Every month has its unique crop of gardening problems that people look for solutions. Lately, fungus, mushrooms, and slime mold seem to be the problem de jour. Sometimes a problem in the garden is not really a problem for plants, yet more likely an aesthetic point of view of the homeowner.
From my perspective, mushrooms popping up around the garden or in grass are delightful. Fairy rings in lawns are fun, and come complete with folklore! An artist’s conk is a canvas for an impromptu drawing. And slime mold is simply washed away with water, mowed, or raked. If it comes back, rinse and repeat. However, not everyone agrees with me, especially those who seek perfection in his or her lawn.
Granted an artist’s conk or artist’s fungus (Ganoderma applanatum) is a sign of a wound on a living tree, it also grows on hardwood logs and stumps. If it is growing on a living tree, it is a sign that the tree is declining. If it is growing on a tall tree that can fall on your house, you need to have it assessed for removal. On decaying logs and stumps, artist’s conks won’t harm anything. The top side of this fungus is woody. Under the wood is the white pore surface. When you etch something into the white, it turns brown. Let your children draw, or write a message to the fairies on it.
Fairy ring fungi (Marasmius oreades) occur in rings or arcs in lawns. European folklore made fairy rings the gateway to where the elves gathered and danced. This mushroom species is edible, with several crops in a year. Be sure you properly identify the species before eating them. It can be easily confused with other poisonous mushrooms that also grow in rings.
For some people the unsightliness comes from the fairy ring itself, which is a patch of brown grass that is dying next to an area of darker green grass. The mycelium (the living vegetative part of a fungus) stimulates grass growth, however the dried up mycelial matter inhibits the lawn’s growth inside the ring. You can spray a fungicide on it, but the fungi will return again in two months.
There is a lawn disease named Necrotic ring spot (NRS) that looks similar to fairy ring that appears in late summer to early fall. Prevention and control methods are found online by doing a web search for Washington State University’s handout EB1734 Managing Necrotic Ring Spot on Turfgrass in the PNW. Growing a healthy lawn is the key to prevention. For good lawn management also look for the handouts EB482 Home Lawns and EB1280 Turfgrass: Soil-Water Relationships.
— Debbie Teashon photographs and writes about gardening in the maritime Pacific Northwest. Contact her at www.rainyside.com.