One of the assertions in Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke is the difference between the soil in a forest and the soil in a field is the amount of fungus. Fields have more bacteria in the soil since bacteria are better at breaking down tender green plant matter. Fungus is more prolific in forest soil, since many fungi are decomposers that can break down the lignin and cellulose in wood and leaf litter. So one of my soil-building projects is to introduce as many kinds of fungus into the new food forest soil as possible.
Introducing fungi is easy- just add rotten logs! I’ve been scouting my neighborhood and random roadsides for big punky logs and using them as edging. The food forest right now is some fruit trees planted into very deep rough chipped mulch. Introducing the fungus right up against the mulch speeds the breakdown of the chipped mulch into soil, in addition to building the soil under the mulch.
And it’s already working! Here are some mushrooms that just popped up over the weekend. These are mushrooms I’ve never seen before in my yard, so I’m hoping these are new varieties I’ve introduced.
Eventually I want to grow edible mushrooms, so this experiment is fulfilling several stacked functions:
Showing me where conditions are best for growing mushrooms
Inoculating the soil with new fungi thereby increasing soil biodiversity
Inoculating the mulch with new fungi thereby hastening the breakdown into soil
Providing attractive edging of my various beds for free
Providing overwintering habitat for insects, spiders, and reptiles
I’m going to continue adding logs for the rest of the winter all over the yard. My kids think I’m crazy but I hope they finally believe that all of this work is worth it when we are harvesting our first peaches and plums.