Mushrooms are interesting (and sometimes tasty), but when it comes to mushrooms in your yard, they aren’t that fun(gi). Sorry, had to! Mushrooms can be an eyesore in an otherwise lush green lawn. They are a byproduct of something happening below the soil surface, so it can be frustrating trying to figure out how to get rid of mushrooms in yard areas. Thankfully, more often than not, mushrooms are relatively harmless and most types of lawn fungi don’t create disease.
However, they can be poisonous to children and pets in some cases, so it’s important to remove them or at least check their toxicity before you decide to accept their presence in your lawn.
There are so many different kinds of mushrooms.
There is the highly recognizable umbrella-shaped mushroom, but there are also mushrooms that look like fingers, jelly, bird nests, and puffballs to name a few.
Mushrooms can even be an assault on your senses; some are smelly to attract flies.
There are so many different varieties of mushrooms that there are people who actually make a whole career out of studying them (mycologists).
Why do Mushrooms Grow in Lawns?
Mushrooms thrive in damp and dark environments with a lot of decaying organic matter.
This can include rotting leaves, dead grass, tree trunks, animal waste, and more.
How They Spread
Spores spread when a mushroom is picked, broken, or disturbed. They can be carried by the wind, insects, birds, and other animals.
These spores establish threadlike roots called hyphae that become established under the soil in mats. You can actually see these mats by cutting out a small piece of the lawn.
The Value of Mushrooms
Fungi actually serve an important purpose in the garden by digesting decaying organic matter and providing nutrients to the surrounding soil and plants.
In addition to providing important nutrients, this function is key to preventing organic matter from piling up.
In ideal conditions, happy and thriving fungi will sprout mushrooms, which are actually the fruiting bodies responsible for the propagation of spores. This is sort of like a dandelion puff with all of its seeds.
By this time, the fungi are already well-established below the surface. The mushrooms just serve as a visual notification that there is a thriving fungus in your lawn.
Brown Grass Caused by Fungi
The other way that fungi can become problematic is when the mat-like hyphae grows so thick that it prevents your grass from getting the nutrients it needs. This can cause grass to turn brown.
When this occurs in lawns, you may see a circular ring pattern in your grass. When mushrooms follow this ring pattern it is colloquially referred to as a fairy circle or ring.
How to Get Rid of Mushrooms in Yard Areas
One of the reasons homeowners struggle to remove mushrooms from their lawn is that they treat the symptom, not the cause.
Removing mushrooms above the surface will not fix the fungal problem below the soil surface.
That being said, it is still important to remove them in order to prevent further spread.
As mentioned above, mushrooms are the fruiting bodies and they are solely responsible for the spread of spores.
The best way to remove them is by digging up the mushroom in its entirety with a garden spade.
Make Your Yard Less Hospitable to Mushrooms
If you’re wondering how to get rid of mushrooms in yard areas, my advice is to do what you do to get rid of your in-laws. Make your home a place where they don’t want to be.
Fungi thrive in damp and shady environments where there is access to a lot of organic debris or waste. The best way to eliminate fungi is to create a less ideal environment.
There are a few ways to do this.
Shady areas of lawns should be watered less frequently and allowed to dry more fully between instances of watering.
I recommend that you water deeply but infrequently as opposed to watering more frequently but for shorter periods of time.
Watering in the morning allows the grass to absorb the water it needs before the sun helps to dry things out. You should avoid watering at night because the water will stay on your lawn and create a perfect damp and dark environment for fungi to grow.
Aeration may also penetrate the existing hyphae mat and interrupt its growth pattern. Even mowing more frequently to keep grass shorter can help prevent accumulating moisture.
Shorter grass tends to dry more quickly than tall grass. It also allows for more air and sunshine to reach the soil.
Just be careful to pull up mushrooms before mowing. Otherwise, the mower can whip around mushroom spores and make a lawn problem much worse.
