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Gardening: How to banish pesky fairy rings from your yard

After record heavy rainfall in October 2016, a variety of mushroom and fungi sprout up on a property near Cheney, Wash. Gardening columnist Pat Munts says eradicating fairy mushroom rings is tedious but effective.  (COLIN MULVANY/The Spokesman-Review)
After record heavy rainfall in October 2016, a variety of mushroom and fungi sprout up on a property near Cheney, Wash. Gardening columnist Pat Munts says eradicating fairy mushroom rings is tedious but effective. (COLIN MULVANY/The Spokesman-Review)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

After last week’s column I got several requests for the method to get rid of fairy rings; so here is Mushrooms 2.0.

Cut this column out and tack up on the refrigerator for next spring when fairy rings usually come out. This method is going to seem tedious, but it works.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of fungi mycelia that grow on organic debris just under the soil surface. The name fairy ring comes from folklore tales that say wherever the fairies danced that night, a ring of mushrooms would appear. Most often, fairy rings occur in poorly maintained, drought stressed lawns laid on light sandy soils or in lawns with a heavy thatch build-up.

In the case of fairy rings, the mycelia form a dense mat that becomes so thick that water can’t get through it down to the grass roots. The grass inside the circle then dies from lack of water. On the outer edge of the ring, the grass turns a nice dark green that looks healthy. As the mat spreads, its edge is breaking down the organic material and releasing nutrients that feed the grass. There can be more than one ring in a yard, and they will grow until they reach a sidewalk or other barrier.

There are no shortcuts or quick fixes for fairy ring. Don’t be tempted to try lime, salt, fungicides or other supposed quick-cure remedies. Using them can actually cause more damage than the rings ever will.

The following strategy was developed by Washington State University scientists and will take about a month and close attention to details.

1. Rake the mushrooms up or mow them off with the lawn mower. They will not hurt the lawn.

2. Aerate the soil within and around the ring with a spade fork or crowbar to open passages to the grass roots. Go at least 3 inches deep. Punch as many holes as you can, moving the fork or bar back and forth as you do to break up the soil profile even more. The tubes on a core aerator won’t go deep enough.

3. Apply a wetting agent such as liquid dish soap or a commercial product to help the water penetrate the soil. Use one teaspoon of soap per gallon of water and pour several gallons on the ring. The soap breaks down the surface tension of the water, so it flows more easily. The soap will not hurt the grass or kill the fungus.

4. Drench the ring with water to the point of having standing water. Do not use a sprinkler – it will not get enough water on the lawn. Use a hose for large areas and buckets for small ones.

Now the hard part. Repeat steps two, three and four every three days for four weeks. The fairy rings will begin to disappear after about two weeks. Don’t give up. This process, though tedious, DOES WORK.

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Correspondent Pat Munts can be reached at pat@inlandnwgardening.com.

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