Friday, September 30, 2022

Sweetbay Magnolia Seeds and Fruit

What does the fruit of sweetbay magnolia look like? I guess I never expected a magnolia tree to have bright red seeds and a big pineapple looking fruit pod on it. Obviously magnolia does have a nice flower on it so if the flower is pollenated it's going to turn into something. It looks bizarre because you never really see photos of magnolia tree seed pods like this. 

As the fruit ripens it bursts open revealing bright red seeds inside. I didn't see any seeds on the ground so I think the birds are eating them. Maybe the bright red color attracts birds to help them find the seeds to eat so they can spread the seeds further across the region. 

Sweetbay Magnolia Seeds and Fruit

sweetbay magnolia seed pod

Here's a picture of my young Sweetbay Magnolia tree on the west side of my morning room so you get an idea of the size and location of the tree. 

And here is the magnolia flower blooming earlier in the year before it was pollenated. 

photo of sweetbay magnolia flowers blooming

Friday, July 1, 2022

DIY Get Rid of Dog Vomit Fungus in Mulch Bed

Have you ever seen what looks like dog vomit or scrambled eggs show up in your mulch bed on a hot summer day after a heavy rain or watering your lawn at night? I watered at night and ended up with this fungus that looks like my dog ate something and barfed right in the mulch. Turns out this stuff is actually called dog vomit slime mold, and it's a protist not a fungus technically. If the vomit looking part matures it releases clouds of brown spores in order to spread to new areas. It's virtually impossible to get rid of, but I found a DIY way to control it that is easy to do and inexpensive. 

Dog vomit slime mold in mulch bed
Dog vomit slime mold in mulch bed

If you see the dog vomit slime mold looking like this when it is still yellow, like scrambled eggs, then it is not too late to treat it. If it already has a hard dry outer shell then the inside is already packed with brown spores. The spores are hydrophobic meaning they repel water, so spraying it with the hose actually causes the spores to spread even more. 

spray bottle with vinegar treat dog vomit fungus

If you catch it early while it is still yellow like this, spray it with white vinegar. This is a mild acid, and I wouldn't recommend doing it right next to a sensitive plant. But I did it next to some bushes and it was fine. I sprayed the dog vomit slime mold with vinegar and saw the tops start to melt away. Take that!

spray dog vomit slime mold with vinegar
Dog vomit fungus melting away with vinegar

24 hours later the parts I sprayed were melted brown slime that dried up without producing spores. Spraying it with vinegar was so much easier than trying to dig it up and move it or throwing out a whole layer of mulch. This seems to do the trick, but I'm not a scientist I just tried different things to see what works. 

before and after get rid of dog vomit fungus
24 hours later

The thing sent out some extra yellow piles that I also sprayed and they dissolved the same as before. Again, this will definitely add some acid to your mulch bed but it didn't take that much to treat the dog vomit and so far so good I haven't had any damage to my plants. 

Saturday, May 7, 2022

What 5 Yards of Mulch Looks Like and How Long It Took To Spread

This was my first year getting bulk mulch delivered rather than buying bags of mulch from Lowes. Like many homeowners, I had no idea how to estimate the number of cubic yards of mulch I would need (and I've seen neighbors end up with a mountain of mulch for just a few flower beds). I needed a way to estimate how much mulch I would need in cubic yards. The mulch website had a calculator on it, but when I added up all my bed dimensions it came out with a wacky number like 100 yards of mulch. 

What worked for me, and again I'm not an expert, I went to Google Maps and used the measure tool. Right click on the map and you can create a measurement. I measured the perimeter of my mulch beds around my house and then assumed a 3 foot width of the beds for the entire length on the mulch calculator. I didn't include the mulch around the trees or other beds because I assumed the measurement of the driveway and other areas where I don't have mulch would cancel out. Maybe I got lucky, but this worked out perfectly for me with 5 yards of mulch covering my beds with none left over. 

5 yards of mulch in a pile on the driveway
5 yards of mulch in a pile on the driveway

using google maps to estimate yards of mulch
Using Google Maps to estimate yards of mulch

The delivery driver was a pro and got most of the mulch right in the center of the tarp. It was funny when he opened the doors the mulch was packed in and stayed in the shape of the truck. I was definitely happy I used a tarp - not because I was worried about getting the driveway dirty, but because as the pile gets smaller and more spread out, it's nice to have an easy way to pool the mulch back in the middle so it's scoopable. 

mulch being delivered in truck on driveway

I did this all by myself in a weekend and it took me about 10 hours. I think it took longer than it should have because I was carefully spreading and shaping edges as I was going instead of just quickly dumping. 

Some tools that came in extremely handy (I will never spread mulch again without them!) are a pitchfork and a heavy duty wagon. The tines on the pitchfork let it easily glide into the mulch but then the mulch clumps itself together so really it's like a shovel and the mulch doesn't really fall between the tines of the fork. The heavy duty wagon spreads the weight out over 4 wheels so it doesn't leave ruts in my lawn like a wheelbarrow would. The Gorilla Cart even has a dumping action that saved me time.

The whole thing would have gone faster if I wasn't also shaping the bed as I was going, here are some more photos:

remove sod create new mulch bed

new mulch bed

Helleborus and holly with new mulch around them
Helleborus and holly with new mulch around them

The downspout by my new mulch bed is the strongest current when it rains, so I wanted to extend the downspout without making it look ugly. I tried these brown downspout extenders which are pretty good - but 2 of them don't quite get me to the edge of the bed so I added rocks. It's temporary but at least now I'm not drowning my plants and washing away all the mulch. 

Downspout extender under mulch with rocks
Downspout extender under mulch with rocks