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.
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!
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.
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!