Are Mushrooms Good For Plants? {Garden Friends or Foes}

One morning as I did my usual morning chores of letting the chickens, ducks, and geese out, and watering the sheep, I noticed something very unusual in my annual garden — amongst the herbs and vegetable plants were dozens of mushrooms that had sprung up overnight! Curious, I did some more investigating — were these mushrooms competing with my vegetable garden? Damaging them in some way or stealing nutrients? Or are mushrooms good for plants?

Turns out that mushrooms in the soil are actually an indicator of health and fertility and are not dangerous to your garden.

They may be unsightly or undesirable, however, depending on your gardening style — and we will discuss how to deal with them in this article along with explaining their function and benefits.

black capped mushrooms growing in straw bale garden
Picture of the black-capped mushrooms that sprung up in my straw bale vegetable garden overnight.

What Are Mushrooms?

Mushrooms, sometimes referred to as toadstools, are a common type of fungus that you’ve probably seen in your garden.

Commonly, a ‘mushroom’ refers to edible fungi, and a ‘toadstool’ refers to toxic fungi. However, the distinction isn’t effectively kept and many fungi referred to as mushrooms are toxic, especially in casual conversation.

A mushroom is the fleshy and spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus that pops up above-ground, with the body being underground, often spreading for unfathomably large distances underneath the surface.

While some mushrooms are edible and delicious, most are toxic and poisonous to humans and can land you in the hospital — or worse, the grave, with multiple organ failure.

red capped mushroom growing next to raised bed

Needless to say, you should not go mushroom hunting unless you know exactly what you’re doing. I personally only feel comfortable identifying a small number of edible culinary mushrooms.

The things that sprouted up in my garden? No idea. So I let them be. They quickly died back or disappeared to wherever they had come from.

With seemingly no cause, mushrooms can sprout in gardens and spread quickly. In some cases, garden mushrooms grow in ‘fairy circles’ formations that can be over 30 feet in diameter.

These circles are thought in myths to be dangerous or good fortune, and it’s said that fairies dance at night inside the circles.

tall black capped mushrooms growing amongst basil in straw bale garden

Why Are Mushrooms Growing In My Garden?

You may have noticed mushrooms sprouting in your garden, practically out of nowhere.

And in a way, they did.

Mushrooms spread by releasing their spores into the air and finding damp soil or rotting organic matter. And once this opportunistic fungus has found a good place to grow, it will quickly start growing and pulling nutrients from the source of rot.

There are some sources you can investigate if you’re concerned about preventing them. If mushrooms started sprouting from transplanted rooted plants, they likely came with the plants, and the spores activated when they had a chance to feed.

But if they sprout before any plants have started growing, they may be attached to parts of the substrate like wood chips or the soil mix. 

You’ll likely find mushrooms growing as long as there’s a cool, damp, and nutritious place to go.

While garden soil conditions can discourage mushroom growth, a large part of controlling mushroom populations is simply removing them as they sprout.

They should be removed as soon as possible to ensure they don’t release spores. 

It’s important to note that if you’ve noticed mushrooms in your garden, it doesn’t indicate that you’re doing anything wrong.

Mushrooms are a sign of a healthy garden and soil.

And because mushrooms require abundant nutrients to grow, the presence of mushrooms in your garden means that your soil is both nourishing and healthy.

poisonous red capped toadstool

Can Mushrooms Benefit My Garden?

Mushrooms are very different from plants, making them challenging to understand.

They reproduce by releasing spores into the air, which float around until they reach a source of nutrition like damp soil or rotting organic matter.

Once the spore has clung to a nutrition source, it quickly begins to consume the nutrients and grow. And with no chlorophyll or ability to produce food, they rely on organic matter to survive.

Mushrooms often have a symbiotic relationship with plants, especially since they can take nutrients from inaccessible sources like dead animals and release them back into the soil in a process known as saprophytism.

As a result of this process, the plant can access the nutrients and benefits from the symbiosis.

Unlike mold, if you see mushrooms growing in your soil, it can be a good sign that indicates healthy soil and growth.

And while it’s essential to keep an eye on your plants and look for wilting or any other signs of inadequate conditions, you can usually leave mushrooms alone and let nature work as designed.

white umbrella shaped mushroom

Why Are Mushrooms Growing in My Houseplant Soil?

