What is growing in your landscape mulch?

Mulch Mushrooms

Mulch Mushrooms

As with nearly all other organic matter, wood and bark decompose over time. The primary organisms involved with the decomposition are bacteria and fungi. The fungi involved in the decomposition of mulch are natural components of the mulch environment. Some fungi, such as the artillery fungi, are ‘recyclers’ and break down woody tissue directly. Fungi-like organisms, such as as slime mold, consume bacteria and other organisms living in the mulch.  These molds are normally found from April through October, weather dependent.

This article describes the four common types of organisms found growing in mulch throughout Pennsylvania.

Mushrooms, Slime Molds, Bird’s Nest Fungus, and the Artillery Fungus.

 

Mushroom..

Common Names: Mushrooms, Toad stools. Scientific names: Many different fungi produce mushrooms.

Mulch Mushrooms

Mulch Mushrooms

What do mushrooms look like? They come in various colors, shapes, and sizes ranging from less than an inch to several inches tall. Some are soft and fleshy and disappear soon after they emerge: others may remain in mulch for a few days, weeks, or an entire growing season.

The only serious issues that mushrooms produce? They may poisonous if eaten. While I highly hope that no one is eating mushrooms from there landscape mulch, take caution with children and pets.

What should be done? Appreciate their beauty, ignore them, or remove them. Anything you want – do not worry about spraying an anti-fungi as this can cause more harm then the mushrooms themselves.

 

 

Slime Molds

Common Name: Slime Molds, “dog vomit”. Scientific Names: Species of Physarum, Fuligo, and Stemonitis.

Slime Mold

Slime Mold

What do slime molds look like? They start as brightly colored (yellow, orange, etc.), slimy masses that are several inches to more than a foot across. They produce many tiny, dark spores. These molds dry out and turn brown, eventually appearing as a white, dry, powdery mass.

What kind of problems do they cause? None. These fungi-like organisms are ‘feeding’ on bacteria growing in the mulch. They are normally a temporary nuisance confined to small areas.

Slime Mold

Slime Mold

What can you do about Slime Mode? Slime molds may be left in place to decompose. If their appearance is offensive, discard the fruiting bodies in a compost pile, household garbage, or a spot in the yard away from existing mulch.

 

 

 

Bird’s Nest Fungus

Common Name: Bird’s Nest Fungus. Scientific Names: Species of Crucibulum and Cyathus.

Bird's Nest Fungi

Bird’s Nest Fungi

What does Bird’s Nest Fungi look like? They resemble tiny, gray to brown bird’s nests or splash cups with eggs. The nest is up to 1/4 inch in diameter.

 

 

Do they cause problems? No. These fungi may grow in large areas of mulch, but they are not a problem. The ‘eggs’ are masses of spores that splash out of the nest when hit by a raindrop. These spores occasionally stick to surfaces, as do the spores of the artillery fungus, but they are easily removed and do not leave a stain.

How can you remove Bird’s Nest Fungus? These naturally occurring fungi decompose organic matter and do not need to be removed. They are interested to look at – show them to your children! Removing them is nearly impossible because of the size and amount. If they really are visual unattractive to you then the best bet will be to mulch over them.

 

 

Artillery Fungus

Common Name: Artillery Fungus. Scientific Name: Species of Sphaerobolus.

Artillery Fungus

Artillery Fungus

What does artillery fungi look like? They resemble a tiny, cream or orange-brown cup with one black egg. The cup is approximately 1/10 inch in diameter. Areas of mulch with artillery fungus may appear matted and lighter in color than the surrounding mulch.

 

 

Artillery Fungus Damage

Artillery Fungus Damage

Do they cause problems? They may be a problem, yes. The fruiting body of this fungus orients itself toward bright surfaces, such as light-color houses or parked automobiles. Weird, I know. They artillery fungus “shoots” its black, sticky spore mass, which can be windblown as high as the second story of a house. The spore mass sticks to the side of a building or automobile, resembling a small speck of tar. You may also find them on the undersides of leaves on plants growing in mulch areas.

