Spooky Stuff in the Garden

Anytime you engage Nature, you’re confronted not only with Life but also with Death. The Cycle of Life includes birth, growth, death, decomposition and rebirth from the enriched matter. Decaying mulch, worms, discarded plant parts — all contribute to a rich compost that builds the soil and strengthens the ecosystem.

But sometimes ya just gotta laugh! I don’t know if I’m having extra, over-the-top spooky stuff this week because some faeries are having a giggle fest, or if it’s all part of the Goshen gardening package. Some of this stuff is so odd and macabre that I just had to share.

Death Card from the highly recommended Robin Wood Tarot: http://www.robinwood.com/Catalog/Books/BookPages/RWTDeck.html

Death Card from the highly recommended Robin Wood Tarot: http://www.robinwood.com/Catalog/Books/BookPages/RWTDeck.html

As regular blog readers know, I’ve been wood mulching the heck out of our yard. Inspired by the film “Back to Eden,” as well as other farms that experience incredibly rich soil and eventually no need to water, I looked at our 10% grass, 90% weeds and tree stumps yard and thought, “Build up!” I made arrangements with a local arborist to have truckloads of wood mulch dumped into our yard and driveway (for free), and I’ve been mulching pretty much since Easter. We also had David’s parents save five huge garbage bags of leaves for us last Fall in anticipation of this year’s garden.

We’ve had good success with leaf mulch in the past, and I’ve recently learned even more about the benefits of mulching. Not only does the mulch save on watering efforts and costs, but it also enhances the mycelium in the soil. Mycelium is the branching, threadlike, vegetative part of fungus, and it has all sorts of amazing properties. Some researchers even claim that mycelium can save the world.

Well, let me tell you, mold and fungus can also creep you out! Off and on for the past couple weeks, we’ve had this funky looking foamy stuff that’s rock hard show up in little spots around the yard, usually around stray wood mulch. The other day, I saw a sadly dead nasturtium that I’d been meaning to pull out surrounded by what looked like sprayed on foam. It was pink and white with flecks of red. It hadn’t killed the nasturtium sprout. That would be the leaf hoppers, but despite its fluffy appearance, this foamy substance was just as hard as the stuff on the wood mulch. Later in the week, I noticed some of it on top of the pile of pine needles awaiting compost and blueberry bushes. I watched through the window as it shifted from white to pink to bright yellow. Then, this morning, I found the same foamy strangler around my very happy chives. What the?!

Dog Vomit Fungus Two

I should have taken a photo before I broke the strangling foam up with a stick, but I wanted to poke it to see whether it felt the same as the earlier stuff. Yep, except this was kind of sticky, gooey, like caulk before it dries. It concentrated itself at the base of the chives, which actually appear to be growing even better than before. The photo shows a little dish of slug beer, as well as leaves of the very happy watercress making its way around the bed.

I came inside and begged David to come out to the garden to look at this alarming stuff. He did but didn’t have any words of wisdom other than his usual “the internet is a powerful tool.” I came inside and searched “slime fungus strangling plants in the garden.” Well, it turns out we have “Dog Vomit Fungus.”

Dog Vomit Fungus

Dog Vomit Fungus

I kid you not, there are threads and threads of people completely freaked out by this apparently harmless mold. Someone claims it is one of the oldest life forms on our planet — the first mold to move towards decaying matter. It usually occurs near mulch or on lawns after saturating rains — both of which we’ve had.

The thing is, this Dog Vomit Fungus makes me giggle (now that I know what it is), especially after I had just decided to let a devoured zinnia put forth a flower anyway. I call it “Skeletor Zinnia,” and god/dess bless the little one, it’s got almost no leaves but seems to be bursting a bud:

Skeletor Zinnia

Skeletor Zinnia

And then, there’s the highly informative, but certainly odd phone conversation I had with the friendly neighborhood Lowe’s Garden Center guy yesterday afternoon. I was calling for Bonnie (non-GMO) chard and kale starts, since my sprouts appear to be irresistible to something. They appear and disappear within hours of each other. He didn’t have anymore starts for me, but he shared some helpful garden pest tips.

I asked about rabbits (ours are ginormous, possibly hares!) and he said that if I didn’t want to fence in the garden, I could “collect the urine of a wild fox and circle that around the perimeter.” Ummmm, yeah. While I’m conjuring a wild fox to pee in a jar for me, should I add eye of newt and toe of frog? I asked if we could just use human pee, but he said “only urine from a natural predator will work.” I told him I thought fencing the garden would be easier than catching a wild fox and forcing it to pee at my discretion. He seemed surprised but eventually said that I was “probably right.”

