4 Ways of Shredding Fall Leaves

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Photo: inhabitat.com

When fall hits and leaves start to drop off trees in droves, gardeners have to decide what to do with them. As a good citizen of planet Earth, I hope your decision will be to recycle them!

Leaves are often referred to as “gardener’s gold.” They are so rich in organic matter and minerals that they can easily replace expensive (and polluting) fertilizers. You can add them to your compost (or set a few bags of them aside for next year’s compost pile), you can apply them as mulch to your flower and vegetable beds (or you can mix them into an existing mulch), you can simply toss them into a wooded area, you can even leave them on your lawn if they’re not too thick, etc. What you don’t want to do is to just throw them away.

But if you want your leaves to decompose adequately, you’ll need to shred them first.

Big leaves, like these oak leaves, really need to be shredded before use. Photo: Alicja, pixabay

True enough, this is less of an issue for small leaves (leaves of black locust, crabapple, birch, etc.), but large ones (leaves of Norway maple, red oak, etc.) cause problems if they’re left intact. They tend to clump together to form an impenetrable barrier that the plants underneath have a hard time penetrating, for one thing. 

Plus, leaves that are left intact tend to blow around and annoy neighbors who might not be as eco-friendly as you are. Shredded leaves, by some miracle of physics, do not clump together, nor do they blow around (apply them, water once to settle them, and you’ll see what I mean). 

Oak leaves cause their own special problem: they are notoriously slow to decompose if you leave them as is. Chop them into tiny pieces and they change completely, decomposing in a matter of months.

And yes, you can use diseased fall leaves in the compost and as a mulch, in spite of where some authorities claim. Read here for more information on that subject.

4 Methods for Shredding Leaves 

1. Use the Lawn Mower

Mowing will chop up fall leaves. Photo: UK Turf

The easiest way to shred the leaves is to simply spread them on the lawn (if they are not there already) and mow them. Yes, with your lawn mower. Most lawn mowers today have mulching blades anyway: they’re designed for chopping leaves. The mower will shred your fall leaves into tiny little pieces, just the right size for the compost bin, for mulch or for leaving on the lawn! 

2. With a Leaf Blower

Leaf blowers in vacuum mode will chop up leaves quite nicely. This model will pick up an entire garbage can’s worth in short order! Photo: worx.com

If you have a leaf blower (also called a blower vac), just put it in vacuum mode and add the collection bag. Not only does it pick up leaves, it shreds them too. Afterwards, just pour the chopped leaves wherever you want them to go.

3. Try a String Trimmer

String trimmers make great shredders! Ill. Claire Tourigny, from the book Les 1500 trucs du jardinier paresseux

Pour the leaves into a large trash bin and insert a nylon string trimmer (weed whacker). Turn it on and raise and lower it as if you were making a leaf milkshake. The leaves will be cut into small bits, the perfect size for use in composting and mulch.

4. Snow Blow Your Leaves

Yes, you can snow blow leaves. Photo: 041x, YouTube.ca

It’s an innovative idea, but some people do use their snowblower to shred leaves. In fact, a powerful snow blower will shred piles of leaves in no time, much faster than any other tool. Just direct the blower chute where you want the leaves to go … and get to work!

Good shredding!

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Where Do Insects Go in the Winter?

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Ill.: photoshopcontest.com

In the summer, insects are everywhere: in your flower bed, buzzing around your head, squashed on the windshield of your car. Sometimes we appreciate them—buzzing bees that pollinate our flowers, beautiful butterflies, predatory insects like ladybugs that eat the nasty ones, etc.—, sometimes we loath them—the ones that eat our plants, bite us or try to climb into our ears. In all cases, though, they suddenly go missing in the fall, at least in temperate climates. Where do they go for the winter? And they certainly “go” somewhere, as when summer rolls in, they’re back.

Actually, insects and other arthropods have many different strategies for coping with the winter’s cold. Here are a few of them. 

