Category: Garden Tips

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.



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.


Don’t start paying attention to your gardens and lawns quite just yet..

The weather doesn’t seem to resemble winter too much, and at times the temperatures remind us of an early Spring. But don’t get the Spring mindset just yet.

Some are starting to perform yard work that should not be started yet!

Don’t let the weather fool you, starting now could cause more harm then good once the lawn is actually ready to wake up. Allowing your lawn and garden to wake up on its own – gradually, is the best thing for it. Starting to soon can end up killing new shoots, cause flowers to bloom to soon (leaving them dead when you want them most!) and opening the door up to fungus and diseases.

When should you consider starting your lawn work?

Normally April-May are the best months for our area. It differs though from year to year – February is definitely way to early to start lawn maintenance.

What should I start with when it is time?

Raking. Clear out the left over leaves from Fall, give the lawn a good raking. This will provide a small amount of de-thatching and help new blades get oxygen & sunlight. You may want to consider a sprint aeration service or professional de-thatching service as well.

Get your soil pH tested.

The second step I would recommend is to get a soil pH test from a local garden center / home improvement store. They normally cost around $8.00 – $10.00 and give you valuable information regarding the condition of your soil. Poor soil returns poor lawn grass, so don’t under estimate this step. We also provide soil testing services that get returned with documents that explain all recommended fertilizer applications – which really helps put you a step ahead for spring maintenance.

View a complete list of our available services at

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Add a Decorative Waterfall..

To enjoy your yard to the fullest, consider adding a decorative water feature. Fountains, ponds, and waterfalls are a wonderful way to add a focal point and dimensionality to your yard.

You can create a pond kit yourself or call a professional landscaping company to assist with the project. You can add lights, decorative stones or yard art as well as waterfalls or tiered pools to create a flowing water effect.

Back Yard Farmers

Anders Gurda hops off his bike at various backyards in Minneapolis, grabs his garden tools and starts weeding.

When he’s done checking for garden pests, adjusting the irrigation system and harvesting the vegetables (which he puts in the home’s refrigerator or cooler), he cycles to his next plot and starts over.

He’s an urban backyard farmer, one of a growing breed throughout the country thanks to programs like Minnesota’s Backyard Harvest.

”It’s like having a CSA (community-supported agriculture program) in your own backyard, and you’re supporting a farmer without a farm,” Gurda said.

The goal of Backyard Harvest, said coordinator Krista Leraas, is to encourage the growing of local foods. The group, under the nonprofit umbrella organization Permaculture Research Institute, is in its second year. Although it is rare in operating as a nonprofit, dozens of programs with similar missions have sprung up around the country and worldwide.

In Portland, Ore., a group called Your Backyard Farmer began in 2006 when Donna Smith and Robyn Streeter were growing weary of driving through the city’s outskirts looking for affordable land to farm. The thought struck them: ”Why aren’t we bringing food to the people?”

They drove back to the city and printed out flyers advertising their farming services in urban neighborhoods. By the time they got home, they had 11 messages inquiring about Your Backyard Farmer. That’s the most advertising they’ve ever had to do.

Fast-forward four years: Your Backyard Farmer is thriving with 58 backyard farms – and a waiting list for 2011.

At least 27 other programs around the country and 15 abroad have consulted with Smith and Streeter.

People love the program for its convenience, the food’s freshness and the ability to customize, Smith said.

”People could choose what they wanted – every single farm is different,” Smith said. ”Typical yards include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and people thought it was pretty cool to have those in your own yard. Then everybody started going, I’ll try arugula or radicchio. We have 42 vegetables, and they can choose them all or just a few. If you don’t like it we’ll pull it out of the ground.”

In many backyard-farming programs, homeowners can choose from a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, and can choose full service (a farmer plants, maintains and harvests the garden) or a consulting service (the farmer teaches the homeowner how to maintain the garden so the homeowner can take over the next year). Farmers may also give advice on how to use, cook and store the produce.

Prices depend on the growing season and the square footage. In Minneapolis, prices average around $1,250 for the season, or about $11-$13 per square foot, and in Portland, prices start at $1,675 per season. Services are often available only in certain neighborhoods to reduce the farmers’ commutes.

The programs often focus on sustainability and organic foods. The ultimate goal, said Leraas, is to create urban homesteads where people raise chickens, reuse rainwater and keep honeybees, for example, in addition to gardening.

Save Time in the Garden with a Roto Tiller

The weather tells us it is that time again to start working in the garden and growing your vegetables. You find yourself strenuously busting up the garden soil so you can start planting.How great would it be to not have to get down and dirty but instead use a tool that will make the process much easier?

Garden roto tillers can make cultivating soil much easier. With so many different options available, finding the right garden tiller can be a scary job. But what do you need?

For small, tight gardens an electric garden tiller is a great option because they are lightweight and are easy to move around. A small gas roto tiller could be a good option as well. They are lightweight which makes them much easier to move around compared to heavier ones. The price is not very high and it will make your gardening much more enjoyable and fun. If you have never tilled your soil before then you may want to opt for a more powerful tiller. A good idea is to rent a big rototiller for the initial tilling and then you can use a smaller one thereafter.

There are so many brands of garden tillers. Among the best garden tillers brands are Mantis Tillers, Honda Tillers, Troy Bilt Garden tillers, Craftsman Tillers, Husgvarna garden tillers, and the MTD tillers. Depending on the features available, the price of your garden tiller will vary. It is best to look at several tillers and compare the features of each to see what will work best for you.

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