In the Garden: Fear the squirrels, not the voles

Dear Anne:

I have been preparing our Langley acreage for winter.

About five weeks ago, I bought some extra garden soil to coat my raised beds. We now have large brown mushrooms bordering all of these raised beds – just one mushroom after another, side by side surrounding each bed.

Just picking them up and filling a garbage can doesn’t solve the problem. Where did these mushrooms come from? Should we treat the ground they are growing in?

Daynard Welsh,

Langley

I wonder if the mushrooms are emerging out of the new soil. If so the mycelium of fine roots that generated them won’t have had time to go down far and should be easy to dig up.

That should likely be the end of them.

But if they’re coming from your old soil, you have more of a problem.

I wonder if in the past you added mushroom manure to your lawn, beds or paths in that area.

Commercial mushrooms don’t resemble your description, but mushroom manure is very friendly to the growth of wild mushrooms, especially if your basic soil is rich and not especially well-drained.

The Langley area has a lot of clay soil and often clay isn’t well-drained, sometimes regardless of how much work is done to alter this.

Mushrooms of all kinds thrive in shady, moist places. Drying out the areas they’re growing can retard or stop the growth of mushroom mycelium.

Replacing the soil where they’re growing with sandy, gravelly soil may help.

Pruning back trees shading those beds may also be useful.

It’s important to get rid of the mushrooms fruiting bodies (think of them as flowers with seeds) because the mushrooms you see will be shedding spores around. This can potentially start more mushrooms.

But mushrooms are ephemeral and even if you do nothing will vanish soon – at least until next year and possibly for much longer.

Yet another consideration is whether your raised beds are edged with wood.

If it’s old, this wood could be starting to decay. Many mushrooms have an affinity for soft wood, which is breaking down.

There are fungicides said to stop mushsrooms growing.

As far as I have heard they need to be applied by a professional. If any of your raised beds will be used for a food crop, fungicides shouldn’t be used at all.

Dear Anne:

I need to start my tulip bulbs in two good-size planters before we head south.

I have good drain holes and three-inches of rock in the bottom of the planters but do you think my tulips might rot?

Also the voles won’t eat them in a planter. The bad news is??????

Donna, Email

They won’t rot given your drainholes and rock layer.

No, voles won’t get at them – but squirrels might. Squirrels enter from the top. Can you cover your planter with wire that can’t be knocked off?

Or fasten plastic mesh over the planters. The mesh sacks that bulk vegetables come in can be re-used for this.

Or burlap.

This won’t do much for your decor, but should keep squirrels out.

Try to plant your bulbs five inches deep in case we have monsoon-like torrents of rain, which could wash soil out of your planters.

Anne Marrison is happy to answer gardening questions. Send them to amarrison@shaw.ca

 

 

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