitate the nutrient cycle.

Bacillus Pumilus promotes plant growth “by enhancing the uptake of nutrients, nitrogen fixation, interaction with symbiotic microorganisms and producing antimicrobial agents against pathogenic bacteria and fungi as well as by reducing metal toxicity”.  Bacillus Pumilus is a type of Bacillus Subtilis, so can often share the same traits.

Biofilm of antibiotic resistant bacteria, closeup view. Rod-shap
Bacteria Biofilm

Bacillus Subtilus functions as an immune booster for soil and plants.  It produces the antibiotics polymyxin, difficidin, subtilin, and mycobacillin.  These antibiotics increase the “chance at survival as the organism produces spores and a toxin that might kill surrounding microbes that compete for the same nutrients.”  They act as biofungicides and antibiotics for plants. B. Subtilus also creates a biofilm over its colonies.  This biofilm protects plants from pathogenic infections, as well as preemptively colonizing areas.  Preemptive colonization prevents pathogenic microbes from invading since the area is already claimed by beneficial microbes.

Bacillus Megaterium is the most prevalent bacteria found in soil, hence the name “mega”.  Bacillus Megaterium metabolizes soil components to create food for plants and other organisms.  It does this by producing the enzyme amylase.  Amylase is an enzyme that digests starches into sugars.  Those sugars are then used as bacteria and plant food.  Like all other beneficial bacteria, Megaterium contributes to the carbon and nitrogen cycles in soil, as well.

4. It Is Good for Any Type of Grow

Whether you are a tried and true soil gardener or committed to growing hydro, beneficial bacteria is a must-have in your grow.

The easiest, most cost-effective, and fastest way to inoculate your plants is with a pre-made product.

You can always brew your own compost tea, but there are products out there that have done the work for you.  No matter the type of garden, you can easily inoculate your plants.  The easiest and safest way, regardless of your growing method, is simply by top dressing.  In either setup, pour directly onto your growing medium.

Avoid putting any type of product (especially ones that contain Molasses) into a hydro reservoir or irrigation system.  That is a sticky mess waiting to happen!

5. You Can (and Should) Supplement Regularly.

By dumping synthetic macronutrients down your plant’s throats, you may end up with a fat plant, but you are basically just making plant fois gras instead of growing plant athletes.

If you want to build really strong, resilient, super healthy plants, it is important to be sure they are getting micro, as well as macro nutrients.  One of the best, most bio-available ways of doing that is to inoculate with beneficial microbes.

Since microbes increase the bioavailability of all nutrients, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.  You can actually cause nutrient burn if you give your plants too many beneficial microbes.

The general rule of thumb is to inoculate once a week, whether growing in soil or hydro.  This gives your plants enough time between doses so that you don’t cause nutrient burn, but frequently enough that they get all of the benefits.

The More You Know the Better You Grow!

With a little help from our friends at Real Growers and The Dude Grows Show we were able to dig in and break down beneficial bacteria.  Here is the take away:

  • It is perfectly safe, and totally advisable to add beneficial bacteria to your grow whether you are fully organic or conventional.  They can take the heat of synthetic nutrients better than most microbes.
  • Beneficial Bacteria is so important because it makes Nitrogen and micro nutrients more bioavailable for your plants. If growing in soil, you get more for your money by unlocking the potential of your soil.  If you are growing in hydro, you may be able to decrease the quantity of nutrients you use on your plants. Win!
  • Not all bacteria are the same.  Some bacteria are pathogenic.  Definitely stay as far away from those as you can.  Bacteria also digest carbon and decompose organic matter into usable plant food.  They can form symbiotic relationships with plants (mutualists).  And chemoautotrophs are special because they turn nitrogen already present in soil into usable ammonium for plant food.
  • You can inoculate your plants whether you are growing in soil, in hydro, indoor, outdoor, hand watering, or with an irrigation system.  Simply mix up an awesome product like ReCharge and top dress your plants!  (After feeding if you are using synthetics)
  • For best results, add beneficial bacteria once a week.

 

http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/soils/health/biology/?cid=nrcs142p2_053862

http://www.scielo.org.co/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0304-28472007000100001

http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/fruit-vegetable/nutrient-cycling-and-fertility/

 


Powdery Mildew of on a leaf of perennials

Stop It Before It Starts: Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew on Leaf

Every seasoned gardener has had at least one bout with powdery mildew. It is annoyingly pervasive, and no one wants to see those tell-tale spots on their plants. It seems that everywhere we look- trees, landscaping, gardens- there is no escaping it.  So what exactly is it, and how can you keep it from stunting your plants’ growth and destroying your yield?  How can you avoid what seems to be everywhere?

 

What is powdery mildew?

Powdering mildew is a generic term that refers to a group of related fungi that are plant-specific and share common symptoms.  Because they are plant-specific, the powdery mildew that you have on your ornamentals will not necessarily spread to your vegetable garden.  Despite this, powdery mildew does spread easily from plant to plant and spores can easily travel through the air.  They can even move through screen windows, so your indoor plants are at just as much risk as your outdoor ones.

Although each type of powdery mildew is tailored to thrive on only one or two types of host plants, no type of plant is safe.  This nasty fungus attacks every type of plant from vegetables to fruits, flowers, trees, and house plants.  Powdery mildew may just be the most common garden pest of all. Despite its pervasiveness, some plants are less susceptible.  Don’t be discouraged!  There are things you can do to protect your garden and your yield.

A Hardy Invader

The parasitic fungi absorb their food material from the living tissues of the hosts on which they parasitize. Pathogens. education Vector diagram

Powdery mildew produces enzymes that help break up the plant cells of its host. This allows the fungi to penetrate its host plant’s cells with root-like structures. These structures, called hyphae, begin to create a microscopic web-like structure across the plant.  This larger web-like structure is called mycelium.  The mycelium blocks out essential light from the sun and cripples the plant’s ability to breath.

Once established, powdery mildew spreads quickly across a plant and through a garden.  The hyphae rapidly produce conidium, or asexual spores.  This rapid reproduction means that infections can get out of hand really quickly, so prevention is essential.

Why Should You Worry About It?

Weakened Plants

Although a mild powdery mildew infection is not generally considered fatal to plants, it is an extremely tenacious fungi.  It can definitely kill plants and will hurt your harvest if not properly treated.  Powdery mildew spores easily go dormant.  Many strains of powdery mildew can survive the winter on host plants, so if it is not treated properly the infection will redevelop every spring.

Because the fungi penetrate host cells, they are able to extract nutrients directly from the plant.  This causes an overall decline in plant health and vitality; and, can affect the quality and quantity of flowers, fruits, and vegetables.

Fast-moving

No gardener wants to deal with a well-established powdery mildew infestation.  It may seem like a relatively mild garden invader, but it can dig in deep and spread quickly.  Although spores generally spread through the air, they can also be spread via animals, clothing, birds, insects, rain splatter, and through its own ever-extending mycelial network.  These tiny spores can go just about anywhere without you even realizing your garden has been exposed.  It is safer to assume you are always at exposure for powdery mildew.  Act as if it is always in the air around you.

