If you’ve recently noticed mushrooms sprouting up in the shady areas of your lawn you’re probably wondering what you can do to get rid of them. In most cases, they’re usually harmless, but there’s no way to know for sure – unless you happen to be an expert botanist with a strong background in mushroom anatomy. There aren’t too many trained botanists available to help us with mushroom growth in our lawns though.
For most people, the best course of action is to rid your lawn of those unsightly fungi, so that they won’t pose a potential danger to your pets or small children. Before you can make any progress with this process, you need to know what the root cause of your mushroom problem is. We’ll explore common reasons why mushrooms may be slowly taking over your lawn and what you can do to stop their spread and eventually eliminate them altogether.
Reasons For Mushrooms In Your Lawn
Mushrooms thrive in damp shaded areas, so if you have a lawn with poor drainage and large old-growth trees, there’s a good chance you may discover mushrooms growing in your lawn. These are the kinds of conditions that the fungi that produce mushrooms thrive in. The mushrooms are what we see on the surface, but the root of the problem is actually under the ground.
Wet conditions and organic material left behind after the winter melt will provide the fungus with food to grow and thrive. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep your lawn free of grass clippings and old leaves that will decompose over time and feed mushroom growth. Creating a compost heap in one of the corners of your yard is a great way to approach this or you can simply bag the material for disposal.
Those Mushrooms Can Actually Help Your Lawn
Mushrooms and the fungus that produce them can actually help improve the health of your lawn. They feed off decaying vegetation and organic matter and inject nutrient-rich material back into the soil, improving its quality and providing a better base for a healthy lawn. The problem is the underlying reasons that you have mushrooms in your lawn are not good for it and some types of mushrooms may be toxic for your pets or children. It’s usually best not to take chances and that’s why most homeowners prefer a lawn that’s mushroom free. However, if you don’t have small children or animals you may be fine to leave well enough alone and let nature take its course.
What’s The Best Time to Eliminate Mushrooms
If you’ve had issues with mushrooms in the past, there’s a good chance they’ll return as soon as the growing season begins again in the spring. The best thing you can do is to remove the conditions that have allowed those mushrooms to grow in the past. If your lawn no longer has the cool damp places that mushrooms live in, you should be able to eliminate the ones that do appear without too much effort. Before you get started, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on the methods that work best.
Tackle The Problem Early – Before Spores Are Released
Mushrooms spread when their spores are released into the air and that can happen shortly after they reach maturity. Different species will release their spores at varying times of day, so the best course of action is to tackle your mushroom problem without delay. Once the spores have been released it’s a lot more difficult to eliminate the mushroom growth.
If you can remove the mushrooms before the spores are released you can stop the spread, but you won’t completely rid your lawn of your mushroom problem. After you’ve removed the mushrooms you can see, there are some basic lawncare techniques you can use to prevent them from coming back.
The Best Methods For Preventing Mushroom Growth
If you do a quick search on the subject of mushroom removal from your lawn you’ll find quite a few suggestions and home remedies. Some will suggest using vinegar to kill mushrooms and others may recommend soap and water. If you’re lucky some of these methods might even work for you, but in reality, the best way to handle a mushroom problem is through tried and true lawn maintenance techniques.
By taking the time to grow a healthy well-maintained lawn you’ll eliminate the conditions that help mushrooms to grow and spread. This is the approach that we recommend for the best results. There are four main maintenance techniques you can use to maintain a healthy lawn and prevent mushroom growth in the future.
1. Aerating Your Lawn
One of the most effective ways to protect your lawn from mushroom growth is to make sure it’s properly aerated every season. You can’t prevent dead organic material from building up on your lawn over time, but you can prevent it from doing permanent damage to your lawn that can lead to conditions that allow mushrooms to thrive.
Aeration is a simple process usually using a tool known as an aerator to poke holes in your lawn. This allows it to breathe and grow. It can also improve drainage, which is another common cause of all those mushrooms that have sprouted up on your lawn. If you don’t own an aerator and you don’t want to rent one, you could also use a garden fork to poke the holes in your lawn – just be aware this is a time-consuming process. It is usually easier if you have the right tools for the job though, so if you have access to an aerator you should always choose this option.
