Giant mushrooms sprout in a moist back yard

BACKYARD Q&A

September 26, 1999

Q. I have giant white mushrooms growing in my back yard. The biggest ones are more than 18 inches in diameter and don't seem to have a stem. Are they harmful to my grass and trees? Will they come back each year?

A.Many interesting species of fungi emerged over the past month with the return to wetter conditions. The large puffballs you described live on organic matter and are not at all harmful to plants. They are unpredictable; you may never see them again in your yard.

Q. Large black ants that an exterminator identified as carpenter ants are living in my landscape timbers and marching into my house through the garage. Boric acid has not helped so far. What's the best way to get rid of them?

A.The easy solution is to discard and replace the landscape timbers. Or you could place an outdoor bait station for ants between the timbers and your house. A third alternative is to spray a water-based permethrin insecticide into the ants' nest.

Q. I have two young fig trees that produced poorly this year due to the drought and the fact that they were winter-damaged last year. For aesthetic reasons, I can't properly cover them up to protect them in their current location. Can I dig them up and bring them indoors this winter for protection?

A.Yes, dig up your trees by cutting through the soil with a sharp spade 1 foot from the trunk. Place the trees in large buckets or trash cans and cover the roots with lots of leaves. Protect the top growth from freezing temperatures with blankets or tarps, and store your trees in the garage for the winter. You will have to add a little water periodically to keep the roots moist.

Because you are not able to protect the trees outdoors, it's best that you keep them permanently in a container that can be moved indoors each winter. When new growth emerges next May, replant the trees in a half-size whiskey barrel.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Hold off mulching around strawberries and perennials until after the first hard freeze.

2. Leave on the heads of sunflower plants through fall and winter; they'll serve as food for birds.

3. Plant daffodil bulbs three times deeper than their width.

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

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