Where Do Symptoms First Appear?

Keep your eyes out

Powdery mildew on sage.

Powdery mildew shows up as small, round, white or gray patches.  These patches often look like a fine fuzz or powder, giving it the name “powdery mildew”. These powdery patches are actually the thread-like mycelium that pierces the plant’s leaves.

These patches will usually appear on the tops of leaves first and move their way down to the lower leaves of the plant.  As the infection progresses, mycelium will spread across the top of the leaf area, and on to the undersides of leaves, down stems, and can even penetrate fruit or flowers.  This can happen quickly, and what started small can feel like it is spreading before your very eyes.  As the fungi spreads, you will notice the leaves begin to yellow, wilt, and sometimes brown.

Prevention is your best pest/disease management tool. For the best results, you should be treating your plants before you ever see a spot.

When Are Plants Most Vulnerable?

Mild times of the growing season

Plants are most vulnerable to powdery mildew when temperatures range between 60°F and 80°F.  Powdery mildew thrives in shady areas and does not need humidity in order to germinate.  In fact, many strains prefer a dryer climate and growing area, since water or rain can wash away spores.

The spring is an especially sensitive time for powdery mildew infestations because as soon as temperatures are steadily above 60°F, spores start releasing rapidly.

Although powdery mildew can thrive throughout the outdoor growing season, it is sensitive to sun and heat.  It tends to be less of a problem in the really hot days of summer, unless you have a well-established infestation.  For outdoor growing, prevention is most important during the beginning and end of the season.

For indoor gardens, prevention is crucial any time you have plants going.  Greenhouses and indoor grows create the perfect environment for powdery mildew.

How do you prevent and treat it?

Sprays

Sprays are generally either preventatives or eradicants.  There are not really any good treatment measures that do both really well.  Be sure to use a method that is appropriate for what you need. When using sprays, coat the entire plant including the undersides of leaves.  Applying regularly is really important for prevention and treatment.  If you are not seeing any signs of powdery mildew, apply once a week as prevention.  If you are already treating an infection, thoroughly spray your plants every 3-4 days with the spray of your choice.

Milk and Whey

Milk has been studied as far back as the 1950’s as a preventative and eradicant for powdery mildew.  It can reduce instances of powdery mildew by up to 70% in outdoor gardens. There is a possibility that is even more effective in greenhouse settings.

Whey is also significantly effective in treating powdery mildew.  In greenhouse settings, whey spray has been shown to reduce instances of powdery mildew by 71-94% in cucumbers and up to 90% in zucchini.  These figures are comparable to common fungicides.

There is speculation that milk and whey help to raise the pH on the leaf surface, which helps prevent powdery mildew.  However, a study in the journal Australasian Plant Pathology suggests that there are more complex reasons milk is so effective against powdery mildew.  This study suggests that in natural light, multiple parts of milk produce oxygen free radicals. These free radicals work to kill and prevent powdery mildew. A mix of both milk and whey damaged the spores and hyphae within 24 hours of treatment. The study isolated different components of milk, such as lactoferrin, whey, and lactoperoxidase.  The milk and whey were the fastest acting and most reaching. They damaged both spores and hyphae within 24 hours.  The other methods, including just hydrogen peroxide, took at least 48 hours to see any effect.  Hydrogen peroxide has been shown to also use free radicals to damage powdery mildew.  But as this study shows, the proteins in milk and whey were even more effective.

Although milk appears to be an effective eradicant, it is most effective when used as a preventative.  Higher concentrations of milk have shown to be most effective.  Use at least 60% milk to 40% water with a few drops of dish soap.

Bicarbonates

Sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate can both be used as a preventative solution. However, sodium bicarbonate can have adverse effects on your soil structure, and potassium bicarbonate can be damaging to plants if not diluted properly. Powdery mildew cannot survive in an environment with a pH above 8. However, extremely alkaline treatments can damage your plants.  When combined, sodium and potassium bicarbonate can cause serious damage to plants, so they should be used sparingly.  If you do choose to use bicarbonates, be sure to mix and apply properly.

Green Cleaner or Alcohol Spray

Green Cleaner is a natural fungicide, miticide, pesticide, and insecticide.  It can be used as an eradicant.  It helps dehydrate powdery mildew and coats spores to help prevent them from furthering the infection.  If using a spray containing alcohol, such as Green Cleaner, only use in the evening.  If used under direct sunlight, the combination of light and alcohol will can damage to your leaves, so make sure you spray your plants as the sun is going down.

Sulphur

Sulphur is a preventative that has been used for centuries and is most effective if you use it as a foliar spray.  Sulphur should not be used in temperatures over 90°F or within two weeks of an oil spray.  It can also damage ornamental plants, so be careful if using it outdoors near landscaping.

Commercial Antifungal Sprays

Serenade is a biological fungicide that acts as a preventative.  It contains a bacterium that helps prevent powdery mildew infections from taking hold.  PM Wash and No Powdery Mildew can also work to prevent an infection.

Oil Sprays

There are a variety of natural oils that work well as eradicants after an infection is present.  These include jojoba oil, neem oil, or oil-containing products that are specially formulated for powdery mildew.

Additional Measures

Removing Infected Leaves

Regularly check your leaves for the telltale circular spots of fungus and yellowing.  If you see any signs of powdery mildew, remove all infected leaves immediately.  Make sure you do not disturb or shake plants when trimming infected leaves.  When you are removing leaves, make sure that you do not contaminate yourself or your surrounding area with spores.  You want to minimize spore release!  Put all trimmed leaves into a sealed bag and dispose of the removed leaves far away from your garden.  Do not ever put contaminated leaves in your compost.  This is true with any type of infestation. Wash your hands with a solution containing alcohol and spray your entire garden immediately.  After you have noticed an infection, spray your garden every 3-4 days.  Check all leaves and plants regularly for signs of powdery mildew.

Healthy Rhizosphere

Compost teas and beneficial microbes help act as an immune system for your plant.  The healthier your beneficial microbial activity is, the less likely an infestation is to occur.  All plants need a healthy rhizosphere to thrive.

Good Air Circulation and Low Humidity

Do not let humidity get trapped in your canopy.  This creates an ideal environment for powdery mildew.  You can avoid this with proper plant spacing, good pruning practices, and using drip irrigation rather than overhead spray irrigation.  Be sure to use good air circulation and ventilation practices indoors.  Check back next month to learn more about proper ventilation practices! 

Companion Planting

When planning your garden, keep in mind that certain plants are more susceptible to powdery mildew than others.  Mix up your beds! Put plants that are more susceptible near other plants that are less likely to contract powdery mildew.  This will help minimize the spread of spores throughout your bed.  When doing this, remember to maintain other proper companion planting practices.  In the vegetable garden, cantaloupe, cucumber, melons, peas, pumpkins, and squash are most susceptible to infection.