1. Long-Distance Travel

Monarchs head for California and Mexico for the winter. Photo: medium.com

Some insects hightail it out of town before winter hits. The monarch butterfly (Danaus plexipplus) is the best-known example, largely because it migrates so visibly. But hundreds of other butterflies and moths migrate, notably the painted lady (Vanessa cardui), which travels up to 3 times farther than the monarch. Some grasshoppers and aphids migrate north and south, according to the seasons, as do many dragonflies. You could call these “snowbird insects,” as they mimic the migratory patterns of the “snowbirds”: Northerners who winter in Florida or Mexico and summer in coldest Canada or Alaska.

2. Just Succumb

The corn earworm moves north in the summer, but fatally forgets to head back south in the fall. Photo: http://www.cropscience.bayer.com.

Some insects migrate from mild climates to cold-winter ones in the summer, then simply die there when the cold hits: they don’t migrate back, at least not to any great degree. The corn earworm (moths of the genus Helicoverpa), also called the cotton bollworm and the tomato fruitworm, sometimes flies thousands of kilometers to summer fields in cold climates, annoying us by devastating our crops, but then simply dies when cold weather arrives. Not even the eggs it laid there survive. A new generation will arrive the following year, winging its way up from mild-winter areas again. Some aphids do the same. How this works as a survival strategy beats me, but that’s what they do!

3. Digging Down Deep

Some insects dig in (into the soil) for the winter. Photo: Bobbie Nuytten, pinterest.ca

Some insects migrate … downwards. They move deeper into the soil than frost can reach overwinter there. Many aquatic insects spend the winter at the bottom of their pond, where the water doesn’t freeze. Often, they’re not dormant, but simply in a state of quiescence, living off their reserves and patiently waiting for spring before they eat again.

4. Turning to Humans for Help

Asian ladybugs often move indoors for the winter. Photo: http://www.bbc.com

Human structures, being heated from the inside, are warmer than the environment around them and some insects have learned to take advantage of this. They move into spaces under siding or cracks in wood and spend the winter there in the relative warmth they find. Often, they leave pheromone markings to tell future generations where to hide. The Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis) famously moves inside homes, forming aggregations of hundreds and causing no end of annoyance to home owners. Read When Ladybugs Invade for more information on that phenomenon.

5. Hardy Survivors

Snow fleas actually thrive in snow. Photo: http://www.adirondackalmanack.com

Some insects remain active in the winter, often wandering about under the snow or in dense grass. They often have a type of antifreeze in their system that allows them to tolerate extreme cold. Some species of springtails, often called snow fleas, while not technically insects, thrive in the far north, often on living on glaciers. Check out the snow in your yard this winter wearing your strongest reading glasses and you’ll likely see tiny dark spots moving blithely about at subzero temperatures. Bingo!

6. A Deep and Frozen Sleep

The arctic woolly bear spends its winter frozen solid. Photo: Christy Doyle, http://www.eartharchives.org

This is one of the most popular strategies. Such insects often crawl into some sort of shelter (often seedheads or fall leaves) and go into something close to dormancy: a state called diapause. Yes, they may have a sort of insect antifreeze called glycerol in their blood, but often we don’t know exactly how they do it. The arctic woolly bear caterpillar (Gynaephora groenlandica) has been known to survive temperatures as low as -70 ˚C, literally freezing solid. Such insects essentially stay frozen all winter, then wake up in the spring and carry on like nothing had happened. Some of these tough insects overwinter as adults, others as larvae or pupae. 

7. Let the Next Generation Deal With It!

Of course, other insects lay eggs in the fall, occasionally out in the open, but most often in some sort of shelter (dead leaves, hollow plant stems, etc.). The adults then die, leaving the eggs to carry on and eggs can be very, very cold resistant. After all, don’t doctors successfully freeze human eggs, then implant them, producing perfectly healthy babies? Overwintering as an egg is a very popular strategy for winter survival.

