Mushrooms can be a real garden nuisance

August 19, 2018

Nicole Stoner

Mushrooms can be a delight in your kitchen, but in your lawn or garden mushrooms can be a real nuisance. We see mushrooms pop up in our lawns more often in association with rainy events. Commonly, we see mushrooms, puffballs, slime molds, and fairy rings. The mushrooms commonly found in your landscape are not the type we use in cooking. If you aren’t sure that it is an edible mushroom, you should never eat mushrooms found in the wild.

Mushrooms are a fruiting structure of a fungus and it can take on a lot of different appearances. But no matter the look of them, all mushrooms and puffballs cannot produce their own food. Mushrooms obtain their food from the plants that they are living on. Soil, wood, other plant tissues, and wastes including organic matter are good food sources for fungi. So we often find mushrooms growing where a tree was removed recently or where there are roots from a large tree for them to grow on.

A common mushroom that we see in the landscape is found in a fairy ring. Fairy rings are often unnoticed in our lawns due to the mild effect on turf that it has. Fairy rings can be in the lawn and not noticed. When we do notice Fairy Rings, we see a ring of darker green grass or a ring of dead grass with grass growing in the interior of the ring or it can be a circle of mushrooms. Sometimes, the fungi can form a very dense fungal mat in the lawn which causes a hydrophobic layer, or a water repelling layer, which will lead to the dead ring of turf. The size of a fairy ring can range from 1 inch to 60 feet wide, but most are less than 15 feet across.

Fairy rings are a form of soil-borne fungus that appears in our lawns, which is not detrimental to our lawns. It is mainly an aesthetic nuisance in our lawn and unfortunately, there is no cure for this fungal condition. The best management practices include fertilizer applications to mask the appearance of the fairy ring when it is a darker green color than the surrounding lawn. Spot watering to break up the fungal mat will help reduce the appearance of the fairy ring as well. Physical removal of the mushrooms that form in the fairy ring will also help reduce the problems with this fungus.

Puffballs are often seen in our lawns as well. Puffballs are mushrooms that develop as a large, round structure, typically without a stalk. The spores of puffballs are “puffed” out when the ball becomes struck by rain drops or if it is kicked or hit by something else. This is how the puffball is spread throughout a landscape. Puffballs are aesthetic nuisances and will not harm the lawn. They can be removed by hand to avoid spreading and to remove the eyesore from the lawn.

One of my favorite nuisance fungi would be the slime molds. Slime molds include things like dog vomit fungus, which looks remarkably like dog vomit. Slime molds are non-stalked and can be found in many different colors. They start out as a slimy wet mound and harden into a dry, dusty mass. Typically they are found growing on mulch in the landscape. Slime molds are not harmful and can be removed with a strong spray of water.

Another interesting nuisance fungi would be the stinkhorns. Stinkhorns do smell unpleasant, as their name implies. They have a white to pinkish colored spongy stalk that may or may not have a cap on the stalk. The cap, if present, is usually dark brown in color and can be slimy. Stinkhorns are found in the lawn or in mulch, in areas where organic material has been buried. They are also not harmful and can be removed by hand.

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