Outdoor Mushroom Growing

February 8, 2006

Outdoor Mushroom Growing is more of a challenge than using an indoor mushroom kit, but if you have the resources and a little patience they are worth the extra effort involved.

Inoculating hardwood logs with mushroom spawn will provide benefits that you can only achieve by growing the mushrooms outdoors.

Advantages of Growing Mushrooms on Logs

The biggest advantage over using a mushroom kit that’s attained by growing directly on hardwood logs is that you can grow much larger quantities of delicious gourmet mushrooms over longer periods of time.

Rather than being limited to the size of a kit’s growing medium, with logs you can produce mushrooms over the entire surface area of whatever size logs you choose to inoculate with the mushroom spawn.

What’s even better is that from a single “planting”, the mushroom spawn inoculated hardwood will continue producing gourmet mushrooms over a number of years, compared to the few months of production that the typical kit will provide.

Shiitake Mushrooms.jpgIt does require more effort to get started, and a longer time before you see results, but growing mushrooms outdoors will ultimately provide you with many more mushrooms at a lower cost per pound to produce them. Not to mention that your initial efforts will continue to reap rewards for many years into the future.

Challenges Facing the Backyard Mushroom Grower

The major challenge to growing mushrooms outdoors is that you’ll need to locate a source for the hardwood logs that will be inoculated with the gourmet mushroom spawn.

Certain types of wood, such as oaks are best for mushroom cultivation, while softwoods such as pine aren’t suitable for the gourmet mushroom varieties that we’re interested in growing.

The three to six foot hardwood logs should be cut from live trees during late winter and inoculated by early spring. You’ll also need a shady spot on your property where you can store the logs throughout the growing process, as this is definitely an outdoor activity.

The simplest way to inoculate your timber is by inserting small wooden dowels that have been thoroughly infused with fresh mushroom spawn. Next week I’ll post an article with all the details for how to inoculate the freshly cut timber with the mushroom spawn and go through the various stages involved in growing gourmet mushrooms.

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  • Suzanne French

    This looks fascinating. I’m looking for oak logs already. How big in diameter do they need to be? How old can they be? We had a lot of oaks that were knocked over by the hurricanes last year. Are they too old to be used any more? I guess so. Late winter to early spring is almost no time. I’ll get a fresh set of logs. I hope you’e next posting will explain how to get the inoculant.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Suzanne, it’s best to use logs that are less than 14 inches in diameter and they must be freshly cut from live trees. The logs that were knocked over and have been lying around since last year are sure to have already been colonized by spawn from competing strains of mushrooms, so it’s too late to use them. There are many suppliers that sell the plugs for mushroom spawn, some of them advertise on this site. I’ll post the article on growing mushrooms on logs within the next few days.

  • Greg Saunders

    Hi Kenny,

    Do you know of any supplier of mushroom spawn “dowels” or similar in South Africa, or who can I order from in the US?

    Thanks for all the great tips and articles!

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Greg,

    I don’t know of any offhand of any suppliers that are located in South Africa. Check with Fungi Perfecti, I believe that they will ship outside of the U.S.

  • George Weber

    Hi Kenny,

    I have 20 acres of hardwoods. My wife and I are getting started in the farm market thing. I would like to have fresh mushrooms for sale, I know they would do well. Is there anywhere I can go to download the information I need to get started? Or, do you know a book that does a good explanation? I’m from Michigan, so this would be an excellent time for me to get started, before it gets too warm.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi George,
    I would check out Fungi Perfecti as a source for spawn, supplies, and lots of good information. There are some good books available, but unless you want to learn how to actually make your own spawn they may be overkill. I would start by visiting Fungi Perfecti’s website and request a copy of their catalog. It’s really pretty simple and a good mushroom spawn supplier catalog and the instructions that come with the spawn will give you everything that you need to successfully grow great mushrooms. I would start small though, and after you get the hand of it, then increase your production.

  • Tony Ballentine

    I would appreciate it if you can tell me where I can get Oyster mushroom spawn in South Africa.