Once in place, the spore mass is very difficult to remove without damaging the surface to which has become attached. If removed, it leaves a stain. A few of these spores are barely noticeable, but as they accumulate, they may come very unsightly on houses and cars.

What can be done about Artillery Fungi? Penn State researches have recently discovered that blending 40 percent used mushroom compost with landscape mulch greatly suppresses the artillery fungus. Mushroom compost, or mushroom soil, is the pasteurized material on which mushrooms are grown. After the final crops of mushroom are picked, the used compost is pastuerized a second time and removed from the mushroom house. This valuable by-product (sometimes called ‘Black Gold’, or ‘Mushroom S***’. Yes, I know but I have heard this before!) is often made available to gardeners and home-owners. Used mushroom compost has physical and chemical characteristics that make it ideal for blending with landscape mulch to enhance growth of horticultural plants. In addition, mushroom compost contains beneficial microbes that compete with, or actually destroy, nuisance fungi such as the artillery fungus and bird’s nest fungi. Homeowners are increasingly interested in controlling nuisance fungi without the use of chemicals. Blending used mushroom compost with landscape mulch offers a “green” and environmentally friendly solution to reducing the harmful effects of the artillery fungus.

 

What is the Emerald Ash Borer?

The Emerald Ash Borer Beetle

The Emerald Ash Borer Beetle

The emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis Fairmaire, a beetle native to Asia, was first detected in Michigan in 2002. Evidence suggests that the beetle was established in Michigan for years prior to its discovery. Emerald ash borer (EAB) has since been detected in several states including Pennsylvania. In addition to spreading by natural means, EAB can be transported to new areas in infested firewood, timber, and nursery stock. This beetle has been responsible for the loss of millions of ash trees in North America.

The Ash Tree

The Ash Tree

Host: In North America, EAB is known to infest all species of ash. Ash can be recognized by the presence of compound leaves which are arranged opposite of one another on the branches.

Biology: Eggs are laid between layers of bark and in bark crevices. Larvae hatch in about one week and bore into the tree where they feed on the inner bark and phloem, creating “S” -shaped galleries. Larvae go through three feeding stages, and then excavate a pupal chamber in the fall, where they will overwinter as prepupae. Pupation occurs in late spring, and adults begin to emerge through “D”  shared exit holes in May and early June. Adults will remain active until the end of summer.

Symptoms and Signs: New infestations are difficult to detect, as damage to the tree may not be apparent for up to three years. Symptoms in the upper crown, excessive epicormic branching on the tree trunk, and vertical bark slits. Woodpecker damage is sometimes apparent.

Ash Borer Damage.

Damage from Ash Borer Beetle.

 

Protecting our Forests and Trees in Pennsylvania:

  • Use Local Firewood.
  • Do not bring firewood into PA. This is banned under order of quarantine currently.
  • If you have already transported firewood, do not take it home, do not leave it – BURN IT.

Reporting Ash Borer Beetle to PA Department of Agriculture:

The PA Department of Agriculture is scheduling spray treatments for the beetle. If you discover or think you have found the Emerald Ash Borer, report it by contacting:

PA Department of Agriculture: 1-866-253-7189 or report your sighting by e-mail at: Badbug@state.pa.us

This information is directly from the Penn State Cooperative Extension. Please consult at: http://www.paemeraldashborer.psu.edu

 

Facebook Giveaway. Like us on Facebook to enter.

Starting 3/6/2014 Lego Services will be running a Facebook giveaway promotion.

Three free gifts will be given to three random entries on Easter 2014. To enter simply Like our Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LegoServices and share this post: https://www.facebook.com/LegoServices/posts/721558974531445?stream_ref=10

 

The giveaway items will be the winners choice from one of three items:

  • Gift card for Home Improvement Store
  • Gift card for Lego Services / Credit
  • A small flowering shrub or similar plant (Local followers only)

Good luck!

Get you soil pH levels tested this Spring.

Local Soil Test Results

Soil Test Results

Located in Central Pennsylvania and just looking for a soil test service? Great! Contact us for more information. Interested in learning what it all means? Great! Read on ..

