Fungus Among Us

With a wet spring and now humid summer weather there is a fungus among us……Apple Scab. This fungus survives the dormant season in the infected leaves and twigs. Black fruiting structures develop in leaves. Release of spores occurs during wet periods in the spring and they infect young leaves, shoots, and fruit.

Apple Scab

One to three weeks after infection velvet-like, dark-green fruiting structures and spores form. The fungus can infect new growth if conditions are wet for about six hours and the air temperature is mild. Repeated episodes of spore release and infection occur throughout the growing season. Moist spring and early summer weather accompanied by cool temperatures favors this disease.

The disease primarily attacks apple, crabapple, several species of mountain ash, cotoneaster and pear trees causing premature drop of the foliage during summer months. Leaves, flowers, fruit and green twigs are susceptible to infection. The first symptoms are water soaked lesions that turn olive green to dark gray and develop a velvety appearance. Eventually infected leaves turn yellow and drop from the tree prematurely, leading to completely defoliated trees by mid to late august.

It is wise to remove and dispose of infected leaves near the tree during and after the growing season. Prune rapidly growing water sprouts emerging from branches, since many of these water sprouts apple scab lesions on them. In addition, prune to increase air circulation and sunlight penetration into the canopy, which promotes drying of foliage. To minimize disease problems, the best time to prune is in the late winter or very early spring before new growth starts. Otherwise, prune when the bark and weather conditions are dry. Consider growing varieties or species of apple, crabapple, and mountain ash that are resistant to apple scab.

Mulch to do about nothing

No need to call Peter Venkman and the Ghostbusters. That strange looking blob on your bark mulch is just a fungi…..actually single celled bodies of Plasmodia or mass of Plasmodium that moves and “eats” like an amoeba. A shape shifting group of organisms that can strike fear in the heart of an unsuspecting homeowner. Who ya gonna call? Well they usually call me in a panic and go on to describe the mass as either “dog vomit” or “scrambled eggs”. The most creative description I’ve heard lately is from a friend of mine who described it as “Hollandaise sauce”. Slime molds appear suddenly usually on bark mulch around trees and landscape material in the heat of summer when enough moisture is present. Don’t worry, the panic is “mulch to do about nothing”. Get enough rainfall or irrigation combined with heat and humidity and these amazing masses closely related to amoebas or seaweed will appear out of nowhere. Technically they don’t appear out of nowhere….they like any fungi were waiting for optimum conditions. Because the plasmodium feed on bacteria and decay it’s not unusual for them to take up residence on your mulched bed. With varying temperature, pH and what the plasmodium eat it is not unusual to see different colors including bright yellow causing the mold to look like French’s mustard. The slime mold will eventually dry and turn brown and “dusty” which is the spore stage to ensure future excitement when conditions are right. Scoop up the slime mold and dispose of it or break it up and allow it to dry out. In mulch areas it may be a good indication that the mulch is “hydrophobic” and should be “stirred” anyhow. This will allow moisture to penetrate the mulch as opposed to sitting or running off. Also make sure for plant health that mulch is not applied too thick…..1 to 2 inches is plenty.

Run for the Roses

In June and July everything is coming up roses. I am amazed at the advances in rose varieties the past 5 to 10 years….their floriforus nature, ease of care and hardiness. I’m referring to “shrub roses” or “own root roses”. Some like “Wing Ding” roses look more like red daisies than roses. Own root or shrub roses grow on their own root as opposed to being grafted at the base. This makes the plants more carefree, winter hardy and abundant in bloom in the summer months.

Teeny Bopper
Wing Ding Rose

This year I have a backyard wedding planned for the end of June. My shrub roses were loaded with blooms the first week of June. I decided that to ensure blooms in late June when I wanted them, I would chop off all the flowers and feed the plants. It was painful….but it worked! Even though these roses can be treated as “self-cleaning” I pruned them to force a flush of flowers right about the time I needed them. The key is feeding with a good quality fertilizer like Rose Tone because remember roses are heavy feeders when they’re working so hard to please you!

With a good sunny spot (at least half day of sun), some soil preparation (organic material or humus) added to the parent soil and feeding anyone can add an explosion of color with “Shrub or “Own Root Roses” in their yard!

Paint the Town

There’s something strange in your neighborhood

You got slimed. Just like Dr. Peter Venkman in the Ghostbuster movie. Peter VenkmanWhen Dr. Ray Stantz says, “That’s great. Actual physical contact. Can you move?” Dr. Venkman replies, “I feel so funky”. You may feel that way when walking into your garden or landscape and stumbling on a orange, yellow, tan slimy blob. Don’t call the Ghostbusters. The blob also unscientifically refered to as dog vomit, wet cookies or scrambled eggs is Slime Mold or Fuligo septica. With the right combination of moisture, temperature and food supply (decomposing matter) individual spores release amoeba-like individual cells that come together in a single mass. This moving changing slimy mass is something scientists call plasmodium. slime_mold4A Japanese research team has found that slime mold plasmodia using rhythmic, coordinated pumping movements can travel. Slime molds will not attack your landscape plants. They may be an indication that your bark mulch is piled to thick or is too wet. It may also indicate your mulch has become surface crusted or water shedding hydrophobic. It’s a good idea to stir up the mulch in your landscape areas from time to time. In areas where the mulch is over 2 inches thick pull some mulch away. If you don’t, you might just get slimed like Dr. Peter Venkman.