What is a fairy ring?

Fairy Ring Fungus

While tending to your lawn this spring, you may come across a peculiar phenomenon known as a fairy ring. These mysterious rings of grass or mushrooms have fascinated people since ancient times. In the medieval era, fairy rings were believed to be formed by fairies dancing during the night. However, fairy rings are not simply a result of mystical creatures. They are actually a fungal disease that can plague yards and golf courses. In this article, we will delve into the scientific causes of fairy rings and provide effective methods to keep your yard fairy ring-free.

Understanding Fairy Rings

Fairy rings can manifest in three different types, each with its distinct characteristics. Type 1 fairy rings produce rings of brown and wilted dead grass. They are most commonly found on golf courses but can also appear on front lawns. Type 2 fairy rings create a dense ring of dark green grass. These rings are caused by increased nitrogen produced from organic material in the soil, leading to excessive growth. Type 3 fairy rings form a ring of mushrooms or puffballs in your yard. These are particularly common in wet regions and during the fall.

The Causes of Fairy Ring

The development of fairy rings is attributed to wind-borne fungi species in the basidiomycetes group. These fungi take root in soil high in organic matter and in areas with recent tree removal. Different effects of the fungi on the surrounding environment characterize each type of fairy ring.

  • In Type 1 fairy rings, the fungi produce compounds that make it difficult for grass to absorb water from the soil, resulting in wilting and eventual death.
  • Type 2 fairy rings, on the other hand, accelerate the decay of organic matter, converting it to nitrogen that causes the grass to grow dense and lush.
  • Type 3 fairy rings occur in combination with wet conditions and high organic matter, forming a ring of mushrooms.

Identifying Fairy Rings

Fairy rings can easily be distinguished from other lawn diseases, such as brown patches and dollar spots, by their circular appearance. These rings can vary in size, ranging from just a few inches wide to as large as 5 or 10 yards in diameter. However, in some cases, it may be necessary to consult an expert to identify fairy rings accurately.

The Impact of Fairy Rings

While fairy rings are unlikely to cause turf death or long-term problems, they can spread throughout your yard if left unchecked. Additionally, the unsightly appearance of fairy rings may be undesirable to homeowners. It is also important to note that some species of fairy ring mushrooms can be poisonous to children and pets. Therefore, addressing the issue and taking appropriate measures to eliminate fairy rings from your lawn is crucial.

Getting Rid of Fairy Rings

Fortunately, there are proactive methods to treat and prevent fairy rings. It is important to note that fungicides are generally ineffective at preventing fairy ring development or reducing symptoms. However, the following strategies have proven to be effective:

1. Reduce Thatch Buildup

Fairy rings thrive in lawns with a buildup of thatch, which is a loose layer of decaying and living plant matter in the soil. To reduce thatch, consider using a vertical mower or power rake to dethatch your yard. This process will remove the excess organic matter and create a healthier environment for your grass to grow.

2. Aerate Your Lawn

In addition to dethatching, regular lawn aeration is crucial in preventing fairy rings. Aeration creates cores of air in the soil, loosening it and facilitating the absorption of moisture and oxygen. This process also helps to reduce compaction and break apart the organic matter that fairy rings feed on. While aeration is beneficial, it may not be enough to remove large volumes of thatch. However, it does aid in irrigation and promotes root growth, which can help crowd out unwanted weeds.

3. Topdressing

The high levels of organic matter in your soil can be balanced by applying a fine top dressing of high-quality sand. This sand dilutes the matter that feeds fairy rings and provides a substrate for healthy turfgrass growth. It is important to exercise caution when topdressing clay soils, as sand can create dense and hard soil. If you have clay soil, consider composting as an alternative.

4. Type 1 Fairy Rings: Water with a Wetting Agent

For Type 1 fairy rings, it is essential to ensure that your grass receives sufficient water. This can be achieved using a wetting agent, a chemical solution that helps water permeate and moisturize affected lawns. Deeply water the affected areas with the wetting agent, paying particular attention to the hydrophobic root zone.

5. Type 2 Fairy Rings: Apply Fertilizer

If you are dealing with a Type 2 fairy ring, applying fertilizer to unaffected areas of your lawn can stimulate turf growth and help mask the dark green rings. While this method does not address the root cause of the fairy ring, it does expedite organic matter decomposition and green up unaffected areas.

6. Type 3 Fairy Rings: Hand Removal

In the case of Type 3 fairy rings, the mushrooms or puffballs can be removed by hand or rake. However, it is crucial to exercise caution during the removal process to avoid spreading the spores throughout your yard. Mowing over the mushrooms or inefficiently removing them can lead to further dissemination.

Preventing Fairy Rings

Dealing with fairy ring fungus in Ppoa Pratensis requires a multifaceted approach. Several methods are employed to mitigate its impact:

  • Aeration: Proper aeration techniques help improve soil drainage, which can reduce the severity of fairy rings.
  • Watering and Fertilization: Ensuring even water distribution and balanced fertilization can reduce the rings’ visibility by promoting overall grass health.
  • Digging out infected soil and replacing it can work. You have to dig pretty deep and remove a lot of soil, though. Something I was told about but have not tried yet is to dig out two infected sections of soil and mix them together. The effects of mixing the soil can eradicate the fungus in those areas.

FAQs About Fairy Rings

What does it mean when you see a fairy ring?

The presence of a fairy ring indicates that your soil is rich in organic matter and moisture. However, your grass may have difficulty absorbing these nutrients, which can be detrimental to its health.

Is a fairy ring good for your lawn?

While the organic matter associated with fairy rings is beneficial for your soil, the fairy ring disease can harm your grass. If left untreated, it can spread throughout your yard and cause long-term problems.

What should you do if you see a fairy ring?

One superstition suggests running around the fairy ring nine times with the full moon’s light. However, from a landscaping perspective, it is recommended to aerate, reduce thatch, and topdress your lawn to treat fairy rings. If the issue persists, seeking professional lawn care services can be beneficial.


Fairy rings may have an enchanting allure, but they are ultimately a fungal disease that can harm your lawn’s health and appearance. You can keep your yard fairy ring-free by understanding the causes and implementing effective treatment and prevention measures. Regular lawn maintenance, such as dethatching, aerating, and proper irrigation, is crucial in maintaining a healthy and beautiful lawn. Remember to consult professionals like ECO Lawn Utah if you encounter persistent fairy ring problems. With these strategies in place, you can ensure that your yard remains a fairy-ring-free oasis.