Thursday, February 19, 2009

growing mushrooms

shitake.jpgAnyone who's been to a gardening class or a permaculture class about how to produce more food from home has heard the question, "What can I grow in the shade?" Shaded areas, especially deeply shaded areas of the yard, are not especially conducive to growing fruits and vegetables. Those plants like sunlight. So what is a Victory Gardener to do? One answer is mushrooms.

At this point I'd like to share my status as a novice concerning mushroom cultivation. This was my first attempt at growing fungi for personal consumption so feel free to learn with me but please don't label me an expert. I'm just figuring this out as I go and sharing the experience. I'm following the directions of the Mushroom People of Summertown, TN. I'm going to grow Shitakes and you're welcome to follow along.

After receive my inoculation plugs in the mail, my brother and I thinned several trees from a family member's property.

I'm a big fan of trees and as such I'd like to advocate using trees that are scheduled to be cut down. If you have a wooded area on your property, this could be a useful part of its sustainable management. People who cut trees for a living might be able to provide you with fresh timber without having to cut down trees that would have otherwise remained in place. Be sure to use trees cut before the leaves appear in the spring so that means get in gear if you want to grow mushrooms this year. Logs should be between 3" and 6" inches in diameter. Oak works best but other hardwoods like Sweetgum or most Maples will work alright. Stay away from softwoods and pines.

My brother and I cut 40" long logs that were fairly easy to move around. We let them the rest for a few days after cutting them but it should be noted that the directions mention getting the logs inoculated within three weeks of cutting. It's important to do so before naturally occurring fungi begin to move in and start rotting the logs. We stacked them on a pallet to keep them off the ground which helps keep them from being contaminated.

Growing mushrooms in natural logs seems to be all about moisture content. The logs must remain moist so we stacked them in a place where we can water them or soak them periodically during the warmer, drier months. They need to remain in the shade as this will help keep their internal moisture content strong.


When we were ready, we placed the logs on saw horses. Then I marked the logs every 6" staying at least a 2" from the ends of each log. Jon drilled holes with a 5/8" bit about 1" into each log at each mark. Then I rotated each log about 2" and repeated this process.


The result was a grid of holes all the way around the log. Then I tapped a mushroom plug into each hole. To seal the holes we melted cheese wax, also purchased from the Mushroom People. I melted it and then brushed it over each hole with an old paint brush. I also used it to seal the stumps of small branches I removed earlier when cutting down the trees.


The logs were returned to their stacking location. The incubation period is about 9 months so we won't have mushrooms until next winter, or more likely next spring. But the logs will fruit for several years to come, producing 3 to 5 ponds of mushrooms per log. And with plenty of shaded area that won't even grow good lawn, homegrown mushrooms seems like a good idea, despite the wait. And it really didn't take much time or money. I'll let you know how they turn out.



Mathew said...

I've grown some stropharia mushrooms on woodchips. I inoculated a bed about 20 feet by 5 feet, watered it daily for two months, and I started getting mushrooms before the frost set in. They are the size of small portabellas, very meaty and flavorful.

The appeal of the stropharia is that as long as I keep adding fresh wood chip mulch, they should spread throughout the yard and become perennial.

I also regularly see shaggy mane mushrooms where I spread compost. Inoculant is available for these also. I haven't brought myself to eat one yet- they are only edible for a few hours after they emerge, then they melt into black slime. I can vouch for their ability to grow in compost spread under vegetable crops, however.

Wendy said...

I grew some portabellos from a kit in my house, but fruit flies ate the spores, and I only harvested two mushrooms (but they were good sauteed in olive oil with garlic and sea salt :).

I've long considered growing mushrooms as a "cash crop." With my limited space, I can't compete with the bigger small farmers and CSAs in my area for other crops, but no one, that I've found, is growing mushrooms, yet. I don't know if there's even a market for it, but my grocery store carries them, so there must be. Anyway, I'm thinking I would inoculate a shady, loamy aea with portabello spores and see what happens.

Thanks for the tips. So - is that picture the ones you grew?

Mathew said...

When I purchased beeswax for my mushrooms, the beekeeper said that if I could produce shitakes consistently, the CSA he was in would offer them in a heartbeat.

You can often find oak logs free, but it takes lots of time to drill dozens of holes in each log and stuff them with inoculant. The inoculant costs quite a bit of money to, and you need a strong drill to dril into oak logs.

I think there is real potential as a cash crop, but they're not easy.

viagra online pharmacy said...

Fantastic idea, mushrooms to grow in the shade parts of the garden, why I never thought of that before.

kamagra said...

Wow amazing I do the same at my place, curiosly I have an excellent place for this in my back yard that is very very wet that they grown up.