Fairy Rings

If you have noticed a ring of lush green grass containing fruiting bodies such as puffballs or mushrooms, you have fairy rings on your garden lawn. Fairy rings are a turf disease caused by many different types of fungi. Fairy rings start when the fungus becomes active in the turf and they keep growing indefinitely. This fungi breaks down the organic matter and releases it as nitrogen, this is what causes the dark green ring on the surface of the lawn. If you dig out section of the fairy ring you can sometimes find a white threads. This white fungi is called 'mycelium' and it has a strong musty smell. There are three types of fairy rings that are found on lawns, some are more damaging than others.
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Types of Fairy Ring

  1. Grade 1 Fairy Rings

    This type of fairy ring is the most damaging on the garden lawn. Grade 1 fairy rings actually kill the grass where as other types Grade 2 and 3 do not kill the plant. A Grade 1 fairy ring can be identified by ring of dead grass about 10 -30cm across in which fruiting bodies can be found in early spring an autumn. If you dig below the dead zone you will find the mycelium will be more dense than other areas of the fairy ring. Mycelium is hydrophobic (water repellant) therefore any rainfall or irrigation applied is repelled from this area. This causes the dead area in a grade 1 fairy ring in which weeds and moss can invade and become a problem.

  2. Grade 2 Fairy Rings

    This type of fairy ring can be identified by lush green rings or arcs, sometimes fruiting bodies such as mushrooms or puffballs may be present. It is not as damaging as a grade 1 fairy ring as it does not kill the grass. The only problems being the fruiting bodies or the visual effect of the green ring have on the appearance of the lawn.

  3. Grade 3 Fairy Rings

    The Grade 3 fairy ring can be identified by its fruiting bodies of mushrooms and puffballs. It does not produce a ring of dark green grass. The only problem therefore is the nuisance value of the fruiting bodies especially if they are extensive. The fruiting bodies can form rings, arcs or they can be solitary.

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Control of Fairy Rings

The control of fairy rings on garden lawns can be quite difficult. This is because there are no real effective cures apart from completely digging it out of the lawn. If your lawn has grade 2 and 3 fairy rings the problem can be masked by applications of nitrogen or sulphate of iron. These products promote a deep green colour which will help the fairy ring blend in with the lawn.

If the you have a grade 1 fairy ring again applying products to mask the colour of the green ring can help. The real problem will be the hydrophobic layer below the surface which causes the dead area. This area can be spiked and a wetting agent can be applied before the area becomes dry. This operation can be repeated as necessary. Once the area has become too dry it will be very difficult to re-wet.

The other way is to completely dig out the fairy ring. This means removing the soil to a depth of at least 30cm (12in). Then remove 50cm (20in) in front of the inside of the ring and 50cm (20in) beyond the outside of the ring. Be careful not to spill any of the infected soil onto the lawn during the removal process. Replace the infected soil with fresh soil and reseed the area.