Kombucha For Your Plants Created By Local Mom

April 16, 2018 6:19am

In case you hadn’t heard, microbes rule the world as our tiny, yet all-powerful, overlords. Through complex networks of relationships, they boost or withhold health in us, in our plants, and for the planet.

Dr. Sarah Pellkofer, 34, was struck by those relationships in her Ph.D. studies in Switzerland, seeing how certain bacteria and fungi extended a plant’s root development and ability to take up and use key nutrients.

Her research – which tagged nutrients with dyes and followed their progress through the plants – showed her that the greater diversity of species living in the soil, the better the plants ate.

“It was real testament that we need more diversity in the ground. That’s what we would see in a forest or natural grassland. If you look in urban or heavily farmed soils, we don’t see that diversity,” she said.

Knowing that soils are depleted worldwide from chronic use of chemical fertilizers – which leave the soil weaker with each use – and from increased urbanization, Sarah began to look for a way to empower people to help the planet from the soil up.

“I wanted to give people the power to bring the soil back to life in their own backyards,” Sarah said.

After completing her Ph.D, Plant Probiotics was born in 2015 here in Seattle.  It’s already in nine Seattle shops.  Greenlaker met Sarah at her Northwest Flower and Garden Show booth where we learned she heads MicraCulture LLC out of her Wallingford home.

The overall idea isn’t new, Sarah points out – farmers have used bacteria on a larger scale to renew soil depleted from heavy-feeding crops for years.

She chose bacteria that are found in many environments around the world, and wanted to make it easy to use.

The product, which looks like espresso dust, comes in either a bag or a handy shaker. Each 2-ounce package covers 100 sq. feet of soil; it calls for a ¼ teaspoon per square foot.

That dust contains the building blocks of life for several beneficial bacteria and fungi, activated by adding water. You can use it on your outdoor plants, houseplants, or even to supercharge your compost pile – especially helpful in our heat-challenged climate. You can even use it hydroponically.

You can’t overuse it, Sarah says, and it will help any other amendment (like lime or kelp) be better absorbed.

How does it work? Sarah says it’s a win-win for the microbes and the plants. The bacteria gain sugar to eat, and in exchange help extend roots, fend off diseases and pests, and break down nutrients for the plants to digest.

She claims it can:

  • Double the ability of your plants’ ability to uptake nutrients (and fertilizer)
  • Decrease your water costs by improving plant’s water use
  • Remove pollutants and maintain your garden’s health safely without endangering the environment (like chemical fertilizer runoff does)

With mounting evidence that breathing spores from active soils is good for maintaining a healthy gut microbiome, healthier soils should help the gardener too.

If you want to learn more about how to harness the power of microbes, check out “The Hidden Half of Nature,” by David R. Montgomery and Anne Bikle – who, amazingly, also live in Green Lake.