by Brooke Tolman
(last updated July 16, 2013)
During the spring or summer a circle or arc of dark grass or mushrooms may appear in lawns. These are called fairy rings. People once believed that the rings were formed by fairies dancing in a circle, thus by tradition they are called fairy rings. They are most often found in forests or grassy areas.
The fungus that causes fairy rings grows underground, and in an outward circle. Often, the only outward sign that it is there is the growth of mushrooms or an abnormal grass growth on the outer edge of the fungus circle. As the fungus grows it eats up all the nutrients in the soil, slowly killing the grass. That is why, usually, the grass in the center of the fairy ring is dead. After the fungus has taken up all the nutrients in the soil, the center fungus dies. When the fungus dies, the nutrients are returned to the soil and the grass can once again flourish. The outer edge of the fungus, however, continues to live and widens the fairy rings by secreting chemicals into the ground around it. Which breaks down more of the nutrients in the ground around it, making it easier for the fungus to continue spreading.
There are three main types of fairy rings. One type has no mushrooms, but the activity in the soil can still be spotted by the ring of stimulated grass growth. The second type has mushrooms as well as a stimulated grass growth ring. And the third type contains only mushrooms, with no unusual grass growth activity.
Fairy rings are not a lethal threat to your lawn. Even so, they are easily prevented and very manageable. If the fairy ring is the type with only mushrooms and no unusual grass growth, simply take a rake and rake over the mushrooms, picking up and disposing of them afterwards. If the fairy ring is fairly deep into its disease cycle the best way to deal with it is by simply trying to make your grass look its best. Rake up and get rid of the mushrooms, then water and fertilize so as to increase the heartiness with which your grass is growing. Mowing more frequently will make the fairy ring grass and your normal grass blend together better as well. In rare cases where you need to completely eliminate the fairy ring, you'll have to dig up the sod and underlying soil to a depth of 40-90 cm depending on the development of the ring. New, fungus free, dirt can then be put in its place.
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