Folklore Fairy Rings

They have a long tradition in German folklore, where they mark the place where witches gather and dance. The term for them in German is Hexenringe, or “witches’ rings”. (Liebe ich ja die deutsche Sprache!)

Old Dutch superstitions state that the rings are where the Devil churns his milk.

The beliefs in Austria claimed that the legendary rings were created by dragons.

There are many, many fairy ring mushroom stories in English and Celtic folklore. Most center on the belief that the rings were places where elves or fairies dance. The legends warn against humans disrupting or joining the dance, lest they be punished.

Similar tales arise in French and Scandinavian folklore, but the magical rings aren’t restricted to just Europe. Stories of tiny spirits inhabiting these rings come from the Philippines as well.


Mushroom Fairy Rings

Mushrooms growing in lawns are common occurrences especially during rainy weather. They live off decaying organic matter in the soil, often decaying tree roots, and are not harmful to the lawn. They will naturally disappear as they age or they may be collected and composted, knocked down with a rake or hoe, or mowed over with your lawnmower. Mushrooms should never be collected and eaten unless you are expert in their identification. To the novice gardener, many poisonous mushrooms can look very similar to edible ones.

Mushroom or Fairy rings are caused by many different soilinhabiting fungi of the class Basidiomycetes. These fungi can cause the development of rings or arcs of deep green grass as well as unthrifty or dead grass.

Fairy ring fungi do not attack grass directly, but break down organic matter in the soil. As a result, nitrogen is released which the grass uses, causing it to grow and develop a contrasting green ring. In cases where the mycelia of the fungus get very dense and inhibit water movement into the soil, grass in the arc may turn brown. Mycelia may also deplete soil nutrients and produce toxic levels of hydrogen cyanide. The mushrooms that appear after rainfall are the fruiting bodies of the fungus.

The organic matter fairy rings break down is often old tree stumps, roots, logs, lumber, and other larger pieces of organic material in the soil below the lawn. Once this material is depleted, the fairy ring will disappear. This may take considerable time. Several fairy rings may appear relatively close together, especially on lawns that exist on sites that were previously wooded areas. When this occurs, it becomes noticeable that fairy rings do not cross each other, as fungal activity ceases when fungi from different rings contact each other.

Dark green circles, arcs, or rings of thick, fast growing grass develop anytime from green-up in the spring (most common) until the first hard frost in the fall. These rings are most commonly between 2 and 15 feet in diameter, although they may be larger or smaller. Mushrooms or puffballs may appear under wet conditions in the same ring pattern. In some cases, a ring of brown or dead grass may appear.

Approximately fifty species of fungi are known to form fairy rings in turf, with Marasmius oreades, Agaricus campestris, Lycoperdon spp., and Scleroderma spp. being the most common. These fungi decompose organic debris in the soil and thatch.

Fairy ring starts from a piece of mycelium or spore at a single point feeding in the thatch layer or on soil organic matter. The uniform outward growth of the fungus results in the development of rings.

Under certain conditions, and with certain fairy ring fungi, a ring of dead grass develops. Some of the responsible fungi have been shown to penetrate and kill root cells resulting in dead rings of grass. In addition, the mycelia of some fairy ring fungi are reported to be hydrophobic, creating a water impervious layer resulting in drought-stress problems for the grass. Once the soil under this mycelial layer becomes dry, it is very difficult to wet, and the roots of the grass plant die.


Keep Spiders Out


  • 5 to 7 drops of peppermint, tea tree, citrus, lavender, or neem essential oil
  • reusable 16 ounce spray bottle
  • liquid dish soap
  • warm water


Put 5-7 drops of peppermint oil in a spray bottle and fill mostly to the top with warm water. Add a squirt of dish soap, place the top on, and give the mixture a good shake. Before using, use the hose attachment of your vacuum to suck up any egg sacs or old webs. Test on an inconspicuous area, and then spray in the corners of window frames, along door cracks, or in dark dingy places spiders may be hiding out.

Perennial Fall Care

First frost has arrived and now some of our energy shifts to perennial care. It can be nice to leave some perennials standing throughout winter months. The seeds of Echinacea and Rudbeckia will attract and feed the birds: Sedum will hold onto snow like frosting. There are also plants that like the protection their foliage provides for their crowns. Asclepias (Butterfly Weed), Chrysanthemums and Heuchera (Coral Bells) fare best if cleaned up in the spring.

Other perennials don’t handle rough weather well. They won’t remain attractive after frost and they have recurrent problems with pests and diseases, which will over winter in their fallen foliage and surface in the spring. These perennial flowers are best cut down in the fall. If they are diseased, throw the foliage away, do not compost it.

No one can really pinpoint when frost and snow will come. Many gardens survive just fine with no attention at all in the fall. But it never hurts to take some time and put your garden to bed, in the fall.

Perennial Plants to Prune in the Fall include:

Bearded Iris – The tall foliage of bearded iris begins flopping early in the season. By fall, it’s cover for iris borers and fungal diseases. Cut back after a killing frost and it would be wise to dispose of the foliage, rather than composting.

