Mushrooms: Good or Bad?

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With the wet weather, we’ve been getting more questions at the nursery about whether mushrooms are good or bad for your garden.

My reply? Don’t fear the fungi.

Mushrooms actually are a friend, not a foe in your garden. Basically, they break down complex organic materials like dead leaves and wood chips. This turns them into substances plants can absorb.

Not that you see any of this. What you think of as a mushroom is the “fruit” body of the plant. There’s a bunch of stuff happening below the soil’s surface that is good for your garden.

How mushrooms help

Mushrooms have filaments called hyphae that spread out into the soil and interact with nearby plant roots. This interaction increases the roots’ surface area, which has a whole host of benefits, such as:

  • An increased ability to suck up water and nutrients from the soil
  • Improved drought tolerance
  • Improved disease resistance
  • Reduced stress from weather conditions and transplant shock

In fact, mycorrhizae are often used to improve poor soil. If you are seeing mushrooms, it’s an indicator that your soil is healthy. 

Generally, I’d leave your mushrooms alone with one big exception: if you have pets or small kids who are out and about in your garden. Ideally, you’ll want to teach your kids to stay away from mushrooms and limit your pet’s access, but that isn’t always possible.

Some mushrooms are toxic, so if it’s likely your children or pets will get into your garden, you might want to pull them as you see them.

Mushroom superpower?

Scientists think there’s another superpower mushrooms have, although it probably isn’t playing out in your garden: they eat plastic.

I’m not kidding. In the past decade, there have been two academic studies that have shown that certain mushrooms, such as the Pestalotiopsis microspora found in the Amazon, will break down and “eat” plastic. They also don’t require oxygen to live.

Think of the possibilities. A layer of this super mushroom at the bottom of a landfill could decompose the waste in a matter of months. Natural decomposition would take decades, if not centuries.

So I think when you see some mushrooms, you should give them a little salute. Not only are they making your garden better, the might be a secret weapon in helping our environment. 

If you have any questions about mushrooms or anything else going on in your garden, please stop by and ask. Our friendly experts are always ready to help.

Happy Gardening,