The results behind a soil test may look cumbersome, but really they are not. It comes down to three important factors based on your specified grass type.

The  Soil pH level, the Phosphorus level, and the Potassium level.

Each turf type requires an optimum blend of three nutrients, and a test is designed to show you exactly where those levels are currently at. Depending on the company or lab where your test is diagnosed, easy to understand recommendations are printed out with instructions that, if followed correctly, will balance your nutrients out  to optimum across the chart.

For an example using the following image, if your lawn is low in pH, optimal in Phosphorus, and high in Potassium, a list of fertilizers and the rate for pound per square footage the fertilizer should be spread is listed. Since the pH level is low, you will want to increase that of course. But what fertilizer are you going to need. The paper shows a 33-3-4, so lets look at what that means.

Local Soil Test Results

Soil Test Results

 

 

Every time you read a bad of fertilizer it lists three numbers,  ##-##-##. What are those three numbers? They represent three nutrients, N, P2O5 and K2O – or easily enough Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium.

 

Nitrogen..

is the primary found in most fertilizers. Many times you will hear,

“If you want a green lawn, add nitrogen”

While that is true, be careful.  The greener your grass, the more photosynthesis that can occur (that is your lawn eating, BTW). Buttt to much nitrogen can easily ruin your lawn. So don’t just spread a Nitrogen rich fertilizer and expect great results. Remember, your lawn needs a complimentary blend of the Three nutrients to look (and be) its healthiest. To much nitrogen the lawn is going to grow like a bad weed, causing more cutting, which causes the grass more stress and then oh no…

To much stress…

To much nitrogen leads to stressed out turf.

Stressed turf.

 

Phosphorus

The second number that dominates fertilizer ingredients. Inside your grass there are  energy-rich phosphate bonds that  fuel the “metabolic machinery” and  ultimately growth. Without Phosphorus, leaf,  root, and stem growth slows dramatically. Phosphorus also helps keep higher quality soil, denser, absorbing more water.

The root systems of your lawn benefits greatly from Phosphorus. But be careful not to smother your lawn with to much phosphorus, that can be another factor of stress, and we know where that leads to.

Phosphorus can be dangerous not only to the lawn, but to the environment if to much is used. Some states are promoting a no P fertilizer program (No phosphorus). Phosphorus can cause algae build up in water which has caused ecological unbalancing. But did you know pollution from Phosphorus can be WORSE by letting the levels get to low? Strange, but when the soil becomes less dense, water runoff (Phosphorus run off..) is higher.

Potassium

I don’t know why, but whenever I hear Potassium the first thing I think of is bananas. Odd first thought, I know.

Potassium is key for strong root formation and plant health overall. It is responsible for playing a role in keeping your turf alive during the winter, fending off disease, and fungus problems. Let the levels get to low and you are opening the door for a ton of problems ranging from ring spot, red threat, neuritic ring spot, etc. etc. etc.

So..

Hopefully this post helps you understand test results easier and the basic needs of your lawn. Your lawn grows in soil, the key to a lush green lawn is perfectly aerated, nutrient rich, worm loving all around awesome soil. And a soil pH test – I am assuming you want a beautiful lawn, you are reading this after all – should be on your list every Spring if possible.

Need some help? Great – that is why we are in business. We can help you figure out the result & create a plan (no charge!) , or we can perform the test, diagnose the results, and formulate a plan of action for a one time low fee. Simply follow the link on the top right of the page or click here -> “Contact us

By the way, from the list above my recommendation would be the 33-3-3 fertilizer, raise Nitrogen while effecting Phosphorus and Potassium as minimal as possible.

Clean stones and debris from your lawn with a Shop Vac?

I found tip today about using a Shop Vac to remove small stones and debris from your lawn. I never thought of that, but it is actually brilliant! Raking stones from a lawn can be tedious, and after almost any type of landscape project there always seems to be left overs in your lawn.

 

Shop Vac Lawn Cleaning

 

 

Clean it up with a Shop Vac – quick and easy and you won’t miss much.