Fairy ring, toadstool, puffball…no matter what name they go by, mushrooms love to grow in lawns, especially after it rains.
Mushrooms grow in areas that have high moisture, low light exposure and excessive organic matter to feed on. You can get rid of the visible mushroom caps by manual removal or using non-chemical treatments including baking soda, boiling water, vinegar, diatomaceous earth and salt. Chemical fungicides can be helpful, but only industrial-grade formulas provide lasting effects.
In this article, you’ll learn how mushrooms grow and spread, and why that matters when you’re trying to address your mushroom problem. We’ll cover 6 ways that you can get rid of the visible mushrooms in your yard, and how to prevent new ones from forming. We’ll also answer some common questions along the way.
Let’s dive in!
Why Do Mushrooms Grow In My Yard?
Where do mushrooms come from and how can you keep them from taking over your lawn or yard?
To answer that, we need to better understand just what makes a mushroom. When a mushroom pops up in your lawn, you’re literally just seeing the tip of the iceberg. The rest of it lies below the surface of your soil.
There are various kinds of fungi, but the ones that produce mushrooms are known as macroscopic filamentous fungi.
The above-ground mushroom part is called the fruiting body because it produces the spores by which fungi spread. The underground part of the mushroom, which is both vegetation and roots, is called the mycelium. The mycelium is made of a network of fine, pale, wispy threads called hyphae that are small but visible to the eye.
This photo shows a good view of mycelium:
The mycelium sends its threads through the soil to locate water and organic matter like leaves, sticks, logs, feces, dead bugs/mammals, etc. The hyphae make contact with the target matter and secrete enzymes that break the matter down into tiny pieces that the hyphae can absorb and transport back into the mycelium at large. This whole digestive process is what causes decomposition in nature.
The mycelium and the hyphae prefer to live and work in certain conditions, usually those that are dark and damp. You may have noticed this if you ever picked up a pile of leaves and found a colony of white threads and fruiting mushrooms underneath.
Your lawn may just be a good environment for fungi if:
- It gets low levels of light
- It has low-lying areas that don’t drain well and are frequently damp
- It has high amounts of organic matter
- There are nearby tree stumps or woods
- There are accumulated amounts of pet waste
Fungi with fruiting bodies spread by releasing spores from underneath the umbrella-shaped cap. So if your lawn is near a wooded area (where fungi tend to thrive) or downwind from another lawn with mushrooms, they may periodically appear in your lawn.
Are Mushrooms Bad for Your Lawn?
While many don’t like the way they look, mushrooms are actually good for your lawn. How and why can this be?
Mushrooms are a sign of a healthy ecosystem rich in organic matter. Where there are plenty of mushrooms, that also means there’s plenty of organic matter.
According to Oregon State University, that means that there are high nutrient levels to nourish your trees, shrubs, flowers and lawn.
Mushrooms can pull toxins out of the ground. After the 2020 California wildfire season, officials were concerned about the leftovers: toxic ash from melted-down plastic, petroleum-based fibers, paints, and heavy metals from the destroyed buildings.
Enter mushrooms. Using the principles of “mycoremediation,” or using fungi to process toxic chemicals in the environment, officials seeded burned-over areas with tube-shaped structures filled with oyster mushroom spawn. The tubes controlled water flow, and the mushrooms went to work digesting the ash.
The digestive ability of mushrooms is powerful enough to break down toxic materials into more benign components. While your lawn may not have high levels of toxic ash, there are probably still plenty of toxins in and around your home, such as heavy metals. Mushrooms and mycelium have the ability to digest and/or isolate the chemicals in the soil, reducing your exposure.
Mushrooms can release nutrients into the soil. Fungi are decomposers, and they can break down a fallen tree into its basic mineral, protein, carbohydrate, and fat elements.
Once these elements are loose in the soil, other plants can absorb their own share of these valuable nutrients to feed themselves.
Are Backyard Mushrooms Dangerous?