Temperature

Because powdery mildew is somewhat temperature sensitive, you can use this to your advantage if you are growing indoors.  According to a study published in the journal Phytopathology 1954, powdery mildew germination ceased at 92°F.  See below for the full notes on this study and how temperature affected growth.

Powdery Mildew Temp Chart2

As you can see from the data, controlled temperature environments have the opportunity to utilize temperature to kill active colonies of powdery mildew.  Some gardeners say you only need to keep your room above 100°F for an hour to kill a powdery mildew infection.  According to this data, however, it would be more thorough to keep it above 100°F for 6 hours.

Most other treatment methods are strictly preventative, so this is important information to consider.  If you are thinking about using the heat method to kill powdery mildew, remember that high temperatures can also stress your plants.  Consider raising the heat in your room just before lights out and making sure that your plants are well-watered.  If you are growing hydroponically, also think about keeping your water temperature closer to 60°F to help your plants deal with the heat stress.

Resistant Strains

There are some plants that have strains resistant to powdery mildew.  If powdery mildew is a major problem in your climate, then planting resistant strains might be worth a consideration.

 

There is a reason we tell you so many times that prevention is important.  To avoid powdery mildew, prevention is key. Powdery mildew is extremely common and a big headache, but there are ways you can treat it.  However, any treatment you try may be less effective after powdery mildew is on your plants.  You know the saying- “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Do not let it get to that point and you will be a much happier gardener.

 

If you have questions or tips about dealing with powdery mildew, comment below!  We would love to hear from you!

 

If you liked this, you might also like our articles concerning mite and root aphid mitigation.

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/metro/urban-jungle/pages/101130.html

http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/pests/plant_pests/flowers/hgic2049.html

https://www.growveg.com/guides/using-milk-to-prevent-powdery-mildew/

http://traumacenter.ods.org/forum2/forum_posts.asp?TID=716

http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/19551101384.html;jsessionid=C77B97BC6E39C5FEBE10031F5334CD49

https://www.mastergardeners.org/publications/powderyMildew.html

http://healthyharvest.gardeningunlimited.com/2015/12/01/wipe-out-pests-and-mildew-with-green-cleaner/

http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn7406.html

http://digitalcommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1146&context=gs_theses&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Furl%3Fsa%3Dt%26rct%3Dj%26q%3Dmilk%2520powdery%2520mildew%26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D15%26ved%3D0CGsQFjAEOAo%26url%3Dhttp%253A%25

 


Sproutin' Knowledge

Mycorrhizae: Improve Your Yield Part 1

Mycorrhizae- what it is and why you need it

Endomychorrhizae population on healthy soil.

What is mycorrhizae?

Good fungi vs. bad fungi

Not all fungi are bad for plants. In fact, there are a variety of different fungi that are good for plants.  Some are even essential for plant health.  The relationship between these good fungi and plant roots are called mycorrhizal associations, or mycorrhizae.  The awesome effects of mycorrhizae can be seen in vibrant healthy plant growth, robust flowering, and healthy, living soil.

These two organisms (fungi and plant roots) live together in a mutually beneficial symbiosis where the fungi get either nutrients, metabolites, or a combination of both from the host.  Fungal symbiosis occurs all the time in nature, but we don’t always see it.  You can often find mushrooms living around tree bases in forests, but there is a lot more going on underground that we don’t see.  And in fact, the vast majority of symbiotic fungal relationships live their whole lives in the soil where we don’t see the important impacts of these relationships.

Mycorrhizae is everywhere

The majority of all vascular plants (potentially up to 95%) on earth should have mycorrhizae living in connection with their root systems.  There is now have evidence that mycorrhizae are over 400 millions years old. Some scientists believe that mycorrhizae actually facilitated life on land for vascular plants.  We cannot overemphasize the importance of the relationship between plants and mycorrhizae.  They need each other for optimum life.

Ectomycorrhizae vs Endomycorrhizae

Ectomycorrhizae and Endomycorrhizae diagram

There are two basic types of mycorrhizae- ectomycorrhizae and endomycorrhizae.  Ectomycorrhizae have hyphae that surround the cells of the host plant.  This accounts for about 5% of mycorrhizal associations, and is most often seen in forests and around tree root systems.  This is why you will often find mushrooms around the bottoms of trees and along forest floors.  Endomycorrhizae, or Arbuscular mycorrhizae, occur when the hyphae of the fungi actually enter the cells of the root cortex; and, are by far the most common type of mycorrhizal associations. Although, this type of mycorrhizae does not form the button mushrooms we commonly associate with fungus, they do often live closely together.

Collectively the network of fungal hyphae are often referred to as mycelium.  Hyphae are very small and this network often resembles white fuzz surrounding root systems or growing across soil.  According to Ian Dickie from the University of Minnesota, forest mycorrhizae can increase the root mass anywhere from 300 to 8000 times.  By increasing the footprint of the soil plants can mine to attain life sustaining molecules, myccorhizae ensure optimal water and nutrient absorption. And thus, myccorhizae not only increase your overall yield, but they also improve the nutrient density and flavor profile of your edibles. This isn’t a one way street. In return for improved yield, flavor and nutrient density, plants provide the fungi with life sustaining carbohydrates produced during photosynthesis.

A close knit community of Arbuscular mycorrhizae under the microscope.
Arbuscular mycorrhizae under the microscope.

And I mean it is everywhere

Amazingly, mycorrhizae can grow in an extremely wide range of habitats.  Mycorrhizae can be found on every continent.  Until recently, it was thought that mycorrhizae couldn’t grow on Antarctica, except in greenhouse cultivation.  A new study says “NOT SO!” to that assumption after finding native mycorrhizae on Antarctica.

Like I said earlier, almost every type of plant on earth should have some sort of mycorrhizal association.  Mycorrhizae are actually the primary and more efficient means for plants to get their nutrients from soil. Roots are in fact the backup system, just in case mycorrhizae are not around to absorb soil nutrients. 

 

How do mycorrhizae work?

Arbuscule mycchorizae under a microscope
Arbuscule mycchorizae under a microscope.

When arbuscular mycorrhizae penetrate the root cells of host plants, they create an organ called an arbuscule. This arbuscule looks kind of like the branches of a tree. It is the space where nutrients are exchanged between the plant and the fungi. Additionally, the hyphae of mycorrhizae are very small, which gives them access to much smaller soil spore spaces.  This allows the fungal hyphae to unlock nutrients that the roots themselves would not be able to access.

What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander

As plants photosynthesizes carbon dioxide, they release carbohydrates that the fungi need for fuel.  In exchange, the fungi provide the plant additional access to soil nutrients and water.  This makes growing, surviving, and fruiting a much more efficient process for the plant.  Instead of doing all of the work themselves, plants get mycorrhizae to do it for them!

