Don’t Fear the Fungus

Some are scary or downright disgusting when you first encounter them. Is that dog vomit? No, it might be an aptly named slime mold, Fuligo septica. Technically not a fungus, this protist appears suddenly, much like a lawn mushroom, and disappears almost as fast. If you knew the gargantuan effort it takes to assemble this many single-celled organism you might just leave them be to finish out their lifecycle.   

While fungi come in a wondrous assortment of colors and forms, the vast majority are not only beneficial but necessary. They’re also beautiful! Consider the delicate banded Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), the lacey petticoat of bridal veil stinkhorn, or the artists’ favorite, Amanita muscaria

Situation Normal 

Mushrooms in your lawn is not a sign of something wrong! They’re simply the visible part of a much larger network of underground mycelium, breaking down dead and decaying organic matter. Look around – is there a stump nearby? 99% of fungus won’t harm a living tree; they’re there to help with decomposing dead or dying wood, along with leaves, wood chips, branches, and fallen fruit. Mushrooms are a good sign! They’re proof the soil is alive, diverse, and rich in nutrients – the foundation of a healthy lawn and landscape. 

What to Do 

Resist the urge to treat it and grab your phone instead. Easy-to-use apps such as iNaturalist or Google Lens will help you identify which mushroom is flourishing in your flower bed. iNaturalist will even help you filter by location to see what others are seeing nearby. 

Fungicides are not recommended. The mushrooms typically aren’t causing damage and the chemicals are largely ineffective since the bulk of the mushroom exists belowground – think multiple square feet. It’s that extensive network of hyphae throughout the soil that comprises the true fungus from which the fruiting bodies – mushroom caps – arise. They’re a natural part of spring and fall when moisture abounds and temperatures cool. As weather conditions become unfavorable mushrooms retreat on their own, often as quickly as they appeared. You can discourage mushrooms by watering less frequently and pruning to reduce shade. 

Treatment 

If you really want them gone – perhaps you have a toddler or dog that puts everything in their mouth, here’s how: 

  • Cut or pull or mow the fruiting bodies to limit the number of spores and therefore future mushrooms. The rest of the fungal mycelia will persist underground until conditions return for another round of fruiting – likely not for a while.  
  • When trees are removed, the roots persist and begin to decompose with the help of insects, bacteria and fungi. The only way to permanently stop the continual upcropping of mushrooms is to dig out the soil containing the decaying matter, 12 to 18 inches deep and 2 feet outside the mushroom cluster. If that seems like a lot of work, leave the mushroom power houses there. When they’ve done their job of devouring all that underground material, it – and the mushrooms above – will disappear for good. 
  • Take care to wash hands thoroughly after handling mushrooms, as even some edible types can cause irritation. 

Mushrooms are a good sign. Delight in their ephemeral presence next time they make an appearance in your yard. Most are no “truffle” at all. 

Discover More! 

iNaturalist Mushrooms of Texas 

North American Mycological Association has an extensive list of recommended books. While you are there check out their stunning photography contests. 

All about dog vomit slime mold 

Questions or comments?

Email enviro@thewoodlandstownship-tx.gov

It’s Backyard Composting Week!

Composting is natural recycling. Put your yard trimmings and kitchen scraps to work by creating nutrient rich homemade compost in your own back yard. This week the Environmental Services Department is focusing on backyard composting. Whether you are new to composting or have been doing it for years, we’ve got some great tips and resources to help you out.  

Benefits of Composting  

Learn how composting can add value to your home landscape. 

Composting During COVID-19 Fact Sheet 

Home composting is safe even in the current COVID-19 situation.  Find out more from the US Composting Council. 


Beginning Composter  

If you are thinking about composting but haven’t started yet, these resources are just for you. Need a quick start “how to compost” guide? In just a few minutes, National Geographic will teach you how to begin composting at home.

Click the photo above to watch the National Geographic Green Guide

Remember the essentials of composting by using this easy one-page guide from Texas A&M. 


Already Composting   

Learn how to enhance your composting skills with this informative webinar from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. 

Texas A&M’s “do it yourself” guide offers more information on backyard composting. 


Experienced Composter  

The Institute for Local Self-Reliance offers detailed home composting information in this 1.5-hour webinar. 

