I recently received emails from two readers, one in Okatie and one on Hilton Head Island, with the same concern: Should they be worried about the appearance of mushrooms in the lawn?
Q: I was quite surprised when leaving my house a few mornings ago to see mushrooms had popped up overnight in several places in the lawn. I asked the landscape guy about it, but he didn’t know why it may have happened or what to do about it. My lawn looks really good, lush and green, and I’m perplexed as to why the mushrooms showed up. Should I have the lawn sprayed with some chemical to get rid of the mushrooms? Are they an indication that my lawn is diseased? (Ann K., HHI)
A: Mushrooms are not generally troublesome to lawns. The rain and cooler weather a couple of weeks ago probably triggered the sudden appearance of the mushrooms. Many fungi and molds grow best in damp conditions. If you irrigate your lawn, consider reducing the frequency. Most healthy, established lawns need only one good soaking per week; watering more often actually causes several problems, including fungal and mold growth.
Consider limbing up trees if they are preventing sun from reaching the grass. Remove excess thatch and aerate the soil to improve water penetration and air movement. As with aerating, dethatching should be done when your lawn can best recover, usually not during times of high heat or drought. For most lawns this is either in the late spring or early fall.
Q: We bought our first home two months ago, and large azaleas (about 6 feet tall) are planted across the front of the house and down one side. My wife wants to keep them because they look nice in the spring, but she wants them shorter because they sort of hide the house. Will the plants grow again this year and bloom next spring? A couple of buddies are willing to help me with this project if I provide adult refreshment! (Buddy M., Bluffton)
A: Yes, you can cut the azaleas back, but they may not bloom next spring. You will be cutting off all of the current “green” growth and may also be removing flower buds that have already formed. New growth will become apparent as the summer advances, and the azaleas will have a full shape. They will be ready for winter if you prune them now, clean out around them and put down fresh mulch.
Consider spreading the work over more than one weekend; prune the front half one weekend and the side half the second. As you cut, keep an overall rounded form in your mind’s eye. A significant amount of leaves, twigs, branches, pine straw and pine cones may have accumulated in and around the shrubs over the course of years. Have some plastic barrels and strong yard bags available to carry this debris to a disposal site. Once you have completed half of the job, water that area for 15 or 20 minutes before putting down the new mulch (about 3 inches), and water again for 10 minutes. Do not pile up mulch around the base of each plant, keep it several inches away.
Work safely; wear long pants, protective shoes and gloves. Keep bug spray handy. Drink plenty of liquids, but save the adult beverages until the end of the work day. Use sharp loppers, not a chain saw. The latter can bounce off azalea branches, and that is an exceedingly dangerous situation. Be mindful of snakes and other creatures that may be lurking at the worksite.
Q: I’ve been clipping your articles and saving them in a folder for future reference. I’ve missed a few and wonder if they are available online after the publishing date. (Katie R., St. Helena)
A: They are available “forever” online. My column began last September and appears in The Beaufort Gazette and The Island Packet on the first and third Sunday each month. Go to the respective website and click on the search box at the top center of the home page. Type in my name, hit your return key, and my previous articles will appear.
Frank Edgerton is a Hilton Head Island resident, garden consultant and plantsman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.