Helping Beneficial Insects Through the Winter

Insects can be both helpful to humans, often feeding on insects that eat our crops, and harmful, eating those same crops … or us (mosquitoes, horseflies, etc.). To keep bad insect populations down, though, the best and most ecological strategy is to keep good insect populations up. And you can do a lot to help with that by protecting insect winter hiding places. These include: 

These may just look like dead leaves to you, but they look like home to many beneficial insects. Photo: Mokkie, commons.wikimedia.org

Leaf Litter: Leave those fallen leaves where they lie, or least keep them on your property. You can add them as mulch to your flower beds, dump them in wooded areas, put them in the compost, but don’t throw them away or burn them, or you’ll be severely reducing the winter habitat of many beneficial insects.

Tall grass: Don’t mow your entire lawn short in the fall. Leave sections tall over winter to provide shelter for beneficial insects.

Stems and Seedheads: Many insects overwinter in seedheads or on or in plant stems. Help them survive the winter by not cleaning up your flower and vegetable beds in the fall. So simple!

Compost Piles: Whether your compost is neatly stored in a bin or just a big heap, lots of beneficial insects and other arthropods (beetles, spiders, centipedes, etc.) enjoy the warmth and protection they provide.

Bumblebees overwinter underground. Photo: http://www.bumblebeeconservation.org

Soil: Many insects, including bumblebees, spend the winter underground. If possible, don’t disturb the soil in the fall, as that can let the cold sink to greater depths.

Dead Wood: Stumps, fallen trees, dead or hollow trees, they’re all great wintering places for a whole horde of insects. Plus many birds and mammals love a good dead or hollow tree as well. So if there is no serious reason for removing one, just let it stand… or lie, as the case may be.

The mourning cloak butterfly likes wood piles. Photo: AfroBrazilian, commons.wikimedia.org

Wood Piles: Very popular many insects, including some of the most beautiful butterflies, like the mourning cloak (Nymphalis antiopa).

Sheds and Structures: Insects often move into outbuildings to escape the chill. If there are a few gaps here and there, so much the better. Honeybees famously overwinter in human-made hives… or hollow trees.


Essentially, the more you leave your garden untouched in the fall, the healthier the beneficial insect population will be! So, when fall comes, just chill out, leaving your garden to fend for itself.

How to Spot and Eradicate Mold in Your Garden

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White mold on a bean plant. Photo: Howard Schwartz, http://www.growingproduce.com

A guest blog by Lucy Hope

Among the many possible strategies you can adopt to eliminate white mold in your garden, arguably the most important is never allowing it to grow in the first place. As noted in a study by scientists at Alberta’s Lethbridge Research Centre, white mold (or Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) is prevalent worldwide, and difficult to control. This is because when the spring and summer arise, the overwintering bodies of this species can germinate, releasing spores that can then infect damaged or old leaves. Keeping your garden is tip-top condition is arguably one of the most important steps you can take to keep the problem at bay.

Why Is White Mold So Sturdy?

White mold fungi form hard structures called sclerotia, which can survive in soil for over five years. In the spring and summer seasons, when temperatures hover between 51 and 68ºF (11-20ºC), they sprout into tiny mushrooms. These, in turn, produce spores that can travel large distances via the wind. Spores that land on damaged plant tissue can infect the plant, moving into the stem. The plant eventually dies, but new sclerotia are formed within the old tissue, and can survive in the soil, thus threatening other plants in turn.

What Does White Mold Look Like?

Sclerotia taken from white mold. Photo: ephytia.inra.fr

White mold looks fuzzy and almost cotton-like, and can be accompanied by tiny, dark sclerotia. It affects over 400 species of plants, and can therefore put the average garden plant at risk. The sclerotia themselves are small but easy to spot. They look a bit like a broken-off pencil tip, and are oblong or irregular in shape.

What Is – And What is Not – Sclerotinia sclerotiorum?

Before formulating a strategy to rid your home environment of mold, you need to differentiate between Sclerotinia sclerotiorum and other types of white mold. If you see a white growth on your garden shed doors, floors and other surfaces, it is a different species of mold that should be tackled by a professional. This is because white surface mold is harder to clean than typical black/green mold, which can easily be tackled with a mixture of vinegar and water. White mold on floorings and carpet may indicate that renovation is in order, though it is up to the professional to determine if these are salvageable. Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is limited to plants and garden produce, and should be treated in a very specific manner.

