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How to make homemade mycorrhizal fungi

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When doing some research into making homemade mycorrhizal fungi, I found lots of information on this subject. This article displays the most useful instructions I came across.

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 which are likely to become infected with the mycorrhizal fungus and sow their seeds into the soil.

We will be talking about just what this fungus is in the next sections, as well as the steps needed to be done to grow your own mycorrhizal fungi at home successfully, so please do read on!

The lowdown on what is mycorrhizal fungi

Mycorrhizal fungi are essential for several reasons. Firstly, they work to assist plants to get 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 the way that 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 what this fungus is, I have written an article on just what mycorrhizal fungi are, which also contains the many key benefits to this fungus and subtypes.

Mycorrhizal fungi increases 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 which otherwise might have been out of reach.

They essentially give the plants a greater reach, which makes the plant stronger and more efficient at gathering the things it needs to survive.

Certain species of mycorrhizae even protect the plants which host them, blocking pathogens.

Oyster Mushroom Growing Conditions
Oyster Mushroom Growing Conditions

Tried and tested approaches for making homemade mycorrhizal fungi

In the section below, I will lay out some of the approaches and methods which are likely to produce the desired results. I will also explain their reasoning and how to avoid failure when making your own mycorrhizal fungi.

Although this is not the easiest of tasks, creating it is certainly a more reliable method than purchasing manufactured mycorrhizal fungi. The reason being 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 it can be an enjoyable learning experience.

Plants that and 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 use plant seeds that are mycorrhizal 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, it will take three months to make the homemade mycorrhizal fungi. In the next section, I will discuss the individual steps you need to follow to produce mycorrhizal fungi in a homemade fashion successfully.

Steps in making the mycorrhizal fungi

Below is the recounting of steps to successfully make your own 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 needs to meet certain specifications for it to be a suitable home for the mycorrhizal fungi.

This is because the plants to which the soil has been exposed need to be part of the group of 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 to have not been cultivated or disturbed recently. Digging and moving soil kills the mycorrhizal fungi as it detaches their connections, and they are unable to 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 own garden if you don’t dig it too often.

Preparing the soil for mycorrhizal fungi

Next, you need to 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, and scoop up as much of the soil, and think 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 getting into your container.

Step 2: Encouraging the mycorrhizae

As I previously mentioned, mycorrhizae have an interdependent relationship that is stronger 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 then 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 choose your container. The pot needs to have at least a thirty-liter capacity, but you could also spread this out among multiple pots. These should then be filled with your starter soil.

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

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

Step 3: After care 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 container of the starter soil and plant needs to be regularly watered and kept moist.

Be sure not to disturb the contents, as this will be detrimental to the mycorrhizal fungi.

Results to look out for when making homemade mycorrhizal fungi

The result we are hoping for is that the plants will become infected by the mycorrhizal, and over a three-month period, as they begin to grow, the container should become a thriving environment for them.

All that is left to do 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 around halfway down.

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

Adding mycorrhizae to soil

If, however, you decide to opt for getting the store-bought version, when it comes to 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.


Conclusion on making homemade mycorrhizal fungi

Due to mycorrhizal fungi being microscopic, it is difficult to know whether your method has been successful. 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 fungus for plant fostering in your garden, it would greatly help you to actually 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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