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Are Mushrooms in My Garden Bad?

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Are mushrooms in your garden bad? Or good?

We are always getting asked what mushrooms mean in our client’s gardens. In particular, we get this question a lot in fall and spring. And I get asked over and over again if the mushrooms popping up in gardens are harmful.

Gilled Mushroom in a garden lawn in autumn

The answer, in general, is that mushrooms in your garden are fine.

Actually, the mushroom you see is just the portion of a larger fungal network that lives in all living soil all the time. Yep! Soil is alive!

And when you see a mushroom form, that fungi is in the process of reproducing itself. To simplify, it reproduces through a mushroom that will expel spores. And these spores eventually become new mushrooms nearby.

Are mushrooms going to infect me?

Despite what television programs like HBO’s The Last of Us might have you thinking about mushrooms in your garden, it isn’t likely mushrooms in gardens are going to turn you into a zombie. That being said, fungi do exist that can cause zombie-like infections in other creatures. So, never, say never.

But, for the most part, those garden mushrooms and their underground networks that really do “talk” to each other, are likely doing a lot of good for your natural world.

Sometimes mushrooms may be a warning sign.

To be clear, there are times when seeing the fruiting bodies of fungi (aka the mushrooms) is a warning sign that something not so good is going on. For instance, if shelf fungus forms on a tree, it’s time (or quite likely past time) to bring in an arborist to check on the health of the tree. That’s because shelf fungi begin putting out fruiting bodies once they’ve already eaten up much of the tree.

In most cases, fungi goes for organic material already beginning to die or decay. But when it goes for living plants, like a big tree, that plant is likely on its way out.

Please don’t eat any unidentified mushrooms in your garden.

Just because a mushroom isn’t doing damage to your garden doesn’t mean it won’t do damage to you or your pets if you decide to nibble on them. And, mushroom identification is complicated, so it wouldn’t be wise to tell you in a blog post if you might have an edible mushroom growing in your garden.

That’s because many mushrooms that pop up in your garden are more likely to be toxic. So don’t eat them. And don’t let your pets eat them either!

Moreover, trying to determine which are edible and which are not edible is a deadly game if you aren’t trained. So, unless you’re absolutely certain you know what you’re picking, don’t even think about eating them. Some mushrooms will make you sick right away; others can take days to destroy your internal organs – permanently. (And you may not even know you’re sick until it’s too late to get well again.)

Even it if looks like a squirrel or wild rabbit or vole has already nibbled on a ‘shroom cap in the garden, don’t think that means you can eat it!

Brilliant Yellow Vomit Fungi in Summer

Fungi takes many growth forms.

Mushrooms come in all sorts of forms. These range from wiggly jelly cups to puff balls. And some look like cascading beards. Plus, there are varieties that grow over other mushrooms and eat them. As well, some look like barfy technicolor piles. And, of course, there are the traditional forms we all recognize from the grocery store.

Puff Ball Fungi Popping Up

From fairy rings to LBMs…

If patches of LBMs (little brown mushrooms) are popping up in your garden beds or fairy rings are forming in your lawn, odds are they’re not doing any damage. Plus, if you enjoy seeing them appear, know they’ll probably disappear just as quickly after they spread their spore and go back to growing underground as mycelium where they live all the time. And as they’re growing, they’re helping process toxins, assisting vascular plants in taking up soil water and nutrients, and aiding in the decomposition process that converts decaying material nutrients into forms that your garden plants can use and thrive upon.

Want to learn more about mushrooms & forage to learn?

Consider joining and taking classes with a local mycological society like Psms.org. Groups like this also often assist communities with identification of mushrooms found in home gardens, and they can provide help should you suspect mushroom poisoning has occurred.

If you’d like to learn more about gardening, including loads of lessons about soil and what lives in it (like mushrooms), sign up to be notified when enrollment opens again! That way you’ll be first in line to be notified!

54 comments on “Are Mushrooms in My Garden Bad?

  1. Sharron on

    Can I still eat the strawberries and collards from my garden if I find clusters of little tan mushrooms growing beneath and next to the green foliage. I do have lots if decaying leaves in my garden ,but also noticed a huge mycelium system ( white webby vine) in the soil after covering yard with black garbage bags and mulch last year

  2. Ayall Sagi on

    I’ve been noticing pezizaceae (mushrooms) growing in my vegetable garden. I live in SF so I’m not necessarily surprised they’re growing (fogy/damp winter weather), and I know they’re inedible but I’m still not certain if I should be picking them out or leave them be.
    I understand the article proclaims its healthy, which I reckon is good, and the article also states that just because I pick them doesn’t mean I’m completely removing them (leaving the portion “in the soil”).
    I guess I’m ultimately wondering if the portion above the soil is adding any value, because if it isn’t I’d prefer to pick them because they are a bit of an eyesore.

  3. Garden Mentors on

    Ayall, the mushroom itself is the fruiting body, so it can potentially send out spores, adding more to your soil. Then, it should decompose in place, which may act like a compost nutrient to the soil. Keep it or leave it – up to you. 🙂

  4. shantelle on

    Hi there. I have a herb garden raised on some oak planters. Every some kind of mushroom grows deep in the planter causing the planter to swell and erode/splinter. Soemtimes caps will actually bellow out. I’m anxious that they are toxic and somehow will send their spores etc onto my herbs and I will inadvertently eat some residue. What do you advise? thanks so much in advance.

  5. Garden Mentors on

    Shantelle, If you have fungi, you’re going to have spores. We can’t really make any specific recommendations for how you might deal with your specific situation and anxiousness. Avoiding harvests during times when sporing and fruiting is happening might help assuage your fears. Good luck.

  6. Dennis Spruce on

    I have recently purchased some organic compost
    I have what looks like Japanese parasols growing
    They seem to grow through the night as their are
    There every morning by late afternoon they seem
    To die they are in my veg boxes appreciated any
    Advice thank you

  7. Garden Mentors on

    Dennis, Sounds like you have some active mycelium blooming in your compost, which isn’t surprising. We can’t identify what fungi they might be. Mushroom ID is pretty complicated stuff. So, unless you know exactly what they are, don’t add them to your edibles harvest.

  8. Ann Labriola on

    I have all kinds of mushrooms in my garden but i just got a puppy so I am picking them all. This is a Florida garden . My mother and I were from New York and we picked mushrooms for 70 years but the Florida mushrooms re very complicated the good ones look just like the toxic ones.

  9. Jac on

    This piece was so helpful. I have LBMs growing in my container where I’m growing spinach, arugula and nasturtium. I think with all the rain we got in my community, it made my soil quite moist, and fostered their growth. Maybe also the manure I used. It sounds like my greens are fine to eat as long a I’m careful not to grab a mushroom in the process of pulling up stuff to eat. I would never eat a mushroom I didn’t buy in a grocery store or have served to me in a restaurant. Way too risky!

    Thank you for the helpful info.

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