Do you use soil amendments in your MG containers?

gerris2October 3, 2009

I have been growing most of my morning glories in containers of various sizes over the past 8 or 9 years. I used to dump the soil out of each container each spring and refill with fresh bagged potting medium. I subscribe to Horticulture magazine and one year they published an article on beneficial soil fungi (mycorrhizal fungi). After reading this article and conducting research online, I changed my way of growing MGs to a system that is similar to the no-till farming methods growers of certain crops use. Instead of dumping the soil each spring, I have been leaving the soil intact and planting into the container each May after the last frost date. I also dip started seed roots into rooting medium that has the beneficial fungi before potting them on. The fungi form a symbiotic relationship with the plants by infecting the plant's roots; fungi pass along Phosphorus (P) to the plant and plant passes along carbon to the fungi, as I understand it, along with other nutrients. High P fertilizers have a negative effect on the fungi and so I have had to go with fertilizers with a P value of 1 or less in the NPK forumula.

Any kind of major tilling of the soil breaks up the fungal hyphae in the soil and has a negative effect on the beneficial fungi.

You can google for all sorts of articles on mycorrhizal fungi. I found an informative article that you can download as a pdf (see link below).

I also use compost tea or compost on top of the soil of the container. The beneficial microbes from the compost work in concert with the mycorrhizal fungi to make for a more robust plant, so the theory goes...haven't any quantitative data yet.

Do any of you use soil amendments other than high P bloom booster fertilizer in your growing of MGs? I would enjoy hearing about what worked or didn't for you.


Here is a link that might be useful: Mycorrhizal fungi article pdf download

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I use mycorrhizal fungi in most of my container plants. I've never used it for the containers that are just morning glories though. We've also innoculated the fields at the farm with mycorrhizal fungi through the irrigation system. Once you've innoculated the soil with MF you can't use any insecticides or it will kill the beneficial fungi. I've just been using a high quality potting mix (Fafard 3B) for my potted MG's with no ammendments. The MG's growing with other plants have sometimes had the soil ammended with various things besides MF, coir, sharp sand, worm casings, etc. Some container MG's get frequent feedings, others very little. It just depends on what other plants are in the containers, if any. The MG's that are growing in brug pots get fed weekly while the ones growing with other plants are fed much less frequently. Once the MG's begin to put out blooms I haven't really noticed a difference. What seems to make the most difference in the MG's is the size of the container. The bigger the pot the bigger the vines, at least for me. The MG's that I've sown directly in the soil take much longer to bloom but they get the biggest of all and are usually the most floriferous and I don't feed them anything.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2009 at 7:16AM
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Hi Karyn,

Wow, thanks for sharing your experiences with MFs!

I will have to look for Fafard 3B potting mix. Thanks for that tip!

It would be fun to set up a small factorial growing experiment with MGs evaluating container size and use of MF on some quantitative factor of MG growth and productivity (perhaps seed production?). Unfortunately I don't have that kind of real estate for having multiple plots of pots of MGs. Maybe it would be fun just to do an extension-style demonstration growing.

I found my book I was reading a year ago, titled Teaming with Microbes. They make a good case for use of quality surface-applied compost to establish either the MF or beneficial bacterial populations. That might be the least expensive way to go for MG gardening. The rooting MF inoculum can be pricey.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2009 at 1:05PM
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I've heard that adding black strap molasses to virgin soil is a great way to encourage beneficial microbial growth. You do have to till the soil prior to adding the molasses and I'm not sure how long you are supposed to wait before planting. I've never tried it but it could be an interesting experiment.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 11:27AM
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I added the molasses when brewing up compost tea. The bacteria must find it a very usable growing medium.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2009 at 12:10PM
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