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Fairy Ring (Marasmius oreades)

What does it look like?

It's a fungus whose presence in the ground is obvious, even when its mushrooms aren't showing; because of the rings of darker and sometimes sparser grass appear on lawns.

fairy-ring1

Symptoms include circular stunted or dead grass zones, darker green zones on the outer ring, growth of grass and weeds in the center, mushrooms and whitish fungus above the soil surface.

The rings expand annually at around 10cm per year.

What is it caused by?

fairy-ring2
Figure 1. Slice of a particularly bad fairy ring in Cambridge

It is caused by the Fungus Marasmius oreades. The fungus is probably initiated by buried wooden debris (from years ago), such as an old tree stump. They are caused by spores that become fungus that is contained within the soil and survives as mycelia or fungal roots (see Figure 1).

The fungus consumes dead and decaying organic matter and makes nitrogen available in the soil (thus making the darker grass ring). Often though the fungal activity makes the soil waxy and impervious to water, this is when the real trouble starts!

The cure?

Not Easy!

There is no guaranteed way to control fairy rings, but since fairy rings are most visible on poorly fed lawns, you can to a certain degree mask the fairy rings by regular applications of low rates of nitrogen fertilizer.

But if the soil has gone “waxy” and the grass is dead in the ring then you’ll have to go a stage further.

Method 1)
If you have the time and the patience you could dig out the whole ring and carefully dispose of the soil removed which contains the spores.

To do this carefully dig a cross section across the ring and you will soon see the white spores at a depth of about 20cm. The spores will be located in a band of about 15cm further out from the centre of the ring than the actual surface damage.

Make sure you get all of it, don’t drop any on the grass, and make sure you dispose of the contaminated soil somewhere where it’s not going to do any harm.

Once the whole ring has been dug out I suggest that the area should be sprayed with a fungicide.

The next stage is quite straight forward; just fill up the trench with a good clean topsoil and lay turf or plant seed.

Method 2)
Give the ground a good spiking and apply a wetting agent. Make sure you thoroughly wash down the spiker before you use it anywhere else!

Once the wetting agent is applied water like mad and put a dose of fungicide down. 

We have found that method 2) above often does give the required result.

 

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