Fungi aka Mushrooms
Mushrooms are the flowering heads of Fungus
What do they do for our diets? What do they do in our garden?
In 1991 David Hawksworth, a mycologist at Kew estimated the world’s fungal diversity at 1.5 million species (equal to the estimated number of all known other living organisms). This was thought at the time to be a radical overestimate, but now other researchers have proposed figures in excess of 13 million. Guess what they are still discovering more
The majority of the world’s fungi are microscopic, tiny and they do not usually produce structures which are visible to the naked eye unless the *hyphae form a thick growth (Often referred to as ‘moulds’).
However, the most familiar species are those which produce spore-bearing fruit bodies, which are clearly visible to the naked eye. These include puffballs, coral fungi, earthstars, truffles and other forms of mushrooms and toadstools.
*The basic structures of most fungi are microscopic threads called hyphae
What do they do?
One particularly crucial role of fungi is in the transport, storage, release and recycling of nutrients.
The ability of fungi to decompose major plant components — particularly lignin and cellulose — is the basis of their organic recycling role. You can buy mycorrhizal fungi which speed up the root connection to the soil.
Without decomposer fungi, we would soon be buried in leaf litter and twig debris.
They are particularly important in litter (leaf) decomposition, nutrient cycling and energy flows in woody ecosystems, and are dominant carbon and organic nutrient recyclers of forest debris.
When you turn your leaf pile and see a white powdery covering that is decomposition in full swing the little thread-like hyphae.
Acid Soils =low ph. Eracious soil.
Fungi are particularly valuable in acid soils, where the low pH makes it difficult for the survival of other organic decomposers such as bacteria and worms.
Bacteria release nitrogen in the form of nitrate which is easily leached from the soil and therefore lost to surface roots.
However, the fungi that break down the organic surface litter release nitrogen into the soil in a form of ammonium nitrate which is less mobile. Less likely to be washed away into the nearby water systems. This could be very important to the successful establishment of young trees and to the sustainability of the ecosystem as a whole.
Fungi need a constant supply of organic matter to survive and thrive. Like us all, we need to be fed, as they do not have the ability to photosynthesise their own food, no green chlorophyll
The nutrient cycle relies on the reintroduction of dead material (compost) to provide a constant source for the fungi to decompose.
In an existing woodland the organic horizon — top layer, is topped up each year with falling leaves, but in our parks and gardens, or on new planting schemes, this source of nutrients is either non-existent or is removed as over-enthusiastic gardeners remove all the autumn leaves. In these situations, the application of an organic mulch becomes very important and will improve the quality and productivity of the soil.
Therefore save your leaves, compost them and add them back into your garden.
A well know Fungi on an ornamental, which we don’t like is
Black spot which is a fungi. It overwinters on fallen leaves, hence the reason to clean up diseased leaves, as spores will sit on the top of the soil and will through splash back up onto the plant.
Prevention is the best cure, spray with a fungicide, of your own makings such as MILK or Baking soda.
Mix equal parts milk and water, then apply this each week with a sprayer to the upper and lower section of the roses leaves. This milky solution causes an invisible and friendly fungus to form, which will help prevent the formation of the dreaded black spot.
Mix one tablespoon of baking soda or baking powder into one litre of water and add a drop or two of washing up liquid for stickiness.
Again, apply this each week with a sprayer to the upper and lower sides of the roses leaves. The baking soda (Sodium bicarbonate) causes the rose leaf surface to become exceedingly alkaline which again prevents the blackspot from thriving. Remember fungi generally prefer a more acidic environment.
Both methods are effective only if used at the first sign of symptoms.
It is important to rake up the withered rose leaves and petals that litter your beds and borders, as these can act as a breeding ground for the blackspot fungus and to avoid splash back thus reinfecting the new leaves in spring. Pick or snip off any live leaves that exhibit black spots, as well as looking unsightly they aid the spread of the disease. All infected rose leaves and clippings should be placed into your brown bin not composted which could continue the cycle.
That is why never add to your compost diseased material.
In the good old days when we were allowed to have a bomb fire, diseased leaves and plants would be burnt ant the wood ash added to the compost, but now the priority is given to burning fossil fuels in our cars and an excess of methane from our beautiful cows.
Most importantly do not worry if you see Mushroom rings in your garden lawn, Fairy rings, your lawn may be a bit damaged but don’t worry as they will disappear. If you can remove them before they send off their spores as then, control is very difficult.
There is a very serious fungus which is called Honey Fungus and this can have serious consequences on the health of your trees.
If it is present you will see the tiny hyphae on the tree trunk.
Call a tree surgeon.