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Mushrooms in Lawns

Question. Mike: I have a problem with mushrooms appearing on my lawn after heavy rains. How can I get rid of them? Thanks!

    ---Ellinor in West Chester, Pa
I have all kinds of mushrooms growing in my lawn, what can I do to get rid of them???
    ---Kathy in Michigan
This spring we laid sod around our house. About midsummer we started getting mushrooms. I've tried cutting back on the watering, but that just stressed the grass. Is there a way to get rid of the mushrooms or will the problem just get worse?
    ---Julie in Chappell, Nebraska
I have an area of lawn at the rear of my garden, which is close to a stream. The water table is high so the ground is always moist. Luckily, the grass grows beautifully, but so do a variety of mushrooms. They have completely taken over despite my best efforts to get rid of them, including using a flame weeder. They just continue to flourish! Can you please help with this problem? Many thanks,
    ---Kim; somewhere in PA
Answer. Congratulations, questioners; several of you have already identified the cause of your fungi forest, explains Dr. Trey Rogers, prestigious professor of turfgrass science at Michigan State University and "Yard Doctor" for Briggs & Stratton. "First thing I think of when I hear the phrase 'mushrooms in lawns' is excessive moisture," he says. "Nine times out of ten, there's a drainage problem or the turf is being over-watered."

And so here again are our rules for wise watering (which are wisEST for lawns): Water deeply and infrequently, and only if rain has been scarce. Never water an established lawn every day. In the most extreme circumstances in the hottest, driest climes and times, two overnight drenchings a week is the max. In normal situations, one long overnight drenching is all a lawn needs. (And 'overnight' means ending at 8am, not midnight; never let a lawn sit wet in the evening.) Infrequent, deep waterings help avoid all kinds of fungal problems and force the lawn to grow deeper roots, which crowd out weeds. (You'll find lots more watering details in this PREVIOUS QUESTION OF THE WEEK.

Drainage problems are more difficult to solve. Dr. Rogers suggests you begin with a good core aeration. Rent a machine called a core aerator, and run it over the lawn. It will pull out plugs of turf and dirt, reducing soil compaction and thus improving drainage. Do this in Spring or Fall; "anytime the grass is actively growing", says Dr. Rogers, with the caveat not to do it in the heat of summer even if you have a warm-season grass, as the stress it could cause to the turf might prove to be worse than the original problem.

One of our favorite lawn care experts, Iowa State University turfgrass Professor Dr. Nick Christians (who researched and developed the use of corn gluten meal as an all natural 'weed and feed' for lawns) agrees about moisture, but was also one of many we spoke with who doesn't consider most of these appearances a real 'problem'. "It's perfectly natural in really wet weather," explains Dr. Nick, adding that "in almost all cases, its no threat to the lawn, and the mushrooms will disappear when things dry out."


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