In 1999, I moved to a small village in Germany. My home sat just a few steps away from the entrance to the forest. The neighbor across the street was very good about introducing me to the German culture. One day, she came to the house and asked if I wanted to go “pilz sammeln” – translation: “mushroom hunting.”

We trekked through the forest and collected a large basket full of different varieties. She taught me, or tried to, anyway, which were good to eat and which were not. We returned home and made at least six different dishes, all featuring mushrooms. I was thrilled.

Autumn is the time of year that most mushrooms pop their heads out of the earth. With cooler temperatures creeping in, mushrooms began to emerge in my lawn. Funny, I wasn’t as thrilled about these mushrooms as I was about the ones we harvested from the forest.

Surely, these fungi are a detriment to the health of my beautiful lawn, right? Wrong. They are actually quite beneficial. Mushrooms possess the superpower of decomposing organic matter, which releases nutrients responsible for the lush greenness of lawns.

Regardless of the benefits, many people just do not want mushrooms sprouting in their lawns. There are also considerations when dealing with small children or pets who may try to eat the mushrooms.

Some mushrooms are poisonous, so getting them out of the lawn would be a warranted task. In this case, however, I would just pick the mushrooms out of the lawn as they develop and dispose of them. Permanently eradicating mushrooms from the lawn has no easy answer. To find the solution, you first need to know what you are dealing with.

The mushrooms you see above the ground or on its food source, such as a log or tree stump, is the fleshy fruit of a fungi located under the soil. Simply picking the mushroom therefore will do little to get rid of them permanently. Spores are produced in the gills, found on the underside of the cap. So, when trying to eliminate mushrooms from the lawn, running them over with a lawn mower just helps to spread the spores.

Proper lawn care can help minimize mushroom infestation. Mushrooms emerge, especially after heavy rains, which we have definitely had our fair share of this week. Proper drainage and making sure not to overwater, as well as de-thatching and aerating the turfgrass, are helpful strategies.

Excessive thatch is one of the main culprits of soil fungi that produces fairy rings. This is identified as a thick ring of dark, lush turf. The mushrooms, before dying off, surround the ring. This occurrence can have detrimental effects on the lawn, as the mushrooms rob the surrounding grass roots of water, eventually turning the grass brown or yellow.

Eliminating the food source which mushrooms need to grow will reduce the number of mushrooms in the lawn. Old mulch, decaying stumps or logs, and grass clippings are all food sources which should be raked or removed from lawn areas.

There are multiple chemical treatments available, however, they only combat the mushroom, not the fungus that produces the mushroom. Completely clearing your lawn of mushrooms is almost an impossible task, because even if you manage to stop the production of mushrooms in your lawn, they can easily be reintroduced from spores blowing in the wind from a neighboring lawn.

Although some mushrooms are edible, without the ability to positively identify the mushrooms beyond doubt, they should never be consumed. Proper lawn care and manually pulling mushrooms will help reduce their numbers, but you might just want to resign to the fact that doing so should just be considered another lawn chore. Until next week, happy gardening.

— Irland, a member of the Limestone County Master Gardeners, can be reached at kippirland@hotmail.com. Visit https://mg.aces.edu/limestone for more information on the Limestone County Master Gardeners.

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