Apply Nitrogen-Rich Fertilizer
Spreading a nitrogen-rich fertilizer on your lawn will accelerate the decay process of the carbon-rich organic matter in your soil. This can slow, or prevent the growth of fungi.
A good example is ammonium sulfate applied in a ratio of 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
You can also remove decaying organic material such as rotting wood, leaves, grass clippings (bag them in problem areas until the issue is resolved), and pet waste from the surface of your lawn.
This effectively removes the fungi’s food source.
It’s particularly important to do this in shady areas of your yard or spots where water tends to accumulate.
Keep in mind that some sources of organic material might actually be buried. This is especially true if you’ve had any recent renovations where lumber has been left behind and covered up with dirt (we’ve all met at least one contractor like that, right?)
Alternatively, if you’ve removed trees or shrubs but left the roots behind, those carbon-heavy materials may very likely be decomposing beneath the soil and encouraging fungal growth.
A compost pile needs a balance of carbon and nitrogen to break down quickly, and balancing the carbon from old wood, roots, and mulched leaves in your lawn with nitrogen will speed up the process.
Using Fungicide to Kill Mushrooms in Your Lawn
It’s worth noting that fungicides don’t work in these situations.
This is contrary to what a lot of companies who sell fungicides will tell you, but it’s true.
The reason fungicides will not correct the problem causing mushrooms to grow in your yard is that they don’t penetrate through the soil deep enough to reach the hyphae.
The surface mushrooms might die, but then guess who’s running back to Home Depot in a week or two to get more Funigicide?
Lawn fungicides are intended for leaf mold or root rot … shorter living fungi.
Fungicides don’t actually kill the fungi as the name would imply. Instead, they primarily work by coating the existing fungus and preventing it from spreading its spores.
In this way, a fungicide can help contain the issue and eventually the fungus runs its life span and dies off.
But lawn fungus tends to be more prolific and longer-lasting.
Most products or fungicides marketed specifically for killing mushrooms are actually illegal now, so your best bet is to take the holistic approaches I’ve outlined above.
Start from Scratch
If you try the above solutions and still find that there are mushrooms popping up, then you can dig up that part of the lawn.
This is the nuclear option, and you’ll have to consider if digging up a big section of your lawn is an improvement over a few mushrooms.
For most people, it’s not worth the trouble.
But if you decide to go this route, then you’ll need to dig at least 12 to 18 inches deep into the soil. You’ll also need to remove up to 18 to 24 inches outside of the affected area to ensure that you get all of the hyphae beneath the surface.
Following this, you can spread some new soil and grass seed to create new growth in that area. Ensure that you continue to follow the advice above in doing so, otherwise, you’ll be straight back to square one.
Learn to Love the Mushrooms & Peacefully Coexist
Mushrooms don’t look great in a lawn, but they aren’t usually problematic or dangerous. They are actually a sign of fungi doing their job to provide nutrients to the soil.
Like most things in nature, they exist to help achieve a balance, and if you accept that this is part of your soil achieving that balance, you might start to like them.
As long as you aren’t worried about pets and kids getting into them, then it’s okay to leave mushrooms where they are in your yard.
They’re actually quite harmless and mostly just a sign of good soil health, so long as the grass isn’t dying.
Grass dying and turning brown would indicate that the hyphae mat has grown too thick, and you should probably do something.
How to Get Rid of Mushrooms in Yard Areas? With Patience
Mushrooms are harmless but can be frustrating to a homeowner wondering how to get rid of mushrooms in yard areas where he or she has spent time and energy cultivating a beautiful lawn.
By the time you see mushrooms, there will already be significant fungal growth beneath the surface of the soil.
Removing mushrooms can help prevent further spread, but it doesn’t kill the fungi below the surface, so you can expect to see more.
For the best chances of eliminating the fungi:
- let your lawn dry out before you water it,
- ensure that there is adequate drainage and airflow, and
- remove organic debris and waste that acts as a food source for fungi.