Fantastic Fungi! Feed, Fix, Fight

While breaking down old tree limbs is their most visible job, fungi do far more than just decompose. They form vital associations with plants, supporting most of the green world as we know it. They’re employed at toxic waste sites to sequester heavy metals. And they even engage in biowarfare, helping to protect crops and turf. Fungi are antibacterial, anti-fungal, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory. And many are tasty and nutritious, to boot! Here’s a taste of their superpowers: 

Feeding trees and plants

Only 10% of the estimated 5 million species of fungi produce mushrooms, but many more are important nutrient cyclers, turning detritus into soluble forms for living plants. Move a stick or log, and you’ll notice fuzzy, cobwebby threads stretching everywhere – that’s mycelium, a network of fungal threads that are the foundation of the food web, supporting other soil microbes like bacteria and invertebrates. The kin (called mycorrhizae) form a synergistic relationship with 95% or more of all plant species. The mycorrhizae gather nutrients from far beyond the grasp of plant roots; in turn, plants release surplus sugars from photosynthesis to support the fungal symbiotes. 

Remediating pollutants

Mycoremediation – using fungi to help break down environmental contaminants – is particularly effective at removing heavy metals such as copper, lead, mercury, arsenic, and nickel from contaminated soils. Mutagens and carcinogens, these metals contaminate food and water supplies, threatening the health of animals and humans, alike. Certain fungi also play a role in degrading pesticides, pharmaceutical wastes and even petroleum products.

Fighting pests

A fungus as a pesticide? Yes! First discovered in a cinnamon tree in Honduras, Muscodor albus produces a mixture of volatile organic compounds that kill a wide range of fungal and bacterial pathogens. Early tests indicate it could replace methyl bromide fumigation as a means to control soil-borne plant diseases. You can’t see it but they’re fighting the good fight deep below your feet. That’s why it’s not recommended to treat those stray mushrooms that pop up in your lawn – applying fungicides to the lawn kills these beneficial fungi too.  Consider that a single cubic inch of soil can have more than 8 miles of mycelium, a network that creates microenvironments for beneficial bacteria, flagellates and protists. Avoiding lawn chemicals protects the important balance of predators and pests that healthy soil provides.  


Did you miss the Walk in the Woods online presentation in February?  Watch the recording and join mycophile and Texas Master Naturalist Teri MacArthur as she shares The Weird and Wonderful World of Mushrooms.


Discover More! 

Paul Stamets Fantastic Fungi “Mush Room” of resources. Listen to his Ted Talk on the 6 Ways Mushrooms Can Save the World

iNaturalist Mushrooms of Texas https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/mushrooms-of-texas 

North American Mycological Association has an extensive list of recommended books https://namyco.org/refbooks.php. While you are there check out their stunning photography contests.


Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Hiring! Seasonal Mosquito Technicians 2021

The Environmental Services Department is looking for enthusiastic, dedicated, independent individuals to join the Mosquito Team. Increase your field and laboratory experience while being an important part of this public health and outreach program.

  • Work as part of a team to monitor for mosquito-borne diseases
  • Deploy traps throughout The Woodlands that target different species
  • Use your interpersonal skills while sharing information with the public
  • Delve into the world of mosquito anatomy and identification in the lab
  • Expand your knowledge of water conservation, recycling right, sustainable landscapes and more supporting Environmental Services programs and events

Positions are from mid-May through end of November with an opportunity to extend the term of employment (can also accommodate students returning to college in August).

Apply today!

Applications will be accepted until April 16, 2021, or until position is filled. Interested candidates are encouraged to submit applications early. View the full job description here.

Questions? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov or call Environmental Services 281-210-3800.

Established in 2005, the mission of the Mosquito Surveillance & Education Program is to reduce the risk of mosquito-borne disease transmission for the protection and wellbeing of The Woodlands residents through the application of Integrated Mosquito Management. Learn what you can do to target mosquitoes.

Earth Day GreenUp – Registration Closes March 15!

Lend a hand in keeping our community clean and green. 

Join us for the 10th annual community litter cleanup, Earth Day GreenUp on Saturday, March 20, 2021. Team up with family, friends and neighbors for a socially-distanced volunteer opportunity to target litter on pathways, parks, waterways and greenbelts.    

Each year GreenUpvolunteers remove 4,500 pounds of litter - 76 curbside trash carts worth! 
 
The safety of volunteers, residents and staff is the highest priority. All event staff will wear face coverings and participants are required to wear a face covering at the check-in locations. Please send one participant per group to pick up equipment. Due to COVID safety concerns, the post-clean up celebration at Northshore Park will not be held this year.  Equipment return and t-shirt pickup will occur at check-in locations. 
 
Pre-register before March 15th  
Pre-registration is encouraged before March 15th, especially for groups. Those who pre-register will receive a special 10-year anniversary t-shirt (while supplies last, sizes are limited). Day-of walk-up registration is also welcome.  

