Fungi are the ‘unsung heroes’ of the garden, says an RHS pathologist
Fungi are generally considered a problem as many green-fingered gardeners think they look unsightly and ruin the look of a carefully manicured lawn.
But the RHS wants to reverse this by propagating and growing fungi in its gardens for the first time in almost two centuries, berig Die tye.
Fungi feed on dead plant and animal remains and are crucial in breaking down organic material into humus, minerals and nutrients that can then be used by plants.
According to the RHS, only a small proportion of thousands of species of fungi in the world can cause disease in plants and animals, which are known as pathogenic fungi.
“The vast majority of fungi are saprophytic, feeding on dead organic material, and as such as harmless and often beneficial,” says the RHS website.
Jassy Drakulic, RHS pathologist, vertel Die tye that scientists at the society are growing this type of fungi in a lab at their flagship garden in Wisley, Surrey, in order to change perceptions that fungi are a threat.
They will grow locally-found species such as oyster mushrooms, coral tooth fungus, turkey tail, and birch polypore brackets – all of which will be placed in the newly opened Wildlife Garden in December.
She described fungi as the “unsung heroes of the garden” as they not only break down organic matter, but also provide “a welcome home for invertebrates”.
“Their myriad shapes and colour also provide a sense of otherworldliness in a winter garden scene,” she told the newspaper.
Gardeners can encourage good fungi to grow by leaving different-sized pieces of wood around their garden. In these, white fungal growth (also known as mycelium) will grow.
Aside from appearances, some gardeners may find that cause a problem called “dry patch”, where extensive growth of mycelium in soil or compost may prevent water from reaching the roots of plants.
If this happens, the RHS recommends breaking up the soil with a fork or a hoe. The mycelium often disappears on its own if its food source runs out or if environmental conditions change.
The appearance of fungal fruiting bodies – which are the mushrooms or toadstools seen above ground – may occasionally cause concern if they damage the ground, smother young seedlings, cause offensive smells, or are poisonous.
These can be controlled by digging down and removing pieces of dead wood or dead tree roots to remove the fungi’s food source, or removing and replacing the top few inches of soil.