Mold or Fungus in my garden

kathleenblack(11)September 28, 2012

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 clumps 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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The compost probably wasn't "finished" composting...especially if it smelled.

You might have some drainage problems, too.

Keep turning the soil and eventually it should sort itself out unless drainage issues are keeping the soil saturated.

It's most likely not dangerous to the veggies or you unless the spores irritate your breathing.

If you see the mushrooms "fruiting" (visible above the soil) just kick them over or break them off before they release more spores.

It may take a while to sort itself out, especially if a drainage issue is compounding the issue.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 6:48PM
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Thank you for your help! I wondered about the compost, but it said it was aged over 6 months, so I thought it would be ok. Also the miraclo gro mix had big chunks that looked like bark and other chunks. Might not have been the best choice...

So do you recommend turning up the soil every few days and keeping it as dry as possible, then perhaps I can use it again? It is very hot and humid here, but not much rain (lately). I was definitely watering too much, so I can keep those areas pretty dry.

How long (do you think) until the soil is usable?

Thanks so much!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 8:24PM
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Most soil fungus is harmless to people and plants. The organic matter being broken down ties up plant-needed nutrients/bacterias (along with promoting the fungal growth).

The soil can "fix itself" over time given proper drainage and drying.

Even some fungal growth isn't bad in soils. It's not an indicator of bad things. If it "smells" then there's still some needed organic breaking down to do, though.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 9:01PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Agree that it sounds like unfinished compost and the fungus growths you saw was just part of the decomposition process.

But the MG Garden Soil may also pose a problem depending on the size of your "garden box". It stipulates on the bag that it isn't for use in containers but is intended to be mixed with the dirt in an existing garden.

The compost will fix itself given enough time but the rest may require the addition of either some high quality soil-less potting mix if it is a small bed or some good old dirt it it is a large bed. Not only would that speed up the decomposition of the compost but help balance out the pH of the soil.

You mention watering but you don't mention any feeding or fertilizing ever done. Plants require a regular source of nutrients to grow and thrive. So that may be the primary issue right there - feeding the plants.


    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 9:31PM
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Thank you both! The bed is 8'x4' and you're right about the MG mix, I saw that on the bag, but my husband had already bought all the bags and opened them... I figured it would be ok because we were mixing it with the peat moss and compost. But I can definitely add more dirt/soil if its needed. What is "soil-less" potting mix? The dirt here is all red clay, would that be ok to use or do you think the bed is too small for that?

And no I haven't added any fertilizer :( Is there a certain time that should be added or does that depend on what's being planted?

Sorry for all the stupid questions. Maybe I should get a gardening for dummies book :) Thanks so much for the help!

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 10:54PM
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Sounds like you're on Kauai between the red dirt and drought-ish conditions.

If you are...nice. It's my favorite island.

If not...who cares, you're in Hawaii. Heh...

    Bookmark   September 28, 2012 at 10:56PM
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haha yeah Hawaii is pretty awesome, even with the red dirt and lack of rain sometimes :)

I have been turning the soil and hopefully it will improve. I'm also going to get some new dirt to add to the mix.


    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 8:56PM
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