For some, mushrooms mar lawns

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 5, 2008

By Preston Askew
Master Gardener Volunteer
Every year in late July through August, I have mushrooms that show up in a certain part of my lawn.
Mushrooms are a common landscape problem. If the homeowner takes pride in their landscape, it is frustrating to discover these unwanted fungi. An understanding of the causes and reasons for this occurrence may help to solve the problem.
Mushrooms (sometimes called toadstools) are the reproductive (fruiting) structures of fungi. This fungus has the job to help break down decaying organic material.
The life cycle of a fungus begins at the time fungal fruiting structures release tiny spores that are easily carried by air currents to new sites. When spores find a desirable environment for growth, they germinate and send out long thin filaments called hyphae.As hyphae form larger groups, it becomes a threadlike growth known as mycelium. When mycelium develops sufficiently, fruiting bodies such as mushrooms can be produced. Fungi can survive for years in soil and only produce fruiting structures at the time conditions are favorable.
Favorable environments are animal waste, old mulch, fallen leaves or grass clippings, discarded buried construction wood or rotting roots/tree branches and damp and shaded areas.
To eliminate mushrooms, the conditions mentioned above must be addressed and eliminated the best way possible. In some situations it is impractical to do so.
Stop mowing or shoveling the mushrooms as this would distribute spores which could spread the growth in the same or other areas. Raking your grass clippings, dethatching your lawn or replacing your old mulch will help reduce the decaying organic material that encourages mushrooms.
If your yard is too shady, targeted pruning or thinning of surrounding trees can help the area that needs it. If the lawn is too damp or wet, more sunlight on the area will help, but there may be a drainage problem that needs to be corrected; also, irrigation may need to be curtailed or eliminated.
Even though mushrooms are unsightly, they could be left to grow. They are actually beneficial to the lawn. Their extensive root system helps the soil retain water, and the breakdown of organic matter adds nutrients to the soil.
The lawn could be treated with a fungicide, but if problem issues are not solved to eliminate mushrooms, chances are the mushrooms will come back.
Besides improving the lawn’s appearance, other primary reasons to remove mushrooms from the lawn are to keep them away from children and pets.
Whereas the majority of mushrooms in Rowan County are non-poisonous, an expert is required to distinguish between edible and poisonous species.
There are no simple tests that can be used to identify mushrooms. Be safe and avoid all mushrooms.
My particular mushroom problem is caused by maple tree roots that are decaying from a tree cut down several years ago. It is impossible to dig up the roots without destroying my lawn and my neighbor’s lawn (not to mention a bunch of work). So, I carefully remove the mushrooms and trash them … these rascals do not go to the compost.
Preston Askew is a Master Gardener Extension Service volunteer in Rowan County.