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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Fairy Rings, Mushrooms, and Puffballs

Posted by John Fulton -

Throughout the year I get several calls and samples brought in dealing with puffballs or toadstools. Even this early in the season, we have had calls about dark green grass in rings that kind of looks like a target pattern. These rings are called fairy rings, and they frequently have the puffballs or toadstools growing in the area.

Fairy rings are caused by a fungus that is in the soil. Actually there are about 50 fungi that can cause fairy rings. These fungi feed on decaying organic matter such as large roots from trees that were in the area, or from buried lumber. The dark green circle part of the equation comes from extra nitrogen that becomes available as the organic matter is broken down by the fungus.

Some prevention will help keep the problem from occurring. Simply removing stumps, large roots, and not burying lumber help prevent this type of problem. As for a cure, fungicide drenches have been successful on a very limited basis. One option is to mask the symptoms of the dark rings by fertilizing the surrounding grass with a high-nitrogen fertilizer to make that grass green also.

As for the puffballs, toadstools, or mushrooms, they are part of the same complex as fairy rings. They are part of the natural decay process that helps break down large wood items in the ground. There is no real control so mowing them off or knocking them loose with a garden rake is about the best thing going.

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