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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. Garden Mentors on

    Beth, thanks for writing in. We see a lot of this fungi popping up everywhere. If you have fungi blooms, you have a mycelium mat underneath as well. Usually, this stuff pops up on wood chips. We aren’t familiar with its prevalence in horse manure. If you aren’t consuming the fungi, we don’t know a reason it should be concerning for your garden.

  2. Regina on

    Hi I have an elevated garden box with some herbs and veggies. Got a bunch of tiny mushrooms in clusters. Read your article and it looks like they will.be ok but when they decay they leave black slimy spots on the leaves. Is that something to be concerned about? I am in Los Angeles

  3. Garden Mentors on

    Regina, be sure not to eat any of them. And, if they’re rotting onto your plants, you can always pluck them and drop them into your compost to decay there instead.

  4. Maureen on

    This week I had a large crop of what looks like parasol mushrooms pop under one of my pine trees. They started as a button and then flattened out to a parasol shape. After about 2 -3 days, they are turning brown and smell bad. Should I dig them back into the soil, or remove them? Will it hurt my pine trees?

  5. Garden Mentors on

    Maureen, It’s unlikely that mushrooms under your pine trees will harm the trees. Its even possible they may be a type of mushroom that is known to grow under your type of pine. It sounds like the mushrooms have completed their “bloom” and are decomposing back into the earth. Did you know that some will pay to buy mushroom compost? It sounds like you’re growing your own! Good luck!

  6. linda on

    I used mushroom compost in a new, small veggie garden. I noticed lots of small mushrooms growing. The two largest ones look like a small portabella,rounded shape, light brown in color. Is it possible that they are edible?

  7. Garden Mentors on

    Linda, we absolutely advise that you do NOT take a nibble of any mushroom you are not 100% certain about. And, fully identifying a mushroom is much more difficult than identifying a type of tree (for instance). It is always possible that what popped up is what you’re hoping it is, but it is even more likely that it isn’t edible and may be highly toxic…to the point of being painfully lethal. Consider contacting someone like psms.org to learn more about full identification of your fungi.

  8. Jessica on

    Thank you for this information. I found it helpful and am now no longer worried about the mushrooms growing in my garden. I will leave them be and let them do what they do.
    Happy gardening.

  9. Susan on

    I used straw bales to fill space in a deep garden bed. One year later I have mushrooms that look like Discina (brown, cup like sheets). I am preparing soil for my pacific northwest veggie garden. Should I remove them or just dig them under?

  10. Garden Mentors on

    Susan, mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a larger mycelium living in the garden. We have a lot of them pop up in our straw bale vegetable garden — mostly inky caps for us. In any case, we choose to leave them or we’d be trying to dig them out all the time & for no good reason that we’re aware of. It’s quite likely that the mushrooms/mycelium are fine to leave in place and may have some beneficial value (think of all that mushroom compost for sale in bags). Just don’t consume any fungi that you aren’t 100% sure are edible.

  11. Marie on

    I planted arugula, cucumbers and green beans all together in a raised cement bed. When I pulled back the arugula I saw tiny brown mushrooms with Very skinny stems. My question is can we still eat from our plants that are mixed with the mushrooms?
    Are they poisoned now or are we ok to just rinse our veggies?

  12. Garden Mentors on

    Marie, It’s unlikely that mushrooms growing adjacent to another plant have poisoned them. But, be sure you don’t harvest any unknown fungi or residue of it that may have adhered to your other veggies. Good luck!

  13. Samantha Valentine on

    Hi, I’ve planted night scented stock in one of my borders, the soils good but the garden was a mess before I started, I’ve recently had white button like mushrooms come up, obviously not the kind you eat, but after reading your post I’m guessing I can just crop them.out and put them in the compost pile, is this right? Tia

  14. Garden Mentors on

    Samantha, Thanks for sharing. Glad to know you aren’t trying to eat the mushrooms! They’ll probably continue to crop up in the beds as they are a sign of the mycelium happening underground, which is a natural part of soil life. You could pop the mushrooms into the compost, where they’ll probably spore out, creating more mushrooms – a good thing. Or, just let them do their thing in your beds. The scented stock likely has nothing to do with the mushrooms. Good luck!

  15. Margaret on

    I have planted a vegetable garden in organic soil in raised planters. I have a cup mushroom growing in the planter next to my vegetables. I know the mushrooms are not edible. Should I leave the mushroom in the planter? Do I need to be concerned because the mushroom is not edible?

  16. Garden Mentors on

    Margaret, a mushroom sprouting in soil indicates that the soil has live mycelium living in it. The mushroom is the “fruiting” part of that. Left alone, it will decompose back into the soil. There’s no concern we’re aware of. Just don’t eat it!

  17. Theron Holmes on

    I just started gardening and learning a whole lot from this site I love this blog. I just been reading about mushrooms after noticing some tiny white mushrooms popping up throughout my garden after reading alot of the information I feel a lot better and understand more about it and what they are and how to deal with them.

  18. Jessica on

    I started growing veggies this year and sending my grandmother pictures of my progress of growing everyone from seedlings. She’s been really impressed by my progress. Unfortunately my phone broke so I was unable to send her pictures when teenie little mushrooms starting appearing and quickly disappearing. Initially I was excited and marvled at how our completely concrete garden had so much amazing life blooming in the pots I’d introduced (including the arrival of so many insects who have popped by to investigate, some of which I haven’t seen since I was a child – so many wild bees!).
    My partner expressed concern that the mushrooms growing might mean something was wrong, and so concerned I took to the internet even though everything seems healthy. I’m so pleased to hear that this is just a normal part of the soils life cycle and it just reaffirms to me how wonderful and exciting the world of gardening is. It’s just brimming with life. I can happily return to marveling at the wonderful life cycle going on in my garden everyday.

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