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Features | The Urban Gardener

Under right conditions, fungus will mushroom

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    Common backyard mushrooms are often a sign of good soil and could eventually lead to a productive home garden.

Mushrooms are appearing in Hawaii’s home gardens, a common occurrence as our winter brings increased rainfall and humidity.

Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies, or reproductive structures, of a fungus. They feed on organic matter, breaking it down so that nutrients are available to plants. Although mushrooms might be unsightly, their ability to break down organic matter is a fundamental part of the soil food web, an incredible diversity of organisms that protect the environment by decomposing pollutants, fixing nitrogen, increasing soil drainage, reducing runoff and supporting above-ground plant life.

Fungi can live dormant in the soil for several years until conditions are just right or the right food source is available. Food sources include a thatched lawn, dead tree roots, a decomposing tree stump or other nonliving organic matter underneath the soil.

A common question is how to get rid of mushrooms in the home garden. The food source must be removed. To remove excessive thatch buildup in the lawn, a verticutter can be rented. Dead tree roots or a decomposing stump can be removed, or it will take an act of patience to wait out decomposition.

The use of fungicides is not recommended, as they require multiple applications over a long period of time and proper timing requires vast knowledge of the fungi life cycle.

It is also a fact that mushrooms create good soil, so a little unsightly fungus may mean a productive garden plot in time.

Edible mushrooms are cultivated by knowledgeable farmers. They rarely pop up in our back yards. If the mushroom has not been identified by a botanist, please do not eat an unidentified mushroom. It is better to admire these for what they are: fungus among us.

Jayme Grzebik is an urban horticulturalist with the University of Hawaii’s Cooperative Extension Service, part of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. E-mail her at


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