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! Why fungi are a great addition to your homestead

 
gardener
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Are you supporting fungi on your homestead? Fungi are incredibly useful helpers on any wild homestead. This week’s blog post—Fungi on the Homestead - 3 Benefits of Fungi—summarizes all the amazing benefits of fungi into 3 core categories.

These categories are:
1. Building Soil
2. Helping Your Plants Grow
3. Providing an Edible Harvest

You could write a book for each of these 3 categories but the blog post covers both enough to help you start to understand why fungi are so beneficial to your homestead.

When I see the fruiting bodies of fungi (mushrooms) popping up in an area I have just started transforming I know I’m doing something right.

What I Find to be the Most Amazing Part of Fungi



Fungi are just simply amazing with their ability to help build soil and unlock nutrients for your plants and provide great harvests for you and your homestead. But what I really find amazing with fungi is their ability to create an interconnected web with most of the plants in an ecosystem.

This interconnected web is often referred to as the wood wide web.

Nature is all about creating connections between diverse members of an ecosystem, but this fungi/plant network is just amazing.

The wood wide web is not just about the fungi sharing nutrients and water with plants in exchange for sugars. It goes far beyond this simple exchange network.

Through the wood wide web plants can share nutrients with each other and not just with fungi. In addition, the plants can even send warnings about pests to each other.

But one of the most amazing aspects of the wood wide web is that it has been shown that when a tree is dying it will sometimes dump its nutrients in a final sacrifice to help support the next generation of seedlings growing around it that are all connected through the wood wide web.

For me the biggest lesson to take after you learn about the wood wide web is that fungi are key to a healthy, resilient and abundant wild homestead. Because of this I whenever I’m getting ready to plant in a new area I always make sure to support a rich fungal community.

This means lots of wood chips and other organic material. I’m always chop-and-dropping and adding mulch to my planting areas.

I want to create the habitat that will support the most fungi. This also means that I love building hugelkultur beds and I’m often adding snags and other woody debris to the surface of my planting areas.

The result has been a ton of fungi growing on my wild homestead.

What Do You Do to Support Fungi on Your Homestead?



There is a lot you can do to support fungi on your homestead. What do you do?

I like to add mulch, woody debris and of course a diverse plant community to support the widest range of fungi possible.

I would love to hear what you do. Please leave a comment saying how you support fungi on your homestead. And before you head out make sure to check out the blog post for more information about the 3 core types of benefits provided by fungi.

While you are over on the blog most make sure to leave a comment! If you are the first to do so you will get a piece of pie! The pie will get you access to some special features on perimes, discounts at some vendors, and you can use it to purchase some products on the permies digital marketplace.

If you leave a comment on the blog post make sure to leave a post here on permies too so I can easily give you the slice of pie.

Thank you!
 
pollinator
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I compost my kitchen scraps and rabbit’s litter, whose bedding is composed of raw wadded paper byproduct, which the worms love. As we eat a lot of fungi, we have a few different species competing in around the compost and in the garden. Dominant, I think, is the King Oyster, but recently I have seen some enoki poking up from under the bin.

I posted the above on your blog. I thought it relevant.

-CK
Staff note (Daron Williams):

Thank you for commenting on the blog post! You were the first so pie for you!

 
Daron Williams
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Chris Kott wrote:I compost my kitchen scraps and rabbit’s litter, whose bedding is composed of raw wadded paper byproduct, which the worms love. As we eat a lot of fungi, we have a few different species competing in around the compost and in the garden. Dominant, I think, is the King Oyster, but recently I have seen some enoki poking up from under the bin.

I posted the above on your blog. I thought it relevant.

-CK



Nice! Thanks for sharing! Did you inoculate your garden/compost to get the edible mushrooms started?
 
pioneer
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Hi Daron,

I have several modes of encouraging fungi.  I have many loads of wood chips decomposing in piles and on top of the garden as mulch.  Some areas on the garden had visible white stands of fungus growing in the mulch.  I have three bins of worms and inoculated the bins with some mychorizal fungi from an old rotten log.  The hope is that they will become super charged worm castings.

I am also waiting to find some native edible fungi with which I can inoculate some of the wood chips. My neighbors have found some morels and lions mane, but they didn't know at the time that I wanted a few for inoculation.  I am searching for more.

Sincerely,

Ralph
 
Chris Kott
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I started with a King Oyster slurry from the trimmings of a mushroom risotto, and a couple of  half-off bags from the grocery store, and they took off. The enoki was accidental, in the compost from trimmings, but welcome.

