Growing plants with an emphasis on soil biology (instead of chemistry) calls for a different perspective. Instead of the grower attempting to provide all the "food" for plants, the goal is to introduce/develop large populations of soil organisms that are natural plant tenders and feeders. Then after this is done, it becomes a matter of maintaining conditions that favor those organisms - "tending the little herd" if you will.
Biological methods, essentially advanced organics, require more effort and some patience to set up, but once established those living soils are extremely simple to maintain and highly productive.
Previous newsletters have described setup techniques, which involve inoculation with mycorrhizal spores, avoidance of fast-acting high-analysis fertilizers, minimal tillage, adding organic matter and minerals to the soil, and keeping a permanent mulch cover on the soil surface.
Some growing situations are much better for using bio-methods than others. Here's how I would describe a few of the top candidates:
FRUIT AND NUT TREES, GRAPES, AND LARGE ORNAMENTALS: I would not think of planting any of these without a small spoonful of mycorrhizal inoculant in the planting hole. There's research data, test-control results, and feedback that I have received from customers over 15 years that all point to how much these types of valuable plants benefit from mycorrhizae.
HOME GARDENS: There is no need to fertilize a home garden (or small market farm) with soil-harming "plant foods," no matter how heavily they are advertised on TV. I admit that it is more convenient to simply drench the garden with liquid 10-10-10 or scatter petro-fertilizers granules. I did that myself for the better part of 40 years. But, taking the time and making the effort to convert these relatively small plots to healthy soil teeming with earthworms and other beneficials will pay off in great yields and more disease-resistant plants that do not attract damaging insects.
LAWNS: To me, it is nothing short of madness to have a lawn that is on a chemical fertilizer diet, when it is really so easy to "Go Bio" instead. I recently moved to a home that had a chemically-dependent lawn in front. I first began mowing a little higher (with a mulching mower - a must), applied our MycoMinerals(TM) product - a blend of volcanic minerals, mycorrhizal fungi spores, and biostimulants - and a dry slow-release organic fertilizer. Finally, I covered the other materials with about a half-inch of compost and gave it a thorough watering. In less than a month, the difference was obvious. The grass was responding with steady even growth and looked healthy. The finely-cut clippings from the mulching mower disappeared quickly as earthworms fed on them, and I saw no more need to add any more fertilizer. The lawn was not as unnaturally dark green as those that are given high-nitrogen feedings, but had a good color without any big bursts of fast growth. I did mow a little more frequently and kept the mower cutting fairly high to avoid clumps of cuttings.
NURSERIES: There is no better time to introduce mycorrhizae than during the seedling stage. Mycorrhizal plants transplant easily without shock and take off growing with a head start on pathogens and diseases. I visited one of the country's largest rose propagation nurseries on an open-house tour and was pleased to learn that they had gone 100% organic and were using mycorrhizal inoculant routinely. They found that it simply produced superior plants.
There are many other good applications for growing with an emphasis on biology, but the above are a few of the most obvious and proven. Fruit and nut orchards of all kinds, vineyards, ornamental plantings, gardens, lawns, and plant nurseries can kick the expensive and soil-damaging chemical fertilizer habit fairly easily - and would love the results.
Good growing, my friends,