Mushrooms in your garden, whether you know it or not!

Article by Chowgene Koay

Mushrooms are everywhere, and they make their presence known in most environments, whether you know about it or not.

As a matter of fact, everybody on the face of this planet is a mushroom cultivator. Mushroom spores travel through the air currents and are coated on all of our clothing. As we go about our daily activities, these spores travel with us leaving a trail of dust in all the places we have visited.

Welcome to the world of fungi, and this is only the beginning.

In established landscapes, mushrooms integrate all of the plants and trees together by growing around or into the plant’s roots. Dr Simard and a group of graduate students found that “all tress in dry interior Douglas-fir forests are interconnected” by this mycelial network “with the largest, oldest trees serving as hubs.” By growing into the older trees, the mycelium is eventually able to connect to new saplings and transfer nutrients (water, carbon, nitrogen) to these newly forming plants. “This research provides strong evidence that maintaining forest resilience is dependent on conserving mycorrhizal links, and that removal of hub trees could unravel the network and compromise regenerative capacity of the forests.”

The same is true for your garden. The mycelial web becomes more prolific with natural methods of gardening establishing itself slowly into the environment and surrounding plants. Keep in mind that mushroom mycelium, the vegetative part of mushrooms that lives beneath the soil, is one cell wall thick and requires moisture to survive. Digging into the soil can expose it to dry air and foreign competitors causing the mushroom to recede or die. If the mushroom mycelium is able to survive, with time it may fruit and once again release its spores into the air.

Other breeding grounds for mushrooms are the compost, mulch, and leaf piles that we make. With the onset of rain, the mushroom spores begin to germinate and spread through the pile. As we add these elements to our garden, the mushroom mycelium might be introduced to your garden.

Although mushroom spores grow in most conditions, it does not guarantee that mushrooms will successfully grow in your garden. On the other hand, you may be fortunate and see a mushroom grow in your garden. If you are so lucky, be thankful that you have another element in nature that is working with you. If not, don’t be sad. There are ways to introduce them into your garden with ease (these methods will be written at a later date).

Be aware, if you are unfamiliar with mushroom identification and if you are unfamiliar with the environment that they are growing in, do not eat them. Mushrooms can absorb a plethora of pollutants and can be toxic. In 2001, Italian porcini’s that were imported to Japan showed levels of radioactivity from the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Some mushrooms in Eastern Europe contained radiation that was over 20 times the safe level of consumption.

This should not be a cause for concern or fear of them, but an invitation to an adventure.

References:

“Radiation Detected in Mushrooms,” Japan Times

http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20011110b8.html. November 10, 2001

“Mycorrhizal Networks,” UBC of Forestry

http://www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/potd/2010/03/mycorrhizal_networks.php. March 6, 2010

Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets

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