Lawn & Garden Q & A

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September and October are active times in the lawn, garden, and landscape. We have had some great questions coming into our office recently that I will share with you here:

Q: There is a patch of mushrooms coming up in my lawn. What are they and how can I get rid of them?

A: Our area is very rich in fungal diversity so it is difficult for me to identify a mushroom without handling a sample. In this particular case, I made a spore print from the specimen that was brought in. The color of a mushroom spore print is an important characteristic for identification. The green spore print revealed this mushroom to be the most common poisonous mushroom in our area. False parasol and green-spored lepiota are common names for Chlorophyllum molybdites, a mushroom with a large white cap, stalk ring, and closely spaced gills underneath the cap. This mushroom is not deadly poisonous but it will make you or pets extremely sick if ingested. Mushroom toxins do not absorb into your skin so don’t be afraid to touch mushrooms on your property and take a spore print, just wash your hands afterward. Simply pluck the mushroom and place it on a piece of aluminum foil (leave it in a place where it won’t be mistaken for a snack!). Cover it with a bowl overnight so that air drafts don’t blow spores away. Herbicides do not kill mushrooms. Pouring other chemicals like gasoline on unwanted fungi simply contaminates soil and groundwater. Mushrooms in your lawn are often growing on decomposing wood. Remove unwanted mushrooms with lawnmowers or handpicking and consider removing stumps or buried wood to reduce future mushroom growth.

Q: I have a bare patch of land that is on a slope and eroding with heavy rain. What should I do?

A: To reduce erosion caused by water the key is stopping the free flow of water. Flowing water has energy that allows it to pick up soil. When the flow is intermittently stopped, the water will lose its energy and drop the soil. Place landscape timbers or other solid barriers perpendicular to the flow of water (directly on the contour line) at least every 3 to 5 vertical feet. This will stop soil movement down the slope. If the area is in at least 4 to 6 hours of direct sun you can establish turf grass to hold the soil. Spread turfgrass seed in the fall (mid-Sept to mid-Oct is best) and lightly cover the newly seeded area with 1 to 2 bales of wheat straw per 1000 square feet. Be sure to use wheat straw, not hay which is loaded with weed seeds. Aside from grass, there are numerous ground cover options from creeping junipers to shade tolerant creeping lirope. NC State University has an excellent database data base on-line that anyone can access and choose plants for specific areas and uses.

Q: I enjoyed the cooking classes during Eat, Drink, and Be Local week. Are there any other opportunities to participate in cooking classes?

A: You are in luck! April Vigardt, our Small Farm and Local Food Extension Agent has two cooking classes coming up on Oct 3 and Oct 17. In these classes, you will learn how to make the most of seasonal produce with simple, fast recipes and a bag of produce sourced from local farmers. Cost is $10 per class, which includes the cost of the produce. Each class will feature different recipes. You can register for the class online or call our office 828-465-8240.

Image of green spore print

Picture Caption – Tell-tale green spore print of this commonly found poisonous mushroom: Chlorophyllum molybdites.