Mushrooms in lawns

Submitted Photo Mushrooms or toad stools are the “flower” part of an underground fungus. Photo from University of Wisconsin Extension.

Recent rains have benefited not only our yards, gardens and crops, but other growing things in nature. Ones which are very easy to see are mushrooms or also called, toad stools. Mushrooms or toad stools are the “flower” part of an underground fungus. This fungus lives on decaying organic matter found in the ground. By breaking down the organic matter, it releases the nutrients into the soil for trees, lawns and desired plants to use.

The fungus underground resembles a cobweb-type of growth. It is stimulated to produce new fungus by the rain, so it sends up mushrooms or toad stools. These will live a short while and then wither and die. But when they do this, they will produce a large amount of a black powdery substance which is called spores. This is the “seed” of a mushroom. It moves around by wind or water and starts a new underground colony of fungus.

What can be done to stop them? There is very little that can be done. The underground fungus is widespread. It would be impossible to treat it with a fungicide to get rid of it. And we don’t really want it gone as it helps break down old tree roots, buried lumber, and other organic substances. Mushrooms will many times flourish in areas where trees have been removed. This is because the roots of the tree remain, and as they begin to decay, the mushroom fungus grows and feeds on them.

The best method of control is to pick and bag the mushrooms. This will reduce the number in your lawn, but will not eliminate them. Many of them are very toxic, so by removing them you will protect children and pets from accidentally eating some. Persistence is needed to keep the number down by preventing new spore development and release.

All Vine, No Fruit?

Plants need a balanced diet like we do. If we do not balance their diet, they won’t perform best in the way we want them to perform. Six-foot tomato plants with no fruit and cucumber vines 10 feet long with no cukes are an indication of an unbalanced diet. These symptoms are an indication of a nutrient imbalance between nitrogen and phosphorous. There is likely too much nitrogen which is used for growing the green portions of the plant. And too little phosphorous which is important and necessary for root development, flowering and fruit set.

So what can you do? Fertilize with a high phosphorous, low or no nitrogen fertilizer, preferably a liquid form. This will get more phosphorous into the plant quickly and get it a nutritive balanced. This should help the plant begin to produce the desired vegetable or flower.

A second product may be used later to give longer term benefits. Fertilizing with Triple Phosphate will help. Triple phosphate has no nitrogen in it and 45 percent phosphorous. It comes as a granular product. Spread this on the garden for long-term results over a number of years.

And lastly, soil test your garden this fall and follow the recommendations from the soil testing lab.

Ken Eraas is horticulture assistant with NDSU Extension Service/Ward County. He can be reached at kendell. eraas