Ridding Your Garden of White Mold

White mold can look like a cottony growth on stems, leaves or fruits. Photo: Jymm, commones.wikimedia.org

To avoid white mold infecting your soil, choose plants that have an upright form, as they tend to dry more quickly than low-lying plants. Plants should have enough space and light between them, and drip or soaker hose systems should be used instead of sprinklers. If you spot any white mold, remove the infected plants immediately, using plastic sheets or barriers to ensure spores do not drop on adjacent plants while you are handling the infected plant. To be on the safe side, you might want to remove the soil beneath and immediately surrounding the plant, and replace it with new soil. Finally, consider filling your garden with very resistant plants, such as elephant ear, canna and ornamental reed or sedge. These are unlikely to provide white mold with the conditions it needs to thrive.

White mold is a prevalent problem in many gardens across the globe. To prevent its appearance in your garden, grow as many sturdy plant species as you can, and keep existing plants in optimal condition. Finally, be vigilant for signs of furry white moss and tiny black sclerotia, acting speedily if you spot these signs by quickly and cleanly disposing of the affected plant and (to be extra cautious) of the soil beneath it if possible.

The Bulb That Repels Squirrels

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Ill.: clipartbarn.com & flyclipart.com, montage: laidbackgardener.com

Squirrels are cute … when they’re not eating our freshly planted spring bulbs! And one way to keep them at bay is to plant bulbs of crown imperial (Fritillaria imperialis), also called imperial fritillary, nearby. Its skunky odor seems to either discourage squirrels, keeping them at a distance, or confuse them, preventing them from finding bulbs of tulips and crocuses they love to steal. In either case, you’re the winner!

It’s not just the bulbs that stink: the flowers and leaves that will sprout next spring do too. Not intensively, but still, you don’t want to plant this bulb too close to a window that you keep open in the spring or the unpleasant smell will waft in. Try keeping a distance of at least 3 feet (1 m) between your crown imperials and from any possible olfactory conflict.

Beautiful Plant, Stunning Flowers

Any squirrel-proofing that this bulb does is secondary to its beauty. No wonder Linnaeus gave it the name “imperialis!” Or that it picked up the common name of crown imperial. Many consider it to be the most beautiful of all the spring bulbs!

Crown imperial is a stunning garden plant! Photo: http://www.homedepot.com

It’s a big one, too. Around 30 to 40 inches (80 to 100 cm) tall: certainly, the tallest of the early spring bulbs. Its strong stalk is covered up to mid-height with smooth shiny ribbonlike green leaves, then a section of bare stem, green to purple, is visible. The stalk is then topped with a tuft of shiny green leaves, rather like a pineapple. Under this crown of leaves form large orange, red or yellow hanging bells. The effect is breathtaking!

Weird Bulb

This is what a crown imperial bulb looks like: the hole on the top is perfectly normal. Photo: iBulb.

The bulb is a large one, typically 7 to 9 inches (18 to 23 cm) in circumference, about the size of a baseball, and very odd-looking. It’s made up of swollen scales clustered tightly together. It has a basal plate with possibly a few dried roots underneath, but unlike better-known bulbs, doesn’t have a pointed tip. Instead, there’s a hole on top.

Also, there’s no papery tunic wrapped around it like a tulip or onion. Instead, its soft, fragile, creamy skin is exposed to the elements and gradually dries out over time when it’s placed on display in your local garden center. As a result, it starts to dry out and turn brown. This is one bulb that you should plant without too much delay, while its skin is still mostly cream-colored.

The crown imperial is not a cheap bulb, either. Its heaviness compared to other bulbs makes shipping pricey and the supplier needs to apply special storage methods beyond what other bulbs need. So, you’ll likely see it sold as an individual bulb, not in a 10-pack. If you have the money to do so, it looks its best in groups of 5 to 7 bulbs. For squirrel duty only, though, plant the bulbs about 4 feet (1.2 m) apart: that will keep squirrels away without costing too much. 

