By Ray Ridlen
Mushrooms are the reproductive bodies of fungi. The fungus lives in the soil as small thread-like strands and when environmental conditions are right, they develop mushrooms to spread themselves by wind-blown spores.
There are many types of mushrooms that come up in lawns, some are edible, and others are poisonous.
Edible mushrooms are always in season with production mostly in larger cities in northern states. Growing mushrooms is quite involved, and will seriously tax one’s horticultural skill. Unless ideal conditions are available, it is wiser to buy mushrooms at the supermarket than to raise them.
For success with mushrooms a cool basement with conditions of temperature, 60 degrees or lower; humidity, 70 percent; and good ventilation must be maintained if a good yield of mushrooms is to be secured.
A special compost is needed for the production of mushrooms. This is usually made from horse manure and straw. Some commercial growers use a mixture composed of corn cobs, hay, fertilizer, and dried brewers grain or poultry manure. It is very difficult to prepare suitable compost in small quantities. Therefore, to produce mushrooms at home, it is best to secure prepared compost from a commercial source, or garden supplier.
Place compost in trays or beds about 6 to 8 inches in diameter, before they expand and expose the gills. After harvest, the mushrooms should be stored immediately under refrigerated conditions. They will keep in prime condition for 5 days at 32 degrees, but for only about 2 days at the 40 degree temperature of a household refrigerator.
The poisonous mushroom, Chlorophyllum molybdites, or green-spored Lepiota, in the early stages of development closely resembles several types of edible mushrooms. However, it can be easily identified when mature by its large, scaly white cap and because it is the only mushroom that has green gills and spores. When this mushroom is turned over the underside of the cap will be a dark green color.
The poison contained in this mushroom causes gastrointestinal distress. Rarely fatal, it still can cause violent sickness for several days. The greatest threat is to small children who don’t know not to eat mushrooms while playing in the yard.
All mushrooms grow on decaying organic matter in the soil, the only way to eliminate the above-ground growth is to remove the organic matter buried in the soil: digging up a buried piece of wood, or dead tree roots.
Pulling up the entire mushroom is the best way to remove them from the home lawn. They will continue to grow as long as they have food, but chemical treatment to eradicate the fungus is expensive and rarely effective.
When there’s a question about the identity of a mushroom, do not eat it! In cases of suspected mushroom poisoning, take the victim and any remaining mushrooms or parts to the nearest hospital emergency room.