-CK
 
Posts: 88
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We have been hauling detritus from our streambed to the garden. It's a bit of an uphill haul on foot with a back pack but definitely worth it! Our little stream floods occasionally, depositing lots of branches, twigs, leaves, pine cones, seeds, bugs, you name it from higher elevations into piles along the bank. After a couple of months/years it starts to break down somewhat and when we dig into the piles there are hundreds of earthworms and fungal webs and probably nutrients that are missing from our soil.

We've been using the more broken-down castings from the earthworm activity in these piles in seedling soil mixes and the more rough stuff for mulch on shrubs and trees. We also add a good layer of the fungal- rich detritus to the bottom of fruit tree holes to encourage a fungal dominated soil. The new trees seem to be loving it! Lots of mushrooms too.

If we had a burro, we'd be mulching the entire garden with this treasure of a resource!
 
pollinator
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Rebuilding the homestead after the housed burned Iknew I would have to move the boysenberries to permit regrading for the new house. The power company was riming the spur line that crosses or property and I had them dump the chipe on the up hill end of where I planed to move the berry crowns. They had a few months for the mycilium to grow in the pile. I dug the sod out in 2 diches put the crowns in at 3 foot spacing and filled around them with the chips then put the sod upside down on top.
despite being transplanted they bloomed and produced more fruit than in there original position.
 
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Having read this thread, I’d really like to start growing mushrooms in my worm farm. It seems it could be a perfect environment for mushrooms because it’s always dark and moist. If it works in one worm farm, I’ll expand it to over dozen worm farms so that I can eat fresh mushrooms all the time.

Is there an idiot-proof way to do it?
 
gardener
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Idiot proof?  I need a Mandy proof method.
 
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We have a lot of mushrooms because we spread horse manure, straw, and wood chips around our trees. Mainly they have not been edible. Until recently: we were able to get some button mushrooms going by grinding some up with water and spreading the mush around our property.

Then.... jackpot! We got a few King straphoria growing naturally on our property. We ate the caps, and I took the stems and cultivated them on cardboard (see third pictures), then buried the cardboard in woodchips (have two more sets of mycelia in little containers, and I'll put these into sterilized hay/straw as an experiment to see which does the best). Getting the mycelia to colonise wet cardboard was not difficult at all-- I hedged my bets and did about 5 containers, didn't bother with sterilization, just layered wet cardboard and thin bits of stem, and 4 out of the 5 containers had mycelia growing after 2 weeks.

I think mushrooms are a great addition to our food forest, and as we learn more we're also able to forage quite easily when we're out and about during mushroom season (winter here in Cape Town), and get a lot of mushrooms that way-- My fear/uncertainty was greatly diminished once I joined a group of experienced foragers, and my son and I really enjoy learning more about mushrooms with more experienced folk.
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mycelia
 
Posts: 267
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Coming from Wisconsin where fungi are abundant, to a very hot and dry corner of Haiti, I am not sure how to get fungi introduced here. I know there is at least one type of mushroom grown here to eat, but don't know details on where or how.

Where should I start making a fungi-friendly environment if I don't have access to water for much of the year? Someone mentioned worm bins . . . Maybe a possibility?
 
pollinator
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Priscilla,

Sounds like you have more than your fair share of growing challenges in Haiti!  From my limited experience, if you are trying to grow mushrooms, I would really consider Stropharia (Wine Caps).  It may take a bit more work but I think you could get it to work for you.

For starters, obviously you need spawn and wood chips (or similar growing medium).  I suggest Wine Caps because they actually tolerate (even prefer) conditions hostile to other commonly grown mushrooms.  For instance, whereas most mushrooms need a dark, damp growing environment, Stropharia actually likes a bit of dappled sunlight and seems to thrive on neglect.

A possibility for you would be to try spreading some mulch on the ground under a tree to a depth of around 12”, mix in the spawn, water and wait. If you can top with some straw or dried grass or some other layer to protect the woodchips from evaporation, that would be even better.  You might want to keep watering the chips on a regular basis to ensure that the chips stay moist and the Stropharia will get an extra boost and the tree will benefit as well.  

This process might well take a year or more, but with a bit of luck you will get a crop of mushrooms (and once the mushrooms start growing, they grow very fast).  Further, the chips will become a nice bed of mushroom compost, and the tree will get the bonus of having mushroom compost to feed upon.

Personally, I am making mushroom beds not so much for the mushrooms (but they are a nice bonus), but more for the compost and especially for the mutual benefit of having mushrooms and plant roots feeding each other.

Obviously I am prejudiced towards growing fungi in my garden beds, but once the process starts, it is very beneficial to the garden crops.  You are off to a great start, but if I knew about the benefits of mushrooms earlier, I would have started growing them a long time ago.  You are early in n your permaculture experience and I would consider getting active mushroom growth ASAP.  They can only help your efforts.