Beebalm (Monarda didyma) – Even the most resistant varieties of Monarda can succumb to mildew. When that happens, you’ll be cutting them back long before fall. Fresh, new growth can be left on until spring. Sometimes selective thinning of the stems is all that is needed and you can leave the remaining seed heads for the birds.

Blackberry Lily (Belamcanda chinensis) – Prune to keep the foliage from collapsing and causing the crown to rot and to avoid borers.

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora) – Gaillardia is a pretty hardy plant, but cutting back the spent stems seems to improve its hardiness even more, by improving its vigor.

Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’) – Bronze Fennel has increased in popularity lately and can be found accenting many gardens. The foliage provides food for swallowtail caterpillars, which can leave the stems completely stripped by fall. If that’s the case, they are no longer providing any useful service and can be cut back to the ground.

Catmint (Nepeta ) – Nepetas respond well to severe pruning throughout the season. The foliage will be damaged by winter cold and will need to be cut back anyway, so get a head start by pruning in the fall.

Columbine (Aquilegia) – Remove any foliage showing leaf miner damage and remove any debris around the base of the plants. Aquilegia send out growth early in spring and appreciate not having the old foliage to contend with.

Corydalis (Corydalis lutea) – It’s hard to kill Corydalis, but if you’d rather cut back on its enthusiastic spreading habit and it hasn’t been deadheaded during the summer, cut it back after a killing frost.

Crocosmia (Crocosmia) – The flowers of Crocosmia fall of naturally once blooming has finished and the seed heads can offer interest, but the foliage eventually heads downhill and there is nothing to be gained by leaving it up through winter.

Daylily (Hemerocallis) – Daylilies respond well to shearing and unless you are in an area where they remain somewhat evergreen, fall pruning will save you a messy cleanup in the spring.

Painted Daisy (Tanacetum coccineum) – Painted Daisies can easily rot in wet soil. Prune in the fall to prevent the foliage from flopping over onto itself and acting as a mulch.

Penstemon (Penstemon barbatus) – Penstemon don’t like wet feet and should be planted a little higher in the ground than most plants. The foliage usually declines toward the end of summer and can be trimmed back, inducing new basal growth that is sufficient to mulch the plants through winter. Allowing the older, tall growth to flop would hold too much moisture around the crown.

Peony (Paeonia) – Peonies need a period of cold to set buds for the following season. That coupled with the fact that their foliage is extremely prone to mildew is reason enough to remove the foliage in the fall. Infected foliage can be removed and disposed of in late summer. Healthy foliage will turn golden in fall and can be removed once it has turned to mush, after the first frost.

Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus) – By this time Helianthus foliage isn’t a standout to begin with and by the time the flowers have faded, it’s also time to cut the plants down.

Phlox (Phlox paniculata) – Phlox is prone toward powdery mildew. Even the resistant varieties can become infected in bad weather. If so, prune and destroy all foliage and stems in the fall.

Salvia (Salvia nemorosa) – Perennial Salvia benefits from several pruning during the growing season. In fall when blooming slows, cut the whole plant back to the new basal growth.

Siberian Bugloss (Brunnera macrophylla) – Although it’s not necessary, since Brunnera is an early riser in the spring and its foliage will turn black and unattractive with the first frost, fall cleanup is preferable.

Sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) – Helenium usually doesn’t finish blooming until midfall, but by that time it is often covered with mildew. The foliage can be cut back and removed before winter.

Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum odoratum) – Although listed here, Solomon’s Seal pretty much disappears on its own, after a frost or two. Certainly the leaves will drop. If the stems remain, they can be pruned back to the ground.

Veronica / Spike Speedwell (Veronica spicata) – As flowering ceases, the plants can be sheared to the ground. They will only turn black and ugly if left until spring.

Wild or False Indigo (Baptisia australis) – Baptisia is one of those plants that splits in the middle if not sheared back after pruning, however many gardeners like the seed pods and simply stake the plants. Come frost, the foliage turns black and even staking isn’t going to help its appearance. Cut back for aesthetics.

Yarrow (Achillea) – Achillea don’t like to sit in cold, wet soil. By fall, most of their blooms are spent and the foliage is flopping and possibly diseased. Cut back in early fall and new basil growth with fill in before frost.

Hornets & Yellow Jackets

The primary differences between the yellow jacket and the hornet are size (the hornet is larger), coloring (hornets are ivory and black), and hunting behavior. The real reason the bald-faced hornet is referred to as a hornet because it builds an aerial nest, while yellow jackets prefer to build nests underground—usually in abandoned rodent burrows.

While yellow jackets are big fans of sugary treats like soda and syrups, hornets tend to restrict their diets to live prey—insects mostly. Because hornets prefer hunting live prey, their contact with humans is minimized. Generally speaking hornets only attack other creatures (like you) if their nest is disturbed, and if this is the case they will mobilize the entire colony in to defend the nest—a potentially life threatening scenario for some people. Here are few preventative, non-chemical ways to get rid of hornets as well as ways to kill hornets and hornet nest removal.