A Rather Demanding Bulb

There are several different cultivars on the market. Photo: http://www.homedepot.com

The crown imperial is not your typical easy-peasy, just-dig-a-hole-and-drop-it-in bulb, although a brief explanation seems quite typical of average bulb care: full sun, winter cold (hardiness zones 4 to 9), rich soil, good drainage, etc. But the secret to good results is that the drainage has to be not just good, but perfect. In areas where springs tend to be rather soggy, that can make things difficult. So, it will usually grow best in sandy soil, or on a slope or in a raised bed. Clay soils, which retain a lot of moisture, are really not going to do it!

I keep reading the same bit of useless advice about putting a layer of sand under the bulb “to ensure drainage.” Only someone who has good drainage would think that makes sense. If your drainage is poor, no matter how much sand you put under the bulb, the nearly impermeable soil all around won’t let excess water go anywhere; it will simply fill the sand with water. You have to make sure that the water can evacuate to somewhere else. 

Also, don’t plant the bulb upright, with the basal plate pointing down, but rather place it on its side. The top of the bulb being hollow, rainwater could accumulate inside if the bulb were upright and that would lead to rot. 

Finally, it’s a big bulb and needs an extra-deep planting hole, especially in colder climates: a good 10 inches (25 cm) deep. 

Few Predators

The crown imperial’s unpleasant odor not only keeps squirrels away at planting time, but, since leaves and flowers give off the same “fragrance,” it repels squirrels, deer, hares, groundhogs and other herbivores in the spring as well.

Scarlet lily beetle. Photo: David Nicholls, http://www.naturespot.org.uk

In fact, very few pests attack it. It really has only one enemy: the scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii). This bright red-orange beetle likes fritillaries as much as adores its cousins, lilies (Lilium spp.), yet in fact causes little damage to the crown imperial. It’s such an early bulb that it’s up and blooming before lily beetles begin feeding. (They seem to need a bit of warmth to stimulate their appetite.) That means the flowers are safe. Then, by the time they do begin to chow down on the bulb’s foliage, its leaves are already turning yellow, because the bulb is starting to go dormant, keeping actual harm from the beetle very low.

Well treated, a crown imperial can grow for decades in hardiness zones 4 to 9 and thus keep the squirrels away for a long, long time.


Beautiful flowers and protection against squirrels? Maybe the crown imperial is exactly the bulb you need! 

Why Don’t My Euphorbias Bloom?

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Yes, some euphorbias are very slow to bloom. Photo: hortology.co.uk & clipart-library.com, montage: laidbackgardener.blog

Question: I have a collection of succulents and most of them flower every year. But none of my euphorbias bloom. Why not?

Frustrated Succulentophile

Answer: Your lack of success getting euphorbias (Euphorbia spp.) to bloom is probably due to … your choosing the wrong plants! 

Among the 2000 or so species of euphorbia, there are some that bloom readily in the average home and others that will probably never bloom at all.

The crown of thorns (E milii) is easy to bloom. Photo: worldofsucculents.com

For example, the crown of thorns (E milii and its hybrid E. × lomi) is not hard to flower. In fact, it often blooms several months a year; under really good conditions, it will practically never be without some bloom.

Another that blooms readily is E. lophogona. In fact, it self-seeds in all the nearby pots in my plant room!

And what about the poinsettia, which is not a succulent, but is an euphorbia (E. pulcherimma)? As long as you give it short days in the fall, it will bloom faithfully at Christmas, at least in the northern hemisphere.

The baseball spurge (E. obesa) is another that blooms regularly, even if its flowers are relatively discreet.

Bigger Isn’t Better

Photos: plantsam.com & http://www.uhlig-kakteen.de

I suspect you’re growing some of the candelabra-type euphorbias, such as the African milk tree (E. trigona) and the milk spurge (E. lactea), two of the most popular indoor euphorbias.

Euphorbias that take this form, that of a small tree with an erect trunk and thick branches, are very slow to flower. You’re going to need a lot of patience—and space!—to see these bloom. Not only do they have a treelike shape, but they take on treelike dimensions. Often these species only flower at a very advanced age (20, 40 or 60 years old) or when the plant has reached a very large size -10 to 20 feet/3 to 6 m tall —, pretty much impossible to reach in the average home.

