The Q&A Archives: Suspected garden contamination

Question: Several years ago I bought hardwood mulch and mulched it in. Since that time, especially my Merced tomatoes, put on one set of fruit and quit. I dug under them and found a white fungus. What can I use to decontaminate my garden?

Answer: The white fungus you see is the natural process of decay taking place--microorganisms like bacteria and fungi go to work immediately to begin breaking down organic matter. It's a good thing! I doubt very much if the fungus is what is causing your problems.<br><br>Did you mulch around the tomatoes in your garden? Did you fertilize the tomatoes during the season? Mulching with a high carbon substance like wood chips can induce a temporary nitrogen deficiency in the soil, as the burgeoning microbe population uses up all the available nitrogen for a time. The finer the wood chips, the quicker the decay, and the worse the problem. If you didn't add supplemental nitrogen over the season, then this could be a factor. Also, over time, the chips can increase the acidity of the soil.<br><br>You might have a soil test done, just to check on nutrient levels. Contact your Extension office at 817-865-2414 for a test kit. <br><br>I would try using a lighter straw mulch around the tomatoes. It will have less of a nitrogen-depleting effect.

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