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War on mushrooms begins with containing spores
What to do when mushrooms spring up in the yard.

 Eastern flat-topped agaricous is common in Virginia. It causes slight gastrointestinal discomfort if consumed.
David W. Fischer/AmericanMushrooms.com
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Date published: 1/11/2013

LAST WEEK, an old friend called me about the problem she was having with mushrooms in her yard. I had been looking for weeks for something new to write about in the newspaper, and with the growing season gone the pickings are slim. So I did some research for her and came up with this article about an issue many of us face sooner or later at this time of year: mushrooms.

Mushrooms are truly unique organisms. They are not plants, as some think, but are the fruiting bodies of fungi. Unlike plants, they do not need sunlight to live. In fact, most businesses that raise mushrooms will tell you that they do much better in the dark. The fungi that make up the mushroom are actually associated with decomposers or organisms that breakdown dead plant tissue. Mushrooms like very damp, moist environments because they need lots of water to survive.

Mushrooms are actually beneficial organisms in the yard, because they break down decaying matter like old mulches, lawn thatch, and manures. However, the lowly mushroom is not attractive at all, and some can make pets and children very ill if consumed. So control of these organisms is pertinent. This is what my friend wanted to know, and now I'll share the information with you.

First let's look at what not to do: Having the kids kick them mercilessly around the yard or using the lawn mower to grind them into oblivion are not good options. That's because even though the mushroom is just a fruiting body of the fungi, it has millions of tiny, microscopic spores, or seed like structures, within it. Having them scattered around the yard in any way will only spread the spores and thus give you a larger crop of mushrooms to contend with.

Spreading fungicides from the lawn and garden section of the hardware store will not kill them; remember, the mushroom is only the fruiting structure of the organism, so spraying it won't kill the fungi that are in the litter layer that is causing the mushroom.

So, without cutting or stomping or spraying, how do we get rid of them?

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Mike Broaddus is a Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent in the Caroline and King George Office, specializing in agronomy. Reach him at 804/633-6550 (Caroline) or 540/775-3062 (King George); email broaddus@vt.edu.