Growing mushrooms from a kit is fun, educational and nourishing, but it doesn’t meet my definition of sustainable. To turn my kits into something sustainable, I am experimenting with naturalizing the mycelium so that I can create an outside oyster mushroom garden.
One of the ideas that I obtained from Paul Stamets’ book, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World was the idea to grow mushrooms using the stems of harvested mushroom between sheets of damp, unpainted corrugated cardboard from shipping boxes. Through his experiments, he found that he can successfully grow spawn for many kinds of edible mushrooms using the basal rhizomorphs where the stem was connected to the nurturing mycelium. Using his ideas and modifying them to the materials I have available, this is our latest experiment:
First we tore up cardboard boxes and laid them in layers in a plastic box to soak in warm water. The warm water softens up the fibers, making it easier for the mycelium to establish itself. The growing mycelium from our kit was conditioned to use hydrogen peroxide, so we added a half cup of hydrogen peroxide as well. After carefully cutting away the lower stems from the mushrooms we harvested, we placed them gently between the damp, softened sheets of cardboard. We were careful to keep the rhizomorphs (mycelial strands attached to the stems) intact. Afterwards, we misted the pile of cardboard daily to keep the cardboard damp and watched as the white strands began to appear between the edges of the cardboard layers. When we noticed the white strands appearing on the top sheet of cardboard, we simply added more layers of soaked cardboard. Within three or four weeks, we could see mycelium had spread throughout the stacks of cardboard.
The tall stack of cardboard was getting harder to manage in the playroom/laboratory, so we added more sheets of damp cardboard to the stack and buried the stack of inoculated cardboard in the middle of a mixture of damp sawdust and coffee grounds. There is about one inch of damp sawdust above the cardboard and several inches below it. (Living with a prolific and talented woodworker means I always have a wonderful supply of wood shavings and sawdust.) We made everything damp before we added the ingredients together because allowing mycelium to dry out makes it difficult for it to thrive or even survive. When we notice the entire plastic container has been successfully colonized by the mycelium, we will transfer it outside to a bed of wood chips. I even have a place chosen, in the shady, cool area below our large weeping willow tree.
You do not need to use a kit to try to grow mushrooms from stem ends. You can also use wild mushrooms you discover and collect, the way ORJ described in the comments of my previous entry. Just don’t let the stems dry out and be careful to keep the fluffy stem base along with the stem. The stems from mushrooms purchased in the grocery store probably will not work because the stems must be fresh to regenerate.
Here are a few photos of the process:
Here is a photo of the mycelium spreading through the layers of cardboard. I apologize that it isn’t clearer, but the cardboard is all buried now and I cannot take a better one now.
And the final product, the cardboard is just under the damp shavings. At one end, I put some cardboard layers upright, to see if the different orientation makes a difference to the mycelium’s success:
-- "To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." M. Gandhi