May 27, 2020

Billions and Billions: Boost of Bacteria Give Legumes a Leg Up

What you get when you buy soil inoculant in granular form

Janine Pineo Photo | What you get when you buy soil inoculant in granular form

• By Janine Pineo •

It sounds like mad science: Sprinkle a bunch of granular specks in the rows where you plant your peas or beans and they will grow better.

But these aren’t just any specks. These are live bacteria that will take nitrogen out of the atmosphere and convert it into a form the legume seed can use to grow bigger, better, stronger, making it able to create its own nitrogen in a delightful cycle that then fixes nitrogen back into the soil for other plants next year.

Oh, and it helps it all produce more of a crop.

The most common soil inoculant is a mixed bag of bacteria beneficial to a variety of legumes, although most note that they will not help soybeans, which has its own variety.

There are a couple of ways you can apply this type of inoculant. The most readily found seems to be the kind you sprinkle along the row as you plant. Depending on how much you plan to sow, you can purchase a small bag that will do about 40 feet or a can with a sprinkle top that will do 150 feet.

How much do you sprinkle in the row? The key here is to sprinkle, not dump the works. So think of it like peppering your mashed potatoes: a gentle shake as you move along the row.

The other way to apply the inoculant is where you moisten the seeds and then toss them with the inoculant to coat them. These then need to be planted immediately.

One year I ran out of inoculant and I noticed a difference in the plants that didn’t get their shot of bacteria. They didn’t have the same oomph, produced over a shorter time and the plants were less than robust. Coincidence? Maybe. But I haven’t let that happen again.

Sources with inoculants for sale

We are giving away peas, beans and beneficial bacteria: Click here for our Awesome April Giveaway 2013.