Also, be aware that, according to Wikipedia, the African milk tree (E. trigona) has never been known to bloom … and never is a very, very long time! (This plant is unknown in the wild and may be a hybrid; hybrids are often infertile or fail to bloom.)

Moreover, candelabra euphorbias are not the only candelabra succulents that are slow to flower. Most of the various candelabra cactuses (CereusAcanthocereusBrowningiaLophocereus, etc.) must also be large and fully mature to bloom. The famous saguaro cactus (Carnegia gigantea), with its big, thick arms, for example, has the reputation of not blooming before it reaches 75 years old!

The crested milk spurge (E. lactea cristata) is unlikely to bloom. Photo: vikisuzan, flickr.com.

Note too that crested succulents, that is, mutated ones with stems that grow in the form of a cock’s comb, are so severely deformed they are very likely to flower and several euphorbias have precisely this shape. That includes the very popular crested milk spurge (E. lactea cristata). I don’t know that it has every bloomed.

Euphorbias that are strongly variegated (marbled with albino tissue), too, can be very reluctant to bloom.

Best Conditions Possible

Of course, you still need to have the right conditions if you want to see any euphorbia bloom. Even a “euphorbia that blooms readily” needs a lot of light, even full sun, watering when the soil is dry, but not super dry, reasonable temperatures (very few enjoy cold winters), modest fertilization, etc. to be happy and only a “happy euphorbia” will flower.

But since you say that your other succulents are able to bloom, I suspect that you are giving your euphorbia adequate conditions. After all, euphorbias have about the same needs as a typical succulent.

So, my suggestion to you is to go out and buy a euphorbia specifically recognized for its ease of bloom. In fact, save yourself a lot of doubt and effort and buy it in bloom. And I don’t consider that cheating. Part of being a laidback gardener is always taking the easy way out! 

Garden Myth: Lime to Control Mushrooms

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A fairy circle of mushrooms or toadstools. Photo: Cropcircles, Wikimedia Commons

Do you have mushrooms (fungi) in your lawn, often especially abundant in the fall? Maybe they form a round called a fairy circle. Or a small colony here and there. Their presence can be annoying, but, to be honest, there is no easy way of getting rid of them.

Above all, don’t fall for the old garden myth that you can control mushrooms by liming the soil. That was debunked generations ago, yet is still being repeated, often by garden centers with lime to sell (who should be ashamed to lie so brazenly to their customers!).

Lime has no effect on lawn mushrooms. Photo: http://www.weedmanquebec.com

Behind the lime treatment is a common misconception: that the presence of fungi is linked with acid soil, but in fact, soil pH is not a factor at all. If it were indeed true, lime ought to work miracles. After all, it’s very alkaline. By applying it, you can raise the pH of the soil, making it more alkaline too. And then the mushrooms should disappear, except… 

Fungi are essentially indifferent to soil pH. They grow as readily in alkaline soil as neutral or acidic ones. Thus, by treating with lime, you’ll have wasted time and money … and perhaps also have made your soil unfit for cultivation for many years (the application of lime, if not applied very carefully, can have a pretty devastating effect on plantings).

Now, of course, the advantage to unscrupulous salespeople is that treatment can sometimes seem to work. After all, the mushrooms usually disappear after the treatment … but then, they would have disappeared anyway: most lawn mushrooms are very short-lived and soon disappear even if you do nothing at all. 

The proof of the effectiveness of any lawn mushroom treatment is whether they reappear or not the following year. And after a treatment with lime, they’ll be back: the treatment won’t even have slowed them down!

Mushrooms: Tolerance Is the Key

To be honest, the best thing to do when mushrooms sprout in your lawn is to ignore them. Or chop them down to mow them into temporary submission (a particularly wise choice if you have pets that might eat them). Actually eliminating them is very hard to do.

Here’s why:

What you see is when mushrooms pop up in your lawn are only the above-ground part of the fungus: the sporocarp, its fruiting body. It can be umbrella-shaped, oval, pointed, lumpy, etc. and can come in just about any color imaginable. The sporocarp emerges from underground specifically to release spores so that the mushroom can reproduce (remember that mushrooms grow from spores, not seeds). 

