Hi. We’ve been using fungally dominated compost and mulch in our garden for years, and we’ve done so without ever purchasing any compost or mulch products. Today I’ll show you how, but first let’s talk about the difference between bacterially dominated compost and fungally dominated compost. Here we have a hot compost pile, made from leaves, garden waste, and used coffee grounds, that has been cooking along at about 140 degrees Fahrenheit for the last few weeks. Hot compost like this typically has about 25 to 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen, , and though fungi play a part in the decomposition process, bacteria play a more dominant role thanks to high nitrogen ingredients like coffee grounds. You can make fungally dominated compost, on the other hand, simply by increasing the carbon to nitrogen ratio. As a rule, the higher the carbon to nitrogen ratio is, and the coarser the material is, the more dominant fungi will be in the decomposition process and the longer it will take. For example, here is what I call our slow, or lazy, compost pile, which has been the source of most of our fungally dominated compost over the years. I add mostly brown, but some green, ingredients to the pile without even considering the carbon to nitrogen ratio. I also add large amounts of woody material, including chopped up tree branches, twigs, and leaves. This lazy approach, combined with the inclusion of woody material, almost always results in a carbon to nitrogen ratio well above 30 to 1. The lower level of nitrogen doesn’t support as much bacterial activity, so the pile doesn’t heat up as much and decomposes more slowly. Fungi, however, prefer the lower temperatures. They also have enzymes to break down the leaves and twigs, and prefer them as a food source. As a result, fungi flourish and we end up with fungally dominated compost in about 6 months to a year, with some sifting required. If I didn’t mind waiting longer, I could make fungally dominated compost with no high nitrogen inputs. For example, I could build a large pile of leaves, which have a carbon to nitrogen ratio of roughly 50 to 1, and in a couple years I’d have leaf mold, which is an excellent fungally dominant soil amendment. I could do the same thing with wood chips, which have an even higher carbon to nitrogen ratio, and would take even longer to break down -over 3 years in our climate. Adding fungally dominated compost to the garden will increase the number and diversity of fungi in the soil. These fungi will help break down organic matter and make nutrients available to plants. The compost will also support the growth of mycorrhizal fungi, which supply plant roots with nutrients and water. While this is true of all high quality compost, some claim that fungally dominated compost better supports mycorrhizal fungi than bacterially dominant compost. However, more research is needed to confirm this. Now, let’s get back to the time it takes to make fungally dominated compost. Understandably, some of you may be thinking you’d rather buy a product than to put in all that time and effort. Well, I have some good news for you. Fungally dominated compost is not necessary in your garden. In fact, there are free alternatives that will better support mycorrhizae – specifically, high carbon mulches like leaves and wood chips. Coarse wood chips, in particular, are especially effective in that they provide an excellent food source and habitat for mycorrhizal fungi. In Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott’s article “Mycorrhizae – So, what the heck are they, anyway?”, she offers some practical advice on cultivating mycorrhizae, which includes the following: “Coarse organic mulch is a good reservoir for [mycorrhizal] spores, and litter type affects mycorrhizal diversity. Try to use a mixed mulching material, such as arborist wood chips, which will help reduce nutrient runoff and leakage.” And as I mentioned, leaf mulch is also an excellent fungally dominated mulch. According to “Teaming with Microbes”: “Fungi can … extend up into the leaf litter on the surface of the soil, decay leaves, and then bring the nutrients back down into the root zone – a huge advantage over bacteria, the other primary nutrient recycler in the soil food web.” In addition, mulches also support other beneficial soil organisms like earthworms, which will consume the decaying material and deposit nutrient-rich castings in their wake. So, I hope this video has given you food for thought on how you can increase fungal diversity in your soil and support mycorrhizae without purchasing any products. To hear Stephen Legaree address some of the fungally dominated compost product claims, please follow this link or the one in the description below. Well, that’s all for now. Thank you very much for watching, and until next time remember you can change the world one yard at a time.