How to make homemade mycorrhizal fungi

Throughout my research on making DIY mycorrhizal fungi, I stumbled upon a treasure trove of information. This piece highlights the most useful advice I unearthed.

The first step to making homemade mycorrhizal fungi is to collect starter soil, preferably from an uncultivated area. Then, consider choosing a combination of grassy plant species that will likely become infected with the mycorrhizal fungus and sow their seeds into the soil.

We will discuss just what this fungus is in the next sections and the steps needed to grow your mycorrhizal fungi at home successfully, so please read on!

The lowdown on what is mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi are essential for several reasons. Firstly, they work to assist plants in getting their required uptake of the vital nutrients phosphorus and nitrogen. Phosphorus, in particular, is in short supply in much of today’s garden soil, so how the mycorrhizae retrieve it and provide it to the plants is vitally important to their wellbeing. 

Mycorrhizal Fungi in the soil can drastically increase the nutrient density of our food.

Gabe Brown

Unlike other fungi that may cause drastic and dangerous effects to plants, these, particularly, are beneficial to plants as they allow for plant absorption of water and mineral salts. To aid more with this fungus, I have written an article on mycorrhizal fungi, which also contains the many key benefits of this fungus and its subtypes.

Mycorrhizal fungi increase the root area.

Another way that the mycorrhizal fungi help plants is by increasing the overall area of their roots, allowing them access to water and nutrients that otherwise might have been out of reach.

They give the plants a greater reach, making them stronger and more efficient at gathering the things they need to survive.

Certain mycorrhizae protect the plants that host them, blocking pathogens.

Tried and tested approaches for making homemade mycorrhizal fungi

I will outline some approaches and methods likely to produce the desired results in the section below. I will also explain their reasoning and how to avoid failure when making mycorrhizal fungi.

Although this is not the easiest of tasks, creating it is a more reliable method than purchasing manufactured mycorrhizal fungi. The reason is that most natural soil will contain hundreds of different species of mycorrhizae, but most commercially sold products only contain a few at the most.

Making your own using natural approaches is much more likely to be a success and an enjoyable learning experience.

Plants that can’t form mycorrhizas

Not all plants form mycorrhizas. Below is a list of those that do and those that don’t.

As an overview, as long as we plant mycorrhizal seeds and avoid non-mycorrhizal, we have a strong chance of producing them. Other factors will impact whether it will be a success, though.

Plants that form mycorrhizal fungi Plants that don’t form mycorrhizal fungi
Herbaceous speciesCabbage
Arid and semi-arid woody species
Tropical hardwoods

One thing to bear in mind is that this is a long-term venture. In most cases, making homemade mycorrhizal fungi will take three months. In the next section, I will discuss the steps you need to follow to successfully produce mycorrhizal fungi in a homemade fashion.

Steps in making the mycorrhizal fungi

Below is the recounting of steps to successfully make your mycorrhizal fungi.

Step 1: Collecting the starter soil for the mycorrhizal fungi

The first step when making homemade mycorrhizal fungi is to collect some soil. Unfortunately, it is not as easy as going into the garden with a shovel and filling up a container.

The soil must meet certain specifications to be a suitable home for mycorrhizal fungi.

This is because the plants to which the soil has been exposed need to be part of the species that encourage the mycorrhizae, as they will have formed a good environment for it to thrive in.

Soil type for fostering mycorrhizal fungi

Ideally, the soil we are looking for needs not been cultivated or disturbed recently. Digging and moving soil kills the mycorrhizal fungi as it detaches their connections, and they cannot re-establish themselves afterward.

If you can find soil grassland with healthy perennials which haven’t been recently disturbed, that would be ideal. You may be able to find this in your garden if you don’t dig it too often.

Preparing the soil for mycorrhizal fungi

Next, you must dig under your targeted plant and clear around a half square meter under it. Use a shovel to dig down to around a ruler’s length, scoop up as much of the soil, and think of roots as you possibly can.

Ideally, you should collect the soil from various plant species and trees, although this is not vital, so don’t worry too much if you can’t do it.

Then it’s time to sieve the soil to prevent clumps or rocks from entering your container.

Step 2: Encouraging the mycorrhizae

As I previously mentioned, mycorrhizae have an interdependent, stronger relationship with certain plant species.

