Q: Is this a mushroom growing on the tree trunk, and how can we get rid of it? — Sandy Rodriguez.
A: Kansas State University describes the situation well:
“Trees, especially older trees, will sometimes have mushrooms growing directly on the trunk, which are feeding on dead wood. The part of the mushroom that is seen is the fruiting body. The main part of the mushroom is called the mycelium, and these rootlike threads extend inside the tree. Though some fungi can enter a tree through rotted roots, decay fungi cannot successfully attack through intact bark. Once the fungi have entered a tree, nothing can be used to kill the mushroom and its mycelium.”
As mentioned, these wood-rotting fungi don’t enter intact trees, but enter through wounds, such as the large, old vertical wound in the trunk. They are often considered opportunistic organisms, entering where there was already damaged wood. Although much of the trunk wound seems to have healed as best it could, there were probably areas for wood-rotting fungi to enter. Scrape away the visible mushroom and asses the trunk for soft, rotting tissue, which can indicate a weakened tree that could be susceptible to wind or storm breakage.
Q: We had planned to cut our barberry bushes back to rejuvenate them this spring, but because of the late snow melt, we thought we should wait until fall. Many of the branches didn't leaf out completely, leaving 8 to 12 inches of bare twig at the top, although they are green inside. Should I cut back the bare portion? Is it best to rejuvenate it in the spring or fall? — Steve Rodvold.
A: Tip dieback was common on barberry this past winter. Cut back the bare twigs now, down to where the foliage is well-filled along the branches. Barberry do accumulate a lot of old woody growth as time passes. Cutting the tops back, and thinning out the oldest, largest, woodiest branches to rejuvenate barberry is best done in early spring before new growth begins.
Fall pruning can increase winter dieback. In autumn, plant cell growth is slowing down as the plant senses the approaching winter triggered by shorter days, and pruning cuts don’t heal the same way they do in spring. The dormant season just before spring growth is the preferred pruning time for nearly all trees and shrubs.
Q: Can I plant daylilies in a raised bed? The bed is very large and does not have a bottom. Is it too late to plant them yet this year? — Sally McCravey.
A: Planting perennials in raised beds needs to be done with caution. In a raised bed, winter’s cold can penetrate not only from the top, but also from the sides, increasing the possibility of plant injury. Planting in a raised bed is less risky if it’s only one timber high and if it has a large length and width. Some perennials are more winter-hardy than others. Most daylily cultivars are quite tough and usually survive fine in a raised bed, within reason.
It’s not too late to plant daylilies. Potted perennials can be planted all summer. Established daylilies can be dug and divided in either spring or fall, while avoiding the heat of midsummer.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.