Plants Can Benefit From Probiotics, Just Like Us by Dan Nosowitz on July 20, 2015

If you’ve seen a yogurt commercial or read a wellness blog in the past few years, you may have noticed that probiotics—helpful bacteria—are breaking through to the mainstream.

Probiotics have been advertised as a treatment for everything from allergies to digestive issues to, amazingly, social anxiety. New research indicates that we might not be the only ones to benefit from probiotics, though: a study from the University of Washington suggests that plants might grow bigger and stronger with a dose of bacteria as well.

Friendly bacteria in humans, mostly located in the gastrointestinal system, can have all kinds of effects, breaking down foods and chemicals and turning them into nutrients and compounds that can be more easily or efficiently absorbed by the body. In plants, they work a little bit differently, and are not very well understood.

Past research shows that all plants have what are called endophytes, basically the plant version of probiotics. Endophytes can be bacteria or fungi, and by definition are, at the very least, harmless. (Harmful bacteria or fungi would be classified as some sort of parasite.) But we know hardly anything about how the relationship between the endophyte and the plant itself works.

Older research has focused on endophytes found in little nodules attached to the roots of plants. It’s known that the endophytes in these nodules sometimes serve a similar purpose for plants that probiotics do for us: the endophytes turn a key element for growth, in this case nitrogen, into a form more easily absorbed by the plant. Nobody’s quite sure how they get there (guesses include an early presence in the seed and movement through the environment), and their behavior is mostly a mystery.

The new research takes a huge step forward by finding endophytes elsewhere in the plant body. Working with poplar and willow trees at first, the team, led by Sharon Doty of the University of Washington, found endophytes in leaves, stems and the roots themselves, not just in the nodules attached to the roots.

In a paper published by the American Society of Agronomy, Doty and her team not only isolated these endophytes, but extracted them and transferred them to an entirely different plant species: rice. This is where things get interesting, and possibly groundbreaking, in terms of agriculture, because the rice given a booster shot of endophytes grew fuller and stronger root systems, even though the amount of nitrogen in their greenhouse home soil hadn’t changed.

This is a huge leap forward, because it allows plants to make better use of limited nitrogen in their environment. Nitrogen is the great problem in plant nutrition; nitrogen-based fertilizers can have a really nasty effect on the environment, and by giving the plant a sort of life hack to make the most of the nitrogen it has, we could potentially decrease the amount of nitrogen fertilizer we have to use.

Who knew? Looks like plants aren’t so different from us, after all.

Image via Flickr user Noelle

If you have a garden, a wooded lot, a compost pile, or a sunny area where you can't plant vegetables, you can grow King Stropharia.

Fungi Garden Workshops

This mushroom can perennialize and take resident in your garden soil, coming back year after year if it can find a source of hardwood chips to feed on. King Stropharia tastes earthy, like asparagus cooked in a splash of wine, meaty and delicious. Both the cap and the stem are edible, so don’t trim and toss the stem like other mushrooms! It is called King Stropharia because the mushrooms can get very large, but they are best to eat when young and firm, when the caps are tight to prevent bug infestation.

King Stropharia (Stropharia rugoso-annulata), also called the “Garden Giant” or “Wine Cap” mushroom, is very good at cleaning soil and water as well. Our chicken house has King Stropharia mycelium threaded through the soil all around it, eating woodchips and straw bedding, forming a mycoremediation barrier for reducing and eliminating coliform bacteria.

Our gardens also have King Stropharia colonizing and enhancing the soil, building and binding the soil together for the plants, unlocking minerals for them, and attracting earthworms that will also contribute their valuable castings to the area.

If you don't have a garden, and would like to grow these in your house, just buy one of the 5 lb sawdust spawn bags, open it up upon receipt, and top it with some moist potting soil, about 1 inch deep, close the bag back up with a clothes pin, or some staples, so the moisture is preserved, mist often and then wait. As soon as you see buttons emerging from the soil, mist them to keep moist, so they don’t dry out and shrivel up. One of the easiest mushrooms to grow indoors!

Bokashi composting how to - Time To Recycle

Bokashi Composting

A fast, easy way to compost ALL of your food scraps.

Bokashi is an anaerobic (no air) decomposition process. It is fermentation, think "pickles," "wine," or "yogurt."  It is simple to do, provides fast results, puts off little to no smell, and can be convenient for all homes. You can compost all of your food scraps right in your own kitchen, garage, or patio. Bokashi means "Fermented matter" in Japanese and has been practiced by farmers in Japan for centuries. Only recently has Bokashi made it's way to the U.S.

Composting In Your City

Where do you live?

Cities are always updating their information. Please check back if you do not find information for your community.