And you needn’t be concerned that these spores will germinate everywhere in your lawn like so many dandelions. The spores are very light and generally carried far away by the wind. Plus, fungus spores only germinate when the conditions are just right: not even one spore in a million actually forms a new colony of mushrooms.

The above-ground part of the mushroom is its sporocarp (fruiting body); the real mushroom is the threadlike mycelium found underground. Ill.: http://www.britmycolsoc.org.uk

The “real” fungus associated with a lawn mushroom, its vegetative body, lurks underground, out of sight, in the form of mycelium: a mass of branching, threadlike, often white hyphae. Only when the mycelium is well established and ready to reproduce does it produce one to many sporocarps. The mycelium can be vast, covering many square yards or meters. All the sporocarps in a fairy circle, for example, stem from a single underground fungus, like dozens of flowers rising from an underground plant.

Not Always Bad

Often, the same mushrooms that so annoy you when they pop up in your lawn are actually beneficial. 

They may be the sporocarps of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi that live in symbiosis with nearby plants, likely trees and shrubs, helping them better absorb minerals and moisture. Others are saprophytic mushrooms, that is, fungi that live on and digest dead wood, probably living off an old tree root or stump. And decomposing dead wood is a good thing!

Also, many of the sporocarps that grow in the gardens are edible … but to verify this, I recommend you contact your local mycological association, because others are poisonous. With literally thousands of species of fungus living in most regions, identification can be tricky.

Fungicides Are No Better

Garden fungicides don’t reach the underground mycelium, so have no effect on lawn mushrooms. Ill.: http://www.marketonweb.fr & http://www.pngguru.com

You’d think you could control mushrooms by applying a fungicide. After all, doesn’t fungicide mean “fungus killer?” But they’re designed to stop the spread of fungal diseases that occur on stems and leaves: mildew, rot, etc. In other words, on fungi with exposed mycelia. Mushrooms and toadstools not the fungus itself, just the sporocarps. The real fungus is underground, where fungicides can’t reach them. 

So trying to control lawn mushrooms with a fungicide is yet another a waste of money.

Dig ’Em Out!

You can try digging mushrooms out. Photo: news.duke-energy.com

If you really want to destroy a mushroom, use its sporocarps, clearly visible, to get an idea where it’s located … and start digging! 

If it’s a saprophytic fungus (which lives on dead wood), look for and remove the piece of wood it’s sprouting from (an old root, a stump, piece of buried wood, etc.): often the wood is near the surface, but it can also be up to a yard (1 m) deep, sometimes even more.

If it’s a fairy circle mushroom, dig up and remove all the soil from within the circle to about 1 foot (30 cm) beyond it. Dig at least 1 foot deep, but if you still see white hyphae in the soil below, dig deeper. Now, replace the soil removed with fresh soil and replant. As some rounds can measure 8 feet (2.5 m) or more in across, it’s a herculean task!

And sometimes all the effort is for nothing: the mushroom simply comes back the following year. You see, if the slightest bit of mycelium is left in the ground, it may just sprout again. Not often, but it does happen. Fungus mycelia are sometimes really hard to eliminate!

Masking the Damage

Grass is greener around a fairy ring. Photo: http://www.greencast.com.au

To camouflage the presence of a fairy circle, give your lawn extra good care. That’s because the turf forming the circle is often greener than the rest of the lawn. That happens because, as mushrooms feed, they release nitrogen and other nutrients to the soil and those stimulate grass growth, resulting a lawn that appears yellow-green compared with the darker green circles. But if you fertilize, top dress, aerate, regularly water and otherwise maintain your lawn, it will be an even green all over and the circle won’t be so obvious.

The Laidback Method

But the easiest thing to do is to either ignore the mushrooms or simply run over them with your lawn mower. See them as a sign of Mother Nature at work … and Mother Nature knows best!

Growing Food Indoors: Microgreens for Everyone!

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Broccoli microgreens have high concentrations of minerals-higher than mature broccoli.

