Question: Mushrooms are popping up in my lawn, mulch beds, and flowers. Is this something I should be concerned about?

Answer: My only concern is the danger they pose to small children or pets should they eat one. You must consider all mushrooms as poisonous. There are very few individuals that can correctly identify them. I do not have that skill. The profusion of mushrooms is the result of all the recent rain. The combination of warm soils, plenty of rain and decaying organic matter is perfect for mushroom growth. Mushrooms are the reproductive structures of fungi that are living in the soil feeding on organic matter. That organic matter can be dead tree roots, diseased tree roots, bark, wood chips, and old tree stumps. Mowing or hand removal wth a shovel or hoe is recommended, especially where children or pets may play. If that is no concern, then turn your head the other way. They are not injurious to your lawn, flowers and shrubs. Drier weather will reduce their numbers dramatically.

 

Question: The hood of my truck is covered with small brown dots that will not wash away. Is this a question you can answer?

Answer: Two of the most unusual questions I have received have been on a substance sticking to cars and trucks. It was in the mid-1980s when I first saw these little brown dots on cars in a parking lot here. They resembled small moles (not the animal). I sent a sample to N.C. State University for diagnosis. It proved to be something never seen here before. The sample was sent to England for identification. They were identified as the spores of the artillery or cannon fungus. This wood-decaying fungi is associated with decaying wood products found in various mulching materials. Those mulches that contain higher levels of wood, such as hardwood mulch, ground pallet wood and wood chips, have a greater incidence of developing artillery fungus. When this fungi reproduces it "shoots" its spores onto surfaces nearby, including siding, windows, and your truck. They stick to the surface with great tenacity and will not wash off. These affected cars were lined up along landscape beds covered in hardwood mulch. There are no chemical controls to stop this process. Your options are few. You can replace the mulch with pine needles or double ground pine bark if the problem is unbearable. Those mulches rarely have this problem because they do not contain wood. The mold spores will eventually die and slough off your truck.

 

Question: Is it time to fertilize my lawn?

Answer: The time is now for fescue lawns. It is not the time for lawns that are primarily bermuda (wiregrass), centipede, zoysia, and Norman’s crabgrass. If the grass in your lawn is predominately fescue, the first application of fertilizer begins now through late October. Most all fertilizer companies sell a fall fertilizer with a coverage area posted on the bag in square feet. These are slow release fertilizers, therefore more expensive. They are best suited for small lawns. From a standpoint of economics, I prefer to use farm grade fertilizers for large areas of grass. Popular grades are 10-10-10 (10 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft), 17-17-17 (6 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft.), 19-19-19 (5 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft.) and 13-13-13 (12 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft.). Don't fret over getting the exact rate because it is difficult depending on your equipment. Plus there is a margin of safety in these rates. The most important factor is knowing your square footage. It can keep you from buying too much fertilizer. A second application of fertilizer is recommended around Thanksgiving provided there has been ample rainfall.

 

Question: When should I bring my house plants back indoors?

Answer: After a summer of plentiful rain, many house plants have grown to sizes greater than they were originally. Some may even need pruning to get them back inside. Being outdoors also exposes them to insects and other critters. Aphids, scale insects, slugs, ants, and even snakes may have infested them. Close examination will reveal if they need attention prior to bringing them back inside. If the leaves are sticky or black, spray them several times with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to kill the offending insects. If not, you will have a mess to deal with once inside your house. I would also slip plants out of their pots to inspect for sleeping slugs, black widow spiders and baby snakes. You can expect our first frost around Oct. 20 but only if Mother Nature reads weather statistics. She rarely does.

 

Rett Davis is a retired Alamance County Extension Director and certified arborist. You can email your questions to Rett_Davis@ncsu.edu