Sunday, April 26, 2009

In the garden

Sunday was one of those sunny weekend days that are starting to be not so much of a surprise anymore. A quick trip to the Farmer's Market, where we drooled over plant starts, and then Glen and I went out to the garden. Our goal ( I say "our" loosely, as he does all the work, and I provide supervision from the side) was to get the early season cool crop veggies into the ground. Starts of leeks, onions, bok choy, and broccoli all sat by me, brave in their small pots, ready to face wind and hail and slugs in their own drive to flourish and produce seed...

We also had another idea. I'd been reading Paul Stamets' book Mycelium Running. This book is highly recommended, full of deep insights into the vast web of mycelial threads running through the soil right under our feet. One of his experiments some years ago was to do some companion planting of certain veggies with certain edible mushroom strains. It turns out that the veggies and mushrooms formed mutually beneficial relationships: the mycelial threads go a long distance collecting water and dissolved nutrients, which they then pump into the root systems of plants, while the veggies contribute their stored carbohydrates, converted from sunlight. It turns out that all members of these community flourish: the veggies are bigger and better, and the mycelium sends up big fruiting crops of edible mushrooms.
I was enthralled by this idea, so Sunday was the day to implement it.

We had to get some supplies: a yard of alder sawdust from Great Western Supply, and we also ordered (from Fungi Perfecti) mushroom sawdust spawn of Garden Giant Stropharia annulosa and Elm Oyster.

First Glen had to clean up the gardens, pulling weeds, chasing down quack grass and clearing out old brussel sprouts (ugh). Then we needed to provide some soil amendments: this garden is only a year old, and the soil still needs to be built up. He mixed in steer manure and some wonderful soil amendments from Gary Cline's Black Lake Organic line- a mix of nutrients, and glacial rock grindings. Finally he put on a layer of alder sawdust, then scattered the mushroom spawn, then another layer of sawdust. Finally it was ready to plant; he shook little starts of leeks free from their pots and buried them down.
At the end of the afternoon, two new beds were ready, full of good soil, lots of nutrients, alder sawdust and mushroom spawn. I could almost feel the mycelium start to reach out tentative threads, testing the ground and finding it good, very good.

So then I sat for awhile in the sun, admiring our work and feeling the novel sensation of warm sunlight on my back. I flashed back on just six months ago, 2 feet of snow icing over the garden. And now? Mason bees droning away, laying eggs and building their homes, Yellow-faced bumblebee queens hover over the newly turned soil, looking for a likely abandoned mouse hole to make this year's hive, the male Song Sparrow sings territory songs near his nest, a streak of thin white cirrus clouds drifts across the deep blue bowl of the sky. Under my feet, the mushrooms are stirring, and the soil is returning to life. It is a good day to be alive and in the garden.

Resources: Fungi Perfecti, Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets

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