Pro-biotics for your plants! Talking microbes and mold with Dr. Bethke

by Ashley Mariani January 20, 2017

In December, soil scientist Dr. Chuck Bethke came to PittMoss HQ to school us on the chemical, physical, and biological properties of PittMoss. Here he is describing why PittMoss has incredible water holding capacity: 

Dr. Bethke stops by to PittMoss HQ to describe why PittMoss is a unique growing media
One of the most interesting topics was around some green or white matter developing in our product when it was bagged and stored. At first, we were afraid this would turn off some customers and make them think that the product turned moldy and was not safe to use. We debated on whether or not we should research and develop a formula to stop this from happening. Dr.Bethke settled that argument pretty quickly, asserting that "if our mission is to develop the best growing media available, then we have to embrace our little green friends and educate our customers to do the same!" 
Here is a follow up Q&A with Dr. Bethke about his love of our "little green friends". 

PittMoss (PM): Green Material in PittMoss – What is it? 
Dr. Bethke (DR. B): These are our “Little Green Friends”©. Rich growing media will quickly produce plant growth when nutrients, moisture, and light are provided at warm temperatures. The quickest and simplest of plants is blue green algae. Over the years algae growth has been an indicator of nutrient rich soil and water. Algae requires only low levels of oxygen and will even develop in closed bags when exposed to light. While the growth of algae may be unsightly it is a good and early indicator of healthy natural soil free of growth inhibiting chemicals. Some people put the PittMoss package in a black plastic or brown craft bag to keep it in the dark to slow the development

PM: Is algae safe for people, pets, and plants? 
DR. B: Yes! Blue green algae is very safe and historically it has even been used as food. It should not be confused with the red algae that can develop in oxygen depleted water and is referred to as the red tide. Algae on the soil helps provide natural enzymes which make the slowly available nutrients more available to plant roots. Plants thrive in growing media that is rich in algae.

PM:  Why does PittMoss stimulate the green growth? 
DR. B: The algae is more readily stimulated in PittMoss because of the naturally rich nutrients in that soil amendment. A combination of three factors provided by Pittmoss; excellent nutrition, good supplies of water, and ample oxygen when combined with warmth and light will result in rapid development of blue green algae in any non-toxic growing mix.

PM: What should I do if I see a lot of these “Little Green Friends”© (as you call them) growing on my mix? 
DR. B: Stir up your growing media to distribute them throughout your mix. Then they will be more uniformly distributed to do their work. If buried and out of the light it will not grow until they see more light. Also if the surface of the mix dries regularly they will be less visible. Be sure to water your plants less frequently as the PittMoss has a remarkability to provide water to all plants including our “Little Green Friends”©. If you wish to kill them you can treat your growing mix with a strong chemical fungicide. 

PM: Should I be alarmed if I don’t see the “LITTLE GREEN FRIENDS”©?
DR. B: Do not be alarmed if you have no green growth. Two environmental conditions are needed in addition to the properties in the PittMoss. Warm temperatures and sufficient light over time. To test for the presence of live and viable “LITTLE GREEN FRIENDS”© put one to two inches of PittMoss in a tray and moisten thoroughly but do not flood or over saturate. Then cover with a clear plastic wrap and place in indirect sunlight. For 2 to 3 weeks. Avoid direct light as excess heat from the sun will limit their growth.

Ashley Mariani
Ashley Mariani


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