Sunday, 23 June 2019

Magic mushroom compost

I recruited another older sister Louise to help me pile some mushroom compost into our gardens. A mushroom wholesaler was giving away free old mushroom compost/spawn on TradeMe, so even though we had to go all the way to Stanmore Bay in Whangaparoa, we pitched in and secured a car load of magical mushroom compost, so good for our garden beds. The bonus was there were pine needles there too so we piled in bags of pine needle for mulch.

What the mushroom compost does is not just good compost and bulk for the soil but contains a substance called mychorhizzal fungi that attaches to plants roots and works in symbiosis with the plant to form a vast network, kind of like a plant's facebook or social media network to exchange water,  food and nutrients that the roots can't access just on their own. They also bind heavy metals in the soil and decontaminate polluted areas, bringing barren areas to life.

A book called Mycelium Running, by Paul Stamets is  famous in Permaculture circles. It explains just how essential fungi is to life on this planet. Mycelium, or what we know and see as mushrooms, could literally save the planet. And it all happens underground. Some mycelium networks  or fungi can be four miles wide, making it largest single living organism one earth.

I've always liked mushrooms, the grower said he was growing Shitake mushrooms, which I know as Chinese Dried Mushrooms but other people call them by their Japanese name. They are delicious in soups and stir-fries, a boon for vegetarians - they are actually neither plant not animal. And they grow on rotting wood, in the wild they are found in forests. A gourmet food that every chef worth their salt ought to be familiar with.

I got home and piled the mushroom compost on my new garden bed, which is now marked out, with another edging of mondo grass. I've covered it with some plastic trellis to prevent Martha from digging it up all over the path, and will let it sit over winter to settle and rot down for planting in spring. Although I might not be able to resist planting at least a few plants..but I'm thinking I might need some cloches if I want to put any cabbages in. Old light shade fittings from the Op shop might do, or empty hanging baskets placed upside down.

Louise offered me a spare bag of sheep pellets which I sprinkled liberally and I used up the last of my dolomite lime. Its kind of fun like making a lasagna or layer cake to build a garden bed. I'm much better at gardening than baking. My baking makes the kitchen a complete mess so I don't do it much, although I have freedom while mum is away to cook whatever I like....

Some seeds I sowed today by the fence line were packets of Keith Hammett's sweet peas, 'Solstice Rose Pink' and 'Sweet Pea Blue Shift'. Hoping they will be in glorious bloom by November.
The Te Atatu Floral Circle held its 55th Anniversary celebration on Saturday, which was a fancy high tea. It was gorgeous, and I'm thinking I might visit the Chapel one Sunday because they always hold their meetings there, so surely they won't be averse to gardens and gardeners like St Giles were. They even have a community garden in their churchyard growing veges and a fruit and vege stand to swap produce. It's a shame I don't live on the Peninsula though, I need to find a church closer to home that will welcome gardeners. Or I could just carry on at the Baptist which I sadly have been neglecting. I have my eye on an empty garden bed just crying out for flowers. If nobody steals the flowers this time (won't plant poppies) I might just secretly do it.

I learned if you tell someone you want to do something or ask they just say you can't do it. The other alternative is they just rip out what you did or tell you to remove it, but maybe they can't if they don't even know you did it. Guerilla's like grafitti. But with plants.