Mushroom myths and facts – Orlando Sentinel


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The Plant Doctor | Sep 04, 2021 at 5: 00 AM Question: Large mushrooms have been popping up in our lawn. Where do they come from and what should we do? Answer: Folklore says mushrooms pop up where the devil churned his butter or the good fairies danced at night. But the truth is these often several-inches-in-diameter growths are the fruiting bodies of a fungus living on organic matter in the soil. Some form a circle, called fairy rings, by growing at the edge of decomposing roots where a tree was once present. Unless you are an expert, all mushrooms should be considered poisonous. Remove them when pets and younger family members might be tempted to make a taste test. Otherwise, they can be left to decline in a few days or knock them over to shrivel. Fungicides are available to help control mushrooms, but they are expensive and seldom worth the application. Mushrooms normally cause no harm and help decompose organic matter in lawns. Q: Our pentas have dead flower heads on top. Do we prune them off at this time? A: Many pentas plants are self-cleaning, meaning the old flower heads quickly decline and are overgrown by new stems with blooms. In some cases, the plants are not as vigorous, and old flower clusters remain to make the plants less attractive. These can be removed as needed and the plants reshaped to keep them compact and in bounds. Plant Doctor Tom MacCubbin shares advice with area gardeners about birdbaths, sago shrubs, hydrangeas, confederate rose plants, sunflowers, St. Augustine grass, leaves, magnolia trees and more. Q: Grassy weeds are growing in a ground cover and a friend told me to use the Image herbicide. Can this be used with ornamental plants? A: Grassy, broadleaf and sedge-type weeds can often be selectively removed from ornamental plants by over-the-top herbicide sprays. Make sure you have a product that specifically lists this use on the label. The brand name Image offers several types of herbicides, and what your friend was likely referring to is the Image Kills Nutsedge product that lists use with turf and a number of ornamentals on the label. It only controls a limited number of grassy weeds. Other over-the-top products include Fertilome Over-The-Top II and Bonide Grass Beater II Over-The-Top that appears more specific for the grassy weeds you would like to control. Follow all labels carefully to control the weeds listed and use with landscape plants, to which over-the-top products can be applied. Q: Our poinsettias have grown about 4 feet tall. When is the last time we can do pruning to keep them more compact? A: Early September is the final pruning time for poinsettias. Do the trimming soon to give the plants time to make the growth needed for an attractive holiday display. Only remove 4-6 inches of the tips of shoots to encourage growth. Poinsettias begin the flower and colorful bract initiation process starting in mid-October. Keep your plants moist and apply a slow-release landscape or container-type product to have the colorful plants for December. Q: I found petunia seeds at the garden center and would like to grow them for winter color. When should they be started and how? A: Delay sowing of cool-season flower seeds until at least the end of October. Some of the seeds to start include petunias, pansies, dianthus, hollyhocks, delphinium, foxgloves and annual phlox. The petunia seeds you would like to grow are tiny and best sown in a small pot or tray filled with germination mix available from garden centers. Scatter the seeds across a damp mix and then water lightly. Do not cover the seeds. The light watering should move them into the germination mix. Keep the container of sown seeds moist and in filtered sun. When the seeds start to grow, give the seedlings full sun. In about four weeks the young plants should be individually transplanted to small pots or cell packs to grow on for the garden or planters. A half-strength fertilizer solution can be used to water the growing seedlings and plants once a week. Q: We are thinking of planting an orange tree. With the greening disease still causing tree decline is planting a new one advisable? Bargain Hunter Newsletter Weekly Free stuff and good deals for frugal Floridians. A: Probably adding a citrus tree to your landscape is not advisable, but many are doing it. New trees bought at garden centers should be certified citrus greening-free. Hopefully, this is the case and you are starting with a healthy new tree. Notice if other citrus trees are nearby and a potential source of the Asian psyllid that spreads the disease and the disease itself. If such trees are nearby, it would likely be best not to add a tree. If no citrus trees are nearby, then planting a new tree might be worth the risk. Maintain a good care program that includes fertilizer and pest control to keep the tree as healthy as possible. Many believe citrus trees are now a short-term investment lasting 10-15 years. Plant Doctor Tom MacCubbin shares advice with area gardeners about frangipani trees, tomatoes, phalaenopsis orchids, poinsettias, sedge, pineapple plants, oleanders and more. Q: I would like to purchase a persimmon tree for planting. What types are available and what variety do you recommend? A: Persimmons come in two forms — ones with fruits that pucker your mouth until soft when fully ripe known as astringent varieties and ones that are non-astringent and sweet, even when firm. All ripen during the late summer and fall months. The choice is yours, but many gardeners prefer the non-astringent types that can be consumed like an apple. Several of these varieties include Fuyu, Hanafuyu, Izu and Suruga. If you would rather have some very tasty but not-edible-until-mushy fruits, try the Hachiya, Saijo, Giomgo, Ormond and Tenenashi selections. All are very good and easy to grow in the home landscape. Tom MacCubbin is an urban horticulturist emeritus with the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Write him: Orlando Sentinel, P.O. Box 2833, Orlando FL 32802. Email: [email protected] Blog with Tom at
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