White mold or fungus in soil? What's up?

rebeccitaAugust 4, 2008

Hello gardeners!

So, I've been working with a small plot of land for a veggie garden for a couple of months now, a raised bed that I made with my boyfriend and used purchased soil to fill. A couple of months in, I noticed that we were getting a lot of mushrooms in the soil, which I thought was pretty strange. Anyway, now it's the middle of summer, and I noticed when I pulled up some bolted lettuce that there was a lot of white, mold or fungus-like stuff in their roots. This garden bed has really not produced as well as I'd hoped -- a lot of things have been stunted, seeds haven't come up, etc. I'm starting to wonder if my soil is just bad, and if so, if there's something I can do?



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What you may have is a soil that has a lot of wood in it that is being worked on by both the soil bacteria and soil fungi (the wee thingys that produce the mushrooms which are seed stalks to spread the good life) and so the soil bacteria are not feeding the plants you want to grow. One of the problems with nuying some "soil" from some place, you really have no idea what you are getting.
Not much you can do this year but you can start now to prepare that soil for next by getting a good, reliable soil test and looking closely at what you have with these simple soil tests that can guide you toward making the soil you have into something good and healthy that will grow strong and healthy plants;
1) Structure. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. A good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drains too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of organic matter to speed it up.

3) Tilth. Take a handful of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a finger that clump should fall apart.

4) Smell. What does your soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria will be and the nicer you soil will smell.

5) Life. How many earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that is not healthy.
Contact your local office of the University of California USDA Cooperative Extension Service about the other soil test.

Here is a link that might be useful: UC CES

    Bookmark   August 5, 2008 at 7:46AM
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