Lately I have had many queries about what looks like white stuff in the soil of various gardens. I have seen it in my vegetable gardens when harvesting vegetables. Its very common and isn’t a bad thing so don’t panic. Its called mycelium. Its a typical fungus made up of tiny threads called hyphae. I know another foreign word. Stay with me, its not that complicated.
When you look at the white stuff in the soil, grab a magnifying glass. The threads or hyphae branch out in all directions throughout the soil. Fungi are found primarily in aerated surface layers rich in organic matter. Its often seen when harvesting vegetables.
If your soil is rich in organic matter, often you will see mushrooms develop from the mycelium. Mycelium will always be present in the soil as long as there is nutrients available. It is said that mycelium is the Internet of the soil bringing connections to all living matter.
There is also a lot of bacteria in the soil. When I tell children that they step back as if its something to be afraid of. When I tell them that its good bacteria they don’t understand. We have brainwashed our children to think that all bacteria is bad and it just isn’t so. Estimates range from 10-100 million bacteria exist in one gram of soil. We need bacteria in the soil as they act as decomposers.
Bacteria and fungi are not the only things living in our soils. We also have algae and actinomycetes. Algae are often found on poorly drained soils and live near the soil surface. Actinomycetes, I know another big one, are widespread in the soil. They are involved in the decomposition of organic residues in the soil. They do best in soils with a PH over 5. Did you know that many of our antibiotics are produced from actinomycetes?
So there you have it, lots of microorganisms occupy our soils. We just can’t see most of them as well as the mycelium. Don’t forget that we also have an animal population in our soils as well. From nematodes to protozoa, earthworms and insects, there is amazing life happening right below our feet.
So next time you walk over your garden, tread lightly. Treat the soil right by growing organically. There is life below there that should be treasured.