Hornets prefer protein and will eat meat and high protein substances like pet food. It is best to keep such things as fish remains, pet food, and other sources of protein out of your yard. This can include compost piles and compost heaps where raw fruits and other protein rich materials are left out in the open. Try to keep compost heaps either buried or kept in sealable containers. Keep pet food in sealable containers if you have outdoors pets, or if you can get pet-released food containers, that will work too.

Keeping garbage cans sealed, clean, and taking garbage out regularly should help get rid of hornets. Even though hornets do prefer to feed on other pests, there are times when food is scarce and grabbing a bite to eat at the local dumpster is just easier. Garbage cans that are left outdoors should have a spring mechanism to keep them closed. Garbage bins should have a top that seals properly and is never left open during the early months of summer (while hornet nests are still growing). If you can’t manage to keep garbage sealed, you may want to think about dusting what garbage cans you have with Borax now and again.

Vinegar apparently makes a good bait for water traps designed to capture and get rid of hornets. A company named Skone has designed something of an adaptation from the original do-it-yourself 2-liter soda bottle wasp traps. They still use a 2-liter or even a 1-liter soda bottle (so long as it has a standard mouth, not a “wide” mouth), but what they’ve done is created an attachment that simply fits onto a bottle, so there’s no cutting involved. Very smart. Just add 1 cup of sweetened water (sugar only), one cup of apple cider vinegar, a drop of mild dish soap, and some raw meat for the hornets, and you’re ready to kill some hornets.

There is another type of non-chemical trap that is useful for getting rid of hornets, and it’s called a Queen trap. Queen hornets are solitary creatures in the early spring, looking for food and a good place to nest, it would follow logically that you could stop the entire process of colony building if you caught that one wasp. This is what queen traps are for. Any kind of homemade trap will do, but the key is to get a piece of raw meat out in the open early enough in the season to gain the attention of recently awoken hornet queens. Kill the queen, and you’ve essentially spared yourself and your neighbors the trouble of spraying your yard with nasty chemicals…and probably spared any hornet attacks that may have occurred.

The bucket trap is simply that, a bucket with sugar water, vinegar, and dish soap. For some reason, acetic acid attracts hornets. All you need to do is fill the bucket with sugar water, vinegar, and a drop of dish soap to get rid of the water tension, and the thirsty wasps and hornets will do the drowning for you. This shouldn’t be considered a solution for getting rid of a large infestation. This is for catching wandering hornet workers in a garden or in your front yard.

Mechanical extermination outdoors is not a recommended means of getting rid of hornets, but it is a good way to get rid of hornets indoors. When hornets are killed, a hormone is released that triggers nearby hornets to attack. It’s a safety mechanism, designed to keep the nest safe from intruders. Rolling up a newspaper and swatting a hornet outside is what we call “signing your death warrant,” especially if it’s remains are smeared all of over your pants or something. For those hornets who manage to get indoors, simply vacuum them up and in a matter of days they should die of starvation or dehydration if they’ve managed to survive being sucked through a vacuum in the first place.


Weather Affect & Autumn Color

The amount and brilliance of the colors that develop in any particular autumn season are related to weather conditions that occur before and during the time the chlorophyll in the leaves is dwindling. Temperature and moisture are the main influences.

A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions-lots of sugar and lots of light-spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson. Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year.

The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn colors. Like the weather, soil moisture varies greatly from year to year. The countless combinations of these two highly variable factors assure that no two autumns can be exactly alike. A late spring, or a severe summer drought, can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks. A warm period during fall will also lower the intensity of autumn colors. A warm wet spring, favorable summer weather, and warm sunny fall days with cool nights should produce the most brilliant autumn colors.


Hot Butternut Squash Cocktail


For the butternut butter:

  • 1 medium butternut squash or sugar pumpkin (equivalent to 1/2 pound of puree)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 pound of unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 4 ounces dark brown sugar

For the cocktail:

  • 3 ounces hot Earl Grey tea
  • 1 1/2 to 2 ounces aged rum
  • 1/4 ounce Velvet Falernum
  • 3/4 ounce butternut squash butter
  • Maple syrup to taste


For the butternut squash butter:

Heat oven to 400°F.

Split squash or pumpkin in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle squash with salt and brush with maple syrup. Lay flesh side down on aluminum foil covered sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes or until flesh yields easily to a small knife. When cool enough to handle, scoop flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor or blender. For best texture, pass through a tammis to remove all pulp.

Puree with butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and brown sugar in a food processor until smooth. Roll into logs in parchment or wax paper and store in refrigerator.

For the cocktail:

Brew tea and pour into a mug. Add rum and falernum, stir, then swirl in butternut squash butter, steaming with a frothing wand if desired. Add maple syrup to taste.