There are many types of mushrooms, from the tasty and edible (oysters, morels, chanterelles) to the dangerous (death cap, web cap, Conocybe filaris).
By and large, mushrooms on the lawn are not toxic to animals or humans. However, some varieties are poisonous, causing symptoms of gastrointestinal distress in some cases and even death in others.
Never eat a wild mushroom you can’t confidently identify. This is the #1 rule of mushroom foragers, and homeowners should follow it too. Often, poisonous mushrooms look very similar to edible ones, so it’s crucial to always positively ID a mushroom before consumption.
If your mushrooms are growing in a high-traffic area, contact your local cooperative extension office with a description and photos to determine if it is a toxic type or not.
Young children and pets are in the greatest danger of harm from eating wild mushrooms, both due to their smaller body size and their tendency to put things in their mouths.
If you think your child or pet has ingested part of a mushroom, call your doctor or vet right away to seek advice. And if your child or pet becomes ill after eating a mushroom, immediately take them to the emergency room along with a sample of the mushroom.
6 Ways to Get Rid of Mushrooms in Your Yard
With these benefits and potential dangers of mushrooms in mind, how do you get rid of mushrooms in your lawn if you want to? There are several ways to get rid of fungi, including several child and pet safe mushroom killers:
- Manually remove the mushrooms
- Baking soda
- Boiling water
- Diatomaceous earth
1. Manually Remove the Mushrooms
You can do this by hand or using a rake with fine tines. If you do your removal by hand, wear disposable gloves and discard them after you’re finished.
Remove the mushroom as close to the base as you can.
If you’re able, dig out as much underground material as possible.
Immediately put the mushrooms in a plastic bag and seal right away to prevent spores from getting released. Then dispose of it in the trash.
Do not attempt to burn mushrooms or throw them on the compost pile; this will release spores and exacerbate your mushroom problems.
2. Baking Soda
Killing mushrooms with baking soda is an effective short-term solution to a mushroom problem. The baking soda works by temporarily raising the pH of your soil, making it less hospitable to mushrooms. With repeated applications, the mushroom caps should dry up and the mycelium will also die.
Dissolve 2 Tbsp of baking soda in 1 gallon of water, and then spray or pour it over the mushroom caps and the area immediately surrounding them.
However, avoid spraying your baking soda solution on grass or desirable plants as much as possible. Since baking soda is alkaline, you could raise the soil pH too much and damage your landscape.
3. Boiling Water
You can also kill mushrooms above and below ground by pouring boiling water over them.
This method will kill mushrooms caps, and since it soaks into the soil, it will also kill the underground mycelium. However, it typically takes repeated applications over a few days to see total results.
And always use extreme caution when dealing with boiling water. Make sure to wear heavy oven mitts to protect your hands and pour water slowly to avoid accidental splashes.
Vinegar is an effective anti-fungal solution, but don’t reach for the white vinegar in your pantry if you want the best mushroom-killing results.
Instead, you’ll need to get horticultural vinegar, which is far more potent. According to Healthline, white vinegar intended for kitchen use is about 4% to 7% acetic acid. On the other hand, horticultural vinegar contains anywhere from 30% to 75% acetic acid. This popular option has a 45% concentration.
That potent acidity can lead to serious chemical burns to your skin and soft tissues, so you’ll need to use care while working with it. Be sure to wear gloves and eye protection, and always follow any recommended dilution ratios on the package.
To use vinegar on your problem mushrooms, “Simply spraying the mushrooms with the vinegar solution will kill them,” says Trevor Lively, president of Blue Jay Irrigation.
But be careful not to spray your grass, shrubs or other plants. Vinegar is extremely acidic, especially at such a high concentration, and it is an indiscriminate plant killer. Trevor agrees: “Spray carefully because it may also kill the surrounding grasses. Do a test area at first and leave it for a few days to check the effect.”
