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How To Get Rid of Mushrooms In Your Yard

mushroom lawn Depositphotos 271326622 XL min How To Get Rid of Mushrooms In Your Yard

Your lawn is finally perfect. Except the yearly mushroom invasion has arrived. White or black, grey or multi-colored. Your lawn seems to be infested. Puffballs, toadstools, even a fairy ring or two. 

Mushrooms thrive in high moisture, low sunlight environments where they have lots of decaying organic matter to feed on. Eliminating the visible parts of mushrooms is relatively easy by using products like vinegar, baking soda, or salt. Getting rid of the underground part is much more difficult. 

Although most lawn mushrooms are benign, there are a few that can be poisonous to children and pets. Err on the safe side and get rid of them.

This article provides pointers on getting mushrooms out of your lawn–or at least learning to live with them.

Why Mushrooms Grow in Lawns

The mushroom you see is called the Fruiting Body–the spore-producing part that spreads mushroom fungus. You can call it the tip of the iceberg because the underground roots and vegetation–called the mycelium–are much larger.

The Mycelium is made up of small thread-like roots called Hyphae. Mushrooms feed on organic matter like leaves, twigs, and logs along with feces, and dead bugs or mammals. The ideal environment for mushroom growth includes:

  • Low-lying areas that remain wet after rain, snow melt, or lawn watering.
  • Nearby shrub or tree growth or rotting stumps.
  • Your lawn has lots of organic matter.
  • Low levels of light or shaded areas.
  • Lots of decomposing pet poop or manure used for garden or flower bed fertilizer.

Given ideal conditions, the underground fungi mat will sprout mushrooms to distribute spores to further propagate the fungus. Mushroom growth happens later in the process.

Are Mushrooms Bad for the Lawn?

Mushrooms are unsightly, but they are actually a sign of a lawn gifted with plenty of organic matter and a well-functioning system according to Oregon State University. Your lawn should have high nutrient levels to feed grass, flowers, or gardens.

Fungi will decompose tree trunks and most anything else to basic elements and distribute them throughout the soil. Mushrooms can make for a healthy lawn by providing it with bio-available nutrients.

Getting Rid of Mushrooms

Most people do not remove mushrooms permanently from their lawns because they are only treating the symptom (mushrooms above ground) rather than the cause (mycelium mat under the surface).

Non-Toxic Methods to Remove Mushrooms

There are many non-toxic ways to remove the mushrooms from your lawn.

  • Manually. Pluck by hand close to ground level or use a rake with fine tines. Seal in a plastic bag and dispose of in the garbage. Do not burn or compost. You will only spread the spores.
  • Horticultural Vinegar. Contains 30% to 75% acetic acid. A small squirt of this potent weed killer will eliminate your mushroom problem. Also any grass it touches. Spray carefully. Wear rubber gloves and eye protection. Acidity can cause severe skin burns.
  • Salt. Mix at least two tablespoons of salt in a gallon of water. Spray directly onto the mushroom cap and the ground around it. Spores will still escape as the cap is dying. Will need to be re-applied if rain or a sprinkler washes the salt off.
  • Baking Soda. Repeated applications will dry up the mushroom caps and eventually kill the entire mycelium mat. Mix two tablespoons in a gallon of water and spray on and around the mushrooms. Do not spray the surrounding grass more than necessary.
  • Boiling Water. Pouring boiling water over the caps will kill them. It will also soak into the ground and kill the mycelium. You will require repeated applications for a week or so to totally kill all of the growth.
  • Diatomaceous Earth. DE not only cuts and kills soft-bodied insects like slugs; it cuts and dries out soft-bodied mushrooms. It has no effect on the mycelium. Wear an N95 mask or respirator to avoid inhaling the fine dust.

Killing Mushrooms With Chemicals

Some people won’t want to take the time needed to use non-toxic methods and will resort to chemicals. Be careful what you wish for.

Commercial fungicides claim to kill mushrooms–and they do. The part you can see. They are worthless at killing the mycelium, which is the real heart of the plant. You will likely have new above-ground mushrooms coming up in two or three days.

Industrial fungicides usually work but may require more than one application by a trained professional. They are usually indiscriminate and will kill all of the fungi and bacteria living in the soil. Most of these organisms are beneficial to your lawn. So, you are risking long-term problems by eliminating everything.

Preventing Mushrooms Growing On Your Lawn

These simple ideas will not only help mushroom-proof your lawn; they are good husbandry practices that will improve overall lawn health.

  • Dethatching. Thatch is the layer of decomposing grass clippings, dead bugs, and twigs in your lawn grass. It is usually good for your lawn, but if is too thick, you have a perfect breeding ground for mycelium and eventually mushroom growth. You can buy or rent dethatchers and clean it up yourself. Or hire a professional landscaping company.
  • Aeration. Aerating low, damp areas allows more air circulation and better evaporation. Core aerators remove plugs of soil up to 3″ long. Spike aerators punch 1″ holes in the soil. Liquid aerators use chemicals to loosen the soil. Many dethatchers are 2 in 1 combination machines with an aerator attachment. Which will save you money if you choose to do the job yourself.
  • Fertilization. Applying readily available (not slow-release) nitrogen fertilizer promotes dense grass growth. With any luck, the grass will choke out the mushrooms. Be prepared to do more lawn mowing.
  • Tree Branches. Fungus grows best in wet shady locations. Quite often mushrooms will thrive there. Consider pruning back some branches to allow more sunlight to dry these areas out. If you are not comfortable cutting large branches, hire a professional arborist.
  • Compost. Compost is a great place for mushrooms to grow. And they do a great job of breaking down any organic matter. Rake any mushroom growth off the compost as soon as it appears to prevent the spread of spores. Put your compost in a pit or inside a fenced area to prevent mushroom spread.
  • Pet Poop. Feces can supply rich organic matter to mushrooms. Keep your lawn clean.