Journey Ends for the Shiitake Mushroom Logs

August 14, 2007

In a previous article on this site I described the process for growing gourmet mushrooms on hardwood logs in the home garden.

Hardwood log inoculation is a simple and easy way to cultivate loads of shiitake, oyster, maitake, chicken of the woods, reishi, lion’s mane, and other delicious edible or medicinal fungi right in your own backyard.

Log Grown Shitake MushroomsAnd one of the best things about growing mushrooms on hardwood logs is that once the mushroom spawn has been introduced you can sit back and enjoy the edible fungi harvest for years to come with absolutely no additional effort.

Nature’s Perfect Solution for Recycling Dead Wood

After producing faithfully for over five years the hardwood logs that I inoculated with shiitake mushroom spawn have finally worn out and decomposed to the point that it’s time for them to be retired.

In some cases the mushroom spawn reduced the Birch and Oak logs to not much more than piles of wood chips and sawdust. In other cases the logs maintained their shapes but became soft and would fall apart under just a little pressure.

Wild Forest MushroomsThe entire life cycle of various fungi that live on and consume wood is nature’s efficient means of decomposing and recycling dead or unhealthy trees. In the process these trees are converted into mushrooms, compost, beneficial soil organisms, and mycorrhizal fungi.

Reaping Rewards from Mushroom Log Production

It was definitely worth the effort involved to grow the mushrooms, and the bumper crops of gourmet shiitakes that were produced and enjoyed over the years would have been very expensive if they had been purchased from a retail market.

I’ve already begun my search for a source of fresh hardwood trees to cut down this winter and inoculate next spring. If you want to learn more about how to grow mushrooms read the following articles on Growing Mushrooms Outdoors, or Mushroom Growing Kits. As with any wild plant don’t consume any mushroom unless you are absolutely certain of its identity and that it is safe to eat!

The decline in production from my mushroom logs doesn’t mean that they have fulfilled their destiny and can no longer serve a useful role in the garden. I’m conducting a little experiment with the remains of my depleted logs.

Coaxing a Few More Shiitake Mushrooms from Depleted Logs

All of the wood fibers, bark, disintegrating logs, and chaff that was left behind will now be used to line the rows in between my raised beds to see if I can stimulate the production of a few more flushes of gourmet shiitake mushrooms.

Mushroom Log DebrisI laid the spent logs out between the rows along with the wood debris and loose soil that was underneath of the mushroom patch. Then I covered everything with a thick layer of bedding straw and watered it in good.

If the plan works I’ll be harvesting more delicious home grown shiitakes from the garden’s paths this fall. I’ll share the results of this project and post photos if I am successful in coaxing more production out of my mushroom log debris.

Even if my experiment fails I’m sure that the organic matter, mycorrhizal fungi, and other beneficial organisms that remain in the spent logs will serve as a great soil amendment and help improve the growth and health of plants that grow throughout the vegetable garden.

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  • Hi Kenny

    What a delicious post 🙂

    You have rekindled my appetite for foraging again. It is always something I intended to take seriously and I think I will indulge myself with a kit and try it out.

    I have summarized your post on Landscape Juice.


  • I love the idea of growing my own mushrooms. Do you have to worry about animals eating them? I have lots of shady space but a lot of it is shared with deer and other woodland critters.

  • Kenny Point

    I came across a few shrooms that had been munched on, but for the most part I didn’t have much of a problem with animals eating the mushrooms that wee growing on the logs. I also frequently see large stands of edible mushrooms growing wild in the woods that the deer and other animals don’t appear to be too interested in. If you enjoy eating gourmet mushroom varieties, growing your own on hardwood logs with spawn plugs is the best way to go. It takes a little effort but it’s not difficult and once inoculated the mushroom logs will continue to fruit over many years.

  • Resheda

    I have just read your delightful post about your use of the decayed log after your long mushroom harvest. Seeing that the post was in 2007, I was wondering if you ever got any other mushrooms from the garden’s paths?

    Thanks a lot for your wonderful comments – they are very inspiring!

    Happy 2009

  • Kenny Point

    Hello Resheda, unfortunately it looks like the decayed logs did not have enough life or energy left to produce any mushrooms in the pathways, but hopefully they still yielded some benefit by contributing mycorrhizal fungi to the garden’s soil. Thank you!

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  • Todd

    At the end of the cycle, when the log is depleted, is it possible to harvest spawn or spores to repropogate the mushrooms?

  • Kenny Point

    Todd, I’m not sure of the process to actually propagate the spawn itself and believe they are usually cultured under almost lab-like processes. Paul Stamets has published books on producing mushroom spawn and he also presents cultivation workshops on the subject through Fungi Perfecti in Washington State.

    The spawn is probably weaker and diluted by the time that they finish consuming the log, but some gardeners do add whatever is left to their compost or wood chip piles to try and coax more production out of them.

  • These are really good tips for veggie gardening.. Happy to see this..

  • Debbie

    I’m very happy to have found your video on growing mushrooms. Very Helpful! Two questions, Is using beeswax a most do and I have bought 4 mushrooms kits and we are not sure where to keep they the logs. We have a damp, swamp like part of our woods. We have large pine trees, which have a boarder of bamboo, that we thought we could put the logs there. Or the outside of the woods or directly in the woods. Just not sure what to do. Help! and Thanks!

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Debbie, the beeswax helps to seal the logs but it is not a requirement. I would not place the logs in the swampy section of your woods. In with the pine trees and the bamboo sounds like a good spot to me. That’s great that you have such a range of environments and ecosystems on your property. Good luck with your mushroom logs.

  • Charlie Stupca

    I’ve never tried growing mushrooms, but my girlfriend and I love them, and were intrigued with your video of mushrooms in the hardwood log. We live in northern MN. With the harsh winters would this technique work with most mushrooms or do you think we would have to go to a hardy variety?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Charlie, the mushroom will grow just fine in your climate… most of the mushroom fruiting will take place during the spring and fall seasons and the spawn will take time off during summer and winter.

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