SOOKE GARDEN CLUB: Fungi in the garden? Absolutely!

Yet serious gardeners and farmers are undoubtedly aware of the vital role played by one particular type of fungi. Sooke

For most casual gardeners, the thought of encouraging the growth of fungi in the garden may seem weird or, even worse, disgusting.

Yet serious gardeners and farmers – those who strive to get the most and best from everything they plant – are undoubtedly aware of the vital role played by one particular type of fungi, namely mycorrhizal fungi.

Mycorrhizal fungi are fungi that form a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with a plant.

These tiny organisms colonize the area around or on a plant’s roots, forming thin filaments (hyphae) that serve to lengthen and bolster the functioning of those roots. This improves the plant’s ability to absorb water and organic nutrients in the soil.

In exchange, the plant provides the fungi with food through the process of photosynthesis. Both parties end up better off for the relationship.

Because plants with well-established mycorrhizal fungal root systems are better able to absorb water and nutrients, they have a better chance of surviving drought and transplant shock, fending off various diseases, and living in non-native environments such urban areas and home gardens.

This symbiotic relationship is not a new phenomenon, but it is likely something that few of us know enough about to put to good use.

Mycorrhizas have been helping plants grow for millions of years. Indeed, approximately 95 per cent of the world’s plants have some form of mycorrhizal dependence, so it is clearly a critical component of plant health.

At this month’s meeting of the Sooke Garden Club, Dr. Shannon Berch will be presenting Mycorrizal Fungi and Friends. Using PowerPoint and hands-on material, she will describe and illustrate the kinds of mycorrhizas formed by plants in our gardens.

Her presentation will also address such questions as: What are mycorrhizas and what are they doing in my garden? How do mycorrhizas affect me and my garden plants? Is there anything that I typically do in the garden that would harm or help the mycorrhizas? There will also be plenty of time for questions and answers.

Dr. Berch is a research scientist in soil conservation with the B.C. Ministry of Environment. She is also a founding member of the South Vancouver Island Mycological Society and the Truffle Association of BC.

Please join us on March 22, 7 p.m., at St. Rose of Lima Church on Townsend Road. Also scheduled: parlour show, plant sale, and sale of contest potatoes. Annual membership is $15, and new members are always welcome. No gardening experience necessary!

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Submitted by the Sooke Garden Club.