Mycorrhizal relationships also increase the immune systems of host plants.  When the mycorrhizae connect to a plant, it triggers the plant to release “defense-related chemicals.”  It makes the host plants more disease-resistant for the future.  So in a way, mycorrhizae also immunize plants against future diseases.

Fungal mycelium network growing on soil.
Fungal mycelium networking!

On a much larger scale, mycorrhizal associations act as a sort of soil internet.  Plants are inter-connected via the mycelial network created through their connections to mycorrhizae.  Plants then get to share nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus.  Some scientists believe that older, more established trees are actually able to share nutrients with smaller, younger ones through this network.  The mycorrhizal network ensures the survival of a young tree that might not have access to the amount of nutrients or sunlight it needs to thrive.

Helping to balance carbon dioxide

Soil is one of natures best CO2 sinks. As the soil absorbs environmentally harmful CO2, mycorrhizae get to work converting it into beneficial, bioavailable plant nutrients. And the more CO2 present, the more mycorrhizae develop.  Mycorrhizae are taking lemons and making lemonade!  Imagine if every industrial farmer and hobby gardener was cultivating mycorrhizae in their soil!

The movie Carbon Nation, which focuses on climate change solutions, suggests this very thing as a viable solution to excess carbon dioxide.  It claims that creating land use policies that encourage mycorrhizal development could reduce current carbon emissions by as much as 39%.  That’s a lot!

How can mycorrhizae improve your yield? (benefits)

There is ample evidence that mycorrhizae are beneficial for both the small garden and the larger ecosystems on earth.  How exactly does all of this evidence result in a higher yield in your personal garden?  When plants have access to adequate nitrogen, you will see stronger vegetative growth.  Phosphorus increases root growth, flowering, and fruiting.  Potassium helps with fruit ripening, disease resistance, and overall plant health.  And that is just what you get with primary macronutrients! For more on plant nutrition check out our Macronutrients, Micronutrients, and our article on Super Soil.

Unlocking more nutrients

Mycorrhizae give roots better access to these primary macronutrients, secondary macronutrients and micronutrients by expanding their root systems and unlocking smaller areas of soil.  In addition, they increase water intake capabilities.  Mycorrhizae open the flood gates to an all you can eat buffet every time they form a relationship with a root system.  On top of that, they help make plants more resistant to drought and diseases. This buffet, coupled with the added disease/ drought resistance can increase your yields anywhere from 23% to 37%.  However, the amount of yield increase with mycorrhizae will depend on the total nutrients available in your soil.

Keep in mind that a controlled growing environment will require a solid source of nutrients for mycorrhizae to do their job.  It’s always a good idea to get your soil tested if you are unsure.  In an outdoor growing environment, nutrient needs may not be quite the same.  You have to be careful with Phosphorus, though.  Recent studies show that Arbuscular Mycorrhizae are extremely important in the uptake of Phosphorus. However, studies also show that too much phosphorus in your soil can inhibit mycorrhizal development.  Some evidence shows that an excess of phosphorus forces mycorrhizae to go dormant, while other evidence shows excess phosphorus actually killing fungi. Either way, excess phosphorus is not a good thing when it comes to the success of our lemonade stand.

Be mindful with Phosphorus

Colorado State University Extension recommends optimal levels of phosphorus in your soil stay below 50 ppm.  Because of this, we have debated a bit about using mycorrhizae in highly amended soils.  In our Super Soil recipe, for instance, we feel like the layering technique may actually create an environment suitable for both high phosphorus availability, as well as use of mycorrhizae in young starts.  It is hard to say for sure, but definitely worth experimenting with. Synthetic liquid fertilizers are not recommended for use with mycorrhizae. So keep that in mind when considering how to supply your plants with the necessary nutrients.

How to use mycorrhizae in your garden

The closer to the root ball you apply mycorrhizae, the more effective it will be.

Proper use is important

If you are excited to see what mycorrhizae can do for your garden, there are a few things to know when looking for a good source.  There are a lot of growing mediums that already have mycorrhizae in them.  Mycorrhizae will never give your plant nutrient burn, so the more the merrier!  But, since mycorrhizae need healthy, living roots to cultivate and survive, the closer you get them to the roots, the better.

We recommend Great White Premium Mycorrhizae a product that you can apply directly to your seeds, seedling roots, or transplant root balls.  There are a lot of good powdered and liquid products, but be sure to always check expiration dates.  If using seeds, you can soak your seeds in inoculated liquid.  Alternatively, you can spray them with water and roll them in powdered spores.  With seedlings or the root balls of transplants, you can dust the roots or dip them in a mycorrhizae product.  Some people prefer the simplicity of a soil drench, but others question its effectiveness. Since mycorrhizae can take as long as 90 days to cultivate, the earlier in your plant life cycle you inoculate, the better.

How do commercial products stack up?

Knowing that mycorrhizae need living roots to thrive, I was skeptical of most products on the shelf.  So, I did some research.  I found out that most retail mycorrhizae products are actually the spores or propagules of cultivated mycorrhizae that are in a dormant state.  Once they are introduced to healthy soil and roots, the plant roots pump a certain exudate into the soil that “wakes up” the mycorrhizae.  If you do decide to go with a mycorrhizal product, there are some other important things to note.  You should treat this product like a living organism.  Heat, harmful conditions, and chemical exposure can destroy the viability of the spores.  So be sure to keep your mycorrhizae in a cool place.  Mycorrhizae can tolerate certain fungicides, but you have to be careful what you use on your plants.  Reference this list, if you are considering a fungicide and want to protect your mycorrhizae.

If you are extra ambitious and don’t want to invest in a commercial mycorrhiza product, you can cultivate your own mycorrhizae.  Check out the process here.

Long term mycorrhizae maintenance in your garden

Good cover crop practice can keep mycorrhizae alive indefinitely.
Good cover crop practices can keep mycorrhizae alive indefinitely. It’s not just for large farmers- you can do this at home, too!

In outdoor applications, like fields or garden beds, you can keep your mycorrhizae alive throughout the year and avoid re-inoculating annually.  If you want to establish a strong mycorrhizal relationship for life, it’s a good idea to think about cover crops.  If fields are allowed to go fallow, then mycorrhizae will die off without viable roots present.  If you use cover crops in the off-season, mycorrhizae can stay alive as long as you take good care of your soil and keep roots alive.  Despite common belief, cover crops can be used in home gardens and are really easy to care for.  Inoculating your garden with mycorrhizae can be an expensive process, so if you want to do it once and maintain all of that awesomeness with cover crops, go here for more info. So, whether you are a container gardener or an industrial farmer, mycorrhizae can be a beneficial addition to your soil microbiota.

 

 

Do you have experience inoculating with mycorrhizae? Have you maintained healthy mycorrhizae populations in your raised beds with cover crops? Tell us about your experiences. Comment below!

