It has been said that Fairy Rings are the sign of good luck and fortune. Little fairies will dance the night away in a circle, resting on toadstool chairs until the next dance begins. To the homeowner who has been plagued with the Fairy Ring lawn disease, however, dancing is often the last thought on their minds. Mushrooms are a common sight in many lawns, especially during wet, warm periods. They are usually the fruiting bodies of the fungi that are breaking down organic material in the soil or thatch. Normally, they can be mowed or kicked off and are controlled. If they reoccur in the same spot every year, then it may indicate the location of an old tree stump or other decaying organic material. If the mushrooms are arranged in an arc or circle, it may indicate the beginning of Fairy Ring. No one knows for sure how this kind of lawn disease becomes established or what conditions favor their development. They seem to be more prevalent on soils that are sandy, under-watered, or are poorly fertilized. Like most other types of grass diseases, Fairy Rings usually don't develop as often in highly maintained lawns.
Several types of lawn disease fungi are associated with Fairy Rings. These types of fungi have been causing problems for a long time. It is estimated that some Fairy Rings have survived for several hundred years. They can develop in lawns, parks, golf courses, or in pastures. Mushrooms are often the first outwardly visible sign of their presence. In fact, the fungi may have been present in the soil for two or three years prior to the development of the mushrooms. The fungi develop outwards from the center of the ring. The inner most part of the ring dies. As it is decomposing, it releases nitrogen into the soil, which will stimulate the grass above and turn it a dark green. The fungi produce a mass of cotton-like webbing called mycelium. As the mycelium dies, it may harden to a point where water will not be able to penetrate through it. This results in the death of the grass above it.
The rings or arcs can range in diameter from 3 feet to as large as 20 feet. If the ring encounters a sidewalk or cultivated flowerbed, its growth often stops at that point. When two or more rings meet, they may continue to get larger. In some cases, the two rings seem to disappear when they come together. These common lawn disease symptoms may also seem to disappear for several years, and then show up again.
Controlling Fairy Rings can prove to be a difficult task. There has been some reduction in activity using commercial lawn and grass disease control materials, but the results have been inconsistent. The dark green rings can be 'masked' by applying fertilizer to the area to even the color. In the areas where the grass has died, water penetration needs to be improved. Make holes in the ring with a garden fork to a depth of 12 to 24” and then thoroughly water the area for 4 to 6 weeks. Core aeration is also advisable for better water penetration. If the rings are severe, it may be necessary to remove the sod and repeatedly cultivate the area for several weeks before resodding or seeding a lawn. Mixing the soils of two opposing rings seems to cause them to cancel out each other. Regardless of the method used, it will be a difficult task to get the rings under control. A healthy, well-maintained lawn is the best defense against many lawn diseases and insect problems. This is especially true when considering the problems associated with Fairy Ring. As they say, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
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