Turn back water, turn back mushrooms

The fungus is among us. I saw the first ones this week, popping up in the lawn.

I hardly ever see mushrooms unless I go up in the mountains in the summertime, but this time of year is the prime time for lawn mushrooms.

It seems like they appear overnight, their little flesh-colored caps peeking over the green blades of grass. They’re actually quite beautiful in their fragility.

When I see mushrooms spring up in our lawn, I try to remove them as soon as possible without disturbing them too much. Fungus spreads through spores, so the last thing I want to do is to run over them with the lawn mower, chopping them up and scattering them all over the place. I take a plastic bag with me and carefully pick the toadstools, disposing of them in the trash.

It’s not that the fungus is really harmful at this stage. It’s more about preventing future problems and particularly about keeping unsuspecting critters from eating the mushrooms. I don’t want a child picking mushrooms out of the grass and munching on them, or my dog suddenly deciding they look tasty.

Eating random mushrooms is never a good idea. Unless you are a real mushroom expert (a mycologist), it’s not something to mess around with. These are NOT the mushrooms you eat on a pizza.

Sometimes these mushrooms can appear in a mysterious dark circle of grass called a “fairy ring,” which is actually kind of cool to see. Other times, the mushrooms pop up randomly. And sometimes they have a perfect little habitat if there’s something rotting — we had the most fantastic collection of mushrooms on an old stump during wet weather.

Remember, fungus is a decomposer. It breaks down dead things in the food chain, so if you have something dead sitting around, it will probably show up if the conditions are right. This can include wooden things you’ve built, such as your house or your deck, if it’s wet and rotting.

It’s best to discourage these kinds of mushrooms from sticking around. If the mushrooms have a chance to take up residence (and the spot they chose is wet enough to harbor them long-term), they could eventually kill the grass in that spot by decomposing everything else around them, absorbing the nutrients and killing off the turf.

Can you use a fungicide to get rid of them? Yes, but it’s probably more effective and cheaper to just remove the mushrooms and let the lawn dry out a little bit. This can be easier said than done when Mother Nature is involved, and we receive some unpredictable monsoonal rains this time of year. But if you cut back on running the sprinklers, you will avoid exacerbating the moisture issue, thereby making your yard a less-attractive habitat for the toadstools.

Erin McIntyre is an advanced master gardener, writer and Grand Valley native. Please email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) with story ideas or feedback.


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