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Mold or fungus in my above ground garden soil

Hello! I started my first garden in May and I'm having some issues I need help with. We bought peat moss, compost, and miracle gro organic garden soil mix, and we mixed all 3 together and put it in our garden box. At first everything was sprouting amazingly well, but after a month or so I noticed some wilting on my jalepeno, tomato, and cucumber plants. I thought maybe they needed more water so I began watering heavily every day at the roots (I think this was my first mistake). A few weeks later I noticed a lot of mushrooms in my garden. A few weeks after that I found white mold on the bottoms of the jalepeno leaves and all the jalepeno plants were covered (and removed) eventually. My carrots didn't seem to be growing much past the month mark and when I dug them up and tilled the soil, I found huge clumbs of mold or fungus (I don't know) but it smelled awful and made me sick to my stomach. I have turned up the soil in different areas and some places have massive clumps of this mold/fungus under the soil and some areas don't.


Is there a way to treat this soil or should I replace the areas that are completely saturated? Is this a dangerous issue like possibly black mold that would make eating the vegetables dangerous? It's definitely causing my plants to die and now that I'm trying to plant new seeds, very few are sprouting and those don't seem to last long. 


I really appreciate your time and help. I would love to keep this garden going, but I'm pretty discouraged :(



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Posted 2012-09-28T20:13:17+0000  by kathleenblack kathleenblack

Hi kathleenblack,


Thank you for your question.  There may be no quick fix for your situation this year.  It sounds like the materials you put into the soil may still have been in the composting process when they were added to the mix.  Have you had a lot of rain in your area?  Too much moisture will also cause this problem.  It almost sounds like you may have a root rot situation if the roots that you dug up smelled really bad.   Have you ever had cut flowers that were left in a vase too long and when you pulled out the flowers, the stems were all soft and smelled really bad?  Due to the lack of oxygen in the water, the water became stagnant and gave off the nasty sulfur type smell. 


The mushrooms are caused from the decomposition of the wood products in the existing soil or in the soil that was added.  My concern is with the possibility of root rot.  Only by turning the soil over and having it exposed to the sun can you get rid of this condition in the soil without adding  chemicals. 


Since this is occurring underground, I do not believe that it is a danger to you as far as eating the fruit from the plants.  You may have to wait until next season to plant in this area again.  It is also important that you clean your garden tools with a water and bleach mixture to kill off any fungus that be left on your gardening tools.  This can be transferred to other areas of your garden if you are not careful. 


There is a treatment for above ground mold that is safe to use on your soil and around your plants.  It is called Organocide from the Plant Doctor.  It is a fungus remover.  Check with your local Home Depot Nursery for availability in your area.  Once this is applied, you will need to wait until the product takes effect.  I would let this section rest until next year. 


Organicide fungus remover.jpg


Be cautious when selecting a mold remover for your garden.  Be certain that it is safe to use in the garden.  Many of these products are only for your lawn and are not intended to be used in your garden.  



The white material under the leaves of your plants sounds like it may be Ash White Fly.  This requires pesticide oil which is also available at your local Home Depot Nursery. Organicide


Organicide 3 in 1 oil.jpg



I hope that I have given you some helpful suggestions. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.

This has been another of,

Posted 2012-09-28T21:43:42+0000  by Rick_HD_OC

Thank you so much for your response!


We have had very little rain this summer, but I'm afraid I over-watered to compensate. Thank you for the suggestion of cleaning my gardening tools, I didn't even think of that. 


I have not seen any above ground mold, just the mushrooms. I think you are right about the white ashfly, I googled pictures and it looks right. (I also see this on bushes in my backyard that are near my garden). 


I live in Hawaii and don't need to worry about frosts, so I'm wondering if I need to wait a whole year to use this soil again. If I keep tilling it and exposing it to the sun, and keep it as dry as possible, do you think I could use the soil again in a few months? Or if I use the Organicide is there a certain time I would need to wait until I can use the soil?


And also, there were a lot of chunks (bark, sticks, etc.) in the miracle gro mix. Is that what you think is still decomposing and causing the problem? The compost was "over 6 months aged manure," should I not have added that to the garden? Should I filter the dirt through a screen to get the chunks out? I thought the bigger pieces would help in keeping the soil well drained, but perhaps it's causing more harm than good. 


Thanks again for your help, I really appreciate it!!

Posted 2012-09-29T00:49:34+0000  by kathleenblack

Hi again kathleenblack,


The mushrooms are a natural result of decaying roots or wood material in the ground.  These mushrooms usually appear above the ground and can be easily removed and are not a threat to the rest of your plants.  As the more woody material reaches the end of its composting cycle, you should see fewer and fewer of the mushrooms growing out of the soil. 


If it is only mushrooms, then just continuous tilling of the soil should take care of the mushroom issue and you will not have to use any type of a mold eliminating chemical.    The Organocide is an organic material that breaks down naturally and does not leave behind and hazardous residue.  If you want to treat the soil you should still be able to use it this year.  Just be sure to follow the instructions on the label. 


The wood material in the soil is the most likely cause of the mushrooms that you are seeing.  There is no need to re-screen the soil. The wood chunk that you see will soon decompose and add valuable nutrients to your soil.  The mushrooms are just nature’s decoration and a by-product of the decomposition process. 


 Mushroom-Oyster-Pleurotus-by(mgw).jpg   Mushroom davis_Phallus_Impudicus.jpg

Mushroom yard_mutinus.jpg   Mushrooms-Toadstool by DebbieVasen.jpg 





To complete the composting cycle, it will be necessary to keep the soil damp but you will need to regularly turn the soil to add oxygen.  Without the oxygen, you will get a condition similar to the stagnant water in the flower bouquet.  The soil should be damp but not wet.  Continue to turn your garden soil over 1-2 times a week.  In a few weeks you will notice that the wood material will start to break down into a finer soil type material.  If the soil below ground feels abnormally warm, like 120 degrees F, then the microbes are still at work digesting the heavier materials.   Continue to turn the soil over until the soil temperature returns to normal in your area.  


The earth worm is a great helper when it comes to composting.  If you do not see a lot of worms in your soil, you might want to visit your local bait shop and see if they have earth worms.  By adding these compost digesters to your garden, you will improve the quality of your soil and speed up the decomposition process.


Worms for composting by for composting by hong-kong-willie-blog.blogs.jpg


This has been another of,

Posted 2012-10-02T18:13:13+0000  by Rick_HD_OC
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