April showers bring May flowers and mushrooms

By Dave Case

On Fertile Ground

Happy May! Trust your Spring is going well. Several of you have emailed me over the months I have been writing “On Fertile Ground” and I appreciate and enjoy the letters. As they say, keep the cards and letters coming!

It’s Mushroom Season!

Years ago, I had a nice patch I shared with a farmer friend, it was good fertile ground in a small woods along a fence row. We don’t think anyone else hunted it and was always productive. He has since passed away and land has changed hands and the patch is probably still there, I just don’t have access to it anymore!

So, if you have a patch that’s “yours,” enjoy it! It’s been too long since I’ve had a mess and I do miss it!

Got me to thinking, how does a good patch of mushrooms come about?

Where do you find them?

I’ll assume, if you are an experienced hunter, you know the difference between edible and poisonous mushrooms. My favorite is the morel. They are hard to find but quite delicious. They like moist (but not soaking wet) areas and seem to favor ash, hickory, sycamore and elm with cottonwood, maple, beech, and apple trees next most favorable. They also favor decaying logs and leaf litter.

The soil temperature needs to be in the 50’s (50-degree nights), so time to hunt!

And don’t eat mushrooms that are in areas where chemicals could be present (near roads or treated lawns). True morels are hollow in the middle, false morels are not, and a false morel is more red or purple unlike a morel which are yellow or gray/tan.

Once you find a mess, rejoice! You are one of the lucky ones. Remember no guarantees even for veterans!

Check out www.thegreatmorel.com for all kinds of interesting facts and recipes.

Planted any garden yet?

No? Not too late to think about a new concept and one we’ve been using here at “Critters and Blooms” Farm for a couple years. Raised beds! With this your garden can be anywhere while maintaining ideal soil and growing conditions. Skip the open ground and turn to higher ground!


-You select the soil. Insure you have the right growing medium.

-Your soil will drain more quickly because your bed is elevated.

-Easier to protect against pests.

-And reduced and easier weeding! No more bending over!

Things to consider:

-Can be expensive but if done right can last for years.

-Because they drain efficiently, may need more frequent watering.

-Watch out for compaction if you walk on them.

-Space is limited to the size of your bed and thus are not ideal for crops that take up a lot of space like pumpkins or other sprawling vegetables.

-There is some fall maintenance to put them away for the winter.

Summary: Can be a great option and can give your garden a fresh new attractive look!


We’ve mowed a couple times already and our lawn looks great. I fertilized it with a slow-release nitrogen, and I have put down two applications of a granular herbicide for broadleaf weeds (30 days apart). You can read all kinds of things about spring lawn fertilization from “don’t use nitrogen” at all to putting on a full “weed and feed” product and everything in between. For me, I work off a soil test and think a slow-release product is the best way to go.

The other thing I think has helped our lawn and pasture look so good is sharp blades and mowing high. We mow at over 4 inches, almost as high as our mower will go. Took a few years to talk my wife into this concept but she has bought in. I urge you to try it for a couple reasons!

-Clearly better for the grass. No stress. Plant stays healthier.

-Much improved drought tolerance.

-Reduced weed growth. I can really see the difference here. Longer grass equals more shade which reduces weeds.

-I think we mow less frequently. And it looks great when we are done.

Personally, I like the look of our grass when it’s mowed high, but it does take some getting used to. If you like it golf course short, this may not be for you, but I’d say give it a go for a couple months. I know we won’t be going back to “buzz cut” short.

Ag sector

Field work

Saw quite a few tractors the 10-14 days in the field, fair amount of NH3 going on and a few planters doing their thing. USDA reports 10% of our corn crop has been planted, no doubt higher in our county. Ohio 5-year average is 7%.

Limited data right now but I found Kentucky is 52% planted, Illinois 40% planted, Indiana 20% planted, across 18 top corn states, 26% of the corn is in the ground,

Last week it was 14%, 5-year average is 26%.

Soybean planting: Ohio is at 14%, Indiana is at 18%, Illinois is 39%, and Kentucky is 27%. Eighteen states are at 19% with a 5-year average of 11%.

Soil temperature, crop emergence and inhibition

Corn seed requires adequate soil moisture and a soil temperature of 50 degrees and 90-120 GDU’s. Corn seed is very sensitive to soil water temperature in the first 48 hours after planting. Soybeans are similar and are more towards 55 degrees soil temperature and 90-130 GDU’s. For soil temperature, I believe we are around 56-58 degrees. We have accumulated around 250 GDD’s since April 2, 2023.

Farm pond management

Have a farm pond that’s essential to your operation? Preventing issues before they occur is the easiest approach to managing a farm pond. Lots to do to keep a farm pond healthy and attractive. Be aware of excessive nutrients from fertilizer. Weed control is also an essential part of pond management. Make sure if you use an herbicide that’s it’s safe for livestock drinking and fish consumption.

Always read and follow label directions. Look into grass carp as they can help keep some plants and algae in check.

Question or comments? Email me at [email protected]

A graduate of the University of Kentucky, Dave Case majored in Agronomy and Ag Econ with an emphasis in Weed Science. Dave’s career spanned Champaign Landmark, Crow’s Hybrid Corn Company and Bayer CropScience. In 2018, Case formed Case Ag Consulting LLC.

He is a member of Alpha Gamma Rho Agricultural Fraternity and Alpha Zeta Agricultural Honorary. He is on the Board of Directors of the Agribusiness Association of Kentucky, Chairman of the Ohio AgriBusiness Association Educational Trust Foundation and Secretary of the Alpha Gamma Rho Alumni Board. He is also a Champaign County Historical Society Agricultural Capital Campaign Committee Member and is a Trustee for the Champaign County Farm Bureau. Dave and his wife Dorothy live on a small farm south of Urbana where they raise goats, chickens and various crops. Dave can be reached at [email protected].

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