When Mark Bildsten, owner and president of Bildsten Landscape Services, was asked to participate in a mycorrhizae trial at the 2017 Cultivate trade show, he saw it as an opportunity to differentiate his business and solve one of his company’s most persistent problems.

The Columbus, Ohio, landscape company handles many typical landscaping tasks, but also operates its own greenhouse. A small staff of growers produces annuals and perennials, many of which are used for Bildsten’s lucrative municipal hanging basket jobs.

Those jobs are challenging because the heat and humidity of July and August lead to mildew problems in larger hanging baskets.

During the trial, Bildsten’s greenhouse crew was able to draw two main conclusions. First, the plants that had been inoculated with MycoApply mycorrhizal products were more efficient water users. Second, they noticed a much larger root mass on plugs that had been dipped in MycoApply.

“If I can produce a plant that will be more tolerant and more resilient and we’re not struggling on the maintenance end with those plants to make them hold up well… it’s money well spent,” Bildsten says.

For the 2018 growing season, Bildsten decided to treat every plug his operation produced with MycoApply. So far, the improvements he saw in the 2017 trial are visible on a much larger scale.

“I look at my product out in the municipalities that we do, and there’s a marked difference between what we saw last season and this season,” he says. “I have to attribute a lot of that growth to the mycorrhizae going in.”

The ability to thrive on less-frequent watering is crucial for the perennials that end up in those municipal hanging baskets, Bildsten says. Instead of falling into a midsummer decline, the baskets stay in an active vigor state. They are able to tolerate more stress from a lack of water and rebound more easily, he says.

“The bottom line in my book is that I’m able to give my client and users a better product,” Bildsten says. “I’m able to weather the conditions that we’ve had given to us with the extremely hot June and July. For the money that was invested, it’s a small cost to do what we did to help give us that extra insurance on the crop and our end results.”