Check-In and Equipment Return Locations 
Report to your chosen village park on Saturday, March 20, 2021, from 8 to 10 a.m. to sign in and pick up disposable gloves, bags and maps to a cleanup site. A limited number of trash grabbers will be available for loan. Return equipment and bring bagged litter to the drop site at the same park by 11 a.m. 

Thank You Sponsors 
Chevron Phillips Chemical, Howard Hughes Corporation, Papa John’s Pizza, Waste Management, Woodlands Water, The Woodlands GREEN and Yellowstone Landscape 


Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Learn a thing, share a thing!

Looking for an easy way to save lots of water? Properly manage your sprinkler system. It’s a great way to keep your lawn healthy, too. Then share your knowledge with neighbors to multiply your impact.  

Without good information, it’s easy to overwater your lawn. Raise your hand if weeds and pests are staking a little too much claim these days. Does your water bill seem a bit high and you’re not sure why? Have you spent too many mornings hoping the neighbors don’t notice you watered the sidewalk all night? Its ok, you’re not alone.  

Anyone with an automatic sprinkler system has dealt with these issues from time to time. They’re signs that your sprinkler system is due for its regular tune-up. The good news, it’s easy – as long as you have the right information. Even better news, these small fixes result in big water savings. That’s good for the environment, your lawn, and your pocketbook. Double the positive impact by sharing your new-found knowledge with a neighbor.  

Controlling irrigation relies on these simple steps:

  • Check sprinkler heads for misalignment; don’t water the driveway 
  • Set your controller on manual so it doesn’t automatically run, rain or shine 
  • Check and re-set your controller after power outages; don’t water the wrong amount

Step 1: Before you start adjusting things, first determine how much water your lawn needs. St. Augustine lawns require no more than 1” a week (including rain), spring through fall. Woodlands Water Agency makes it easy to gauge your water needs with their weekly Irrigation Recommendation emails. The recommendations are based on real-time scientific data – precipitation and evapotranspiration rates – correlated with the amount of water St. Augustin lawns require. Check the weekly email and adjust your sprinkler system accordingly. It’s that simple. Sign up for your weekly recommendation email here: https://www.woodlandswater.org/ (enter your address under “RECEIVE UPDATES”). 

Step 2: Audit your sprinkler system regularly. Sprinkler systems loosen up and misalign over time. A regular adjustment ensures you’re putting out the right amount of water and putting it where it needs to be – not in the street. It’s easier and quicker than it sounds. The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Department can help! 

Attend a how-to class right from your kitchen table. The Spring Sprinkler Check-up and Audit Class on Saturday, March 13, 2021 from 10 to 11 a.m., demonstrates step-by-step how to assess your sprinkler system and make any needed adjustments. Sprinkler audits take less than 30 minutes once you have the basics down – this class lays them out for you.  

Step 3: Share your knowledge. Put your insights to work by helping a neighbor perform their own audits. You’ll double your water conserving impact. And it will likely grow from there as they share it down the line.  


The Spring Sprinkler Check-Up and Class is FREE, but REGISTRATION is required. Do it now while you’re thinking about it. And why not get a neighbor to join you!

To learn about more Environmental Services classes, workshops, and events, sign up for our BLOG or email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

Can your freeze damaged plants recover?

Were your plants damaged by the winter storm? If you’re unsure where to begin in the recovery process, we can help. Before you dig, cut, prune or chop let these local experts guide you through the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri.  


Many resources have become available in the last week. We’ve included a short list of archived videos and articles below.  If you are looking for a live seminar on plant recovery, register today for the March 10 presentation by Bob Dailey, Texas Master Gardener. 


Bookmark these timeless articles and refer back for quick tips on plant care over the next few months.  

Houston Botanic Garden  

A quick read to get you started on your plant recovery process. The biggest take away: Patience is key. 

Urban Harvest  

This article starts with step one: triage.  Learn what to look for, identify what needs to be removed and what indicates your plant has survived.  Read about specific approaches to your citrus, vegetables and fruits. 

9 Rules for Horticultural Freeze Recovery 

Notable author and host of Houston’s GardenLine radio, Randy shares his expertise on how to approach a post-freeze cleanup.  The advice doesn’t stop with these 9 rules. Listen to archived radio shows for more tips or call in for a Q&A during a live broadcast. 


Backyard Winter Storm Recovery Webinar with Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab  

A roundtable of lawn and garden experts answer the tough questions including: what does turf grass need after a freeze, how to be patient with your palms and how much to prune your shrubs.  

Will They Survive the Winter Blast?  

Aggie Horticulture dives into what impact Winter Storm Uri had across the state of Texas. This video reviews all the factors that made this storm especially damaging including the freezing temperatures, the duration of low temperatures, the wind and precipitation. Speakers walk around the garden and review best care practices for a variety of plants you may find in your landscape. 


Now that you know how to care for your freeze-damaged plants, have you given any thought on how to be better prepared for the next winter storm?   

Texas A&M Agrilife Extension has a detailed article on Protecting Landscapes and Horticultural Crops from Frosts and Freezes.   Weather is unpredictable, but by educating ourselves we can be better prepared for future freezes.  

Questions or comments? Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov