Suspected garden contamination - Knowledgebase Question

Gatesville, TX
Question by bel5
March 7, 1998
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?


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Answer from NGA
March 7, 1998

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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.

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.

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.

I would try using a lighter straw mulch around the tomatoes. It will have less of a nitrogen-depleting effect.

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