Best of luck,

Eric
 
Priscilla Stilwell
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Thanks Eric. Your responses are always quite helpful.

Where would you suggest ordering Stropharia spawn, and will it endure a possible 3-4 weeks in transit before I receive it here in Haiti? I have a US address (Florida). From there packages and mail get flown down here once a week. Most things under 2 pounds bypass customs, but I don't know if fungi spawn will set up an alarm? Haha. If it has to go through customs, that's another week at least. And then we can pick up on Saturdays, and we try to go every-other Saturday.

But I also wonder if it might not be a good idea for me to begin with the local edible variety first? One would think it would be best suited to the area, even if it comes from a more wet region and higher elevation. I believe I might have luck with getting the spores going in the shady parts of my swales under the trees? I'll try some in a variety of places. I think I'll make a sort of box with some of my "charged sawdust" concoction along with worm castings and rotten wood . . . Set it in my rabbit house in a cool-ish corner and see if I can grow in more controlled conditions. Then it should be fairly easy to move it to other spots from there. . .
 
Eric Hanson
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Priscilla,

One of the reasons I suggest Stropharia is that it is an extremely aggressive fungi and really decays away woody material into a mushroom compost relatively quickly (typically 1 year at first, then as low as 6 months as the fungi get established).  Also, Stropharia are not as picky about growing conditions as other varieties are.

I get my spawn from field&forest.net.  The blocks are about 5.5 pounds.  I would start with two blocks.  The blocks should be plenty fine for the transit duration you described.

By all means, if you can find a good local variety, try some of that.  But If you want to try different varieties, don’t start them in the same bed as fungi will wage chemical warfare against each other in their strive towards dominance.  If you want to mix them later, that is up to you.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask,

Eric
 
Daron Williams
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Sunny – Nice! Sounds like you have a really good source of good material for mulch.

Hans – Nice! Thanks for sharing how well that worked!

Tim – Try it out and see how it goes. I don’t do much worm farming so I’m not sure but it seems like it could work. Share your results on here!

Jo – Great to hear that you got King straphoria growing! I really want to get more edible mushrooms growing on my homestead. I will have to try that cardboard trick if I get some edible ones popping up!

Priscilla – Generally I would recommend keeping mulch around and if possible keepings things a bit moist and shady. But I’m afraid I don’t really have experience in your climate. Looks like Eric gave a good response!

I have seen people having success in hot dry areas by creating swales and applying heavy mulch plus growing trees on the downhill side of the swale. The combination of increase moisture, lots of organic material, plus some shelter/shade resulted in mushrooms showing up.

Eric – Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to Priscilla!
 
Eric Hanson
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Not a problem Daron!

I like spreading the word about getting good fungal cultures in our garden soils.  A year ago I was an insecure neophyte regarding mushrooms.  I was up to the fungus challenge but I really had no idea what I was doing.

By December 2018 I started seeing changes in my woodchips and by spring the mushrooms were bursting all over the bed.  And the chips in the bed looked more like coffee grounds than woodchips.  

But most importantly, the veggies that grew in the mushroom bed were some of the best, most vibrant veggies I have ever grown.  The Stropharia really made a difference for me and if I can pass down some of this knowledge to kickstart others into getting fungi growing in their gardens, well so much the better.  I am no expert, but I have a basic degree of fungi competence and I intend to expand and hone that skill.

Eric
 
Daron Williams
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I have read a lot about how important fungi are and taken steps in my restoration work and on my homestead to promote fungi by creating the conditions they like. But I'm a complete novice when it comes to cultivating them for harvesting. That is something I really want to learn and start doing on my homestead.

I will have to give stropharia a try in my garden. The soils really need to be improved--trying to build the soil without adding compost / bringing in soil. At the moment the soil is mostly grey silty soil with very little organic material. Getting more fungi going would help a lot! But despite that the garden is actually producing fairly well.

As I was writing this I took a break to look at the fieldforest.net site to look up stropharia. If I ordered some now is fall a good time to plant them? I have a lot of areas on my homestead that they could be planted.

Thanks!
 
Hans Quistorff
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If mushrooms are coming up It is time to plant spores. That is usually spring and fall. Spawn is already growing so it just needs something to grow into and moisture which is much easier to maintain now that the rains have started.
 
Eric Hanson
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Daron,

I agree with Hans.

Since a mushroom is comparable to the flower on a plant, and the spores analogous to seeds, when mushrooms appear they are wanting to spread their spores, just like a flowering plant wants to spread its seeds.