Bokashi VS Bio-digester

While the end result is similar, there are several key differences between the Bokashi method and the Bio-digester method. The main difference is that Bokashi uses beneficial microbes, or living microscopic celluar organisms, while traditional composting uses heat and soil microbes to break down plant matter. The Bokashi method allows you to compost all of your food scraps, and not just the plant based food waste. This results in higher quality compost that has more nutrients and beneficial microbes for your soil.

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Growing Gourmet Mushrooms at Home from Waste Coffee Grounds

"Tried growing mushrooms before, and it didn't work" – if I had money for every time someone has said that to me I'd be a very rich man...and probably no longer a mushroom farmer! Mushrooms are notoriously unreliable to grow, partly due to the mass-produced low quality kits that people often try. Almost mystical organisms, they seem to pop up in the wild in an unpredictable way, often only appearing for just 5 or 6 days before vanishing back into the ground again, not to be seen in the same spot for another year or three. Yet, despite a poor reputation amongst home growers, by using a particularly simple technique and getting a bit of insight into how mushrooms grow, it is possible to successfully grow your own gourmet mushrooms at home. So how exactly are mushrooms cultivated? How can you have success at home? And more to that point - what's all this got to do with waste coffee grounds?

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The secret delights of going to seed


The beans and carrots are tender and sweet; the tomatoes plump on the vine; the bees are a-hummin' around fragrant herbs and flowers: Summer's ripe and ready on time.

But wait a sec before you gather every last flower into big luscious bouquets and harvest all those sweet fruits and veggies for your dining delight. Jesse Fromowitz would be first in line to encourage you to let a few of those happy, healthy plants go to seed, then save those bitty seeds, and do it again and again.

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How to Make a Herb “Spiral” in Your Garden and Change Your Relationship with Food | One Green Planet

Fresh herbs are easy to forget about if you’ve never had them. They go bad quickly and they are much more expensive. When cooked, they don’t really offer much more than their dried equivalents. Consequently, I learned to cook with little shakers of dried Italian seasoning mix and crispy bay leaves, and I like to think that, even so, my food turned out pretty tasty. However, a decade or more later, I’ve found myself in awe of the flavor and hidden powers of fresh herbs. I’ve ditched the shakers, and now raw herbs are featured in almost every meal I make.

The big difference started with gardening. In an attempt to start growing more of my own food, I decided to build something called an herb spiral just outside of my kitchen. The spiral idea came from permaculture and seemed so sensible, here’s why:

  • Plant things like herbs close to the kitchen, so you’ll actually use them. The area just outside your door should be filled with things — herbs, lettuce and salad fixings — that readily go into meals and can be harvested daily. You’re more likely to pick them rain or shine, and you’ll be more inclined to add an herbal kick to any meal.

  • Using the spiral design creates different microclimates. By constructing a raised-bed in a spiral shape, plants are afforded different climates to grow in: shady, sunny, well-drained, cooler, etc. It allows herbs that might otherwise not do well in such close proximity a chance to be friends. It also separates herbs that do grow well together. You can even change the soil in different sections of the spiral.

  • It looks awesome while it’s working for you. The bed slowly winds its way up to three or four feet high, with greenery popping up everywhere. Why would someone choose to have a patch of grass rather than a turret of flavor? The herb spiral will provide vitamins and minerals to every meal with very little maintenance; the patch of grass will require cutting every week while looking like any other yard.


New gardens provide seniors with fresh herbs and spices |

“Going green” can be tasty as well as environmentally sound.

Residents of Cedar Crest retirement community in Pompton Plains are finding that out by participating in the planting and tending of garden beds at the community, growing herbs and spices that are used in meals for the approximately 2,000 residents.

Sage, savory, marjoram, oregano, thyme, basil and parsley are just some of the plants that the seniors tend and harvest for use in the kitchen as well as being sold at the community’s monthly farmers market.

The program is part of Cedar Crest’s ongoing commitment to “green” awareness. In 2009, the community built a fuel conversion system that transforms 500 gallons of used cooking oil a month into fuel to operate its shuttle buses.

The retirement community is located at 1 Cedar Crest Village Drive in Pompton Plains, Pequannock Township.

In Britain, cities feed cities

Is it just me, or do you see the beauty in a well planned and well kept food garden?


A British vegetable garden

As Canadian enthusiasm for local food increases so does our interest in growing our own.  Fruits, berries, vegetables and of course herbs are all taking their place at the front and centre of the garden. In many cases we are integrating our food plants with the ornamentals and in other cases we are planting in containers to make them much more accessible.

What the British can teach us

If growing food on your balcony, rooftop or in your yard interests you I have no doubt that you will be interested in what the British have to teach us. During my recent tour of great public British gardens with my daughter, Heather, we discovered some nifty techniques for food gardening that I would like to share.,-cities-feed-cities/1