Dealing with Fairy Rings and Mushrooms in the Lawn

Fairy rings are a common occurrence on grassed areas. Despite their whimsical name, they provide no benefit to the soil, as they are essentially fungi that form in place of dead grass and thatch. Knowing how to identify and treat fairy rings and mushrooms around your lawn helps keep the soil healthy and grass growing.

How to Spot Fairy Rings and Mushrooms

As the name indicates, fairy rings produce fungi that a form circular pattern across an area of land, including commercial lawns. It can grow in a wide range of lengths from just a few inches to 200 feet. Although they are often seen in forested areas, they can just as easily grow on chemically-treated suburban lawns.

The mushrooms that fairy rings produce can range from less than half an inch to 12 inches. Also known as toadstool or puffballs, some types of mushrooms can be poisonous to humans and animals, which is why they need to be pulled immediately once spotted.

Fairy rings develop for several reasons. They can start from existing fungus that spread its spores to plant additional fungi. As they break down only certain portions of the lawn, the nitrogen they release stimulates growth in the grass outside of the ring, creating not only mushrooms, but uneven grass growth across the lawn. It is not uncommon to see fairy rings form a necrotic zone, an area of grass in which plant life has completely died.

The condition of the turf, type of organic matter present, and other obstructions are different ways that can affect the way fairy rings form on lawns. 

How to Get Rid of Fairy Rings

To get rid of fairy rings, start by reducing the amount of organic matter on your lawn. Dethatch dead patches of grass and apply a fertilizer with plenty of nitrogen. Aerate the soil to improve the area’s access to water. Fill the holes with water every day for 3 to 10 days to help “flush out” the roots of the fungi. 

You can also plant new soil around the fairy ring by digging down one foot and outward by two feet. Replace the area with new soil and reseed or lay down sod. Use caution when removing soil where fungi were present: if it drops on a healthy area of grass, the fungi will root again and sprout. 

Changing the soil pH has been found to have little effect in getting rid of the mushrooms, as fairy rings are still able to sprout in soil with pH at neutral and acidic levels. 

Fungicide is also not an effective method of combating fairy rings. A better option may be to fumigate the area instead. Remove 2-3 feet of sod around the fairy ring, loosening the soil to a depth of 6-9 inches, and covering the area with plastic tarp. The total fumigation process should last around two weeks. It is possible to do this independently, but a professional may be desired to avoid hazardous situations.

Keep in mind that hand pulling mushrooms also makes little impact on getting rid of fairy rings permanently. Spores are able to travel through the wind and land elsewhere to root. And because some mushrooms are poisonous, it is best to avoid hand contact with them and explore other ways of dealing with fairy rings.

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