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soil biodiversity transplant?

 
Ronnie Yu
Posts: 31
Location: Orange County, CA
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I'll finally be moving into my new home in a few weeks! The previous owner describes the soil as "terrible" and looking at it I believe him (but I can't wait to run some tests of my own in addition to sending out a sample to a local lab for more a detailed analysis).

Anyway, I'm sure as I start improving the soil, the biodiversity of the soil microorganisms will naturally start to increase. But I was wondering if I could speed up the "diversification" process by bringing in cupfuls of soil from various local places that seem to have healthy soil (assuming that I have permission from whoever owns the land, etc.)

Is this a technique that others have used? Is the idea brilliant? Silly? Risky?
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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Ronnie, the fastest way is going to be to add fungi to the soil. Fungi are the real building blocks of soil life, and everything else depends on them. Not bacteria, they can be transient in the soil and they don't form the long webs of interconnected hyphae that fungi do. Not nematodes or arthropods, although if you do import a soil sample from elsewhere you will increase their diversity by doing so. But when you inoculate with fungi, you are setting a buffet table for all the other soil organisms out there, and if the buffet is open, they will come.

Now Orange County is not the easiest place to find fungi this time of year, but if you know where to look, you can find some. Try the overwatered lawns and landscaping at large shopping malls. Since they overmulch and overwater, it's easy to find fungi there. Even if you don't see any mushrooms, you may be able to dig down an inch or two into the mulch and see white strands (hyphae) and you have found what you are looking for. It doesn't matter what kind of mushrooms you find, plant pathogenic fungi generally don't make mushrooms, it's the soil dwelling decomposers that do. A lot of what you will find in Southern California in the summer are of the Amanita genus, excellent decomposers and soil builders, but extremely toxic and dangerous to mammals. If you want to be picky and only inoculate your soil with edible varieties of mushrooms, you can (a) use only store bought mushrooms or (b) take a course in mycology and become an expert and hunt up your own.

How exactly to inoculate? That brings up an important word to know -- totipotent.

Definition of TOTIPOTENT: capable of developing into a complete organism or differentiating into any of its cells or tissues <totipotent stem cells>


Mushrooms are totipotent, meaning that if you whiz mushrooms in a blender, separating all the cells, each individual cell in the resulting smoothie can develop into a hyphae producing colony. If you then drench your soil with this smoothie, you've inoculated it with millions of cells and soon the hyphae will be growing, decomposing the organic matter in the soil and providing food for myriad numbers of other soil critters. Professional mycologists tweak this method by adding things like starch and agar, trying to find the optimal (lab) medium for growing fungi, but you don't have to be high tech like that. To get your soil health started all you need is a blender and an eye for spotting mushrooms.
 
David Hartley
Posts: 258
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Get some Stropharia rugoso-annulata growing It forms relationships with other microbes, thrives on disturbance, is a sun lover and very hardy.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1356
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Go ahead and bring them in but they are going to need moist aerated/spongy soil. not dry hardpan. If that is all you have to offer then they are going to die/go into suspended animation.
So aerate/till the soil, use mulch to keep the soil moist, the mulch will also become a food source for fungi and cover for worms that like to transplant microbes form one area of your garden to the next.
 
David Hartley
Posts: 258
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Don't just transplant healthy soil... Rather; transplant a disease-free plant (such as white clover?) that you are already wanting to propagate. Carefully dig up, trying not to disturb the soil it is growing in, and transplant the whole thing... This will help maintain the existing plant-to-microbe relationship.
 
Ronnie Yu
Posts: 31
Location: Orange County, CA
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excellent advice guys, and I'm glad it wasn't a crazy idea. John, I'm just now checking out the video you posted. I'm looking forward to just getting in there and trying out new things
 
You're not going crazy. You're going sane in a crazy word. Find comfort in this tiny ad:
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