Issue: June 28, 2003

Spongy Stuff Growing on Mulch

Question:

We had mushrooms growing in our mulch this spring (it has been very wet). I just spread new mulch this past weekend on top of the old mulch, and this morning I found a patch (about 4 inches in diameter) of cream/yellow-colored spongy "stuff" on my brand new mulch! What can be done? It kind of gives us the willies. Ken P.

Answer:

Even though I can't see what you are describing, I think you have what is called slime mold. This is a common question asked of Extension Service agents all over the country in the summer. The slime mold is a strange (maybe creepy) organism that helps decompose organic matter to release the nutrients contained in the composting materials. (Your mulch is decomposing/composting.) The slime mold will dry in a couple of days and should cause no problem. However, since it gives you the "willies", you can try washing it away with a strong stream of water from a garden hose. The cause of slime mold is moisture, the decomposing organic matter, and the fact that spores of all kinds (including slime mold) are present everywhere.

Rabbits Girdled Trees

Question:

I am concerned about my trees because the bark on them is being eaten by rabbits, and I was wondering if you could please tell me how I could fix the bark. I am not sure what kinds of trees they are, but the rabbits seem to love them. The bark has been eaten about 2 feet up. Nathaniel

Answer:

If the rabbits have completely or almost completely girdled the bark from the tree, it may be much easier and cheaper to replace the trees. If there are only patches of damaged bark, you can try "bridge grafting." A bridge graft is what the name says. It is a twig or small branch cut from the branches of the tree (if there are any healthy branches left) and grafted across the wounded area of the bark. You should be able to find illustrations of bridge grafting in books on plant propagation in your local library or bookstore. Looking at pictures in these books will clearly show you how to do this. Things to keep in mind:

  1. The twigs should be oriented so that up is up, even after the twigs are grafted into the wounded area.If you invert the twigs, the graft will not grow properly.
  2. It is important to keep the graft from drying, so wax or plastic graft ties are needed to help hold in moisture.
  3. Our intense southwestern sunlight can inhibit graft success. Covering the grafted area with white plastic or aluminum foil to reflect sunlight may be helpful.

Rabbits like to eat bark from trees, especially in the winter or when there is little other food for them. Loosely wrapping chicken wire or hardware cloth around the trunk of the tree as high as the rabbits can reach should help prevent this problem in the future. Don't let the wire become tightly wrapped around the tree as it grows; loosen the wire as the tree grows.

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Also, please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly program made for gardeners in the Southwest. It airs on KRWG in Las Cruces Saturdays at 11:30 a.m., repeating Thursdays at 1:00 p.m.; on KENW in Portales on Saturdays at 10:00 a.m.; and on KNME in Albuquerque on Saturdays at 9:30 a.m.

Send your gardening questions to Yard and Garden, ATTN: Dr. Curtis Smith NMSU Cooperative Extension Service 9301 Indian School Road, NE, Suite 112 Albuquerque, NM 87112

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator.

Please join us on Southwest Yard & Garden, a weekly garden program made for gardeners in the Southwest on: KNME-TV Albuquerque at 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, KENW-TV Portales at 10 a.m. Saturdays, and KRWG-TV Las Cruces at 11:30 a.m. Saturdays (repeated at 1 p.m. Thursdays.)