Occasionally, we'll see mushrooms fruiting in our LAGG Teaching Garden. It's always a pleasure! Some are even edible - if we find them in time. One never knows if or when they'll appear. They're not harming anything. Just minding their business, earning their living by decomposing organic material - of which we have plenty in the teaching garden, since we keep the paths and planted beds mulched, to conserve and preserve water, keep down weeds, and feed the soil and our plants as it breaks down.
This morel above came up just behind the compost bin and in with the peas. If we'd found it earlier (and fresher), would have been very tasty.
This photo was from my home garden, but I did find one in the LAGG garden that was a bit over the hill. It's a decomposer, so it likely arrived on the woody mulch. I wish we could cultivate it - it's a good mushroom - the one you get at the grocery store.
Psathyrella: here is another common, safe mushroom that grows on woody mulch.
The Chlorophyllum molybdites is one that can show up in gardens (see Natural History Museum's garden bed, when I taught a couple of years ago), lovely to look at, but has green spores (on gills), and poisonous if you eat it.
Someday, we might do a mushroom growing project in one of our beds. How does that sound?
- Florence, LAGG Founder, Master Gardener, Teacher and Mycologist
A mulch is a layer of organic matter
used to control weeds,
and improve the fertility of the soil.
You will not find naked soil
in the wilderness.
I started cautiously: newspapers,
hay, a few magazines;
Robert Redford stared up
between the rhubarb and the lettuce.
Then one day, cleaning shelves,
I found some old love letters.
I’ve always burned them,
for the symbolism.
But the ashes, gray and dusty
as old passions,
would blow about the yard for days
stinging my eyes,
bitter on my tongue.
So I mulched them:
gave undying love to the tomatoes,
the memory of your gentle hands
to the squash.
It seemed to do them good,
and it taught me a whole new style
Now my garden is the best in the
and I mulch everything:
bills; check stubs;
dead kittens and baby chicks.
I seldom answer letters; I mulch them
with the plans I made
for children of my own,
photographs of places I’ve been
and a husband I had once;
as well as old bouquets
and an occasional unsatisfactory lover.
Nothing is wasted.
Strange plants push up among the corn,
leaves heavy with dark water,
but there are
A few of us go together to enjoy working in LAGG's Teaching Garden Saturday, December 15. After taking down a trellis, planting more lettuce, rescuing eggplant from treehoppers, refueling the compost and watering, we shared a fabulous, vegetarian lunch. Everyone brought something to share and it was yummy! Most of the dishes included homegrown ingredients.
Florence kindly made and shared fragrant herb-infused vinegar in lovely bottles. I can't wait to try mine.
Shalimar was nice enough to share her Thanksgiving cooking from the garden experience with LAGG:
"I hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving and nutritious meals.
"For my family's Thanksgiving, I modified the traditional saag paneer by adding lima beans instead of paneer (Indian cheese). I blanched the malabar spinach before putting in the blender. And added red chiles and nasturtium from the garden too."
One gardener said she was unable to acquire a taste for malabar spinach because, "It is slimy."
Shalimar offered this advice:
"As I was stirring the blended spinach in the pan, I noticed it was slimy and knew that bottom would never burn. It was like magic and fun. When it cooled down, the slime disappeared. We enjoyed the spinach dish at Thanksgiving dinner. It retained the color and flavor without any slime. So, it may be heat has something to do with it. I added tender green stems and fruit seeds to the dish as well.
"More cooking suggestions:
- If you are cooking lentils, add a handful of leaves last.
- If you are cooking spinach by itself, as soon as you notice slime, add either a little coconut milk or regular dairy milk. That eliminates the slime and leaves a good sauce.
- Of course, I add garlic, ginger, turmeric and red and black pepper to taste.
"I am thinking of adding a little bit of fava bean flour to thicken it for my next batch."
I have been noticing this for several decades, actually. I recall that when we used to go on a day trip, even to the desert, the car window and front grills had an abundance of smashed insects. When is the last time you noticed this? It's been years.
The Monarch butterfly is probably at risk for extinction in a few decades, if not sooner.
We have sprayed so many areas, most roadsides, and urban growth has swallowed up land. It's not just a pretty thing - the Monarch is the strikingly beautiful "canary in the coal mine" for our natural environment, an easy to see example of the insect world. Climate change and urban development, large scale farming is killing many insects, many whose important roles in the ecosystem are still unknown to most people.. They are an important key species for other animals in the natural food chain.
Have you noticed as I have, that there are fewer song birds also? Still plenty of crows and pigeons though.
We need to be much more mindful of our actions while we try to wipe out "pests". We may be wiping out forever, the natural balances that are part of our world.
Read more about this in linked Bug Squad article, "Insect Apocalypse: Where Have All the Insects Gone?"
Recently, we've been finding treehoppers, a harmful insect, in our teaching garden. Here's a message from Florence on how to find and clear the garden of these pests:
I want to be sure you keep and eye out for Treehoppers - the adult is very hard to spot because it's keel-shaped (like a sale, or a rose thorn) and green. It looks just like part of the plant stem.
The masses of juvenile stages, "nymphs", are quite different - blackish, and very spiney. They are plant juice suckers and you'll often see their damage on plants before seeing the bugs themselves. Treehopper damage makes plant stems get brown and scaly, leaves drop off, the plant looks as if it's not getting water because the bugs are sucking the life out of the stems. In our teaching garden, our wonderful Sungold tomato is under siege, also the eggplants near the tomatoes. Though they look menacing, these bugs are not to be feared -- just squish the nymphs and adults with a gloved finger. Note: the adults jump very quickly. You need to be fast! and brave!
Here are some photos for reference:
Black nymphs and green adults
Can you spot the adult treehopper and the damage its done to this tomato plant?