Here’s something you may or may not know about your soil: it can contain BILLIONS of bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms; all within just a single teaspoon. Most of these microorganisms are things that you want in your soil… they can form beneficial relationships with the plants you’re trying to grow!
So, what is inoculant? It’s a specific type of beneficial microorganism that attaches and lives on the roots of legumes, such as peas and beans. Legumes have the unique ability to form a symbiotic relationship with certain types of naturally occurring rhizobium soil bacteria. In return for the plant feeding the rhizobia carbon from photosynthesis and giving it a home, the bacteria can “fix” atmospheric nitrogen into a form that the plant can use. After colonizing the roots, the rhizobia soil bacteria encourages the formation of protrusions on the roots, called ‘nitrogen nodules’, where the transformed nitrogen is stored and used by the plant. Meanwhile, the plant provides food in the form carbohydrates to the bacteria.
Why and when would you use inoculant? Most soils do not contain large amounts of this specific bacteria, if any, and by using inoculant when you plant your seeds it increases the health and yields of pea and beans crops. It is especially good to introduce these beneficial microorganisms to your garden if you have never grown peas or beans in an area before, or if it has been a few seasons since you last grew these crops in the soil.
How should you use inoculant? There are two ways to use inoculant; in each method, the inoculant needs to be as close possible to the root area of the crop.
For the first method, lightly moisten the seed and mix the inoculant around with the seed. Some people use a sticking agent, like molasses or honey, to help the inoculant adhere to the seed better.
First, mix in your sticking agent with a bit of water.
Then, add your beans or peas and coat well with the sticking agent and water mixture.
Add a substantial amount of inoculant to the mix. You want to make sure that your seed is well coated. There isn’t really a situation where you can use too much inoculant, so make sure you really coat all the seed.
Keep the inoculated seed out of the sun and use within a few hours.
For the second method, make a furrow for your seeds in the soil, then shake the inoculant into it generously. Next, sow your seed into the furrow and water well. You can’t use too much inoculant, especially if you haven’t planted any pea or beans before in the soil. Just make sure you don’t use too little. Make sure to water immediately after planting.