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Learning From Fungi in a Garden


Good gardeners don't just learn about their gardens, they learn from them. Often, the animals, plants and other organisms around us have lessons to teach us – not just about how to garden, but more generally, about how to live our lives.


The Importance of Fungi in a Garden

Without fungi, we simply would not be able to garden as we do. So many of the processes on which we depend as organic gardeners cannot function without a healthy population of a range of different fungi. 

The strands of fungal hyphae spread out through the soil, working between soil particles and solubilising nutrients to make them available for uptake by plant roots. 

The unbroken chains of fungal growth spread through the rhizosphere, binding the soil together and transporting water and nutrients to where they are required. And other fungi help us in our gardens in other ways – breaking down organic matter, and performing other beneficial functions. 

But fungi not only help us in purely practical terms. We can learn from them too, and gain lessons for our own lives by the ways in which they operate.


Learning How to Collaborate From Mycorrhizae

Specialist fungi, called mycorrhizae, work by forming symbiotic relationships with plants – effectively increasing exponentially the surface area of their root mass. They gain what they need by co-operating with organisms very different to themselves. 

The ways in which these fungi interact with plants can help us to see the benefit in collaborating and co-operating – even with those who are very different to ourselves and with whom we might not always share an ideology or belief system. 

In our society, we often forget what we share and focus on the areas where we do not necessarily agree. We tend to think of 'others' when we should remember that really, we are all in this together. 

Like fungi, individually, we are small. But together, working in harmony, we can achieve great things, overcome our challenges, and bring about all the changes we wish to see. 

Just as fungi exponentially expand the reach of a plant's root system, so too community can expand the reach of the individual far beyond what they would be capable of on their own. 

So when we take steps to reach out, to form community where we live, and globally, looking at the big picture, we can be like fungi and improve our own lives, and the lives of others in our ecosystems. 

Just because we cannot talk to fungi, and don't usually even see them, that does not mean that we cannot learn from them when we spend time thinking about our gardens. So the next time you are spending some time outdoors, think about what all the organisms around us can teach us about ourselves, and about how to live our lives.



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