The last thing you probably expected was to see mushrooms sprouting up in the soil of your houseplants.

While it seems unusual to see a common outdoor fungus growing in your indoor potted plant, it’s actually quite common.

Mushrooms found in house plant soil are the result of fungus and are most commonly the type of mushroom called Leucocoprinus birnbaumii. This yellow mushroom has a balled or flat cap, depending on maturity.

If you’re wondering how your indoor houseplants contracted fungus, this may result from a soilless potting mixture or airborne spores that have jumped off clothing.

tall black capped mushrooms growing amongst basil in straw bale garden

Benefits Of Mushrooms

There are a variety of benefits that mushrooms can offer to your garden.

For example, they can help your plants absorb nutrients and resist disease. 

One other excellent quality of mushrooms is that they can increase the number of nutrients your plants can absorb.

Many nutrient sources from organic material like rotting animals or plant matter are inaccessible to plants, and mushrooms can put these nutrients into the soil.

Also, as mushrooms grow on the roots of plants, this helps the plants absorb nutrients and water from the earth in the form of symbiosis.

As the plants in your garden benefit from the symbiotic relationship with mushrooms, you’ll notice that many good things follow.

Your plants will grow faster due to the improved nutrient access, and they’ll be much more resistant to disease due to their new strength. The mushrooms will even help fend off harmful fungi like mold.

slimy looking blue mushrooms growing out of dead wood

How To Prevent Mushrooms From Growing

Mushrooms are an opportunistic plant, making them difficult to get rid of.

As the spores spread through the air, the ones that land on the moist organic matter will quickly take hold and begin growing. And while mushrooms can offer some benefits to your garden, they can also be unsightly and dangerous.

In some cases, removing mushrooms can be essential. If you have small children or animals who don’t understand the potential dangers of ingesting many mushrooms, then aggressively removing them is the best strategy to make your garden safe.

Fungicides are an effective way to get rid of mushrooms. However, these substances can harm the other plants in your garden and upset the balance in your soil.

The best strategy for most gardens is natural and entails raking up the mushrooms every time they sprout.

While you may think of burying or composting them, this does come with the risk of encouraging more to grow.

If you want to be completely rid of the mushrooms, you can dispose of them in a bag as you remove them.

To prevent mushrooms, keeping your soil from getting too wet is essential.

Damp organic matter is the ideal growing place for mushrooms, so keeping your garden relatively dry will be a highly effective deterrent against any fungus.

Nitrogen fertilizer can also be a good repellent against mushrooms. The nitrogen fertilizer helps the decomposition process in the soil, which means that spores will have difficulty finding anything to grow on. It’s crucial to select a nitrogen fertilizer that isn’t slow-release or water-soluble for full effectiveness.

If you’re dealing with mushrooms growing on your indoor plants, adjusting the climate to discourage their further growth can be effective.

Mushrooms like humidity and comfortably cool temperatures, so you can use a dehumidifier and lower the temperature to help prevent them from growing.

Also, it’s important to avoid overwatering your plants. You should verify that your pots are draining correctly.

common white mushroom growing in grass

How To Get Rid Of Mushrooms

If you’re entirely committed to get rid of the mushrooms, there is a more intensive strategy you can use to get rid of them.

To start, you should remove the caps of the mushrooms. The caps are where spores come from, so removing them and disposing or destroying them will eliminate the possibility of the mushrooms spreading. Additionally, removing the cap will kill the mushroom.

Next, you should replace the first few inches of soil with a safe mix.

Even store-bought mixes can sometimes be contaminated, so you should select a type of mix that is produced to have no spores. There is still a risk that spores left close to the roots will sprout, but this will significantly create the likelihood of more mushrooms sprouting.

If you’re dedicated to getting rid of the mushrooms, or if you replaced the top layer of soil and they sprouted again, you can also do a complete soil replacement.

This entails disposing of the soil and replacing it with new potting soil, in addition to washing the pot and the roots of the plant.

This can be highly damaging to plants and isn’t recommended unless necessary. 

Soap and water is an effective way to kill mushrooms without using a fungicide.

All you need for this strategy is three tablespoons of dish soap and two gallons of water. Once the mixture is prepared, you can pour it into holes around the mushrooms and see them disappear over the following days.

As a last resort, you can try a fungicide if really necessary.

What’s New At the Homestead

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *