Mother’s day dawned sunny and mild. It was a perfect day to begin our family’s long-term mushroom cultivation project. I say long-term because, depending on the type of wood, size of the logs and conditions, we might have to wait two or three years to see a harvest. I am hoping it will be sooner! Early this spring we took down some trees that were heavily damaged in an unusually early snow storm. This is the time when the sap and moisture content are highest in the trunks. This higher concentration provides more food for the developing fungi. We cut up the logs and stacked them up off the ground to wait for the anti-fungal properties of the fresh wood to abate and for the danger of freezing weather to pass. The next step was to choose what type of fungus to grow and order the mushroom plug spawn from Fungi Perfecti. I chose three types:
Shiitake or Black Forest Mushroom (Lentinula edodes)
Lion’s Mane or Bearded Tooth (Hericium erinaceus)
Maitake or Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa)
Based on their preferred habitat and the wood we had available, I chose maple logs for the Shiitake and Lion’s Mane plugs and an oak log for the Maitake plugs. We tried to choose logs that had the fewest breaks in the bark as the bark helps to keep out unwanted competitors. I placed the chosen logs in a raised wooden box under the large weeping willow tree because it is shady and damp there most of the year. This should help the mycelium to remain moist and thrive. The oak log with the Maitake spawn is horizontal and mostly buried in the wood chips. Only about 1/4 of the log remains uncovered. The maple logs containing the Shiitake and Lion’s Mane spawn are propped up at an angle as they do best if the log is vertical and only partially buried.
Using a 5/16” drill bit, my wonderful husband drilled holes in a checkerboard pattern around the log. The holes were supposed to be 1 1/4” deep, so he used some masking tape to create a stop so he wouldn’t drill too deeply. After he had drilled the holes, my sons and I inserted the dowels and gently pounded them in with a rubber mallet. Well, sometimes it was gently and sometimes they were pounded more vigorously due to the enthusiasm of my helpers. After all the plugs were pounded in, we added bark mulch around the logs and covered them with burlap to help keep them moist while the mycelium colonizes the logs.
Here are a few photos of the day and how our mushroom patch looks now.
This is what the dowels looked like before we inserted them into the logs. The white fuzzy material growing in the grooves is the active mycelium, ready to spread and colonize the logs given the right conditions.
Finished mushroom patch:
If you look very closely, you can see the oyster mushrooms growing at the end of the box where we buried the two indoor mushroom kits under all the wood chips.
-- "To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves." M. Gandhi