Compost Bins for Sale

To help you get started with backyard composting, The Woodlands Township is offering high quality collapsible compost bins for only $50. If purchased online, these bins retail for $150-$200. Call The Woodlands Township 281-210-3800, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. to purchase.  Bin pick up is available by appointment.  Happy Composting! 

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

Recycling Dilemma #1008: Plastic bags and film – Friend or Foe?

Paper or plastic? Environmentally conscious shoppers know the answer: none of the above. They know reusable totes beat paper or plastic every time. Forgoing plastic bags at the store has a big impact. But what about all the other plastic packaging in our lives? Film that wraps itself around our favorite snacks, air pillows and bubble wrap mailed to us daily, and newspaper bags magically appearing on our driveway.   

While it is most important to reduce our consumption of single use plastics such as bags and film, it’s nearly impossible to avoid these stretchy, sneaky plastics. They’re everywhere. Yet, they can’t be recycled in our curbside carts. They can, however, be easily recycled at local stores.  

Are these plastics all foes to the planet, or could they be recycled and reimagined as an eco-friendly material?  

The plastic bags and film that you recycle at the store are sold to manufacturers. They take on a second life as bottles and containers, plastic lumber, picnic tables, lawn furniture, playground equipment, recycling bins and more. Trex combines recycled film with reclaimed woods to create a wood-alternative decking and railing used in local parks, pathways and backyard patios.  

See how companies like Trex are reimagining plastic film as an Eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood lumber. 

Recycle these plastic films if they are clean and dry only: 

  • Air Pillows and Bubble Wrap 
  • Case Wrap, Pallet/Stretch Wrap 
  • Newspaper and Magazine Sleeves 
  • Bags on Clothing or Electronics 
  • Dry Cleaning Bags 
  • Bread Bags, Produce Bags, Food Storage Bags (but NOT frozen food or salad bags) 
  • Grocery/Retail Bags & Other Film Packages 

Please only recycle film that is clean and dry. Moisture causes mildew on film and cannot be accepted at stores. For a printable guide, click here.

Plastic bags and film can be recycled at participating locations such as all grocery stores in The Woodlands, the Precinct 3 Recycling Facility and department stores such as Walmart and Target. Look for a receptacle near the entrance or ask staff at the service desk.  Please note, during the COVID-19 pandemic, some locations may not be accepting plastics at this time. If either is the case, please collect your bags/wraps at home until events change. Bags/wraps can be compressed and stored inside another plastic bag. 

Plastic bags and bagged recyclables are not accepted in our curbside recycling cart program because sorting equipment is not designed to process it without damaging equipment or creating hazardous work conditions for staff. Find more information in Recycling Dilemma #1004 – To bag or not to bag

Check out these recycling tips from previous blogs:    

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

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions Online Learning – Day 5

Creating a Healthy and Beautiful Lawn 

 Selecting the Perfect Turf 

For a healthy and beautiful lawn, start by selecting the right turf grass for your home. Whether you’re looking for low maintenance, durability (can it hold up to the weekly family flag football game?) or you just need something that will grow in a little shade, there is a turf grass for you. 


Put the Care into Lawn Care 

This video builds off of the lessons from ‘Selecting the Perfect Turf’. Get a refresher on common types of turf and then dive into proper maintenance techniques, efficient water methods, and simple and effective fertilizer and pesticide applications. 


Weed ‘Em and Reap – Weeds and Watering 

This class makes sense of two of the most challenging issues many homeowners face. If you’re having trouble controlling unwanted plants in your lawn and landscape or if you’re confused about when to water and when to wait, we’re here to help. Learn the best approach to managing weeds effectively without the overuse of chemicals and your time so you can reap the rewards of a green environment. Thistle be a great class for sure!


How to Identify Sod Webworm in Your Lawn 

Landscape entomologist, Doug Caldwell investigates a summertime insect outbreak that has appeared on a South Florida lawn.  Many homeowners have reported witnessing sod webworms wreaking havoc on their St. Augustine lawns this summer. This video can help you identify the insect, its signs and symptoms, as well as provide options for treatment and prevention. 


Beyond the turf – videos to beautify your yard 

Made for the Shade 

Many native and adapted plants thrive in shady conditions. This video offers a variety of plants from groundcovers to small trees that can add beauty and color to those areas in your yard that don’t receive full sun.  