 

 

Sources:

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1957/17462/fs304-e.pdf

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/mycorrhiza

https://www.certifiedcropadviser.org/files/certifications/certified/education/self-study/exam-pdfs/197.pdf

http://mycorrhizas.info/

https://www.certifiedcropadviser.org/files/certifications/certified/education/self-study/exam-pdfs/197.pdf

http://www.jstor.org/stable/3760760?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

http://mining.state.co.us/SiteCollectionDocuments/MycorrhizaAndSoilPhosphorusLevels.pdf

https://books.google.com/books?id=627Qopsj7bsC&pg=PA1111&lpg=PA1111&dq=how+much+do+mycorrhizae+increase+root+size&source=bl&ots=RWf2ELjrdN&sig=pRYCdoNVgr3iiX5VXOKgWOnYK3Q&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiD1beq49LMAhUH5mMKHR28AhMQ6AEIPzAG#v=onepage&q=how%20much%20do%20mycorrhizae%20increase%20root%20size&f=false

http://www.pnas.org/content/91/25/11841.full.pdf

http://www.plantphysiol.org/content/156/3/1050.full

http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-are-mycorrhizae-definition-function-products.html

http://mycorrhizae.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Soil-Fungi-are-the-Root-of-All-Yields-PDF.pdf

http://website.nbm-mnb.ca/mycologywebpages/NaturalHistoryOfFungi/Mycorrhizae.html

http://www.countrysideinfo.co.uk/fungi/habitats.htm

https://www.anbg.gov.au/fungi/mycorrhiza.html


Super Soil

What is Super Soil? Plus A Professional Review

 

The best part about it is the consistency.  I rarely, if ever, see any nutrient deficiencies, across various plant types.”

 

What is Super Soil?

Super soil is a term coined by well-known grower and seed producer Subcool to describe a soil recipe he uses to help simplify the process of attaining an ideal harvest no matter your level of growing expertise. It is a highly amended growing medium that eliminates the need to use liquid nutrients.  Subcool, who operates TGA Genetics, has been a contributor to High Times, Skunk, Treating Yourself, Heads, Weed World, and West Coast Magazines.  He has won the Cannabis Cup, is an accomplished author, and has over 30 years of experience as a grower.

 

Do you want a super easy, low-maintenance way to grow organically?

 The theory behind Super Soil is that by creating a well balanced and nutrient-dense growing medium, you should never have to adjust for pH or nutrient imbalance.  All you have to do is water!  Because Super Soil creates a very “hot” or nutrient-dense soil, you will want to be careful about how you use it.  Super Soil is a concentrate to be used in addition to base potting soil.  Below we have the recipe, along with specific instructions on how to build and use Super Soil in your garden.

There are benefits and drawbacks to using Super Soil, so before we really dive in, here are some things to think about if you are considering using a highly amended soil recipe:

 

Benefits

Organic growing method

Saves money on fertilizers

Saves time on pH adjustments

Nutrient-dense so it grows strong plants

Mimics natural outdoor growing environment

No need to flush plants

Drawbacks

“Cooking” time can be long and inconvenient

Potential to burn plants if not used properly

Not as easy to manipulate as liquid fertilizers

Yields may not be as large as with synthetic nutrients

Growth cycle may be slightly longer than with liquid nutrients

First, here is a little plant nutrition 101.

Plant Nutrition 101

All plants need nutrients from the soil for healthy growth.  Along with light and water, nutrients are crucial for plant development.  Plants require macronutrients in the largest amounts, and although micronutrients are needed in much smaller amounts, they are still a necessity for viable plant growth.

Primary plant macronutrients:

Nitrogen:

promotes healthy and fast vegetative growth

Phosphorus:

promotes root growth, flowering and fruiting, and disease resistance

Potassium:

helps with fruit ripening, disease resistance, and overall plant health

Secondary plant macronutrients:

Magnesium:

helps plants process and utilize calcium, promotes vegetative growth and sugar formation

Calcium: 

supports structural integrity of plants, new cellular growth, and disease resistance

Sulfur:

helps fruits and seeds mature and promotes the growth of green leaves

Plant micronutrients:

Micronutrients are trace elements that help promote green leaf growth as well as starch formation.  These include boron, chlorine, copper, iron, manganese, molybdenum, and zinc.

Super Soil is so effective because it takes into consideration every one of these plant nutrients.  Each ingredient in the recipe provides one or more essential plant nutrient to your growing medium, making it an ideal mixture for plants.

For more information on plant nutrition and how to diagnose nutrient deficiencies, check out our info at (http://waytogrow.net/nutrients/plant-nutrient-basics/)

The recipe below is from 2014 and has some slight modifications from the “original” recipe published in High Times Magazine (http://www.hightimes.com/read/subcools-super-soil-step-step).  If you have been using the original recipe for a while, you may notice some changes.  Let’s really dig into the nutrients more and the purpose they serve.

 

Super Soil Recipe

14 cubic feet (or 8 large bags) of Roots Organic Original Potting Soil

1 cubic foot bag Roots Organics Big Worm Worm Castings

2.5 lbs. Down to Earth Bone Meal

2.5 lbs. Down to Earth Fish Bone Meal

5 lbs. high phosphorus Sunleaves Jamaican Bat Guano or VermiBat

5 lbs. Down to Earth Blood Meal or VermiBlood

3 cups Down to Earth Oyster Shell

3 cups Down to Earth Kelp Meal or VermiKelp

3 cups Down to Earth Alfalfa Meal

¾ cup Pennington Epsom salts

1 cup Speedi-Grow Agricultural lime

2 cups Down to Earth Azomite

2 Tablespoons Down to Earth Granular Humic Acid

2 Tablespoons Mykos Mycorrhizae (per transplant, applied directly to the roots @STEP 6)

 

Instructions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together either on a large tarp, in a small kiddie pool, in a yard waste trailer, or even in the bed of a pickup. You can choose to leave out the mycorrhizae here and apply directly to the root ball when transplanting. If you choose to include mycorrhizae at this step it will remain dormant (usually encased in a clay) until it comes in direct contact with live roots.

Using a kiddie pool and tarp to mix up Super Soil potting mix.

  1. While mixing, moisten the media just enough to promote humidity, not enough to drench it.
  2. Once mixed, you can transfer to several lidded containers like 35-gallon trash cans, large totes, or just cover it with another tarp. Keep it in a warm area for a minimum of 30-45 days, up to 90 days to “cook”, or start the process of breaking down amendments.

Using a tarp to mix Super Soil potting mix.

  1. After this waiting period, you will want to fill the bottom ¼ to 1/3 of your pot with this Super Soil mixture, and then top with another couple of inches of base soil.Super Soil layering. Super soil concentrate base layer. Buffer Zone layer. Base Soil layer.
  1. Gently mix the top layer together to create a buffer zone between the base soil and the Super Soil. Then fill the rest of the way with base soil, creating a hole in the center of the dirt- this is where you are going to gently set the root ball of the transplant.
  2. Remove the plant you are planning to transplant from it’s container.  Apply mycorrhizae directly to the root ball.  Mycorrhizae need direct contact with living roots in order to snap out of their dormancy and cultivate properly.
  3. Finish packing the plant in with base soil. From this point, you should only need to water- no pH necessary unless you know your water supply can be unpredictable.

