Composting meat, and the curious case of an artificial turf fungus

Q. Hello from West Los Angeles. I have what I think is a fungus growing through our artificial turf. Any suggestions on how to deal with this without damaging the turf or endangering our dog? I am considering using our shop vac after loosening it a bit. Thoughts?

A. Artificial turf has become a popular choice for California homeowners who want a maintenance-free landscape that won’t use water. If you have an odd-shaped area that is difficult to irrigate, is in deep shade, or is not suitable for any plants (no matter how hardy), artificial turf can provide a ready solution. Many of my fellow master gardeners may disagree, but I think there are some situations where artificial turf can be useful.

Although low maintenance, it can have its drawbacks. In your case, you’ve got mushrooms growing out of it. Fungi (at least mushrooms as good-looking as yours) need organic matter in order to grow. That organic matter could be soil, leaves, or anything really. Professionally installed artificial turf has an extensive base layer consisting of gravel inlay, sand, decomposed granite or any combination of these. If you have mushrooms growing at the edge of your turf, you may not have enough base layer or possibly a drainage problem.

High and low spots can cause drainage issues, which can lead to moss or fungi growth. If there’s standing water, you can end up with mosquito problems as well. Curling or lifting at the edges or seams can also occur if the base is not installed properly.

Removing the mushrooms will only be a temporary fix. I recommend contacting your installer for more recommendations. The base layer may need attention.

Q  Why can’t you compost meat?

A. Obviously, meat will putrefy and smell awful. That stench will attract rats, mice, opossums, raccoons, and other unwelcome visitors. Meat can also harbor parasites and other disease-causing organisms that may not be destroyed in the composting process. Although your compost thermometer may read 160 degrees at some point, there’s no guarantee that every inch of that pile has reached that temperature. Most pathogens, pests, and weed seeds are killed at 160, but not all of them. Consider that in order to maintain that temperature, the pile will need to be turned frequently, and believe me, you don’t want to do that when there’s rotten meat lurking in there.

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Commercial or municipal composting facilities can handle meat waste because they use a high-temperature process that kills pathogens.

Q. Why is home-grown fruit smaller than supermarket fruit? My grapes are so tiny! 

A. Commercially grown varieties are selected for larger size, ease of harvest, beauty, and resistance to damage during shipping. They are often heavily fertilized and sometimes treated with plant growth hormones.

If you want to grow especially large fruit, for instance, a huge pumpkin for Halloween, plant a variety that gets big, remove all but one fruit from the vine and fertilize generously. Soon you will have a gigantic pumpkin of dubious utility that is fibrous and has no flavor.

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