Sage & Snow Garden Club March 2011 Newsletter
by Sage & Snow Garden Club
March 14, 2011
Dear Flora: What are mushrooms?
Signed: Fungi Challenged
Dear FC: Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi that start as dustlike spores released from the gills beneath a mushroom's cap. The spore lands on a suitable substrate and grow mycelia ó a network of moist fibers that use enzymes to penetrate wood or other organic matter. The mycelia take in carbon and consume oxygen. Materials rich in carbon that tend to break down slowly (such as wood) are the preferred substrate of many culinary mushrooms, but there is a fungus at work in nearly every ecological situation. Fungi rule the natural decomposition cycles in nature and make it possible for natural biological systems to operate.
Dear Flora: Can I grow edible mushrooms inside my house?
Signed: Fun Guy
Dear FG: Yes, the easiest culinary mushrooms to grow at home are oysters, shiitake, wine caps, portobello, and criminis (baby portobello). Some other types of mushrooms, like morels, defy cultivation and must be found in the wild. Unless you are absolutely certain how to identify mushroom species, though, wild mushrooms should not be consumed as they could be highly toxic!
Dear Flora: Why would I want to grow my own mushrooms?
Signed: In the Dark
Dear ID: You can grow mushrooms less expensively than you can get them in the store and you can grow a much larger quantity than usually available from the store. By growing your own, you are ensured of a consistent supply of fresh mushrooms that have not been subjected to pesticides. Mushrooms contain; protein, potassium, and three important B vitamins; are low in calories, and have very little fat or cholesterol.
Dear Flora: How do I grow mushrooms indoors?
Signed: Portobello Patty
Dear PP: The simplest thing to do is buy a mushroom growing kit from a trusted gardening site. Your kit should include instructions on the substrate that the mushrooms grow best in and the typical care procedures for the species selected. The system should be placed indoors in a location with indirect light. Air circulation and appropriate amounts of water are very important for mushroom growth and quality; follow directions for misting and maintaining air circulation. About two to three weeks after planting, little bumps should appear. Keep following watering directions until the mushrooms look like they are ready to harvest. You will likely harvest many batches from the kit. Continue the growing cycle until you cannot harvest any more from the provided substrate. Depending on the kind of mushroom you grow, you might be able to grow them outside later on a variety of substrates from partially decomposed straw or sawdust to tree stumps.
Dear Flora: What are Fairy Rings?
Signed: Tinker Bell
Dear TB: The term Fairy Rings comes from folk tales in which people believed that mushrooms grow in a ring that follows the path of a Fairy Dance. We aren't sure about the fairies, but it is true that the body of the fungus is underground and grows outward in a circle. As it grows, nutrients in the soil are used up, so a ring of dead vegetation will appear. Umbrella-shaped fruiting bodies (mushrooms) also spring up in a circle. The rings will continue to grow year after year, until a barrier is reached. There are about 60 kinds of mushrooms that can grow in rings. One of the largest Fairy Rings ever found is in France, is thought to be about 2,000 feet in diameter, and is over 700 years old.
Dear Flora: How can I use worms at my home?
Signed: Early Bird
Dear EB: Using red worms in your home to convert kitchen scraps into a rich humus is called vermicomposting. You want to purchase red worms (these are better in the home than regular earthworms found in your soil). After that, all you need is a container, a little soil, some bedding material (such as corrugated cardboard, shredded newspaper or small pieces of egg cartons soaked in water), water and your household scraps. Put the bedding in the container, add some soil, then kitchen scraps. Put the worms on top and they will disappear in a short time as they don't like light. Keep the upper layer of bedding moist, dampening it every few days. Remember that worms need moist, but not wet, conditions and air (ventilation holes are a must)! The worms turn scraps into worm casting that can be used as compost or that can be added to water to create a rich fertilizer (worm tea). In a month or two, take half the bedding and worms out of the tub and start another worm farm. Worms donít like to live in their own castings and will die if not offered a fresh home. If you donít want to start a new bin, transfer the overload to your compost or leaf pile.
Dear Flora: How many worms to do I need to start with?
Signed: Vermiculture Vera
Dear VV: This depends on how much daily food waste you have. The worm to daily food ratio is 2 pounds of earthworms for each pound of food per day or a ratio of 2:1.
Dear Flora: I want to start an indoor worm farm. Where do I get red worms?
Signed: Scrappy Sal
Dear SS: The Cooperative Extension Service office has names of suppliers, plus you can also find information on the internet. One source is Wilson's Worms in Montana at wilsonsworms.com or (406) 685-3551.
Dear Flora: How good are worm castings?
Signed: Fertile Nellie
Dear FN: Worm castings have long been known to be a highly fertile component of garden soil. Compared to average soil, worm poop is said to contain 5 times more nitrogen (for green leaves), 7 times more phosphorous (root development), and 11 times more potassium (general plant health). They greatly improve soil structure as well.
Dear Flora: Can red worms survive the heat of an active compost pile?
Signed: Red Worm
Dear RW: Yes, the worms will survive in a compost pile as long as they have somewhere (to the side or top) to go. It is important in the summertime to water the pile regularly, though.
Dear Flora: Can red worms be added directly to the garden soil instead of putting them in the compost pile?
Signed: Soil Worm
Dear SW: You can add them directly to the garden soil, however, if they donít have anything to eat (compost or decaying matter) they will die or leave the area in search of food. Red worms are not soil eaters.
Dear Flora: How do I contact Flora and the Sage and Snow Garden Club?
Signed: Seeking Gardening Friends
Dear SGF: Come to our monthly meetings and learn tips from Flora and other local gardeners! The next Sage and Snow Garden Club meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 22 at the Sublette County Weed and Pest Office located at 12 South Bench Road, Pinedale (307-367-4728). Our educational topic will be on composting. Social time is at 4:30 P.M. followed by a business meeting at 5:00 P.M. Send questions for Flora to P.O. Box 2280, Pinedale, WY, 82941 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about the garden club go to our website at https://sites.google.com/site/sageandsnowgardenclub/.