By Bev Johnson

Master Gardener

Petunia was making breakfast last week and happened to look out the window. Bunkey, the neighbor’s cows must have got out because there are cow pies all over the lawn. Bunkey wasn’t fully caffeinated, having had only one cup of coffee so he wasn’t actually really awake. He did know that the nearest cow was five miles away. He stepped out on the deck for a look at the offending cow pies, then burst into laughter. The lawn was spotted with large round, brown mushrooms. It also sported flat brown ones and small red topped ones and even little round ones nestled next to tall cylindrical ones capped in brown. They had sprouted after the rains.

Petunia is a bit particular about the yard. She wants all the shrubs nicely trimmed, no weeds in the garden and preferably lots of black dirt showing between the rows. Bunkey has his way with this as he mulches the gardens. She insists the grass must always look just mowed. This summer has been hard on her as the grass has bare spots from grub infestation and little rain and some of the shrubs weren’t pruned because it was too hot and dry and would have stressed them, so a lawn of “cow pies” was just about all she could take.

Mushrooms feed on dead wood. It may be 3 feet or more below the soil surface. If the mushrooms are growing in a row, that wood is probably a dead tree root or a hunk of 2×4 that got buried when the house was built. The only permanent way to get rid of the mushroom is to dig up the wood it is feeding on. There is no chemical that will kill them so just rake them up. They will return every year until all the wood has been consumed.

If you find tall cylindrical mushrooms in your yard, pull them out and bag them. They are stinkhorns and the smell of them will drive you right off your deck if the wind is right. It’s even worse than not laundered hockey jerseys.

Never eat mushrooms you find in your yard, even if it looks just like the one in your EDIBLE MUSHROOM book. When the Hmong first came here, they made that mistake. Mushrooms that looked just like the ones they ate “at home” were not the same and some of them died as a result of eating New World mushrooms.

If they haven’t gotten frozen, take cuttings of coleus and geraniums now. Cut off the growing tip as they will root easier. To make a rooting pot, fill a pot that has a saucer attached to it. A hanging pot is perfect. Fill it half full of perlite or seed starting mix. Next, plug the hole in a small clay pot. Stick it in the middle of your larger pot, now fill the big pot to the rim of the clay pot. Fill the clay pot with water and keep it filled. Water will seep out of the clay pot keeping your potting mix just damp enough for your cuttings. To determine if a cutting has rooted, give it a light tug. If it resists, it is rooted and ready to be potted.

If your house plant got a little out of control during their summer vacation, now is the time to rectify that. Cutting them back where they are too thin or too long now will trigger them to fill out. If they have gotten too big for your house, check with your bank or other office to see if they would like it. The local library looks like it has been the recipient of a few of those.