Marvelous mycorrhizae

November 15, 2014 12:00 am

A customer walked in the other day, and was quite distraught. Earlier in the spring, she had purchased a rose fertilizer developed by the Portland Rose Society from us. In the past, she had always bought the conventional form of it directly from the Society, but this time, she had bought the organic version, and she was not pleased. You see, this “fuzzy mold” had developed on the soil surface wherever she had used this fertilizer. She even brought us a sample to see. She said her roses looked fine, but requested a refund in return for what was left in the bag.

We were all mystified. We had never seen this kind of thing before, and refunded her money. But I was still curious, so I called the Rose Society to find out if they had seen or heard about this phenomenon from other rose growers. Indeed they had! In fact, the rosarian on the other end started laughing!

It turns out, that the fuzzy stuff was mycorrhizae doing its thing, except in overdrive. Mycorhizzae is a naturally existing fungus that has existed in soils for over 450 million years. It forms a symbiotic relationship with plant root systems, and essentially extends the plant’s nutritional network, and boosts its ability to absorb water, key nutrients and trace minerals. Usually this network is hidden underneath the soil surface, which is what threw us off. In our customer’s case, it had continued expanding above ground – manifesting itself with this white fuzz. I wish I would have been able to identify it, so I could have told her what it was, but – long story short – prolific mychorrhizae is exceptionally good news for your garden.

The world’s mycorrhizae networks are easily disrupted by construction, or even just digging. It is often completely disabled by industrial farming practices, and with the addition of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Mycorrhizae boosts the plant’s immune system, and strengthens its chances of prosperous survival. Per our amused rosarian – the addition of the mycorrhizae to the custom rose fertilizer was the main reason the organic variety cost more than the conventional. It seems to me that this was indeed a stellar investment, and I regret that it was in fact lost on our customer. However, it prompted me to write this blog post, so that if you ever observe a fuzzy surface like the one in the photo after using a high-end, organic fertilizer during a rainy spring – you will know exactly what it is, and treat it like the gift it is! 🙂