Gardening

It’s been a big year for mushrooms. That’s great news for your lawn.

A perennial question I get every year has to do with mushrooms, specifically how to eradicate them from lawns. Second is whether it is safe to have mushrooms around dogs. This year has been a particularly good year for ‘shrooms and so I am getting even more queries than usual.

The short answer is dogs know what to eat and what to avoid, so don’t worry about them. And the fungi, not you, are in control in your lawn — and elsewhere — so there is almost nothing you can do to stop them. And, why would you? They are either mycorrhizal fungal fruits, in which case they are providing nutrients to the plants with which they are associated, or decaying fungi, digesting organic matter and converting it into nutrients. The latter will disappear once the organic matter is fully digested.

The longer answer is these organisms should be appreciated more, and the reason they are not is because we don’t study them the way we study other things that grow in our yards, such as perennial flowers and weeds. I suppose because they are composed of hyphae that normally grow underground and they are therefore invisible most of the season, we ignore them. However, mushrooms are perennials, too.

So, since you really can’t get rid of them, why not learn their names and something about them? Some are definitely edible — obviously, only consume what you know to be safe. Others are amazingly beautiful, even if poisonous. Those that grow where once you had a tree or shrub are decaying the old roots.

[Meet Gabriel Wingard, a 14-year-old forager who wants to share his love of Alaska’s fungi]

I know a guy who wrote a most excellent book on fungi — ”Teaming With Fungi” — which may be more than you want to read. And, it only discusses what fungi do; it doesn’t identify them. It does explain how mushrooms are formed, however: little sponge-like knots of hyphae that swell up to make the fruits we see once there is enough moisture. A mushroom can go from a button to full size in only 24 hours. Watch how fast yours grow. In fact, check out “Fabulous Fungi” on Netflix to get a real picture of what is going on when mushrooms grow. It is narrated by Paul Stamets, author of “Mycelium Running,” a fabulous book on fungi.

Ah, but the mushrooms are here now and there is no time to read a book or two on the subject. Fortunately for Alaskans, there is also a terrific internet source, “Mushrooms in The National Forests of Alaska.” It was produced by the U.S. Forest Service.

Take a quick look and you will see at “Mushrooms in The National Forests of Alaska” identifies all the ‘shrooms found in your yard. Who knew there were different kinds of Amanita or so many Mycenae — often, “LBGS” or “little brown guys.” The photos are dead on, in color and you won’t have trouble identifying your crops. Once you get the exact names, you can research on the internet or in one of the Alaska mushroom guide books if you need more information.

Those mushrooms that stick up out of the ground are but a tiny fraction of the soil network that supports microbial life which feeds your plants. You should appreciate that the vast network of underground hyphae is a major reason your soils support plants. These strands not only turn into mushrooms sometimes, they bind soil particles together, creating soil structure which allows soils to drain, creates pores for water storage and creates living spaces for beneficial microbes.

In short, mushrooms are good, and you should not even think about eradicating them.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar

Harvest: Harvest. Don’t wait. This includes flowers. If you have too much, take it to a food bank, soup kitchen or give it to someone who needs it.

Moose this winter: Plantskydd is the only stuff I know that usually works at keeping the moose away from plants. Buy and apply before freeze up.

Fertilize: Organic fertilizers should be applied now so they can be broken down so nutrients will be available next spring and summer. Non-sulfur molasses and soy meal are my favorites, along with kelp. This advice applies to all the “meals” such as feather meal.

Garlic: Alaska Botanical Garden’s virtual garlic tutorial is 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14 via Zoom ($10-$12). Join and get the ABG newsletter and announcements, which will include the exact date the ABG garlic sale will take place (mid-month) this year. (alaskabg.org)

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