I inoculated my woodchips in the spring for a number of reasons that might actually not be the best for growing either the fungi or mushrooms.  For starters, I usually have trimmed up my woody vegetation and chipped up into small mountains by late spring/early fall.  I typically let my piles age for several months.  By aging, I get a variety of microbes growing, especially bacteria.  As luck would have it, Stropharia (and other mushrooms) like to have some bacteria to grow up with.  After all, in nature, mushrooms never get the chance to grow in a vacuum.  

All of this plus a couple other factors mean that I have inoculated my beds in spring.  But Fall might well be better.  The temperature will tend to be more conducive to fungi growth, around my area, fall/winter/early spring is generally wetter and more evenly moist than late spring/summer/early fall.  I rationally know that my Stropharia grew over summer (fungi that is, not mushrooms) as when I poked around the pile I could see white strands growing.  However, the best growth really started after a mild and wet December.

The more I think about it, the more I am thinking that fall is the best time to sow fungi.  If you do, keep in mind that Stropharia especially love  to have at least some contact with the ground.  When I built my bed, I dug 8 fertile holes in the chips in order to plant tomatoes.  I wanted to grow something in that bed on season #1, and the tomatoes also provided the dappled shade that Stropharia loves.  Accidentally I was giving the fungi a bit of extra soil contact.  Also accidentally, I was giving my Stropharia some plant roots with which to interact.  The new bed I started this spring I deliberately planted some peas when I sowed the fungi.  I really did not care about the peas themselves, but I wanted the nitrogen they would fix and especially wanted a few roots with which the fungi could interact.  After I got my first flush of mushrooms in bed #1 last spring, I dug around a bit, and it was blatantly obvious that the fungi had intricately wrapped themselves around plant roots—and both fungi and plant reaped rewards!

Daron, this response really got longer than I initially thought.  But to summarize, if you want to start growing Stropharia soon, by all means do so.  Just keep in mind that the fungi love some soil contact (conventional wisdom says don’t stir or mix up the soil and woodchips, but Redhawk has had good results doing just that) and they thrive on root contact so if you can grow a fall crop (peas maybe), then by all means do so.  I would love to hear about how a fall-sown Stropharia pile works.

Best of luck,

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Daron, Priscilla, everyone,

As I stated earlier, a year ago I was an insecure fungal neophyte.  The insecure part needs some explanation and I bet others trying fungi for the first time have similar experiences.

I say I was insecure, not because I wasn’t up to the challenge, but because for 8 months, my Stropharia barely gave me any feedback.  I was accustomed to growing plants which show feedback usually in a few days and a couple of weeks on the outside.  I sowed my Stropharia on April 10, and by December I barely had any evidence that the Stropharia were even alive.  I did check the chips every month or so, and I did see evidence of some fungi growing (I saw a few white fibers in the chips), but by December I saw no mushrooms.  By December 1, I was really wondering what I had done wrong.  I thought I did everything I was supposed to do, but there were no mushrooms in fall and I had been reading that I should be seeing mushrooms in 6 months (actually 6-12 months, but I was impatient).

By late December, the chip bed changed markedly. At the beginning of the month, the chips were still obviously chips, with each chip resisting my weight if I were to step on them.  Later that month (it was a warm, wet, gray December—perfect for growing Stropharia as it turns out) the whole chip bed became very spongy.  It was almost as if each individual chip lost its own strength and identity.  Now when I pressed on the bed, the whole bed yielded to my weight.  It was almost like pressing on an old, worn out mattress.  When I dug in I found that those few white fibers now permeated the chips.  I found masses of white fibers almost everywhere I looked.  This was the first real feedback I had since inoculating 8 months earlier.

By this point I had a lot more confidence.  Nothing obviously changed until April when I found my first mushroom (almost a year to the date since innoculation). A couple days later and mushrooms popped up in a separate spot.  And in another 2 days still more mushrooms.  Basically for about 4 weeks, every 2 days more mushrooms appeared, and they were huge.

The moral of this story is to stay patient.  Stropharia is a great starter mushroom, but it is a fungus and not a plant.  If you sow them properly and keep them moist, they are probably going to produce, but you do have to wait.  The waiting was killing me, but I just needed to remain patient.  Incidentally, for me the mushrooms were a secondary goal as I really wanted the compost.  If you attempt this type of project, I say go for it!  Just keep in mind that you will have to remain patient.

Best of luck,

Eric
 
Daron Williams
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Thanks Eric and Hans! I will give it a go. I have some kale that will overwinter growing in my beds plus some perennials vegetables that should be fine over the winter. At the moment the mulch is not that thick so soil contact should be fairly easy to achieve.

