How to Get Rid of Fairy Rings in Your Lawn

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Working to make your lawn pretty and healthy is not an easy task. You rake, fertilize and pull the weeds and there are still more problems. You look over your lawn and there is a fairy ring. Fairy rings can be one of the most difficult lawn problems to cu

Just when you think you have your lawn in nice shape, after raking, pulling all of the weeds and fertilized, a fairy ring shows up. They can make your lawn look unhealthy and ugly.

Fairy Ring Descriptions

A fairy ring is a disease of the soil and lawn. In most of the fairy rings I have seen, the fairy ring is a dark green circle or arc of grass that grows faster than the rest of your lawn with yellow grass or less green grass in the middle of this ring. Other times they fairy ring can be a ring of dead grass with green grass in the middle. Sometimes, mushrooms can grow around the fairy ring.

It has been my experience that fairy rings occur in a heavily used area of the lawn, but they can also occur anywhere in your lawn. Often, a fairy ring will occur in compacted and hot areas of the lawn like near the driveway, sidewalk or a pathway for you, your kids or dogs.

The Cause of Fairy Rings

The scientific cause of fairy rings in your lawn “is a piece of mycelium or spore at a single point feeding as a saprophyte in the thatch lawyer on organic material”. [1]

That doesn’t help you much when you look at your lawn and shake your head. In other words it is a fungus in your lawn. This fungus causes the breakdown of thatch and other organic material that produces nitrogen when they breakdown. The nitrogen stimulates the growth and greening of the grass which causes the ring of grass to be greener and grow faster causing the green fairy ring appearance.

Areas of your lawn where there is heavy foot traffic causes compression of the lawn which can lead to the fairy rings. This compression and buildup of thatch causes fairy rings to start. Drought-stressed lawns are more prone to fairy rings and weeds.

How to Get Rid of Fairy Rings in Your Lawn

Many times you will notice a fairy ring start in your yard as the first green grass of the early spring. This is a good time to find out if your lawn has a real thatch problem or just a simple raking. To learn more about thatching and raking your lawn, please read How to Rake Your Lawn Properly.

It has been found that changing the pH level of your lawn’s soil does not help to get rid of fairy rings. The following steps are what I have found to be the most effective with getting rid of fairy rings.

  • You can use a thatch or bow rake and rake the fairy ring area.
  • Rake the entire area outside of the green ring, the tall grass of the fairy ring and dry grass in the middle of the fairy ring.
  • Next, aerate your entire lawn, especially the fairy ring areas. You can rent an aerating machine, hire a company or aerate by hand. Paying attention to the compressed and fairy ring areas of your lawn. You cannot put enough holes in the compressed areas.
  • The best solution that has worked for me is to put soapy water made of dish soap on the fairy ring after raking and aerating. Soapy water helps the absorption of nutrients and water into the lawn.
  • The soapy water should be made with dish soap that is not an anti-bacterial or grease cutting type of dish soap. A good soap to use is Ivory dish soap.
  • Using a root-feeder or water needle is helpful after these steps to get plenty of water into the compressed area of your lawn.

If you can catch the fairy ring starting early in the growing season and do the above steps, you should have a healthy and nice looking lawn by early summer.

If the above steps do not help, you can do the following.

  • Dig out the entire section of your lawn with the fairy ring, the ring and the center of the fairy ring and then rototill the entire area several times.
  • Put the old sod and dirt into the trash, taking care not to let any of this fall onto your lawn. Any of the old soil or grass falling on your lawn can cause more fairy rings to develop.
  • Put in new dirt and either use seed or sod.

More Help with Fairy Rings

Instead of digging out the fairy ring, you can also kill this part of your lawn. Putting dark plastic over the area will kill and sterilize the area. This can take several weeks or more, but it should get rid of the fungus causing the fairy ring.

If all of this fails and the fairy rings redevelop, you can have a professional lawn service fumigate your lawn. Fumigation should be left to professionals only.

Future Prevention of Fairy Rings

  • Aerating your lawn each season is a great way to keep the thatch down and fungus out of your lawn.
  • Do not overuse fertilizer or pesticides. It is best to water deeply instead of short time periods of watering.
  • Water your lawn deeply for longer periods of time instead of short time periods each day. In dry weather one inch of water every three days should be enough.
  • Watering for short time periods of only a couple of minutes per zone can cause the grass roots to become shallow and build up the thatch layer leading to fairy rings.

Copyright © Sam Montana April 2012


[1] Colorado State University Extension


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