Some appear magically in masses of fallen leaves. Others brazenly pop up in the middle of manicured lawns. Many look good enough to eat. But don't unless you're an expert at fungi identification.
After lots of early rain, recent damp conditions brought a bumper crop of wild mushrooms. Some are edible, but several kinds are deadly to people and pets. And the similarities can make a wrong guess fatal.
Following the recent mushroom-related deaths of four people in Loomis, many local homeowners worry about the fungi popping up in their yards.
"We've gotten a lot of calls about mushrooms," said Judy McClure, Sacramento County's master gardener coordinator. "People want to get rid of them."
According to the UC master gardeners, most fungi in lawns including mushrooms are beneficial because they decompose organic matter. Contrary to popular belief, most mushrooms do not necessarily cause lawn diseases.
Where did all those mushrooms come from? Fungi survive in soil for years and produce fruiting structures the mushrooms we see only after conditions are favorable, such as with prolonged wet weather, McClure said.
Removing mushrooms will not eliminate future growth in the same spot, but it will keep them away from children and pets who may accidentally ingest them.
Pulling out the mushrooms also will prevent spores from spreading to new sites.
Scrape the mushrooms off the soil with a shovel or trowel and place the fungi in the trash can. Don't compost mushrooms or bury them.
"Throw them away," McClure said. "You want to remove and dispose of them safely."
In lawns, removing excess thatch and aerating the soil to improve water penetration can help manage mushrooms.
Raking out the thatch is a good winter workout when it's not raining. Aeration also will help the lawn's overall health. Just wait until the soil is not soggy wet, McClure said.
Sacramento County master gardeners are preparing for a full schedule of workshops and other events at their Fair Oaks Horticulture Center in Fair Oaks Park.
Kicking off the schedule will be a Jan. 19 winter maintenance workshop, which undoubtedly will be popular rain or shine. The free workshop will be open 9 a.m. to noon.
Sponsored by Fair Oaks Boulevard Nursery, the workshop will cover pruning of blueberries, cane berries, fruit trees, grapes and ornamental grasses plus basic tool care and selection. The master gardeners' plant clinic will help solve pest problems and plant mysteries.
With budget cuts, the master gardeners are looking for more sponsors for similar workshops and events. To learn more, contact them at (916) 875-6913 or visit their website at http://cesacramento.ucdavis.edu.
Batteries not included
It's no surprise that Americans buy the most batteries just before Christmas. According to the California Department of Resources Recovery and Recycling, 40 percent of all batteries nationwide are purchased during the holidays including more than 200 million batteries in California alone.
Where do the old batteries go? Mostly in the trash and that's illegal.
Each year, almost 30 million pounds of batteries end up in landfills, costing taxpayers an estimated $31 million per year, according to CalRecycle.
By California law, batteries must be recycled. Most hardware and home improvement stores now accept used batteries. Look for battery recycle bins near store entrances.
Speaking of recycling, Sacramento County's Department of Waste Management and Recycling has kicked off its annual campaign to urge residents to recycle holiday paper. Better yet, try to re-use wrapping and boxes.
"Recycling holiday paper is a better alternative than burning it or throwing it into the trash," said the department's Doug Eubanks.
Most holiday paper such as non-foil wrapping, greeting cards and gift boxes are fully recyclable; just add them to your curbside bin. Don't forget all those catalogs and calendars, too.
For more tips, click on www.holidayrecycling.com.