I'm planning to spread leaf mold over my garden this fall and then chop and drop my spent vegetables on top of the leaf mold to help hold it in place and provide more mulch.

I was thinking that getting the stropharia down in the existing wood chips before I put the leaf mold and chop and drop material down could work well. But I will need to get the stropharia fairly soon since I will be getting more fall leaves soon and I need to empty my leaf mold bins to start making more!

It will be fun to try and see how it goes! I will share some updates later on.

Thanks again!
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:One of the reasons I suggest Stropharia is that it is an extremely aggressive fungi and really decays away woody material into a mushroom compost relatively quickly (typically 1 year at first, then as low as 6 months as the fungi get established).  Also, Stropharia are not as picky about growing conditions as other varieties are.



Eric, I have a question. I'm edging a large area between the forest garden areas I'm designing and the existing lawn with liriope muscari (because it's what I have, huge old clumps of it that I need to dig up and break into sprigs for replanting and there's enough to do a very large run of edging). I've got a hundred feet of that Dimex no-dig edging, and I was planning to put in a liriope sprig every 8" on the bed side of the edging, then lay cardboard down thickly and put mulch down over it, running up into the forest garden/guild beds, which I'm loading up with wood chips as well.

After reading about the cardboard trick for King Stropharia and watching the straw-inoculation video over at Field & Forest, I'm wondering if I could run a long inner edging of the stropharia spawn behind the liriope sprigs using a combination of wet cardboard and straw on top. The million dollar question is if the liriope would be bad for the mushrooms. Parts of my edge are too sunny, but I'd say a good 50 feet is ideal in terms of sun exposure. Or maybe, once the liriope grows up to its typical 18", it would sufficiently shade the spawn?

I'm hoping you'll tell me this could work. It would be the very best solution to so many of my problems if it would work!

 
Eric Hanson
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Diane,

I first had to look up what liriope was.  At first I was afraid it was another mushroom, but seeing that it is a plant (I got this correct right?), I am thinking there is no problem.  Again, and just to be clear, you are wanting the liriope and Stropharia to be directly adjacent to each other correct?  If I understand you correctly, then I see no reason why this combination not only should work, but also be mutually beneficial.  I imagine that the liriope would provide shade and roots to the Stropharia, and the Stropharia would break down woodchips and feed your liriope.

Ideally, the chips should be a minimum of 6 inches deep and 12 would be preferable.  With this in mind I would lay down a nice, thick layer of chips, Inoculate, water and wait.

This sounds like a great project.  Please keep us updated as to your progress.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Daron,

Your plan sounds perfectly reasonable to me.  Out of curiosity, how thick is your compost/woodchips at present?  The man reason I am asking is that I would want to let the Stropharia have plenty of woodchips to eat and convert to mushroom compost.  I would think that the leaf litter would make a fine substrate for Stropharia though.  Also, I think your kale would make a very nice growing companion for your Stropharia.  Further, the green litter should promote the growth of bacteria which will also help both your kale and Stropharia.  This should add some nice synergy to your bed.

Overall this is a nice plan and I really want to know how it works out!

Eric
 
Diane Kistner
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Eric Hanson wrote:Diane,

I first had to look up what liriope was.  At first I was afraid it was another mushroom, but seeing that it is a plant (I got this correct right?), I am thinking there is no problem.  Again, and just to be clear, you are wanting the liriope and Stropharia to be directly adjacent to each other correct?  If I understand you correctly, then I see no reason why this combination not only should work, but also be mutually beneficial.  I imagine that the liriope would provide shade and roots to the Stropharia, and the Stropharia would break down woodchips and feed your liriope.

Ideally, the chips should be a minimum of 6 inches deep and 12 would be preferable.  With this in mind I would lay down a nice, thick layer of chips, Inoculate, water and wait.

This sounds like a great project.  Please keep us updated as to your progress.

Eric



Yes, the liriope is a plant. It's called monkey grass or lilyturf. There are two types, liriope muscari, which is a clumping liriope that is not supposed to spread (but I'd cut the berries off and throw them way past the back fence for the birds to be safe), and liriope spicata, or creeping lilyturf, which will spread all over the place and choke out everything else. Liriope is evergreen and deer don't like it. Once you plant it you don't have to do anything to it. People who want to keep their yards looking nice usually give it a haircut in the winter like other ornamental grasses. They are the one thing I've found that will grow very happily in the holes of concrete blocks I used to make some raised beds, even if I don't water them ever, and they seem to help keep the beds a little cooler too.

I'll definitely try the mushroom/liriope edging experiment! You visualize it exactly as I did. Thanks for the tips!

 
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