Article republished from the Home Garden Seed Association, a website offering basic gardening information to home gardeners.  

If you’ve never grown microgreens, now is the time. These little bursts of flavor pack a substantial nutritional punch, and you can grow them in the light of a south-facing window in as little as two weeks. Don’t despair if you don’t have ample natural light. LED grow lights continue to get more affordable and more effective.

Young arugula leaves have a sharp, peppery taste.

It all starts with high quality, fresh seeds. Buy in quantity and, to get the most nutrition out of the smallest space, don’t skimp on the sowing. Start by filling a tray or other low container with about two inches (5 cm) of pre-moistened soilless mix, and then sprinkle the seed evenly over the mix. There’s no need to cover small seeds. In fact, you’ll likely get more consistent germination by leaving them uncovered.

Large seeds such as sunflower benefit from a fine covering of soil. Young leaves (cotyledons) have a nutty flavour and a pleasant crunch.

Water gently, and keep the soil consistently moist. When the tiny plants look and taste ready, cut the tender stems just above the soil line with scissors. Some microgreens go from seed to plate in little more than a week.

“Sprouts, microgreens, and ‘baby’ vegetables are denser sources of nutrition than their mature counterparts.” ~ C. F. Weber, 2017

Weber CF (2017) Broccoli Microgreens: A Mineral-Rich Crop
That Can Diversify Food Systems. Front. Nutr. 4:7.

Five to Try

Radish microgreens grow to a harvestable size very quickly. They add a spicy kick to salads.
  • Broccoli can be sown thickly. It has a mild cabbage flavor, and is nutrient dense.
  • Cress microgreens are peppery and delicate, and superfast to grow.
  • Pea shoots are sweet and crunchy, and taste like young snow peas. Excellent in salads!
  • Radish microgreens have a nice crunch. Daikons, particularly, have an intense radish flavor.
  • Sunflower microgreens make an excellent snack. Soak seeds for 4 hours before planting.
These are sprouts (alfalfa sprouts): they grow in a tangled mass. Microgreens grow straight and dense.

Microgreens vs. Sprouts: What’s the difference?

Microgreens are delicate bursts of flavor, ready to cut just 1 to 3 three weeks after you plant them. 
Sprouts are seeds that have germinated without soil. Harvested in just a few days, they impart flavor and crunch to sandwiches and salads, or interesting texture to cooked dishes. Sprouts require very little light.

Safe Sprouting

Sprouting seeds require humidity, a condition in which bacteria thrive. Reduce risk of illness by cooking sprouts, or follow these precautions. 

  • Treat seed for five minutes in a solution of 3% hydrogen peroxide or 2 teaspoons vinegar in 1 cup of water. Immerse small seed volumes using a mesh strainer.
  • Rinse seed under tap water for 1 minute. Then, place rinsed seed in a water-filled container and skim off the floating fragments. Research has tied most contamination to these floaters.
  • Sanitize or sterilize sprouting containers. To sterilize, boil containers for 10 minutes. Sanitize by soaking containers for at least 5 minutes in a solution of 3 tablespoons bleach per quart of water.
  • Rinse sprouting seeds two to three times a day with clean water, completely draining after each rinse.
  • When your sprouts are ready, do a final rinse in a clean bowl and remove any floaters.

**For more details on sprouting safely, visit truleafmarket.com

Tips for Growing Herbs Indoors

Basil requires temperatures of 70 °F (21 °C) or warmer to thrive.

Light is paramount to success when growing herbs indoors. Even with a south-facing window, light can be insufficient during the winter months. You can provide your herbs with the 14 hours of light that they require for good growth with a simple setup using energy efficient LED grow lights and an inexpensive timer.

3 Tips for Indoor Herb Growing

Use cilantro leaves fresh, as they lose their flavor when dried.
  1. Choose fast growing herbs, such as basil, cilantro, dill, and arugula, and harvest them young.
  2. Plant each herb in its own container, as growth habits vary.
  3. Sow seeds every few weeks for a continuous harvest.
Dill can be cut as a microgreen, or at a larger stage.
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All photos supplied by the Home Garden Seed Association.