A great indicator of soil and plant health is the appearance of fungi in a lawn. The fruiting bodies of an important underground community, they often appear in the fall after we’ve stopped mowing. Many (if not all) of these fungal species are mycorrhizal, which means they create a fine network of rootlike structures that serve as a beneficial link between plant roots and soil nutrients. Once they have inoculated receptive roots, they increase water uptake, increase nutrient uptake, and prevent pathogens from colonizing roots.
If you don’t like the look of these fungi (I think they are adorable), you can pluck them off and toss them into the compost pile or a mulched bed. But unless you are a trained mycologist, don’t eat them!
Learn how to build an earth-friendly yard with healthy soil and a diverse plant community: Sustainable Solutions for Your Lawn
Contributing editor Linda Chalker-Scott is a professor of horticulture and an extension specialist at Washington State University in Puyallup, Washington.
Get our latest tips, how-to articles, and instructional videos sent to your inbox.