Quick Tip: Rapid potting trick to use when transplanting your plants.

Super Soil is a very nutrient-dense soil concentrate, so you never want to plant directly into the mixture or you risk subjecting your plant to nutrient burn.

Super soil can be a lot of work to get it set up, but for the growers who choose this method, the benefits are well worth it.

To get more familiar with the ingredient list, let’s dive into the purpose behind the specific amendments in this recipe.

 

What is the purpose of the ingredients in Super Soil?

High quality organic potting soil with coco and mycorrhizae

Coco is a by-product of the coconut industry and is an environmentally friendly alternative to using peat.  As coir breaks down, it also releases potassium, serving as both a potential nutrient source, while also increasing the structural integrity of your growing medium.

The benefit of mycorrhizae in your grow medium are indispensible, so finding a good base soil that includes it is important.  You can also add it separately, as we have shown in our recommendations for the recipe.  Mycorrhizae are beneficial fungi that attach themselves to the roots of plants.  Once attached, they help plants to better process and utilize nutrients more efficiently.

Worm castings are the waste products from earthworms that serve as an excellent organic fertilizer.  Worm castings are high in nitrogen, one of the three primary plant macronutrients.  Worm castings are coated with special oil as they travel through Earthworms.  This oil takes time to break down, which makes worm castings a very effective, slow-release nutrient source that can feed plants longer than other fertilizers. It is because of this that the nitrogen in worm castings is particularly helpful at promoting vigorous vegetative growth.

Bone Meal and/or Fish Bone Meal are good sources of Phosphorus.  Bone meal has the added benefit of containing calcium, a secondary plant macronutrient.  Calcium increases the structural integrity of your plants, promotes new growth, and increases disease resistance.

High phosphorus Bat guano stimulates soil microbes and improves plant development and growth.  Depending on your nutrient needs, you can generally find either high phosphorus or high potassium bat guano.  This recipe calls for a high phosphorus guano.

Blood meal is one of the highest natural sources of Nitrogen, which is often the limiting factor in plant growth.

Oyster shells provide slow-release calcium, a secondary plant macronutrient.  This is an especially useful amendment if you use Fish Bone Meal, which lacks the calcium you could get from bone meal.  In addition, oyster shells help neutralize soil acidity.

Kelp meal is used primarily as a source of trace minerals and plant micronutrients, including potassium.  It is also a source of natural plant hormones.

Alfalfa meal adds organic matter and trace minerals to soil.  It also contains trianconatal- a natural fatty acid growth stimulant.

Epsom salt provides magnesium sulfate, a highly soluble form of magnesium and sulphur, both secondary plant macronutrients.  Magnesium also helps the uptake of calcium and may be useful in preventing bottom end rot in tomatoes.

Dolomite lime buffers pH by neutralizing soil acidity, and provides calcium and magnesium to your soil mixture.  By serving as a pH buffer, it also makes many micronutrients more bioavailable.

Azomite is primarily a source of sodium and calcium, and is high in many trace elements.  It may contain as many as 70 individual trace elements, especially silica.  Studies have shown that Azomite helps plants better absorb nutrients from soil.

Powdered humic acid “neutralizes soil pH and liberates carbon dioxide.  Once the soil is neutralized, then many trace elements formerly bound in the soil (such as iron in alkaline soils) and unavailable to plant roots, become available to the plant.”

-Dr. Robert E. Pettit, Emeritus Associate Professor of Texas A&M University

 

The Breakdown

As you can see, Super Soil is a pretty robust concentrate.  You can see here the exact source and balance of essential plant nutrients:

Primary plant macronutrients:

(N) Nitrogen: worm castings, blood meal

(P) Phosphorus: bone meal, bat guano

(K) Potassium:  coco breakdown, kelp meal

 

Secondary plant macronutrients:

(Mg) Magnesium: Epsom salt

(Ca) Calcium:  bone meal, oyster shells, dolomite lime

(S)Sulfur:  Epsom salt

 Plant micronutrientskelp meal, alfalfa meal, azomite

 pH buffer: oyster shells, dolomite lime, humic acid

  

What do home gardeners have to say about Super Soil?

 To give you an idea of what it is like to work with Super Soil, we met up with seasoned gardener Topher Jones to get his take on it.

 

How long have you been using Super Soil?

I have been using super soil for about two years, or about a dozen or more indoor crop cycles.  We stage our crop cycles, so I can let a batch of soil cook for a minimum of 30-45 days, but honestly, the longer the better.  The longer you let it cook, you give everything a chance to really break down, making nutrients more bioavailable and less hot.  The longer you let it cook, the friendlier the soil is for the plants.  You have to have a constant batch of super Soil waiting, so you can have a batch ready, fully cooked when you are ready to transplant. 

What made you decide to make the switch to super soil?

I have always liked the idea of organic, natural-style growing and saw the benefits of saving time by not having to pH and mix nutrients for all different stages of growth.  I was looking for something that was low-maintenance on daily chores.  With multiple rounds in different stages of flower, it was a no-brainer to not have to mix different batches of water and nutrients for each phase group.   I have also been continually learning and helping other people learn about their plants and grows, so super Soil gave me a simpler platform to learn and figure things out as I went along and developed my grow more.

 

Do you modify your recipe from the original Subcool recipe?  Why?

Generally, I keep the original recipe for the most part, but I sometimes add more perlite and stay on the low end of worm castings.  It says 25-50lb of worm castings in the original recipe and 50 pounds just seemed like a lot to me.  I use 25 pounds of worm castings and that seems to really be enough- you get a lot of nitrogen from the blood meal, too.  For Perlite, I add about 4gal by volume for every 2 gallons of soil because I like a more aerated soil.  My plants seem to like it more too. 

 

Do you do any other modifications during your grow cycle?

I feed with compost teas two weeks after flower and two weeks before harvest to keep bacteria and micro-life alive and thriving and add a little nutrient bump at the end.  It helps fully digest the amendments in the soil mix.  I also tried Mammoth this last grow cycle instead of compost tea and had really great results.  It definitely bumped up my yield by potentially as much 33%, but it’s too early to tell for sure.   I was pretty happy with the results, though, and am considering using it again.  I’m thinking about trying a new compost tea recipe and attempting to match results with Mammoth.  That might be hard to beat, though.

 

Have you noticed a difference in your overall plant quality with Super Soil? 

Plant quality is definitely high, but the best part about it is the consistency.  I rarely, if ever, see any nutrient deficiencies, across various plant types.  Minimal in-cycle work is a major plus.  Flavors and smells are fantastic with Super Soil- you can’t beat organic growing and I never have to worry about flushing my plants. 

 

Do you have any final comments for our readers?

