Time and tolerance are the best answers when mushrooms
mar the lawn
In the past two years, I have had toadstools popping up
all over my yard. I have called landscapers, gardeners and nursery
personnel to see what I could do about this problem. I have my lawn
sprayed for weeds, bugs, fertilizer, etc. The answers I have
received go from 'do nothing' to 'redo your lawn after digging
everything up.' I am in a quandary as to what I can do as I have a
beautiful lawn except for those darned toadstools.
Toadstools are types of mushrooms, and wet years like this one
are banner years for mushrooms. That's because wet years are good
for fungus growth, and mushrooms are the reproductive bodies that
fungi produce when they have energy to spare.
The fungus that's interrupting your greenery is probably one
that decomposes wood. It may be growing on dead and injured tree
roots. Such fungi are always present in the soil but multiply when
they have more fuel and moisture. That's why we see mushrooms after
we cut down a tree.
There isn't any practical answer. For instance, digging to
remove all woody roots from an area can work but it means
excavating a huge area a couple of feet deep. In addition, such
digging would destroy live roots, too, killing or injuring any
trees in the vicinity.
I guess you figure there must be an easier way, perhaps a
chemical solution. Forget it. Even if you could sterilize the soil
to kill all the fungus in it, you shouldn't want to. Fungal threads
are one of the primary binders of soil particles. They create that
crumbly soil where air and water flow freely and roots thrive.
Fungi are also critical to decomposition. Without them, dead plant
and animal matter would remain intact, and accumulate -- think of
the clean up work we'd have to do. Even more important, think of
all the nutrients tied up in dead organic matter that would never
be returned to living plants.
Mushrooms don't harm a lawn, only our sensibilities. Mow them
when they appear. When the wood that's fueling their production is
gone, the toadstool show will slow and then end.
In this past week, something has been stripping the bark
off my maple and beech trees. These are small to medium trees,
eight to ten inches in diameter. We noticed the piles of bark
strips, about an inch wide and three or four inches long, beneath
the trees. Several areas have been stripped bare, even girdling
We have a small area of natural woods along our back
yard and have already lost ten trees, and now these. Are squirrels
doing this? Can we save these trees? How can we prevent this from
happening? We have been here for seven years and have never seen
this stripping before.
No one knows why, we just know squirrels do tear bark from
trees. The squirrels may lick the wood they bare, as if they are
thirsty or enjoy the taste of sap. But many reliable witnesses have
documented long bouts of stripping without any feeding activity. My
own opinion is that squirrels just have it too easy. Bored and
lacking anything better to do, they peel bark. Perhaps if there
were fewer bird feeders so squirrels had to work for a living, we'd
see less of this.
It's nearly impossible to keep a squirrel out of a tree, or to
protect the trunk and branches of those they do climb. Which is
why, when squirrels in botanical gardens and arboreta start
stripping bark, they are trapped, relocated or executed.
Time to clean up summering-out houseplants
You have asked if soap spray is good to use on houseplants
before bringing them in from their vacation on the porch, whether
it will knock off mites and insects.
It's good to clean your plants regularly, indoors or out. It
removes dust so leaves work more efficiently and mites find it less
hospitable, it knocks off insects and eggs, and it makes the plant
look great. However, a one-time cleaning makes little difference in
the long haul, whether it's February and you're cleaning a
housebound hoya or late September and you're hosing off a bay tree
before it comes in for the winter.
I don't do special pest control on my plants when I bring them
indoors. They are in peak condition from fresh air and good light,
able to produce their own insecticides and miticides. I just hose
them off and bring them in.
For plants with problems, indoors or out, I add a presoak to
bath day. I move the plant out of the direct light, cover the soil
in its pot with plastic wrap, then spray with a Murphy's Oil Soap
solution -- two tablespoons in a half gallon of water. I coat both
sides of every leaf and double spray the tight places where leaves
join stems. After the plant sits for fifteen minutes, I hose it off
with a strong stream of water.
Green thumbs up
to the spicy scent of summersweet (Clethra alnifolia),
the shrub that brightens shady areas in early August and loves
Green thumbs down
to blaming anyone or anything for the mildew that ruined your
cosmos or phlox. It's been rainy. Mildew happens. Get over it.
Originally published 8/21/04