Whether you like it or not, wild mushrooms will appear on your lawn and gardens; however, it’s not all bad when you see them sprouting.
Mushroom growth indicates that organic materials are abundant in your soil, making it a more productive area, and mushrooms rarely cause lawn diseases. After all, healthy soil makes for a healthier planet.
Did you know that good soil is the most crucial land-based carbon absorber?
Most mushroom are a sign of a healthy lawn. However, you can also easily remove them if they crowd your other plants or you simply don’t like seeing them around your beautifully manicured garden.
Read on to answer all of your questions surrounding “are mushrooms a sign of a healthy lawn?”
Table of Contents
What Are Lawn Mushrooms?
Lawn mushrooms, or backyard mushrooms, as they are also called, are underground fungi that grow in wet and moist areas. They’re a part of your lawn or backyard’s healthy ecosystem and appear when the conditions are exactly right.
The fungal structures are hidden underground, and their fruit, the mushrooms themselves, spring up overground.
Mushrooms, as well as toadstools, both propagate through airborne fungal spores and are the fruiting bodies of fungi. They stay hidden most of the time, only to break down the organic material in your lawn’s fresh soil to make it more productive.
At the first signs of moisture or water, fungus growth will pop up all over your land almost overnight.
They usually go away when bright sunlight comes out again but can also be easily removed yourself.
Where Do Mushrooms Like to Grow?
Mushrooms mostly grow in dark and shady areas, around dead tree roots, on forest floors, in the shade of large trees, and on manure piles.
They can grow in a wide range of temperatures from 40 to 90°F but mostly sprout during spring when the weather starts to grow warmer, and plenty of organic waste (their food source) is available. Chemical lawn fertilziers also provide nutrients for mushrooms to thrive.
Lawn mushroom tend to die off when the weather gets hot around mid-summer.
Are Mushrooms a Sign of a Healthy Lawn or Garden?
Mushrooms are a good sign for your gardens, lawns, and backyards, as they indicate that your soil is healthy and fertile. The part you see above ground is the reproductive part of fungi, which means that procreation activities are happening in your garden, indicating rich, fertile soil.
Mushroom presence implies that organic matter in your soil decomposes readily, humus forms, and soil nutrients are recycled – an all-around good thing for your lawn!
Additionally, the appearance of mushrooms means that the soil in your lawn or garden is stable and in good shape, as good soil is the most important thing to ensure fertile land for growing turf grass and other plants.
While there are more than 150,000 species of fungi in the world, mushrooms are one of the most beneficial and a clear indication that you have rich, fertile soil.
What Causes Lawn Mushrooms to Grow?
There are a few specific causes of mushrooms to sprout overnight on your lawn or yard, and here are a few of their ideal growing conditions.
1. Heavy Rain
After a long day or night of continuous rain, mushrooms are sometimes seen growing in the different shady areas of your garden. Their spores will spread into the air, causing even more mushrooms to grow nearby.
Mushroom growth happens mostly in places where water puddles form for a long time after rain.
If you’ve overwatered the plants in your garden or the turf in your backyard and the water has nowhere to go, the standing water can cause overly moist areas nearby. One of the reasons mushrooms grow along your plants or the edges of your garden beds is the consistent wet ground.
3. Soil Compaction
If your soil is too compact, i.e., if you’ve pressed your ground tightly inside garden beds or flowerpots, the lack of air circulation can quickly cause mushroom growth.
4. Rotting Natural Materials
Gardens are generally filled with materials that can rot over time, i.e., old grass cuttings or grass roots, dead trees and plants, dead leaves from plants or tree leaves, and wood chips. These start to rot in the presence of shade and high moisture, causing the vast majority of mushrooms to grow.
5. Poor Drainage
Mushrooms also grow in areas with poor drainage, where water stands still because it has nowhere to go. Lack of drainage happens more around tree stumps where water can stand still for a long time.
6. Animal Waste
Any sign of animal waste, organic waste, roadkill, or organic debris will cause mushrooms to grow on your lawn, feasting and aiding the decay. Essentially, mushrooms are your free caretakers.
7. Weather Conditions
Warm temperatures and humid weather are the right conditions for the presence of mushrooms, and they are also very fond of excess moisture. You’ll notice them appearing after rain or even if you have a particular area that holds water, like woody material or plant matter shaded by a tree.
Are you one of the tried-and-true morel mushroom hunters of the world? Check out our article on how to find morel mushrooms in the wild!
What are the Benefits of Lawn Mushrooms?
Different types of fungi can grow in shady and damp conditions of your lawn or backyard. However, if you notice them growing on your lawn grass, this is a sign of excellent soil.
Mushrooms indicate that dead plant material is being cleaned up, and there are many organic materials in your soil that the mushrooms are feeding on.
