The Q&A Archives: Starting a garden

Question: What would you suggest regarding starting a garden. My mother for many years always planted tomatoes, collard greens and herbs. How do I just start a garden. I want to start simple so that i can watch my garden and keep it looking fresh. Also, I have these mushrooms that contiue to appear in my grass every couple of weeks. I do think when my husband is cutting the grass that he is spreading mushrooms throughout the grass. How do I get rid of the mushrooms? Do I dig them out?

Answer: A vegetable and herb garden should be fairly simple to grow and maintain, providing you prepare the soil prior to planting and you situate it in the sunniest site possible. If you start small you can expand as your experience and time will allow. Begin by identifying a sunny spot and removing any existing vegetation. Then spread 4-5 inches of organic matter over the top of the soil and dig it in to a depth of 8-10 inches. You can use compost, aged manure, shredded leaves or whatever is available locally. Adding organic matter will loosen the soil, help it drain well yet hold just the right amount of moisture for the roots of your plants. After you've incorporated the organic matter, rake the soil smooth and plant. It's late in the season so I'd suggest purchasing seedlings rather than trying to start from seed. After you've planted, spread an additional 2-3" of organic matter over the bare soil. This will help suppress weeds, slow water evaporation and moderate soil temperatures. At the end of the season you can dig this organic matter into the soil which will further help to improve it. After a few years of this treatment you'll end up with rich, loose garden loam and your plants will thrive.

Mushrooms of many different sizes, colors, shapes, and habits of growth commonly invade lawns after prolonged wet weather or if soil does not drain quickly. Although they usually disappear when the weather becomes dry, it is sometimes necessary or desirable to apply control measures.

The mushrooms that grow in clumps or individually on the lawn are growing on some organic matter buried in the soil. This organic matter may be in the form of buried logs, dead roots, stumps, or even construction debris. Fungi of this types are saprophytes and cause no damage to the grass even though they are unsightly.

Another type of mushroom, called "fairy rings," that form an arc or circle on the lawn, do damage lawns. The grass near the ring or arc of growth is darker than the grass outside the ring. However, the grass inside the ring becomes brown and eventually dies. The "fairy ring" grows from a central point and continues to spread at the rate of 6 to 24 inches annually. This means that the affected area becomes greater each year. Fertilization may help mask the affected area or the infested turf can be dug out, replaced with clean soil, and sodded or seeded.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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