Knowing what a mushroom is and its purpose in the environment helps to understand why they suddenly appear in your lawn and landscape. Mushrooms are classified under the Kingdom of Fungi (plural for fungus), which is separate from the plant and animal Kingdoms. Mushrooms are one of nature’s decomposers. They “eat” organic material in the soil. Organic material can be anything from dead plants and animals to leaves and other debris on the ground. Mushrooms can pop up anywhere when the conditions are right, which includes sufficient moisture and organic material in the soil. Shade will also encourage mushroom growth, but is not absolutely necessary. Some mushrooms will grow in a fair amount of sunlight.
Fun fact: According to National Geographic there is a mushroom, nicknamed Humongous Fungus, growing in Malheur National Forest in Oregon that is the largest organism in the world and may in fact also be the oldest. It is estimated that this mushroom is anywhere between 2,400 and 8,600 years old and covers 2,385 acres. Aren’t you glad this mushroom isn’t in your yard!
Is it ok if mushrooms are growing in my lawn and landscape?
The short answer is yes. Mushrooms are actually good for the soil. When mushrooms “eat” organic material, it supplies the soil with nutrients and acts as a natural fertilizer. Mushrooms will naturally die off when the organic material in the ground is gone or when moisture is not sufficient to sustain them. However, mushrooms can be unsightly in the landscape to some people and some mushrooms are actually poisonous which could harm children or pets.
How do I remove mushrooms from my lawn and landscape?
If you choose to remove mushrooms from your lawn or landscape, it is relatively easy to remove them from view. You can use a garden rake to simply rake up the caps (tops) of the mushrooms and dispose of them. But, raking up the caps only removes the portion of the mushroom you see above ground. The main body of the fungus remains underground.
Tips: Some mushrooms are poisonous. Always wear gloves when you handle wild mushrooms in your landscape. Also, dispose of mushrooms in the trash. Do not put them in your compost pile. If you put them in the compost pile they may spread as the compost pile contains the organic material and moisture that mushrooms feed on.
How do I remove the underground portion of the mushroom?
Removing the underground portion of the mushroom is not as easy as raking up the caps. The organic material and moisture needs to be removed in order to suppress mushroom growth. This takes a little more time and work.
First remove the moisture source if possible. There is not much a gardener can do about natural rain fall but if you irrigate your lawn and landscape, set the sprinkler system to start in the morning. This allows your lawn to dry during the day. Never water at night because it promotes fungal growth by allowing water to sit on the soil and plant leaves for an extended period of time.
Water your lawn and landscape fewer and longer periods each week. Watering less often allows the soil to dry out in between waterings which discourages fungal growth. Plus watering in this ways encourages plants to extend their roots deeper into the ground in order to access moisture. This makes your lawn and landscape plants stronger and more resistant to drought conditions.
Next, remove the organic matter that is feeding the mushrooms. When mushrooms are in the lawn, look at the ground between the blades of grass. Thatch is a layer of dead grass and debris that covers the ground. If this is too thick, it will retain moisture and provide the perfect conditions to grow mushrooms. Some thatch is good for your lawn but if it’s too thick or mushrooms are popping up, de-thatch the lawn with a de-thatching rake or rent a de-thatching machine from a local lawn care service. You can also hire a lawn care company to perform this service for you. This will help remove the conditions necessary for mushrooms to grow.
If the soil doesn’t have a thick layer of thatch but still retains more moisture than it should, the soil may be compacted. If the soil is compacted, it may need to be aerated. Aerating the soil quite literally means small holes are punched into the soil to allow air to penetrate the ground and moisture to escape. For small lawns or for small sections of the lawn, you can use a tilling fork to aerate the ground by pushing the fork into the ground and rocking it back and forth. If you have a larger area to aerate, you can rent an aerating machine or you can hire a lawn care service to perform the aeration for you.
If mushrooms are growing in your landscape mulch, remove the old mulch and replace it with fresh mulch. Wood mulches and pine needle mulches are the organic material mushrooms need to grow. If mushrooms are a constant problem, consider replacing organic mulches with decorative landscape rock or another type of inorganic mulch like recycled rubber.
In some instances, organic material cannot be removed. For example, where a tree has been cut down, even if the surface stump is ground out or removed, the remaining stump underground and root system will start to decompose and mushrooms may appear. Removing any excess moisture and increasing the sunlight the area receives will help inhibit mushroom growth but may not stop it entirely. In this case, removing the caps will keep the area clean of mushrooms from view. Remember, mushrooms will disappear on their own once they are through “eating” the organic material present.
Mushrooms are good for the environment and your landscape, but if they are unsightly to you or if you’re concerned due to children or pets, removing mushrooms may be necessary and it’s easier to accomplish once you know what to do and why they grow. Please remember to wear gloves when you are working with wild mushrooms. As always,
Quote of the Day
“The sudden appearance of mushrooms after a summer rain is one of the more impressive spectacles of the plant world.”
– John Tyler Bonner, Development and Evolutionary Biologist