5. Diatomaceous Earth
Diatomaceous earth, or DE for short, is fossilized algae that looks like a fine white powder. It has microscopically sharp edges that make equally tiny cuts in slugs, snails, other soft-bodied insects and mushrooms. These cuts dry the organism out, causing death.
To apply DE, dust the tops of the mushrooms generously. Don’t use DE on rainy days or before you plan to water the lawn; moisture will just wash the powder away before it has the chance to work.
The fine powder can be a lung irritant, so make sure to wear a dust-protective face covering whenever you’re working with DE.
Sprinkling salt or using a high-concentration salt spray on mushroom caps has some anecdotal success.
If you’re using granular salt, apply it directly to the mushroom caps and around the base.
To make your own mushroom-killing salt solution, mix at least 2 tablespoons of salt to 1 gallon of water. Allow the salt to dissolve thoroughly, mixing the solution several times to get an even distribution. Then pour or spray the saltwater onto the mushroom cap, the base and the ground immediately surrounding it.
Use caution, however, as too much salt can adversely affect your grass, and spores can still escape from the caps even as they are dying. Like DE, you’ll need to reapply salt if rainfall or sprinklers wash it off.
Will Fungicide Get Rid of Mushrooms in Lawn?
Unfortunately, many fungicides are not very effective at killing mushrooms and keeping a lawn healthy.
Commercially available fungicides (the kind you’d buy online or at the home store) may dry up the mushrooms you see at the grass level, but they cannot kill the mycelium that lives below the soil surface. And since the underground mycelium is the actual life force, you’ll just get new mushrooms cropping up in a day or two.
Industrial-grade fungicides can work, but they are harsh chemicals that must be applied by a trained professional. Also, many homeowners need to get multiple applications to make a lasting difference in the mushroom population.
What’s more, fungicides that claim to be mushroom killers can be detrimental to your entire lawn because they kill every fungus and bacteria that live in the soil. Most of these microbes are beneficial, and killing them indiscriminately can lead to new problems in the long run.
So don’t spend money on a lawn fungicide that likely won’t work for the long term and often cause new issues. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that’s definitely true when it comes to lawn mushrooms!
Preventing Mushrooms from Growing in Your Yard
There are some simple steps you can take to make your lawn less hospitable to mushrooms. And each one is good for your overall yard health:
- Dethatch your grass
- Aerate low-lying, damp areas
- Cut down tree branches
- Fertilize your lawn
- Contain your compost
- Clean up pet waste right away
1. Dethatch Your Grass
Grass clippings, dead insect bodies, small twigs/sticks: Your lawn is full of organic matter, and as it breaks down, it forms a layer called thatch.
Thatch is actually good for your yard since it releases nutrients and helps retain soil moisture. But if it builds up into a thick layer, thatch also provides the food source and spacious, shaded, low-oxygen environment for the mycelium to thrive.
Removing excessive thatch naturally cuts down on the mushrooms in your yard, and it’s also good for your grass and soil. You can hire a landscaping service to professionally dethatch your lawn, or you can do it as a DIY project with a manual dethatching rake or an electric dethatcher.
2. Aerate Low-Lying, Damp Areas
There may not be much you can do about your local water table level or climate, but you can improve the drainage in your lawn to some degree though aeration.
There are 3 types of aeration methods:
- Liquid aeration
- Core aeration
- Spike aeration
Liquid aerators use a chemical formula to loosen the soil and improve its overall texture. It can be applied with a sprayer or a hose attachment.
Both core and spike aeration are mechanical methods, meaning that they use a machine to create multiple small holes in the soil to allow for better airflow and water evaporation.
Core aeration removes soil plugs that are about 2-3 inches long, and it’s ideal if you have very compacted soil. Spike aeration punches tiny holes into the soil without removing any plugs. It’s a less aggressive method, and if you have an ongoing drainage problem, it probably won’t be enough to help.