For people who like organic growing and have busy schedules, I definitely recommend a form of Super Soil or highly amended growing medium for a great way to grow quality product

 

Thanks for your input, Topher!

 

Despite the evolutions of Subcool’s Super Soil recipe, the basics have stood the test of time.  You can see there are some major benefits to making the switch to organic Super Soil!  Stop in today to one of our seven locations if you think Super Soil might be right for you!

We would love to hear about your experiences with using highly amended soils, as well!  Do you follow the original High Times published version?  Do you use a combination of Super Soil and liquid fertilizers?  Do you tweak the recipe for your plants?  We would love to hear what our fellow gardeners are up to- comment below!

http://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/35483/PDF

http://www.tastefulgarden.com/store/pc/Worm-Castings-d114.htm

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/234.html#bone

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/234.html#batP

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/234.html#blood

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/234.html#kelpM

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/234.html#alfalfa

http://extension.umd.edu/sites/default/files/_images/programs/hgic/Publications/HG42_Soil_Amendments_and_Fertilizers.pdf

https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh024

http://soilsecrets.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/The-Science-of-Humic-Acids.pdf

http://www.hightimes.com/read/subcools-super-soil-step-step


Heirloom-Tomato

Heirloom Seeds vs Hybrid Seeds

Heirloom Tomatoes grown from heirloom seeds

What is the difference between Heirloom Seeds vs Hybrid Seeds?

Hybrid seeds are created by selecting two strains and cross-pollinating them in order to create a more vigorous plant, often times selecting for higher yield and shelf stability.  Heirlooms are old-time varieties saved year after year and are prized for their superb flavor, superior nutrient density and the ability to save your own

What are some advantages to growing heirloom strains?

Flavor

The number one reason to grow heirlooms is the exceptional flavor.  Many modern breeding programs have sacrificed taste and nutrition in order to gain shelf stability.  Modern hybrids are often times bred to be picked green and gas-ripened because that is what is needed for commercial growing and shipping.  Heirlooms, on the other hand have been saved for decades and even centuries because they are the best performers for home and market gardens.  The ability to ship and distribute them was never a concern.  This allowed flavor to and nutrition to take a front seat.  What farmer could survive in a world of direct-to-market produce if their tomatoes didn’t taste as good as their neighbors?

Nutrition

On top of the need for a more shelf stable product, commercial breeders have been steadily selecting hybrids which yield more and more.  Although for home gardeners, a small difference in yield is not a big deal.  Even though hybrids often do out yield heirlooms, research has shown that newer, conventionally bred vegetables are significantly less nutrient dense than heirloom counterparts.  According to a study done by the Biochemical Institute at the University of Texas in 2009, there is an inverse relation between yield and mineral density with some minerals declining by as much as 40%.  This relationship is known as the genetic dilution effect and has been recognized as a reality since the 1940’s.

Saving Seeds and Local Adaptations

Another advantage of heirlooms over conventional hybrids is the ability to save your own seeds and replant them year after year.  Because heirloom plants are open-pollinated, seeds saved from heirlooms will produce plants that are true to type.  This allows home gardeners to continuously select seeds from plants which performed better than others and enjoy them year after year.  This creates locally adapted varieties that can better combat local pests and diseases.  Small, diverse gardens and heirlooms that have been selected for specific localities will only become more reliable year after year.  Not only do you get a better, locally adapted strain when you save your own seeds, but you also save money because you don’t have to purchase new seeds every year.

The advantages of heirloom varieties are plentiful.  Flavor, nutritional content and unlimited seeds are just a few of them.  We highly encourage everyone, with any space to grow their own and to do so with the most environmentally friendly methods.  This means organically grown heirloom varieties picked right out of the garden and served to the community in which they were grown.

Heirloom PumpkinsChoosing Your Heirloom Varietal

Do Your Research

In order to choose a strong variety for your specific zone, the best practice is to first do research into which varieties flourish there.  Part of this is determining where you will be planting your garden.  Is it south facing?  If so, you will have the longest daylight hours throughout the growth season and will want to choose varieties which grow better under these specific conditions.  There may be several varieties well suited for your specific situation.  Choosing to grow several is advantageous because some will perform better than others and gives you better chances of finding one especially well adapted to your growth environment.  Beginning with too many can be a hindrance because some may have such drastically different growth characteristics that growing them may be more difficult and costly than preferred.  A good number to start with is five.  This allows you to have a good variety to choose from while maintaining the least amount of variables.  Some varieties require a longer growth period before the onset of bloom, if your growth zone has longer winters it can be advantageous to start in a greenhouse or indoor propagation area prior to the last frost.  Some varieties are known to be cold hardy and may be a better option for those without a greenhouse or indoor area to start.

Define A Win!

Once you’ve chosen the best varieties on paper, it’s time to grow them out.  The amount of tomatoes you get, the size of them, whether they are early or late, and how they taste is dependent on a combination of factors, mainly, the variety and growing practices.  If you’ve got your growing methods dialed in then it’s time to choose the best.  You can define “best” as whatever characteristics you’re after: most tomatoes, shortest growing season, biggest or healthiest plant, biggest, tastiest or most colorful tomatoes.  Whatever you want!  Just choose the best examples of what you want to save.

Heirloom Seed Saving

On to the harvest!  You’ll want to choose tomatoes in their prime, not over-ripe or under-ripe, no diseased or misshapen tomatoes, etc.  This ensures you harvest seeds at the most fertile period.  While it is not absolutely necessary to ferment the seeds, it does provide some advantages such as making them easier to separate from the gel, helps sort out poor quality seeds, reduces some seed-borne illnesses, and eliminates a germination inhibitor.  If you’re planning on trading seeds with others, it is considered good etiquette to ferment them and here’s how you do it:

How to Ferment for Seed Preservation

Cut the tomato in half and scoop our squeeze the gel + seeds into a small, labeled container.  Set the rest of the tomato aside for consumption.  Add ¼ to ½ cup of water.  Set the container aside, out of the sun for a period of three to five days.  A moldy film will likely appear on top.  This is okay.  At this point it is time to separate the seeds.  First carefully remove the film, add some more water and stir.  Healthy seeds will sink, so you are no able to carefully pour off the water and floating bits of pulp.  Repeat this process until all of the pulp is gone and you are left with clean seeds.  Drain them as well as you can and spread them in a single later on a screen or paper plate to dry, paper towels are okay but the seeds tend to stick to them.  The seeds need the water to be wicked away from them so the screen or paper plate are preferred methods.  If you’re saving multiple varieties be sure to label the plates.
Once the seeds are thoroughly dry, place them in an airtight container for storage.  Tomato seeds can remain viable for years, even stored at room temperature.  For extra protection we recommend to store them in the refrigerator or freezer, but you’ll want to let them come to room temperature before opening the jar so as not to introduce moisture via condensation.  A small packet of silica gel will also help absorb excess moisture.

The More You Know the Better You Grow!

