Mushrooms emerge when a decomposing fungus decides to reproduce. PHOTO CREDIT: Walter Reeves

Mushrooms are a normal part of life in a landscape

Q: What would cause a huge outbreak of mushrooms in both my lawn and pine islands? Is there anything I can do to prevent them from returning? Jerry Foster, Marietta

A: Mushrooms are just the “flowers” of some fungus that is decomposing organic matter in your lawn or under your trees. The fungus gets happy when there are conditions right for it to “bloom.” Mushrooms are a natural outcome of having organic matter close to the soil surface. Moisture and a bit of warmth make fungi really happy; they want to reproduce! That’s why you have lots of mushrooms. You can’t do much of anything to prevent them but disturbing the mulch under your trees every month will help a little. If you find them objectionable, collect them and pitch them in the garbage. If you want to identify your mushrooms, I highly recommend the newly published “Mushrooms of the Georgia Piedmont” by Mary Woehrel and William Light.

Q: Do grits, cucumber peels, coffee grounds, or cinnamon control fire ants? Annie B., Decatur

A: In a word, no. The grits/fire ant control myth has been around for ages. Folks mistakenly think that fire ants will eat the dry grits, which will explode in their stomach. In fact, fire ant workers can’t eat solid food. They carry solid particles back to their nest so larval ants can chew them up and make liquid food. The larval ants don’t explode because they break down the solid food into very small pieces before it goes to their digestive systems. They regurgitate the food for consumption by the worker ants. Even though it is amusing to believe that grits kill ants, the attempt is just a waste of good food. Studies using the other materials have shown they are ineffective as well.

Q: I recently had two trees cut down. Falling limbs damaged my bermuda grass by leaving a couple of deep gashes four inches deep and 18 inches long. How do I repair this? Josh Cole, Kennesaw

A: Try the lift and fill method. Make a 1:1 mixture of sand and planting soil. Lift out any remnants of bermudagrass in the bottom of your holes. Fill the depression with the soil mix and lay the grass pieces back in place. Water once to help the roots mesh with the underlying soil medium. No need to fertilize until next spring.

Q: Have researchers developed a hemlock that is resistant to woolly adelgid insects? Would you recommend not planting hemlocks? I need tall, thick screening in an area that gets some sun and shade to block noise and view. Valerie Carson, Sandy Springs

A: There is not one with resistance to these sap-sucking, death-dealing insects. Millions of hemlocks have died in the forests of North Georgia. That said, on a residential site you could plant a hemlock and then monitor it for insect invasion. Adelgids can be killed with a systemic insecticide drench. There are only a few infested trees in the Atlanta area. Look for a white powdery coating on branch tips in late spring.

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Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.

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