Mulching is an age-old technique used to enrich your garden, and balance soil moisture, among other things. However, when the weather gets a bit damper, you may notice that there is a fungus growing on your mulch.
This brings up the question; is mulch fungus dangerous, and how can you get rid of it?
How to get rid of mulch fungus, well, mulch fungus is a natural part of mulch, but it can be an issue when the colony gets out of control. If it does, we recommend removing it by hand or raising the soil’s pH to protect against harmful types of fungus.
Although some fungus growth is natural and wanted, it can get overgrown if the environment is particularly damp. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to keep mulch fungus under control.
This article is going to dig into mulch fungus, why it happens, and why it is important. We will also help you figure out how to eliminate any unwanted mulch fungus with five simple tips.
What is Mulch Fungus?
First, a quick recap.
Mulch is an organic garden topper that is made from a mix of shredding wood and bark. It is applied on top of your soil in an even layer to help keep your soil in the ideal growing conditions.
The purpose of mulch is to:
- Protect the soil
- Conserve moisture
- Limit weed growth
- Regulate soil temperature
Not only is mulch incredibly beneficial, but it’s also an eco-friendly product as it is often the by-product of the lumber, papermill, or recycling industries.
Since mulch promotes a moist environment, it is not surprising that you may have to deal with mulch fungus. There are a variety of funguses that particularly enjoy mulch, including mushrooms, slime molds, and artillery fungus.
The fungus that grows on mulch often pops up after prolonged periods of rain when the area is particularly moist. This occurs because mulch is the ideal moist, nutrient-rich, and warm environment for fungi to grow happily.
But is this a bad thing?
Let’s investigate the possible benefits of mulch fungus.
What are the Benefits of Mulch Fungus?
When you first notice fungus growing on your mulch, you might presume that it’s a bad sign, but what if we told you that it could actually be a good thing?
Since the purpose of mulch is to improve the soil quality, fungi and bacteria are a hugely important part of this process. They break down the organic matter into nutrient-rich hummus that is easy for the plants to absorb.
These fungi and bacteria may be microscopic, but they are still there. Some fungus may be visible but hiding. If you lift up an area of mulch, you might notice a crumbly white fungus; this is precisely what you want in healthy mulch. These fungi are referred to as saprophytic because they live harmoniously with your plants.
However, when the weather gets wet, the fungus can grow wild and free and make itself visible. Most mulch fungi pose no health hazards to you or your plants unless the mushrooms are mistakenly eaten.
Safe versions of mulch fungus can help keep the soil rich and full of nutrients.
However, one fungus that you may want to get rid of on your mulch is artillery fungus. This fungus is white, orange, and black, with areas of white fluffy mold between orange cups holding a black egg.
The issue with artillery mold is that it will creep onto houses as high up as the second floor and stain the siding in a way that is hard to get off. This may also happen with vehicles that are parked nearby. Artillery fungus damage can cost you a lot of money to fix, so it is one form of mulch fungus that we recommend getting rid of it immediately.
How to Get Rid of Mulch Fungus
Although some fungus growth is needed and safe, there are some reasons why you may want to get rid of mulch fungus.
If there is artillery fungus present, we recommend removing it. Removing any prominent mushrooms if you have small children that may inadvertently eat them is also a good idea. If the colony starts taking over a large area, we suggest removing the fungus.
There are a few ways to handle mulch fungus:
● Leave it Alone
No, really, our top tip is to leave your mulch fungus be and let it work its magic.
Most forms of mulch fungus are perfectly safe and can be a very beautiful addition to your garden. If your children are old enough not to grab them, you can even use the fungi as a way to teach your little ones about the wonders of nature.
However, whether it’s because the colony has got overboard or because you are growing artillery mold, then you have some options:
● Remove By Hand
This is the easiest, quick fix for removing mulch fungus, which works particularly well for larger mushrooms.
We suggest putting on gloves and removing the mushrooms by hand before discarding them. Avoid putting them only in your compost heap, or you will simply transfer the mushrooms from one place to another.
Try to get the whole piece of fungus, including the root, to ensure that it doesn’t grow back.
● Raise Soil pH
Artillery mold loves the acidic environment of good mulch, so the best way to combat this is to raise the soil pH as a preventative measure.
The easiest way to do this is using garden lime. This is an affordable product that can be easily applied onto the mulch and watered to let it sink in. This should discourage any further growth of artillery mold.
● Mushroom Compost
Yes, we know this may sound counterintuitive, but mixing mushroom compost with your mulch is an excellent way to prevent artillery fungus from growing.
This is because it promotes the development of essential microorganisms that will prevent artillery fungus from growing. Conversely, this may encourage more mushroom growth, but as we mentioned earlier, these are not harmful and will help your mulch do its job.
The best way to utilize mushroom compost, or black gold as it is also known, is to mix it with your fresh mulch before replacing it once a year. This will prevent artillery mold from growing from the very start.
● Baking Soda Solution
Baking soda is an ingredient that seems to have endless applications both in and outside the kitchen, and the garden is not an exception!
In this case, you can use it as a quick and affordable way to lower the acidity in your mulch and dry out the body of the fungus, eventually killing it.
To apply the baking soda, mix one teaspoon with one gallon of water and dissolve well. Pour this mixture over the affected areas of your mulch and leave it to dry out the offending fungus.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is moldy mulch harmful to humans?
A lot of people are curious as to whether moldy mulch can be harmful to humans, especially if you are using it in a vegetable garden.
The answer is no; unless you are eating the mushrooms themselves, there is no risk to your health if your mulch is moldy.
This should, in fact, breed a very fruitful environment for your crops.
Is mulch fungus harmful to pets?
No, most mulch fungus will not be harmful to your pets on contact.
However, some mushrooms are highly poisonous, so if your pet has actually consumed the mushrooms, we recommend taking them to the vet immediately.
How often should you replace your mulch?
There are a lot of factors going into deciding when to change your mulch as different mulch degrades at different rates depending on soil conditions and weathering. It is an organic material, after all, and the goal is for it to break down and enrich the soil.
Our general rule of thumb is to replace your mulch once a year at most.
As you can see, mulch fungus can be a friend or foe, depending on what kind you are dealing with.
In our opinion, unless you are dealing with artillery fungus or it is completely taking over your mulch, we suggest leaving your mulch fungus alone.
It signifies that your soil is rich and moist, and your mulch is doing its job. However, by all means, remove any particularly stubborn patches if they start to take over your beds.
Thank you for coming along into the wonderful world of mulch fungus with us; we hope it was helpful.