Voila!  You have successfully grown and saved your best heirloom varieties.  Next season choose a couple more new varieties and compare them to the ones you’ve saved, you may be able to find an even better choice.  Happy growing!

 

 


Veg vs Bloom Requirements

LEC 315: Ceramic Metal Halide Technology

LEC 315 lighting fixture

LEC 315

In the world of HID lighting for horticulture, Double Ended (DE) fixtures have been getting all the attention lately, but there is another “new” HID fixture that some growers may have naturally overlooked. Ceramic Discharge Metal halide (CDM) also marketed as Ceramic Metal Halide (CMH) and Light Emitting Ceramic (LEC). All of these are in fact the same technology. Ceramic lamps tend to run at a lower, fixed wattage, and their potential to save energy is often their most touted feature, so they may not be as exciting as that fully adjustable DE fixture that you can crank all the way to 1175watts. To fully appreciate the difference and why they deserve your attention, It’s best to see plants growing under an LEC first hand. Here are some of the reasons why you should take a field trip to your local Way to Grow today to see the difference for yourself.

 

Quality over Quantity

 

Ceramic lighting tech has actually been available for some time. They were first marketed for use in retail and commercial fixtures as an alternative to unnatural looking yellow-orange HPS bulbs or traditional Metal Halides which dim and burn out more quickly. Similar to a standard HPS bulb except the filament runs at a higher temperature giving them a high Color Rendering Index (CRI), truer to natural sunlight. The upshot was a lamp with the long life of a HPS. As well as a spectrum that couldn’t be matched by the best metal halides, and also capable of putting out excellent PAR measurements.

 

Grower Tested, Industry Approved

 

Naturally, when growers first stumbled on the specs for these retail bulbs It seemed a little too good to be true. Once people actually started using them and showing off the difference it made in their plants, ceramic lamps gained a following and the industry began to notice. We can talk PAR, spectrum and PPFD all day. And yes LEC lamps do excel in those areas, but perhaps more compelling is the fact that this tech was discovered “in the field” by growers just like you. It has been researched and vetted not in labs but in garages, basements and warehouses. This is a product that pushed its way into the market and onto grow room shelves as a response to consumer demand.

 

The Other Bits and Pieces

 

We’ve been focused mainly on the lamp since most of the LEC fixtures on the market will use either one or two 315watt bulbs. Even considering the improved spectrum, it may not seem like a small wattage bulb could keep up with fixtures pulling nearly twice the power as many growers had been claiming. The ballasts that drive the new lamps are also much improved over the standard magnetic coil ballasts that are used with most metal halide lamps. Just like DE fixtures, the digital ballasts which drive the new LEC lamps use new “digital square wave technology” which basically means the ballast spends more of its time at maximum voltage/light output.

 

The lower wattage draw means less heat to dissipate even though the lamp element itself is at a higher temperature. This allows the new LEC fixtures to be run open without a lens, keeping the bulb at optimum temperature (and therefore spectrum) without a heavy glass lens, which can rob 10% or more of light output. So now we know it’s a combination of the wide spectrum lamp, efficient ballast and ideal reflector design that allows these fixtures to perform so well compared to lamps drawing much more power.

 

Applications Well Suited for LEC

 

While there are both bloom (3100k) and veg (4200k) spectrum LEC bulbs available, either bulb is really dual purpose. That doesn’t mean they’re the best lamp in all circumstances, though. Despite all of their advantages, the 315w LEC does have a smaller effective footprint compared to a 600w or 1000w HPS. For some gardens that may be just right, like when working with a small space, or limited power overhead. We’ll wrap up with some of our favorite uses of LEC fixtures.lec 315 lighting grow tent

 

Propagation Station:

A single 315watt LEC fixture can easily replace two, 2’x4’ T5 fixtures in your cloning and propagation area. This provides the ideal mount of light without having to worry about excess heat or having to move the lights, while saving power to boot.

 

Most Veg Rooms:

Having vegged with everything from CFL’s to T5s to metal halides of every brand and wattage, I can safely say that ceramic fixtures produce the best results that I have ever seen during the vegetative phase. I’m not making any claims about growth rate, I’m simply talking about overall plant health and vigor. You can see it in the size and color of the leaves, how thick the stems are and how much lateral branching there is. LEC lamps are always at the top of the list when it comes to recommending a new lamp for a veg area.

 

Supplemental Lighting in Bloom:

LEC’s are a great way to give your plants flowering under HPS that little extra something they need to reach maximum potential.

 

Smaller grows without separate Veg and Bloom:

If you veg in the same area that you flower in, it can be hassle to buy extra bulbs, store them and swap them. The low power consumption and low heat dissipation can also really help when you’re in a tight area or are already running at the limit of your cooling/airflow.

 

Limited Power availability:

Not every grow area has easy access to a 50 amp sub-panel or dryer hookup. Not all properties can be easily modified or upgraded. If you’re working with older wiring, or a limited number of amps, it may be much more practical to use LECs.

 

If you have any questions about ceramic lighting, use LEC’s, or have other suggestions on how to utilize them, comment below!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


What is OMRI?

OMRI

When it comes to agriculture, the definition of “Certified Organic” can be contentious. Farmers, lobbyists, activists, PR firms, etc. have different standards and stakes in a growing multi-billion dollar per year industry.The non-profit Organic Materials Review Institute has been helping to formally define “organic” since 1997, years before the industry took off and our government got involved.

If an input (like a fertilizer or pesticide) appears on OMRI’s Products List, then it is approved for use on certifiable organic cash crops. Sounds great if you’re in the business of making organic nutrients or pesticides… but it’s not easy to get on the list. To do so, a product must pass OMRI’s expert reviews which are technical, scientific, and political. There are multiple levels of review by representatives from all facets of the industry. Point being, if a product earns the OMRI stamp of approval, you can be confident in its organic integrity. Gardening with OMRI listed products can help ensure that what you grow is truly as “organic” as it can possibly be. Find out more at omri.org which includes a very cool and useful search function that lets you surf the OMRI Products and Materials Lists. Got a nutrient or chemical and want to know if you can use it on an organic crop? Looking for organic products? Check the OMRI lists.

Here are a few high quality OMRI listed products…

Pushing your plants? Colorado based Supreme Growers offer numerous products to ensure that they excel. Soil Blast is a “biological supercharger..formulated for high performance gardens”. If you garden with beneficial microbes, do yourself a favor and look into Supreme. They also offer products for hydroponics.

Biobizz offers a complete line of nutrients for organic gardens and “is fully dedicated to researching, developing, manufacturing, and marketing organic gardening products that have a positive impact on our society and ultimately the world we live in.”

Synergy is an excellent biocatylyst…”an organic supplement comprised of fermented seaweed and plant extracts to enhance nutrient uptake and plant vigor”.

Sugaree from Cutting Edge Solutions “provides an organic carbohydrate and electrolyte source to stimulate amino acid production and..it’s specially designed  organic formulation targets increases in fruit set, retention, and sugar production”