Mold actually IN the soil....?

sugi_c(9a)April 4, 2013

How peculiar. I'm not sure what to make of it.
I had taken some shiso, arugula and one jalapeño plant and put it into a window box planted in 5-1-1 mix, with a bit of fish meal tossed in if I recall correctly.

It was too much sun for the arugula so I pulled those a week ago and transplanted elsewhere, but I simply tugged those out lightly. Today, I decided to move the shiso into its own pot so I DUG those out. (They're about 6 weeks?)

Anyway, to my surprise, shock and then horror -- I find a white mold of sorts growing INSIDE the soil. There was no evidence of such on the top of the soil or on the plants, and barring my shiso being a bit tougher than I had expected, growth has been fine, if not good. (Incidentally, that was also the reason I moved the arugula but attributed that to too much sun.)

Following this, I also pulled the jalapeño into its own pot and shook off as much of the old soil as I could for all of them.

Now I have this soil just drying out and pondering whether to toss, turn or what.

Anyone recognize what this mold is? Understanding there is such a thing as good mold, and given that it doesn't seem to have stunted growth any, I'm not sure what to think. Having used regular potting soil in the past, I never experienced mold IN the soil, though I have seen mold develop on top of the soil. Obviously, with standard potting soil, there wouldn't have been enough airspace for mold to really show itself this clearly.

I think the new root growth looks plenty healthy, so I'm at a loss. It was time to repot them all anyway, and they went into a new batch of a soil mix, but based on the same ingredients I used before...

And considering these are edibles, should I be otherwise concerned?


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Oh, and I should also note that I didn't use straight up peat. I used Gardner & Bloome Eden Valley Blend.
I love the potting soil in and of itself -- it's very airy and satiny but I have noted as of late that in mixes, based on the condition of the perlite, this mix seems to develop algae quicker than other mixes. I don't know enough to speculate as to why -- but using MG + perlite yields less algae on perlite than this mix when I use it for seeds. It's not a lot -- but notably more than my usual perlite condition of brown and no green at all. Performance-wise, they all seem to do fine.

I've attached a photo to show you the amount of "green" (which I presume is algae).


    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 8:04PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I don't know what it is, but I think it is a benign fungus (not mold) that is one if the many microorganisms that live on organic matter. I've seen the same thing in my pine bark both before and after incorporating it into 5-1-1 mix. I've sometimes seen mushrooms in the same soil, which are the fruiting bodies of fungus. It is more likely to show up if your mix stays moist and will die back if you allow the mix to dry out between waterings. I wouldn't worry about it. It's similar to the algae that seems to form on perlite in similar conditions. It's nature, after all.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 8:44PM
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Gardening is so lovely, Ohio, lol.
Okay, that sounds reasonable, that it's from the bark. I'm learning as I go here on how often to water which mix and why -- but for this particular planter, I watched the jalapeño carefully because it would droop just a little if it needed water, the arugula and shiso had to make do with whatever that pepper desired. That said, I had watered yesterday and clearly the mix was quite moist today--and I guess ideal for fungus.

I guess I will let the soil dry out and then just pot something else in it. It'd be such a waste to throw it all out....especially when the plants were growing nicely in it.

Ya know, gardening outside in the ground is so much simpler. My plants could have all had something like this and I'd have never known or checked. The only time I used containers was for herbs or cuttings -- so having to stick to containers, I'm finding all sorts of things I have never seen before. It's both fascinating and frustrating, but I sure wish I had a yard so I can have some sense of normalcy around here with things going exactly as I expect them to go.

Thank you for letting me know what you think it is, Ohio! I feel much more at ease, haha.


    Bookmark   April 4, 2013 at 10:26PM
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Well now I feel silly.
I'm guessing this is what mycorrhizae looks like....much like the ingredients list stated!
I don't know how I feel about this fungus growing on roots to promote nutrient uptake via expanded surface area business, I feel like changing to something new!

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 2:07PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

LOL! You can't grow anything in a completely sterile environment. If you're creeped out about mycorrhizae, how do you feel about the microorganisms in your intestines? Without them you would die. I think mycorrhizae are a lot like those micororganisms.

