Growing gourmet mushrooms is an interesting gardening project that can provide you with numerous harvests containing more delicious gourmet mushrooms than you’ll be able to eat.
Previous entries discussed growing mushroom kits and also looked at the alternative of growing mushrooms outdoors. Today I’ll provide more details for growing gourmet mushrooms in the backyard garden.
Selecting Hardwood Logs for Growing Mushrooms
The first requirement is to locate a suitable source for the hardwood logs that will be used for growing the mushrooms. Certain types of wood such as oak and poplar work best but avoid soft woods such as pine and cedar, and make sure that you leave the bark intact.
The logs must be freshly cut from live trees to avoid the risk of using logs that have already been colonized with strains of competing fungi spawn. So don’t waste your time trying to inoculate firewood or logs that have been laying around for any length of time.
The best time to cut the trees is during late winter or spring before leaf growth begins. You can use any size and length, but three to four foot logs, less than fourteen inches in diameter will be easier to handle and work with.
Gourmet Mushroom Spawn for Log Cultivation
You’ll need to decide which types of gourmet mushrooms you want to grow and order the spawn that will be used to inoculate the logs. Popular choices for log culture include: Shiitake, Tree Oyster, Chicken of the Woods, Maitake, and Lion’s Mane.
There are a number of companies that sell mushroom spawn on the Internet. I prefer to obtain spawn that has been grown on small wooden dowels that are easy to use when inoculating the logs.
Pay close attention to the instructions included with the mushroom spawn regarding handling and inoculation. The spawn usually needs to be kept refrigerated prior to use and sometimes requires a period of rest to recover from the stress of being transported from the supplier.
Inoculating Logs With Mushroom Spawn
When you’re ready to inoculate the logs you’ll need a drill, hammer, beeswax, and a small paintbrush. Use the recommended size bit to drill holes about two inches deep and six to eight inches apart over the entire surface of the logs.
Next, place a dowel containing the mushroom spawn into each of the holes and use the hammer to tap the plugs into the log until fully inserted. Depending on the diameter, a four foot log may require between forty to seventy-five spawn plugs to be inserted.
The final step in the inoculation process is to seal the plugs with a light coating of melted beeswax. After the logs have been inoculated with the mushroom spawn they should be kept in a shady area where they will be exposed to rain, snow, and other weather elements.
Growing and Harvesting Your Gourmet Mushrooms
It may take up to a year or longer before you see the first mushrooms start to grow out of the logs. It can take that long for the spawn to fully permeate the structure of the wood before fruiting can occur.
The gourmet mushrooms will be produced in flushes where the logs are quickly covered with the growing mushrooms. The flushes are most active during the spring and fall seasons and after periods of extended rainfall.
Mushroom logs will continue producing over a number of years until the mushroom spawn has depleted the nutrients in the wood and the logs begin to break down.
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