Mushrooms in yards and taking care of your lawn in fall

Mushrooms in Yards

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.

Fall Lawn Care

Fall is a very good time to do lawn chores to improve the health and appearance of home lawns. The hot, dry summer took a toll on many lawns. The cool season grasses went dormant earlier than normal. This gave weeds an opportunity to invade and spread in lawns. Dandelions and thistles were two weeds which took advantage of the situation, but other broad leaf weeds moved in as well.

Spraying herbicides on weeds after a frost can give excellent weed control. The freezing temperatures don’t harm the leaves of the thistles and dandelions, but it speeds up their preparation for winter. At this time all perennial plants are making “food” through photosynthesis, moving it to their roots, and storing it there. It will be used next spring as an energy source for the plant to begin growing again. By spraying after a light frost, the herbicide is taken in by the plant and moved down deep into the roots along with the food. In doing so, it will kill the deep roots and most time give total or almost total weed control.

Another advantage of fall lawn weed spraying is that the majority of dandelions germinate in early fall and over-winter as tiny plants. By spraying in mid to late September, not only are the adult plants killed, but these high numbers of seedlings will also be killed. This will make for an almost dandelion free lawn next year.

2, 4-D is good for lawn weed control. Follow label directions for the correct amount to use. Avoid lawn sprays that contain Dicamba. It can not only drift in the air, but can also cause damage by the roots taking up the herbicide in the soil.

Lawns should be fertilized in early to mid-September. This will help lawns build stronger root systems, make a denser sod, and improve their overall health. If possible, water the lawn soon after the fertilizer is applied to carry the nutrients into the ground. A fertilizer with 20-30% nitrogen and some phosphorous will work well. “Weed and Feed” fertilizer is not recommended.

Begin cutting your lawn shorter in the fall. Do this gradually so that the last mowing is 1.5 to 2 inches tall. This will discourage voles from invading the lawn after the snow comes. Longer lawns provide them with cover and nest material.

Time spent this fall on your lawn will prepare it to be healthy and beautiful next summer.