2. Weeping Tile Or French Drains
A more extreme method for dealing with excess water is to install a weeping tile system, also often referred to as a French drain. In this system, you dig trenches around your lawn and fill them with gravel or you can use a PVC pipe with a series of holes in it. Both methods are designed to capture water runoff and move it away from your lawn to prevent dampness and this should help to reduce or eliminate your mushroom problem.
3. Don’t Over Water
Most of us have been taught to believe that watering our lawns is a good thing and it is, but you can get too much of a good thing. When you overwater your lawn it will start to pool because it can’t drain properly. This will create the same conditions that you want to avoid and there’s a good chance you’ll end up dealing with mushroom growth. Figuring out when and how often to water your lawn takes a little bit of trial and error, but it’s well worth the effort to find the right schedule for your lawn and climate conditions.
4. Don’t Water At Night
Another closely related problem to the overwatering issue we’ve already touched on is the time of day you water your lawn. It may be tempting to water your lawn at night because it seems to make sense as the hot sun can’t evaporate it too quickly, but it’s something you should avoid.
At night time your lawn is already damp, especially if you live in a humid climate. Watering it as well will create pooling as the water has nowhere to go. These are ripe conditions for fungus growth and the mushrooms that come accompany them. It’s best to water your grass early in the morning before the sun gets too hot but is still hot enough to evaporate excess runoff.
5. Keep The Yard Clean And Raked
When you cut the grass it can be good to leave the clippings on the lawn for soil nutrition, but you don’t want to do this every time. When you have too much organic material building up it provides the fuel the fungus underneath your lawn needs to grow and produce mushrooms in your lawn. This becomes an even bigger problem if you’re already dealing with a poor drainage issue.
6. Removal Of Unwanted Vegetation And Old Tree Stumps
It isn’t just grass clippings you need to worry about though, any vegetation that you have on your lawn can lead to the right conditions for mushrooms. If you have large bushes, a perimeter weed problem or a couple of old tree stumps in your yard you probably have a great breeding ground for mushroom growth. Clear away all weeded areas, consider removing the bushes if they’re an ongoing problem and make sure to remove all old tree stumps as soon as possible.
7. Keep Your Grass Short
If you allow your grass to grow too long it provides extra shade for fungus growth and it will retain more water. You don’t want to cut your grass too short, as the sun can burn it and ruin your lawn, but you want to cut it short enough on a regular schedule that fungus can’t gain a foothold. You may have to experiment to work out a good lawn cutting schedule depending on your climate, but it’s worth it if you want a healthy lawn free of mushrooms.
8. Fertilize Your Lawn
There are many good reasons to fertilize your lawn and one of the best ones is that it helps to breakdown organic material more quickly, so that fungus doesn’t have the environment it needs to grow. One of the main ingredients in fertilizer is nitrogen, which is excellent for excelerating the decomposition process. If you fertilize your lawn every year, there’s a good chance your lawn will remain mushroom free. Check out our best lawn fertilizers article to learn more.
9. Consider Tree Removal As An Extreme Measure
If you’ve tried all of the methods we’ve described above and you’re still having trouble with mushrooms on a consistent basis it may be time for some extreme measures. The reason for your mushroom problem could be due to large trees on your property that prevent sunlight from hitting your lawn and cause water to pool. If you’re not overly attached to those trees you may want to consider having them cut down or you could get away with trimming a few branches if you’re lucky. By depriving mushrooms of the damp shaded areas they prefer, you should be able to rid your lawn of them for good.
10. If All Else Fails Start Fresh With Sod
By the time you’re able to fully remove all of the conditions that led to your mushroom problem, it may already be too late for your lawn. In some cases it’s possible to trigger renewed healthy grass growth by sprinkling grass seed and fertilizer in damaged areas, but even that may not be enough. Sometimes you just need to start over once you have the right conditions in place. Laying new sod can be hard work and there is a significant expense associated with the process, but it will leave you with a healthy lawn for the long term.
Time To Grow
Now that your mushroom problem is cleared up and you’re better equipped to handle any future reoccurrence, it’s time to concentrate on growing a healthy lawn that’s the envy of all your neighbors. If you follow these guidelines it should be possible to have the lawn you’ve always dreamed of. A healthy green lawn is one of the centerpieces of your outdoor space and it’s rewarding knowing that your dedicated efforts have led to a mushroom free paradise that your whole family can admire and enjoy safely – including those four-legged family members!