He then informed me that I could also spread human hair around my plants. “If those rabbits get a whiff of human hair, they’ll run away from your plants.” “So, I can either catch a wild fox and make him pee on demand, or I can just trim my hair and put the ends out there?” “Yep. That’ll work just fine.”

For years I have cut my own hair with pinking sheers, because my hair grows as fast as our dandelions. I’ve been using the pinking sheers, but also intensely looking for some layering scissors I’d misplaced last December. (Like, looking for them several times per week, because I have a lot of hair that gets heavy at the ends.) No matter where I looked, those scissors would never turn up. Last night, I decided to test Mr. Lowe’s Garden Guy’s theory, so I went into the bathroom, mindlessly picked up a bag I’ve looked in several times before, and “lo” and behold: the missing scissors, and only the missing scissors.

Hair for garden

I thinned out my hair and then sprinkled the layering leftovers around my lower level plants last night, thinking about voodoo and wondering if the bunnies would run in terror or if they’d gather my hair, cast a spell and ban me from my own garden.

Mr. Lowe’s Garden Guy also advised me not to let David mow down any of our clover, but there’s nothing particularly spooky about that. Clover offers more nutrition than most garden plants, so the rabbits will eat that instead. Nonetheless, in addition to a growing clover patch, we’ve now got witchy red hair thinnings, decaying leaves, rotting wood, Dog Vomit Fungus and Skeletor Zinnia, all in fairly close proximity.

If only it was Halloween, I could probably charge admission. 😉

6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Nikkoale on June 18, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    I have noticed that one of the rabbits who dines in my yard loves plantain.

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  2. I love plantain, too — great for bug bites!

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  3. Is the hair working? I think you can buy fox pee. I am a little unsure about how they get the pee though. Do they have fox farms? Do they treat the foxes well? Is there any place that sell happy fox pee? (I call milk from cows that are treated well, happy milk.)

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  4. I burst out in a loud laugh when reading all the spooky matters turning up in your garden. I have a very tiny garden myself … which forced and urged me to become a little wilderness of roses growing at their own will.

    I was given one summer so many plants of roses in pots for my balcony (expensive ones) so that when summer had gone I planted all of them down in the soil in order to save and preserve these costly plants, Also I got quite a few of Hydrangea flowers in pots with which I did the same..

    By the time it all had become a little wilderness of these plants down there before my Balcony and they all pay me back when in bloom, ,,, I think the fairies down there like me a lot as the growth of these Roses is amazing…. By now their branches reach over the balustrade of my balcony with big promising bulbs of buds. They will open up any time now and some have already … I love their scent and am grateful to all its life down there together with little birds drinking from a water bowl I put amid the bushes.

    There were summers when birds built their nests on my balcony too but now they have all gone … there is only one pair of tits left and one pair of blackbirds and I believe they are nesting in some cute birdhouses now on other balconies.

    Love to you and let me tell you that I enjoyed your article in a most delightful way of smiling and laughing ! Thank you !
    (Contra)Mary

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  5. Thanks so much, (Contra)Mary! Roses and hydrangeas are some of my favorites and have been on my list to receive in gift form or at an exceptionally good price. My grandmother in California had a huge rose garden before she moved in with my aunt. It was always so deliciously heady and delightful with all that scent and color. Ever since then, I’ve wanted my own collection of rose bushes to tend and smell. David and I are off on an afternoon adventure today after I finish the day’s sessions and he gets home from work. A town we’ve never been to has a huge sale on plants, and I just saw that they also have a fishing store where I hope to get loads of red wigglers. They’ll be much happier in my garden than as fish bait! 😉 Love and blessings … enjoy your beautiful balcony!

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  6. I think the hair is working — maybe not on every plant, but the ones where I put the most hair, are now thriving. LOL, I didn’t even think of buying fox pee! Maybe that’s why he sounded so surprised that I thought fencing would be easier than finding my own fox and training it to pee on demand. Oops! Sometimes I take things so literally and so not in the usual context that I leave people speechless or too embarrassed to tell me the “obvious.” Too funny…. I bet you’re exactly right, but you do raise good points about their happiness.

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