Fungus lurks in mulch

Backyard Q&A

August 09, 1998

Q. A really disgusting, yellow and brown gelatinous mass is growing on the mulch in my flower beds. Is the mulch contaminated with something? It doesn't smell bad, but I'm afraid to touch it.

A. You've described a slime mold known as "dog vomit fungus." Many different kinds of mushrooms and unusual-looking fungi will grow in mulch, especially when rainfall and humidity are high. Your mulch is not contaminated; the spores of these fungi are naturally occurring. Your unsightly problem poses no health hazard. The fungi can be broken up, turned under or removed.

Q. We finally have a decent crop of peaches on our three trees. Now comes the hard part. How do we keep the squirrels, birds, yellow jackets and brown rot disease away from the fruits?

A. The trick is to get the peaches off the tree before they are attacked. Pick them before they become fully ripened. Handle them very gently. Any bruise or cut can encourage brown rot disease.

Bring your peaches indoors and submerge them in a 1:10 bleach-to-water solution to kill brown rot spores. Rinse off. Allow peaches to ripen in the kitchen.

Q. We've got a groundhog living under our deck. At first, I thought he was kind of cute, but then he showed too much interest in my vegetable garden. I don't want him dead. Can I catch and release him?

A. Yes, you can set out a large trap baited with apple pieces. But first, call your local animal control office and ask how you should handle a trapped groundhog. Find out if the office will pick up the animal.

It's not a good idea to transfer a wild animal to a different locale. There they will have to fight other animals for food, and most likely they will not survive. Keep in mind also that it's often illegal to place wild animals in public parks.

This Week's Checklist

* Cut back and fertilize flowering annual plants before you go on vacation this month. You'll return to a blooming garden.

* Direct-seed broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage into loose, fertile garden soil.

* Support tall flowering plants such as sunflowers, yarrow and dahlias.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For more information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

Pub Date: 8/09/98

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