It is important to choose a mixture of grassy plant species, and some of the most suitable are wheat, oats, onion, leek, and maize.

These should be combined with legume species such as peas, clover, lentils, or beans. The idea is that these plants will get infected by the mycorrhizal fungi, effectively causing them to increase in numbers.

Choosing the container for the mycorrhizal fungi

Once you have chosen your combination of plants and legume species, it is time to select your container. The pot needs at least a thirty-liter capacity, but you could also spread this among multiple pots. These should then be filled with your starter soil.

When sowing the seeds, it is important to ignore your gardener’s instinct and sow them closer to each other than is recommended. The species should be varied, which will encourage the mycorrhizae to reproduce.

The aim here isn’t to produce healthy plants; we are simply using them as bait to encourage mycorrhizae to increase in population.

Step 3: Aftercare of the starter soil and the mycorrhizal fungi

Now that you have your mixture of starter soil and plant species, it is time to play the waiting game.

The starter soil and plant container must be regularly watered and kept moist.

Be sure not to disturb the contents, harming the mycorrhizal fungi.

Results to look out for when making homemade mycorrhizal fungi

We hope the plants will become infected by the mycorrhizal, and over three months, as they begin to grow, the container should become a thriving environment for them.

All that is left is to harvest your mycorrhizae from the container. The key is to cut the plants down at their stem and refrain from watering for around ten days before applying inoculants. This will cause the plants to die, and as a result, the fungus will produce spores.

How to properly prep the mycorrhizal fungi for further garden needs

Once the ten-day period has passed, it is time to remove the roots, cut them into small fingertip-sized pieces, and introduce them back into the soil.

A layer of inoculants should then be added to the container halfway down.

It would help if you had a thriving environment full of mycorrhizae to reintroduce into your garden wherever it needs.

Adding mycorrhizae to soil

If you decide to get the store-bought version, when introducing mycorrhizal fungi into the soil, there are some important steps to adhere to.

If you are planting, it is a good idea to rub the mycorrhizae onto the roots of your plants or put them into the planting hole. Another option is to mix it with water and spray the mycorrhizal fungi onto the soil.

FAQs on How to make homemade mycorrhizal fungi

How do you feed mycorrhizal fungi?
Mycorrhizae love carbohydrates. They receive this from the plant in return for providing phosphorus and nitrogen. If the soil and plants are healthy and fertilizers haven’t been over-used, the mycorrhizae should be able to get the food and nutrients required for their purposes.

Can you add mycorrhizal fungi after planting?
Yes, mycorrhizal fungi can be utilized on already-established plants. It’s possible to introduce them when transplanting plants. The only stipulation is that the mycorrhizae need roots to be present for germination, so as long as the plants have good root systems, it shouldn’t be an issue.

Do mycorrhizae protect plants?
Mycorrhizal fungi warn plants if they are likely to be attacked by insects or aphids. When an aphid attacks the host plant, it signals other plants. The fungi protect the plants that haven’t yet been infected by producing certain responses to the attack.

What do mycorrhizal fungi look like?
Mycorrhizal fungi look like thread-type fungi, known to grow deep in the underground. They create mycelia strands on the shallow plant roots, extending further into the soil. When it is about to be attacked by insects or aphids, it activates a chemical defense system.

Can you see mycorrhizal fungi?
You cannot see mycorrhizal fungi with the naked eye. They can only be seen through the microscope, which will help one see if the fungi are flourishing and prepared for reintroducing in the garden. They are learning to see this fungus will be beneficial, especially if one grows mycorrhizal fungi.

Conclusion on making homemade mycorrhizal fungi

Due to microscopic mycorrhizal fungi, it is difficult to know whether your method has succeeded. If you follow certain guidelines, there is a high possibility that you can make mycorrhizal fungi at home, but it requires patience and perseverance.

Because arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi form symbioses with over three-quarters of all plant species, the odds are stacked in our favor when producing them. 

However, if you plan on using many of these fungi for plant fostering in your garden, it would greatly help you to look into the process yourself and have a try if you can do it. Not only will it teach you a new skill, but it can also save you a bit of money instead of buying this fungus.

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