    Tony Ballentine

  • Kenny Point

    Tony, I can’t recommend a mushroom spawn supplier in your country, but check out some of the links on this page for sources of edible mushroom spawn and other fungi growing supplies. Also, the comment above that was posted on March 20th includes a link to a gourmet mushroom grower in the U.S. that markets mushroom growing supplies, fungi spawn, and gourmet mushroom growing kits. I believe that they can ship mushroom spawn outside of the U.S. and if not they may be able to provide you with a source in South Africa. Good luck growing your own edible mushrooms.

  • Tony Ballentine

    Thanks Kenny, will give them a go

  • Kobus Truter

    I would like to now if i could purchase mushroom grow kits in south africa.

  • Esther

    Hi, I was wondering if you could tell me a good book to grow/make my own spawn. I have done the kits, but personally I think that the cost is pretty high, and have plenty of room to start my own spawn.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Esther, I agree that the mushroom growing kits aren’t as economical, but they are convenient and easy for new growers and for growing edible mushrooms indoors. Fungi Perfecti has a ton of information, books, and mushroom growing equipment and supplies. They also conduct classes and seminars to provide hands on instruction and training for cultivating gourmet and medicinal mushrooms. Another option that falls between the convenience of mushroom kits and the value of using mushroom spawn is to purchase spawn or mushroom plugs to use in inoculating your own hardwood logs.

  • Neil

    Hi Kenny, some info for you, there is a South African supplier of oyster etc spawn


  • South African gourmet and medicinal mushroom farms and consultants.
    Golden Oak Mushrooms

  • Have you ever heard/ Is there a “rat’s ear mushroom”? Here in our country, we call it literally a rat’s ear because it resembles it. It’s not as revolting as it sounds, in fact it’s edible. I just wanted to know what it’s popularly known as. 🙂

    By the way, I love your site and I’m still on to reading every article 😀

  • Oh, by the way, the first photo (Click here) is the rat’s ear I was asking about.

    This second one (click here), I’d like to ask if edible. 😀 Thanks in advance 🙂

  • Auricularia auricula-judae – commonly knoownas the Jews Ear or Wood Ear.
    The name Jew’s Ear comes from a legend which claims that this mushroom first appeared on the tree that Judas of Escariot hung himmself from.
    They are consumed extensively in the East, comonly sold dried. They are used in soups and sauces, primarily for texture, as they have almost no flavour.
    For more info on mushrooms see:

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  • Debbie O

    Hi, I never knew about all this! This is amazing!
    I hope this isn’t a dumb question, but I think hickory is considered a hard wood, right? Would hickory be good for growing mushrooms? We live in Florida and we have both oak and hickory trees on our property. We need to cut down a couple of hickory to accommodate my garden, so it would be great if we can use them for mushrooms.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Debbi O, hickory is a hardwood and can be used to cultivate mushrooms. I’m using hickory logs for my latest crop of mushrooms that were inoculated a few weeks ago. Shiitake, maitake, reishi, and one log of lion’s mane, can’t wait to see how well they do!

  • Debbie O

    Thanks! I don’t suppose you can grow portobellas on a log? I know they need to be kept in the dark, but that’s about all I know. 🙂

  • Mark

    I live in Wisconsin. Does anyone know if you can use this method in an area with a cold winter?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Mark, yes you can grow mushrooms in your region using the hardwood inoculation with mushroom plugs method. I would recommend inoculating your logs in the spring after the frost free date, but the cold weather shouldn’t affect the mushroom spawn once they have had an opportunity to become established and start colonizing the logs.

  • Kwenani Linus

    I am currently growing mushrooms in Caprivi Region, Katima Mulilo in Namibia in different ways. The first method that I tried was to grow mushrooms by covering with soil and it really gave good results.

    The second method was to grow mushrooms by using rice straws that soaked to ferment for two days, later dig a trench of about 1mx2m. After that, I put the first layer of grass and then placed the inoculated substrates on top of the grass.The inoculated substrates are then covered with the second layer of grass and water the inside, then covered the top with a clear plastic sheet using small pvc pipes to avoid the plastic from touching the production. After 3 to 4 days, the pinheads will start shooting out for fruiting and after a day or two, your fruitbody is ready for harvesting.

