Years ago, before the Internet, Mother Earth News magazine was my main source of gardening information. They have decades of free articles online, which in my opinion is a remarkable treasure trove. The following article is just a sample.
“Nurture the ancient, symbiotic relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and plants’ roots for increased garden harvests and healthier soil.
We still define natural habitats primarily in terms of plants and animals, the two kingdoms of life we can see with unaided eyes. The greatest amount of biological activity and the largest diversity of species and genes, however, come from the other four kingdoms science now recognizes: bacteria, archaea (a less-studied division of life-forms formerly considered bacteria), protists (mostly single-celled algae and protozoans), and fungi. The vast majority of these members are microscopic in size. They cannot be seen with the naked eye, but we now know they permeate soils and suffuse waters. They drift en masse through air. They thrive not only on the surface of every plant and animal, but within them as well. From the upper reaches of the atmosphere to the bottom of the seas, down into the rock layers and outnumbering the stars in the known universe, microbes are literally the creatures that make Earth a living planet.
… the mycelium becomes an auxiliary root system that’s in contact with a subterranean volume of soil from several hundred to 2,500 times greater than what the plant could reach alone.
… Mycorrhizae, not plant roots, are the principal structures for most nutrient uptake in the plant kingdom.
… mycorrhizal fungi numbers can decline for lack of live roots to colonize. Douds advises avoiding empty beds by keeping plants, whether food crops or cover crops growing at all times… Douds’ favorite, hairy vetch.
How to Promote the Plant-Mycorrhizae Partnership
• Minimize soil tilling
• Always keep live plants in your beds, even in winter
• Rotate crops within your beds
• Avoid pesticides and chemical fertilizers
• Avoid applying too much phosphorus; a soil test every few years is a good idea”
[Plus keep the soil covered with mulch.]
More at the source: Mother Earth News