 Plants Combos and Companions 

Companion planting is the art of growing plants in proximity to each other because of their ability to enhance or complement each other.  Learn from Dr. Becky Bowling on how to select plants that offer year-round color and texture with this beginner-friendly landscape design class. Give your yard function and purpose through plant combinations and companions. 


Additional Resources: 

That wraps up our week-long online program.  We hope you learned something new and are ready to improve your landscape.  

These videos will remain archived on The Woodlands Township Environmental Services Blog. Access for a refresher on your favorite topics any time. 

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

Woodlands Landscaping Solutions Online Learning: Day 3

Build a Successful Landscape from Ground Up 

Today’s online programming will help you find easier, more effective and more sustainable ways to enhance your landscape. Learn about plant selection, improving soil health and pest control best practices (many common plant problems, like insects and disease, can be easily resolved once the cause is identified).  

Set-up for Success: The 3 S’s 

 Right Plant Right Place, UMN Extension Part 1  

While set in Minnesota, Extension Educator Julie Weisenhorn gives a great overview of how to choose the perfect plant for that empty spot in your yard or garden – whether it’s for your entryway or anywhere else. Putting the right plant in the right place is the foundation of any successful garden. Learn how to assess soil, sun, space and other factors in this handy how-to video on one of the fundamental aspects of garden design.  

Bottom line: Avoid most plant problems with this one concept (8:44)

Extra credit: The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Finder allows you to plug all your requirements into their database to find the perfect match for you from their list of Pineywood natives (which they call the South Central Plains).


Feed the Soil Microbiome 

Building Microbe-Rich Living Compost Part 1 

Making and applying microbe-rich compost is one of the most valuable things you can do for your soil. Understand principles and practices of home-scale composting to insure a rodent-free and biologically active compost pile. A great resource whether you’re just beginning to compost or are experienced and looking to make your compost even better.  

Cultivating Connections: Soil Redemption Song 

Michael Phillips takes you on a deep dive into the microscopic communities beneath our feet and our crops. He talks about the fungal network as a pathway to bringing resilience to gardens and landscapes.  Michael Phillip, who’s latest book, “Mycorrhizal Planet: How Fungi and Plants Work Together to Create Dynamic Soils,” explores the science of symbiotic fungi and sets the stage for practical applications across the landscape. 


Encourage Nature’s Pest Control 

Managing Garden Insects Begins with a Question: Friend or Foe? 

Learning “what is it?” is the first step in determining if an insect is a useful garden partner, a minor player, or potentially a bigger problem. Your garden may have over 1000 different insects! Most are actually harmless or provide beneficial functions like pollination and predation. Learn to recognize and protect nature’s pest control at various stages in their lifecycle, along with pests associated with chewing, discoloration, distortion, and die back.  

Bottom line: Every. Single. Gardener. Needs to know this info! (18:04) 

Farmscaping for Pollinators & Predatory Insects 

Learn about the dynamic interactions between plants, pollinator and predator insects that will help you create a buzz of biodiversity and balance in your niche of the local ecosystem. Discover key plants that add biodiversity and beauty to your garden through a conversation with Pat Battle from Living Web Farms. Watch the first 31 mins for a new approach to farming that works for the home garden too, then follow Pat and his class on a delightful tour through the farmscape.  

Bottom line: Good for gardeners who want to “level-up” on biodiversity (1:24:04) 

Building A Host Environment for Beneficial Insects  

Build it and they will come! Bring it all together with elements you can add to any garden that encourage self-sustaining populations of nature’s natural pest control featuring the story of momma hoverfly, and why its OK to have aphids!

Bonus: If you are considering purchasing and releasing lady beetles, check out Lady Beetles for Aphid Control by Oklahoma Gardening host Kim Toscano. 

Pesticide Safety 

Backyard Farmer – Pesticide Safety 

Sometimes a problem requires a chemical solution – whether its naturally derived like neem or a broad-spectrum pyrethroid. University of Nebraska Extension Pesticide Education Coordinator Larry Schulze gives us tips on active ingredients, reading and following pesticide labels and using these chemicals safely around our homes. 

Bottom line: Important information for all who use pesticides – the label is the law (5:58)

Additional Resources:  

Join us tomorrow for more online programming as we explore How To Attract Wildlife To Your Yard. 

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