End of Summer Garden Update

A journal documenting the weight of all the veggies harvested from the garden, photos, multiple blog posts every week, all dreams that have gone and past with the summer. The journal lasted a whole two weeks. The blog posts lasted only two updates. The photos were taken intermittingly. It’s just how it is.

Documenting each day’s harvest and weight only lasted two weeks.

Life happens and if keeping up with my day job, relationship and the garden wasn’t enough, capturing it the whole process in luring details just isn’t in the cards. What I can tell you was that it was great year in the garden and it’s looking really good going into the fall. I’m writing this after the power has been restored from a massive atmospheric river blasted Sonoma County and the Bay Area with inches and inches of rain. I love knowing that there are plants in the ground to soak up all this water. California was parched this summer and water rations were in affect. Despite this, the garden produced a lot. More than we could keep up with. Do you know what picking cucumber can fill a jar? What am I going to do with all these pickling cucumbers? There’s still some in the fridge and I’ve already made five different recipes.

One of many buckets of tomatoes.

Plant what you eat is something I preach. I think we planted too much of some veggies we like to eat. For example, the tomatoes kept flowing from our eight plants. Freezing them until there were bags and bags of tomatoes to process. Yet, we were able to keep up with our two zucchini plants. All those hot Korean peppers and other varieties like Scotch Bonnets produced well. As much as I like hot sauces, we probably planted too many. More eggplant and more potatoes next year. We love our greens and had a steady supply for most of spring and summer but it requires constant reseeding and I just couldn’t keep up with it through the heat of the summer. I think I will look into purchasing a pound of mixed lettuce seed that I can spread when walking through the garden. Maybe that was I can keep up.

Mango pico de Gallo from the garden.

Fall is setting in. Most of the tomatoes have been pulled from the ground but peppers are still in. They seem to like the cooler weather in the fall here. We’ve planted celery, more onions, greens, kale and collards. Potatoes and garlic will be going in the ground soon.

Little monkey dick peppers.

As for the wildlife in the yard, I’ve been able to witness the migration of native birds throughout the summer. Right now, our residents our Chesnut Chickadees, Lesser Gold Finches, Sparrows, and Dark Eye Juncos. As much as I love all the visitors, I need to buy some bird netting to give the seedlings a fighting chance.

Below are some more photos from the garden…

Delicata squash bumper crop.
Butternut squash.

The fungus among us

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There is something mysterious that grows beneath our feet and plays a very significant role in the health of most plants and yet, often goes unnoticed until the fruiting body, called a “mushroom,” appears on the surface.

Even then, most people don’t bother to take a closer glance. Fungi often get overlooked when people talk about the landscape. In America, it’s common to have a “fungi-phobia,” because in this country, we don’t have a rich history of collecting mushrooms in the wild, as compared to many places in Europe, for instance.

Fungi and the ecosystem
Fungi play an important part in almost every ecosystem. Biologists in the past haven’t generally studied and focused attention on fungi as much as they have on plants and animals.

Although there is a lack of extensive research on fungi, there is a basic understanding of fungi and their unique relationship to plants. A few fungi types are parasitic, meaning that while they derive benefit from a plant, the plant itself is harmed. However, most fungi have a mutually beneficial relationship with plants.

Certain types of fungus decompose wood, which then provides nutrients for plants. If you have ever turned over a pile of leaves or woodchips and have found thick white netting, somewhat like a spider web, then you have a found the “roots” of a fungus, called mycelium.

The mycelium feeds on the decomposing litter. They also have the one-of-a-kind ability to break down lignin in oak leaves and pine needles. Lignin is a substance that helps reduce rot in conifer trees. The mushroom is the fruiting body of fungus and its way of spreading its spores. The spores can be considered the fungi’s “seeds.” It is important to understand not all fungi produce mushrooms.

Plant roots, fungi relationship
There is an often-unknown relationship between fungi and plant roots. Certain fungi have a symbiotic or mutually dependent relationship with plants; these types of fungi are called “mycorrhizal” fungi.

These types of fungi have the ability to exchange nutrients with plant roots. They act as an extension of the root, absorbing nutrients from the soil that the plant can’t necessarily access. In exchange, the fungi obtain carbohydrates such as glucose and sucrose from the plant, which help the fungi grow.

There are two types of mycorrhizal relationships between plants and fungi. One is called an AM (short for arbuscular mycorrhizal) relationship. The fungi penetrate the roots to exchange nutrients. AM are found in about 90 percent of plant families. AM fungi do not produce the fruiting bodies we call mushrooms.

The other type is call EM or ectomycorrhizal. In this case, the fungus doesn’t penetrate the root but fuses to the outside of the plant root. EM is found in approximately 10 percent of plant families, and these do usually create a fruiting body, or mushroom.
This means most plants, including most of our native plants and the plants we grow for crops, have some sort of relationship with these symbiotic fungi. This is an important reason to maintain a healthy and fungicide-free soil.

I hope you have a better understanding of fungi and the roles they perform in ecosystems. They provide essential nutrients to over 90 percent of plant families through two kinds of mycorrhizal relationships. Fungi also have the ability to break down organic matter and lignins. Mulching with leaves, woodchips, and most organic matter, can provide the food needed for the fungi to thrive while also providing benefits to surrounding plants. Also, not using fungicides can greatly improve your soil life.

This article was orginally published in the Community Voice on April 7th, 2011.

A link to the original article: http://www.thecommunityvoice.com/article.php?id=2739

Photo credits: Christopher Harrod

Related Links:

Mycorrhizae Research Paper from World Journal of Agricultural Sciences

Mycorrhizae Handout from Washington State University