From Wikipedia: The human body carries about 100 trillion microorganisms in its intestines, a number ten times greater than the total number of human cells in the body. The metabolic activities performed by these bacteria resemble those of an organ, leading some to liken gut bacteria to a "forgotten" organ. It is estimated that these gut flora have around a hundred times as many genes in aggregate as there are in the human genome.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 2:22PM
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Ohio, I know. You're right.
But if I had to take out my intestines and look at it, I can't say what I'd do next then either, lol. Probably never eat yogurt again and drink peroxide daily, haha.

I only have about 1/8 of the bag left. And as mentioned, I do like the soil and texture overall. New to coir-based anything, but so far -- this being the first bag -- I have enjoyed it. I was reading a study on coir vs peat with peat winning basically everything. But I hate how peat clumps and becomes hydrophobic.

What do you use?

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 2:35PM
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Yep, looks like mycorrhizae. Congratulations on developing such a healthy and thriving root system.

Actually, one of the rarely mentioned benefits of pine bark as growth medium is that it has anti-fungal properties.

Do you fertilize at low doses with every watering? Regular fertilization has been shown to inhibit the growth of mycorrhizae. It is thought that, if the plant has a sufficient access to nutrients through the existing root system, the symbiotic association will not have any benefit to the plant which can then somehow prevent colonization.

I hope that makes you feel better.


    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 3:57PM
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Alex, thanks for the confirmation!
It's fir bark, primarily because I can't find pine bark here in SF to save my life. As for fertilizing, I added 10-10-10 fish meal when I made the soil (8 weeks ago or so?) and I fertilize weakly every 3 waterings or so -- which would be about 10-12 days these days. Like 1/4 tsp per gallon. Probably not enough to be doing much of anything but better than nothing. I don't like fertilizing edibles too much. And this soil I used has a lot of other literal sh*t, lol, in addition to this fungus business. ;-) Left alone, I'd probably mix in a Tbsp of more fish meal in a few weeks.

Knowing my plants are not rotting from below, I transplanted the edible mums into it today for one area. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger, right? Haha.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2013 at 4:49PM
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Want to see some real mold growing from the soil?

Ha!! Actually this is some Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) mycelia I have growing on coffee grounds. I started the culture (which I guess is still technically "container gardening") back in December to use as an inoculum for some Christmas presents but I never got around to it. It sat in the trunk of my car for 2 months until the car got totaled and now it is in my office. This fungus is saprotrophic, not mycorrhizal so it grows perfectly well without an associated plant. Hardy little sucker.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2013 at 1:42PM
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Haha, Rhizo -- yes, that would have been less embarrassing if I grew it myself.
So now what are you gonna do with it?

    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 3:53PM
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At some point I will actually use it to inoculate some straw and I'll try to see if I can get the mushrooms to grow. It was surprisingly hard to find a source of straw in the city. What, no one has cows here? I ended up getting some from a pet store sold as bedding for rabbits. I have a habit of starting projects and not finishing them so I'd give it 50:50 that I'll ever actually do it.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 7:03PM
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Sf_rhino to COALINGA! Lol
Well, if you end up not doing much with then, it can always be your pet mold. People have done stranger things...


    Bookmark   April 9, 2013 at 7:51PM
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I'll never forget driving through there when I was in high school on a road trip down to Death Valley. I grew up around cattle ranches but I had never saw (or smelled) anything like that before!!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2013 at 1:27PM
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Grace: To me, that simply looks like root hair, not fungus. The function of which is to collect water and mineral nutrients present in the soil and get it to the roots and the rest of the plant. Click here to see a time lapse on youtube of roots forming on radishes.

If you were growing in a denser soil, most of those hairs, would probably get pulled of, when you were lifting them.

In time, the bark in your mix, WILL attract fungus, but most probably, just something that will not be malign to your plants... perhaps even beneficial ones. and maybe not a fungus, that you will be able to see with your eyes (they might already be there).

This post was edited by vgtar on Mon, Jul 22, 13 at 9:51

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 9:48AM
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