    I will send pictures showing all the steps. This is one of the simplest ways of growing mushrooms for home consumption.

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Kwenani, thanks for sharing your techniques for growing mushrooms outdoors in Namibia. It’s always interesting to different methods that gardeners are using to cultivate mushrooms and I would love to see the photos, you can send them to me at the email address listed in the contact section in the right sidebar or footer on this site. Thanks!

  • CJ

    I am interested in growing my own mushrooms but it sounds like its a bit late to start in August. I live in Canada. Would it be to late If I were to cut a few oaks down now? And which would be Better? Spore prints or syringes? And how long would it take from start to finish? And would different strains of mushroom take longer then others? I plan on using golden teachers but will choose a different strain If there are easier ones. And should I be worried about contamination? Will the spores survive on the logs through canadas cold winters? Thanks.

  • Kenny Point

    CJ, spring is the best time to begin the process of growing mushrooms but they can be started as late as four weeks prior to winter setting in, so you do still have time to inoculate your oak logs. I am not familiar with using spore prints or syringes to grow mushrooms but using plugs or sawdust pawn would take thirty to sixty minutes to inoculate an average six foot section of hardwood log.

    A few species of mushrooms take longer to start fruiting but the average time is 9 – 12 months from inoculation to fruiting. I think the shiitake and oyster strains are pretty easy to start with. As long as the spawn has had a chance to acclimate before consistently cold weather set in the spores should tolerate the cold winters. Good luck growing your mushrooms and don’t forget that the logs need to be cut three to four weeks before you actually inoculate them with your mushroom spawn.

  • Bob Stannard

    Hey Kenny, what other logs besides oak work well? I have a lot of birch trees around me. Will they work well? I also have hardhack. I inoculated hardhack a couple of years ago, but the results have been disappointing. I cut them in late winter and inoculated them with spores, sawdust and covered with parafin wax (per instructions). Got a few but not that many. Your thoughts?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Bob, Birch trees aren’t usually highly recommended but I’ve found that they will work. My first mushrooms were shiitakes inoculated on birch logs and they did great and produced for a lot longer than I expected them to. I’m not familiar with the “hardhack” that you mentioned, but other good choices are popular, locust, and elm.

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  • Hey Kenny. Great website! I’m a newbie to growing mushrooms. Do you have any other resources, specifically blogs, that are about mushroom growing? Thanks!

  • Hi,
    thanks for the info.
    I start to have a mushrooms compost and micelle product.
    I like your spawns

  • t.maloi

    Please provide me with a quotation on mushroom seed i.e Button to be sent to Maseru and Welkom.

  • caglar

    It is a really helpful information about mushrooms. I live in a village and mushrooms are very important for us,
    there is also a very useful guide that i got great information about mushrooms:


  • Mushroom is very healty vegetable. We all like it’s taste much!

  • Bob Stannard

    Can Birch logs be used here in Vermont?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Bob, yes birch logs can be used to cultivate mushrooms but they are generally not considered to be as good as some of the thicker barked hardwoods like oak and poplar. My first try at growing mushrooms combined birch logs with shiitake mushroom plug spawn and they grew just fine and kept me supplied with large crops of delicious shiitake mushrooms for many years after they began fruiting. Good luck with your mushrooms and let us know how they produce for you in Vermont.

  • jolanda ingham

    Hi I would like to know where I could purchase mushroom kits. I live in Krugersdorp please forward info. Thanks, Jolanda.

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  • Linus Kwenani

    Hi Jolanda Ingham!

    Thank you very much for showing interest in outdoor mushroom growing. In case of mushroom kits, I think you need to be specific, since there are inoculation tools and sterilization equipments.

    In Namibia where I live, we normally buy some of the materials at Bio – Dynamics, Plastic Packaging and African Packaging. I don’t know if you have those companies in South Africa, because I have been in Krugersdorp for sometime back I should think they have that. Alternatively, try to ask the pharmacist where they normally buy their materials for the laboratory, I think they can be in the position to give you the answer.

