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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

How to eliminate post-Sandy mushrooms from the lawn

Mushrooms are caused by a fungus, oftentimes from

Mushrooms are caused by a fungus, oftentimes from underground decaying organic matter. Credit: / William M. Brown Jr.

DEAR JESSICA: The past two years in late summer/early fall, I’ve been getting a variety (at least 10 different types) of mushrooms in gigantic clumps on my front lawn. I had never had this problem before. My lawn gets full sun most of the day, so it’s not shady, and there is no broken sprinkler line for excess moisture. I had two very large maple trees in the front yard until superstorm Sandy took them down. I thought perhaps the mushrooms might be from rotting roots from these two trees, since it was in this area where I’m having this problem. I want to get rid of them because they are taking over the lawn. What can I do?

— Mike Schnebel,


DEAR MIKE: I agree the mushrooms are signs that your tree’s remaining roots are under attack by fungi. This isn’t a bad thing because the fungi are helping the organic matter decompose underground. This will continue, however, until the roots have completely decayed. Without a food source, the fungi will no longer thrive, and your mushrooms will disappear.

You can speed that process along by fertilizing the lawn with fast-release nitrogen, applying at a rate of 1⁄2 to 3⁄4 pound (of actual nitrogen; read the package) per 1,000 square feet of lawn. Keep in mind it’s illegal to apply lawn fertilizer in Nassau and Suffolk counties before April 1.

You also can diminish the proliferation of mushrooms above ground by manually removing them. Mushrooms are fruiting bodies that release airborne spores, which act like seeds, taking “root” where they land, similar to what happens when you blow a dandelion puff. The best way to stop spores from spreading is to dig mushrooms up before that happens — as soon as you see them.

You’ll have to repeat this, possibly many times, but eventually fewer and fewer mushrooms will appear until they just stop.

DEAR JESSICA: I have a coating of moss on the back part of my driveway, which has not been used for some time. I don’t mind it, but the nearby backyard always has trouble maintaining grass. Is there a way to migrate the moss to the yard? It seems as if it would be a practical ground cover, and would keep down the dust that blows up when it gets dry in the summer.

— Joan McDonough,


DEAR JOAN: You’re correct: Moss can make a very practical ground cover. It’s attractive, thrives where turf grass struggles and doesn’t require mowing. It can even handle light foot traffic. Migrating the moss from your driveway, however, might not be that simple.

Moss can grow on rocks, up trees, in the lawn or on the side of your house. For the best transplanting results, moss should be moved to an environment similar to where it came from. Moss that has been growing on pavement, for instance, would most easily be transplanted to pavement. To achieve the best results when transplanting to soil, the moss should originate from soil. It’s also important to point out that moss that occurs naturally is better “rooted” and hardier than that which is transplanted.

Rather than go through the trouble for only possible success, I recommend you purchase moss for planting.

For the best odds of success, you’ll have to prepare the soil to make it hospitable to moss. Remove all weeds and existing grass, if any, and rake the area clear. Test the soil to ensure the pH is slightly acidic, around 5.5. If not, apply sulfur according to package directions or use a fertilizer formulated for acid-loving plants.

If you were transplanting the moss from another area of soil, you would cut it free by dragging a sharp knife or spade underneath it to lift off the largest-possible pieces — soil attached — with as much of the rooting system intact as possible.

Place patches of moss “sod” onto prepared soil and press them in firmly, but gently. They don’t need to touch; you can space them apart and in time they will grow together. Water well, and repeat watering whenever the surface begins to dry, including over winter. It could take several years for the moss to fill in completely.

DEAR JESSICA: I want to move a Knock Out rose in my garden to another spot. When is the best time of year to do that?

— Chris Graffeo,

Franklin Square

DEAR CHRIS: It’s best to transplant roses in late winter or very early spring, before they come out of dormancy.

Start by preparing a hole in the location where you’d like to move the rose. Dig it roughly as deep and twice as wide as what you expect the root ball to be. Next, combine compost with the removed soil to achieve a 50/50 mix.

Cut the plant back by about a third, starting by pruning away the thinnest, weakest canes. Reducing the size of the plant will lessen the burden on stressed roots after the relocation. Now, gather and tie up all the remaining branches so they don’t stick you while you’re digging. Best to wear gloves, too.

Insert your shovel or garden fork into the soil about two feet from the center of the plant and repeat all around the plant until you’ve created a cut circle around the roots. Then reinsert your tool into your cuts as deeply as possible, rocking the handle back and forth to lift roots up. Continue to work your way around the plant until roots come free. You may use pruners to cut away stubborn smaller roots.

Place the roots on a large tarp or sheet to help keep roots intact and minimize the loss of soil, and transport it to its new home. Add some of the soil-compost mixture to the bottom of the planting hole, creating a mound, and carefully spread the roots over it. Gradually add more of the mix to the hole, covering roots and tamping down firmly as you go. When the hole is halfway full, I like to add a bit of water. This both helps eliminate air pockets and hydrates roots. Continue until the plant is buried exactly as deeply as it was in its former home.

Water well, and continue watering throughout the first growing season, until well-established.


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