You’ll be happy to know that most mushrooms won’t affect your plant roots or plant growth as a whole.
One of the essential things mushrooms do is break down the decaying organic matter in your yard’s soil and make it more productive. Although mushrooms can sprout overnight and disappear again, they make your soil much more suitable for growing plants.
If you see mushrooms growing in a particular part of your garden, it usually means that that specific area is more fertile than other areas.
The soil particles of that area might have more microbial activity, making it more suitable for planting and growing, and it could be a wise decision to move plants to those new areas.
What are the Bad Lawn Mushrooms?
Almost all mushrooms growing on our lawns are fabulous for the soil, signaling that the earth’s health is in good shape. That’s why it’s a good idea not to stress when you see new mushrooms sprouting up.
However, one uncommon mushroom that can make the appearance of your lush green lawn look slightly off is the fairy ring mushroom.
This ring of mushrooms can make the turf die out or leave it a darker green, although it doesn’t mean that you have a turf disease. That, along with unsightly fungi, can aesthetically look unappealing.
Additionally, some lawn mushrooms are toxic, but we’ll touch more on this later.
What are Fairy Rings Mushrooms?
Fairy ring mushrooms are aptly named as they grow in rings, mostly on lawns, grassy areas with grass clippings, and meadows.
Potted Exotics Fun Fact: In Gaelic folklore, it was said that fairies or elves danced in the circle and that if a human entered to join in, they’d be forced to dance until they died of exhaustion.
Appearing in several varieties, generally, they’re circular and reddish brown, with a knobbed cap, and are more often than not safe and edible. The stem is usually discarded first as it’s hard and has a leathery nature which is not great to eat.
These mushrooms typically sprout after heavy bouts of rainfall, and although edible, they can also be slightly toxic to your pets and other small animals.
We would advise that if you have curious pets and small children in the house with access to your garden, you should destroy any Fairy Ring mushrooms as soon as they appear and keep an eye on the entire area for re-growth.
What are the 2 Main Types of Fairy Ring Mushrooms?
Fairy Ring mushrooms are usually one of two types:
Type 1. Edaphic (Non-Superficial)
Edaphic rings are created by an underground fungus (fungi that live underground) and create a hardened, water-repellent surface (hydrophobic soil layer) to prevent too much water from entering their home.
Of course, this, in turn, will prevent your lawn from receiving as much moisture – hence the brownish discoloration.
This type is the most critical type to consider, as it causes dead zones.
Type 2. Lectophillic (Superficial)
These rings or arcs are formed by fungi that have taken up residence in the excess thatch layer, the layer between the soil and grass with loads of old organic waste such as stems and roots.
You can spot this kind of ring as it will have a minor depression, and the turf is likely to be a darker green due to the mushrooms releasing extra nitrogen; there won’t be a hydrophobic layer.
How Should You Treat Fairy Ring Mushrooms?
Fairy ring mushrooms aren’t toxic but can give your lawn or backyard an unkempt look.
Although these reproductive parts of fungi can, under favorable conditions, sprout almost overnight all over your garden, they are also relatively easy to manage:
Fairy Ring Mushroom Management Steps:
1. You can pull them out by hand, just don’t forget your gloves.
Mushrooms have microscopic spores that are not visible to the naked eye. The spores release above ground; eliminating this ability will decrease the spread.
Don’t throw them on the compost pile, as they will continue multiplying.
2. Aerate your lawn in the area where you keep finding the mushrooms growing.
They feed on the organic waste underground; aeration stops this waste from surviving, so you will starve them of their food source.
It’s super easy, just poke holes in the lawn with a garden fork or get your sporty friends or family to run around that area in soccer boots. You can also try liquid aeration, which can help break down the lawn thatch layer.
Liquid aeration is relatively easy.
- Mix your aeration solution with water as directed on the packaging.
- Spray on the lawn.
- Ensure even water penetration.
3. Water your lawn less.
Mushrooms love moisture and will appreciate frequent watering. If your grass can handle it, cut it down slightly.
4. Prevention through adequate fertilization.
An iron or nitrogen fertilizer can mask some rings, which is beneficial if you are growing spruce trees, but the best way to have a mushroom-free lawn is prevention.
How Can Fairy Ring Mushrooms be Prevented?
If your garden is prone to mushrooms and you dread the first suitable conditions messing up your beautiful lawn, you can attempt to prevent them.
However, fungicide chemicals don’t work on the actual mushrooms as the fungi underground host the tiny fruit that pops up.
As a last resort, you can hire a professional to treat the lawn with commercial fungicides such as azoxystrobin or flutolanil. The treatment must start in the spring and may be repeated as necessary.
Although mushroom rings can look unsightly, destroying them is a shame as they are so good for the soil. Mowing your lawn more often may be extra work, but it’s an easy, cheap way to prevent the rings from forming.
When Should You Treat Your Lawn for Mushrooms?
Depending on how you look at it, different species of fungi growing on your lawn can benefit the soil and most other plants, or it’s a problem you’d like to tackle.
In shady conditions, you are bound to face some mushroom growth no matter how much lawn care you ensure, but your new lawn can show signs of rapid mushroom growth overnight after rain or humidity.
However, the good news is that you can quickly destroy the mushrooms growing in your garden and prevent more from appearing. Here are some reasons for doing so.
1. If you notice that surrounding plants are not thriving or the lawn is going very brown in patches where you have mushrooms, you may want to take action.
2. Perhaps you have observed that toxic mushrooms are growing; naturally, you don’t want harm to come to yourself or others.
3. Maybe you are happy with the mushrooms and content in the knowledge that the soil must be fabulous, but you’re expecting children or animal visitors and want to play it safe.
Are Lawn Mushrooms Toxic?
While most mushrooms are safe and edible, a few can be considered highly toxic, and ingesting the wrong mushrooms can cause death.
Unless you know what you are doing or have any doubts, we advise you not to prepare a mushroom risotto or any other dish with them.
Our recommendation is to get the advice of an expert, and you’d be surprised how many fungi folk are out there.
The following are three types of lawn mushrooms that are toxic, but please remember that around 100 mushrooms growing in the wild, not just on grass, are toxic:
1. Destroying Angel Mushrooms (Amanita Bisporigera)
These poisonous white mushrooms mostly grow around oak trees and can grow up to 10 inches tall. They are characterized by having a pure white stalk and collar with a white head with pink/yellow at the center.
The destroying angel gets their name as they are extremely dangerous, and the pure white resembles an angel.
If you see this growing in your garden, pull it up and destroy it as if ingested, it can lead to death, as the name suggests.
2. Fly Agaric Mushrooms (Amanita Muscaria)
Do you have a gnome sitting under a mushroom statue in your garden? That is what the fly argaric mushroom looks like – minus the gnome.
These mushrooms have large yellow or red caps with white spots and are highly toxic; you should destroy them when you spot them in your garden.
If you accidentally consume this mushroom, it will affect your nervous system causing hallucinations, possible coma, or in rare cases, death.
3. Vomiter Mushrooms (Chlorophyllin Molybdites)
These mushrooms are sometimes confused with another edible mushroom, “lawyer’s wig” because they are white with pink or brown shaggy caps.
They, too, can grow up to 10 inches in height, especially during summer, fall, and spring.
If you eat this mushroom by mistake, you can have similar symptoms of food poisoning, such as vomiting and diarrhea.
However, these symptoms are common with mature mushrooms, and young lawyers wig mushrooms are considered non-toxic and edible.
Non-Toxic Lawn Mushrooms (Good Mushrooms)
Not all lawn mushrooms are harmful; some can be a pretty tasty addition to the kitchen, while others can be bland. We advise you to identify which mushroom you include in your dishes. Here are six safe mushrooms.
1. Fairy Ring Mushrooms (Marasmius Oreades)
You can find fairy ring mushrooms in wide varieties, but this refers to the Marasmius oreades, which is edible. They’re up to 3 inches tall with a diameter of an inch wide.
When mature, it has cream/brown gills on the underside, indicating a time to harvest them.
They are sweet to the taste, and you can cook them in a stew or pasta dish.
2. Haymaker Mushroom (Anaeolus Foenisecii)
These little fellows are harmless but not edible. They’re around 3 inches tall with tiny caps of only about an inch and brown.
3. Ringless Honey Mushroom (Desarmillaria Caespitosa)
You will likely see this mushroom on the lawn as it’s one of the most common.
The ringless honey mushroom enjoys climbing trees, and you are bound to spot it on old tree stumps or the base of an oak tree if you have one. They can grow up to 8 inches tall, with caps up to 4 inches with a golden brown honey color on the head.
It has a slightly gelatinous texture when cooked and a bitter aftertaste, but a spicy curry sauce can mask that.
4. Puffball Mushroom (Several Species)
There are wide varieties of puffball mushrooms; some are edible, but others are not. This type of mushroom has a swollen ball-shaped head – hence puffball mushroom.
5. Meadow Mushroom (Agaricus Campestris)
This mushroom only grows up to 2 inches tall and has a large head up to 4 inches wide, either white or grey/brown. On the underside are pinkish gills.
The meadow mushroom is one of the tastiest lawn mushrooms and makes an excellent addition to any dish.
6. Lawyers Wig (Coprinus Comatus)
A lawyer’s wig can grow up to 8 inches tall and have a long, furry head. Ensure you prepare your dish before picking this chap, though it will quickly turn black and shrivel once plucked from the lawn.
Also, be sure to only harvest and cook with very young mushrooms, as these can be a bit harder to digest when mature.