Fungi—and their spore bearing fruits, mushrooms—are the hidden gems in the garden. They are fabulous indicators of a rich healthy soil, they are often stunningly beautiful, and they are an integral part of a complete garden eco-system.
Last year, after removing all of the turf from my urban yard in order to plant a forest garden and pollinator habitat, I mulched with 10 cubic yards of hardwood mulch.This season I am adding a top-dressing of homemade compost and an additional, equally large load of mulch. An unexpected benefit of the compost and mulch was the introduction of a variety of fungi to my garden eco-system.
Each morning I stroll through my garden while the air is still cool and the ground a bit moist with morning dew. It is in these cool, humid conditions that the mushrooms thrive and they are there for me to admire on each of these morning strolls. They are beautiful and I love that they're there.
They are an indication that my soil is healthy and teeming with the micro-organisms my trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants need to thrive. Plants rely on soil fungi to break down the complex organic compounds they feed on. Additionally, fungi improve the structure of soil, rendering it more porous, which makes your trees and plants more drought tolerant and disease resistant. No, you can't eat these fungi. But your soil can, and it's all about the soil!