Just like with dethatching, you can have a landscaping company do a professional aeration treatment or you can do it yourself. Many electric dethatchers also offer an aerating function, so they’re a great 2-in-1 purchase.
3. Cut Down Tree Branches
Fungus loves to grow in shady locations where the sunlight can’t dry them out. If your lawn or yard has a dense tree canopy, prune back some of the branches to let some light and air in.
If your trees are large and mature, your best bet is to call in a local professional tree trimming service. But if your trees are smaller and you want to try pruning yourself, remember these guidelines:
- Always sanitize tools before making the first cut and in between trees.
- Cut close to the branch collar.
- Look for a natural branch outcropping to cut to. Never cut in the middle of a branch and leave a stub.
- Never strip out all the interior branchlets on a limb–this will make it end-heavy.
This video from Strider Trees does an outstanding job of showing how to use these guidelines for safely and effectively trimming your trees:
4. Fertilize Your Lawn
This seems a bit strange right off the bat- why would you want to add more nutrients that mushrooms can feed off? The idea here is to promote dense grass growth that will crowd out the mushrooms. Also, fertilizer can help organic matter break down faster, before the mushrooms have a chance to get established.
Use a readily-available nitrogen fertilizer instead of a slow-release one, and follow the dosage instructions on the package for your square footage. Scotts Green Max Lawn Food is a good option.
But be careful not to over-apply, no matter how sick of the mushrooms you are! Soil that’s too high in chemical nutrients can burn your grass roots and encourage weed growth.
5. Contain Your Compost
Mushrooms like to grow in compost piles almost as much as they like to grow in lawns.
While fungus is a phenomenal decomposer that’s great for your compost, remove any fruiting bodies as soon as they appear to prevent them from releasing spores into your lawn.
Also, set up a fence or some kind of barrier if you have an open compost pile. This can help keep organic matter from leaking out into your yard, where mushrooms will take the first opportunity to establish themselves.
6. Clean Up Pet Waste Right Away
Animal feces are a rich source of organic matter, and mushrooms love them.
So if you have a pet that leaves landmines on your lawn, make sure to clean them up frequently.
What Types of Mushrooms Grow Most Often in Lawns?
While the exact mushroom species you’ll find in the yard varies greatly from region to region, these are some of the more common ones in the United States:
- Also called bird’s nest mushroom
- Potentially toxic
- Has a distinctive shape
- Commonly called inky cap mushroom
- Edible, but poisonous if combined with alcohol
- Often appears after rain
- Bell-shape cap flattens and disintegrates as it releases spores
- Also called Fly Agaric and Fly Amanita
- Very poisonous
- White spots on red cap
- Used as a traditional insecticide
- Also called Death Cap or Death Cup
- Highly toxic; it’s one of the most poisonous mushrooms on earth
- Resembles several edible species
- Releases a strong, stinky odor when disturbed
- Attracts flies
- Can be brown or white
- No visible stem
- Releases a “puff” of spores when impacted
- Nonpoisonous, but young poisonous mushrooms (such as death caps) often look like puffballs
- Also called honey fungus
- Edible, but some people experience an allergic reaction
- Causes fungal Armillaria root rot in trees
- Also called haymower’s mushroom or lawnmower’s mushroom
- Conical brown cap and brown or white stem
- Nonpoisonous, but may contain psilocybin and cause hallucinations
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Frequently Asked Questions about How to Get Rid of Mushrooms in Yard
That was just a short trip through the wild world of mushrooms. They are fascinating organisms that offer as many benefits as they do potential hazards!
In most cases, mushrooms are actually a good thing for your lawn, so it might be best to learn to peacefully coexist with these fungal associates. But if you have any concerns for the health and safety of children and pets, removing the mushroom caps and taking steps to keep them at bay is a wise idea.
Do you have any other questions about mushrooms in your lawn? Have you discovered any other ways to get rid of them? Please share in the comments- your thoughts or experience may be the answer to someone else’s problem!