New puppy owner worries about fungi in the lawn: ask an expert

Autumn is just around the corner, but there is still a lot to do in the garden. If you have any questions, turn to Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from the Oregon State University Extension Service. OSU extension teachers and master gardeners answer questions within two working days, usually less. To ask a question, just go to the OSU extension website and type in a question and the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What is your?

Q: I have a 5 month old puppy. I didn’t use any fertilizer this spring to avoid exposing the dog to toxins – and instead found persistent fungus growth which I think will increase this fall. What can I use on the lawn to deter the fungus and how long should I keep the animal out of the lawn if I do this? (The puppy is trying to eat the mushrooms, so it’s worth it for me to try and treat them.) – Lane County

A: If you have children or pets, you can remove the mushrooms, as some mushrooms can be poisonous if eaten. The University of California has a few suggestions for fungi that grow from organic matter:

“Fungi found in lawns often thrive from buried timber scraps, dead tree roots or other organic material. The fungi that produce these fungi are beneficial because they break down organic matter in the soil, making nutrients available to other plants. These fungi are generally harmless to grasses, but some people find them unsightly or want to get rid of them because young children are playing in the area. Remove fungi that grow on wood or buried roots by picking them as they appear or by digging into the wood.

Sometimes you can eliminate fungi growing from organic matter or speed up the decomposition of organic matter by applying nitrogen fertilizer at a rate of 1 pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Nitrogen should be readily available and not a slow release or water insoluble formulation. Examples include 5 pounds of ammonium sulfate (21-0-0) or specialty lawn fertilizers such as 6 pounds of 16-6-8 or 4 pounds of 27-3-4 per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Fertilization accelerates the decomposition of organic matter.

Follow the instructions on the fertilizer bag and all re-entry recommendations. If your dog tends to eat unfamiliar foods, you may want to allow the fertilizer to be completely absorbed into the lawn before letting the dog out. – Elizabeth Records, OSU Extension horticulturalist

RhododendronOSU Extension Service

Q: Should I be concerned about what I see on my rhododendron? If so, is there something that can / should be done? – Clackamas County

A: The white dotted lines on the top of the leaves and the dark tar spots below indicate that the lace bugs are causing the damage. Cultural controls consist of providing optimum growing conditions to reduce stress on the plants and regular watering of the underside of the leaves. The PNW Manual provides information on insects, resistant cultivars and provides a link to chemical control options. – Jacki Dougan, OSU extension master gardener

Ask an expert

FernOSU Extension Service

Q: Can I cut the dead stems at the base of my Western Sword Fern now? Do yes, do I have to cut them at ground level? How and when is the best time to prune a fern? – Lane County

A: The best time would be in the spring, once the danger of winter frost has passed. Dead fronds protect new tips from growing fronds. In the spring, when you see the new fronds starting, you can cut back the dead fronds to a point near the ground. However, while the fern always produces new fronds (like now), you can remove some of the dead fronds if you want things to look a bit cleaner. – Bill Hulmacher, OSU Extension Master Gardener

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