    Wish you good luck

    Linus Kwenani – Namibia

  • Mushroom, mushroom, mushroom, Mantar
    Delicious one…
    I’d like to grow them in my apartment adn eat all of them.
    Thank u for ur post

  • deepa

    Hi, am looking for mushroom cultivation farms, where they would allow me to work along with them during weekends. Where do i get such info? I will be very grateful if i get some info about the farms in new jersey!!

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Deepa, I would just look for nearby mushroom farms in NJ, NY, PA, or DE and contact them until you find one that could use some help. Good luck!

  • deepa

    Hi kenny, thanks a lot. Will keep watching this space for the details

  • zoran

    Hi Kenny, you are blessing for us. I like to produce ganoderma lucidum using small logs so they can fit inside a house (few of them only).
    My question is, may I do it now, inoculate small logs (because they are practical and fruiting will be sooner), wrap them totally wet in nylon and put in shadow space when is cold weather and get them out to light in sumer time and expect fruiting in late sumer or autumn? Note that i can’t have all the time high temperature inside my home.
    I was looking the web about this, but could not find answers.

  • Kenny Point

    Thanks Zoran! My suggestion would be to try inoculating the mushroom logs indoors and see if they will take. I have grown the kits indoors but never tried to actually inoculate the logs indoors. It’s not recommended to inoculate and expose the logs to cold outdoor temps shortly after inoculating them but the wouldn’t be an issue in your home. If you try it please let me know the results that you get and whether it does provide you with earlier fruiting once the go outdoors.

  • zoran

    Thanks for answering. This where idea came from.


  • Herbert Itabangi

    Hello Kenny,

    Hope all is fine with you, I have really been looking around for some Information about Mushroom growing and when I came across your Video, It kind of gave me a head start, do really still have some questions though and hopeing to get my answers so as to facilitate my Mushroom farming which I have just kicked off here in Uganda.
    1). about using the log, How does it take some one to prepare the log and to get yields from it.
    the way I saw you do it I thought you safocated these spawn.
    2) in case you dont have the plugs what happens can I improvise and then seal off.
    3) can you please give me some more information about other forms of mushroom growing in case some one cant use the logs.


  • Jason

    Can mushrooms be grown on olive wood logs?

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Jason, I’m not familiar with olive wood, but in general mushrooms will grow on a wide variety of logs. In some cases there are mushroom strains that prefer or only grow on certain types of woods but you can obtain spawn for producing mushrooms on everything from hardwoods to pines.

  • hi we are a coop based in Durban. we want to plant oyster mushrooms. our problem is that we don’t know where to get seeds/corns. pleaswe will you let me know if there are any places that sell them so we can contact them.

    best regards

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Phili, try Fungi Perfecti, they have lots of info and supplies related to cultivating mushrooms.

  • Jeffrey McCall

    So do these thing need at least a little sunlight, what if you had a shed or barn filled with these mushroom logs, would that be just as good or would it be too dark… Do mushrooms even use sunlight?

  • karen

    Hi, could you tell me if it is possible to “plug” a tree that is still alive and growing? Why do you need to cut logs to plant the mushroom plugs in? I live in the woods, plenty of oak, and am wondering why I could not simply drill a few holes if several selected trees to harvest my mushrooms

  • Kenny Point

    Hi Karen, some fungi will colonize a living tree but in general trees give off compounds that prevent fungi from growing until after the tree has died. The fungi are actually part of the process of breaking down and decomposing dead wood.

  • tara freed

    i am looking to find out all equipment needed to start a mushroom farm and prices including mushroom houses. (south africa)

  • I have never tried this but I am a big fan of mushrooms so it is something I am going to be doing regular! Thank you for the tips!

  • Cowboy Farm

    What exactly in inoculating the log? Is it just cutting it and letting it go through a cold/winter period? Or do you have to do something special to the log like soak it and then let it freeze? Just wondering.

    Thanks a bunch….

  • Kenny Point

    Inoculating involves putting specific strains of mushroom spawn in contact with the log so that they can colonize it throughout and later produce mushrooms in the process. Here is a link to a recent article that describes the process: http://www.veggiegardeningtips.com/raising-gourmet-mushrooms-in-the-backyard-garden/

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