Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fungi in the Vege Garden

Imagine my surprise when I started in on my largest vegetable bed and found a fungus had taken over.

Some time before all the rain began, back in November last year, I treated, I thought, my garden to a thick layer of mulch. I did not further work in it till now due to the unending rain in December, illness in January and sheer laziness due to the heat in February.

All the parsley died. Chives thrived. Cucumbers, tomatoes and peas got rained out. Egg plants died after going well until flowering. Lettuce sprang up and went to seed.

Yesterday I began to rip out everything dead. And the remaining mulch came up in sheets. Glued together with a white mycelium. The soil underneath was bone dry and rock hard. Which were a great surprise to me since we've had about a metre of rain since November.

Eventually I fund the fungus's fruiting bodies. Three white, ox-eye shaped and sized objects of about the same consistency. Palpable. As in when squeezing one, it felt like a dead eye. I did not have enough of my wits about me that day to get out a scalpel and my camera to show you the insides. Dirty hands too.

So what mulch now?

I used to use composted grass clippings -- but always got a lot of grass growing among the vegetables.  Hay and straw gave the same result. I switched to sugar cane bagasse but found it prevented rain from reaching the ground, by sticking together and forming an impenetrable mat. Then I thought I'd give ti tree left overs a go. Snails and slugs don't like it so I thought I was onto a good thing. But it is slightly woody. Presumably that's why fiungi would find it congenial.

Got any ideas? What do you use?

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