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A fungus among us...

We've been spotting various mushrooms popping up in our garden beds. I love admiring their delicate form and it always gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to know that the soil is alive with all those beneficial fungi roaming around! For all of you wondering whether to keep or cull these friendly fungi, here's a little biology lesson for you.

Mushrooms grow up when environmental conditions are just right. Prolonged periods of wet, humid weather, such as we have had over the past few weeks, cause fungi to send up fruiting structures. Fungi disperse to new areas via windblown spores. When the spores land in a suitable location they develop into new fungi which will grow more mushrooms given enough time.

Mushrooms only bloom when the mycelium has consumed all of its food beneath the ground, then it puts up its spore head to continue its species..It throws out millions of spores and only about 1% actually land on something that will support the growth of new mycelium culture.

Of course you NEVER should eat any mushrooms growing anywhere that you aren't absolutely sure you planted and are edible and safe. Although good for your soil, they can cause illness and even fatality to anything that consumes them, so be careful if you have pets or children that might get a hold of them. They typically melt away as quickly as they came, but you can simply step on or grind them into the soil and they will continue to be beneficial and harmless to surrounding life.

Fungi break down organic matter and make it available to plants. In my own gardens, I don’t use fertilizers of any kind, organic or otherwise. The only thing I add to my soil is compost and mulch that I make at home. This is such an easy way to garden because the fungi are doing all the work for me. All I have to do is keep feeding it, keep it well covered and reap the benefits of nature doing what nature does best!

Want to learn more about mushrooms and even get to go picking edible varieties with people in the know? Consider joining and taking classes with a local mycological society like Groups like this also often assist communities with identification of mushrooms found in home gardens, and they can provide help should you suspect mushroom poisoning has occurred.

Hope everyone has fungi gardening this fall!!

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