Fungus Farming

Last weekend I went to a mycoremediation workshop in Madison and learned a ton about inoculating mulches with mushroom spawn, and was even able to score three bags of Oyster Mushroom spawn for my own projects.  Here is a photo journey through my first project.  Site selection was a bit tricky – I would prefer to have a shaded moist spot, but as we are still less than 5 years in this home and all our trees are under 15′, we have no shade to speak of other than the north side of our home – and that space is taken with my “recycling center” of compost bins and vermiculture area.  Instead I chose a spot on the east end of my large rain garden which is situated on the west end of my home.  It will be shaded until about 11am and then become shaded again at about 4.   That is likely too much sun, but I get volunteer mushrooms in similar sites in the gardens, so I am willing to give it a try.  More importantly – with its proximity to the rain garden it will be moist more often than not.  I am even hoping that the mycelium will creep into the rain garden’s mulch and help filter that water as well.

First off you will need some Mushroom Spawn:

 

.5 gallons of Oyster Mushroom spawn in a sawdust medium - the white is mycelium.

.5 gallons of Oyster Mushroom spawn in a sawdust medium - the white is mycelium.

Once that is in hand, you will need something to grow it in:

 

3/4 yard of wood chip mulch from our municipal yard

3/4 yard of wood chip mulch from our municipal yard

Yep – I tow with a VW Golf.  With the TDI engine’s torque and an upgraded Bilstein/H&R suspension it can handle over 1500#’s.  Now that I have the growing medium and the spawn for innoculating, it was time to prep the ground.  In this case I scraped the area down to the top soil to remove any Quack rhizomes:

 

The bed is about 15' long and 1-3' wide.

The bed is about 15' long and 1-3' wide.

Scraping it wasn’t really necessary, but I wanted a clean start.  Next up I laid down a mat of clean straw.  The thought here is that straw is easily digested by the fungus, and the long pieces act like a highway for the mycelium and help it to spread very quickly:

 

Wheat and Oat straw...16 bales free!  Thank you Craigslist!

Wheat and Oat straw...16 bales free! Thank you Craigslist!

If you hadn’t noticed, I chose the morning after a rain for this project – the straw and mulch were already fairly damp and I soaked each layer well before moving on. Once the straw was laid out about 1/2-1″ thick, I threw down a layer of municipal wood chips about 2-3″ thick and crumpled about 30% of the spawn into this:

 

Mixed wood chips - pine and hardwood plus some green leaves and twigs

Mixed wood chips - pine and hardwood plus some green leaves and twigs

The mulch is not ideal for mushroom growing – it had lain on the municipal pile for over a week and likely other fungus had begun to colonize it.  Also, it was composting on site, and the cooler sections were a bit moldy.  All of these would typically be a no-no for starting a fungus bed (clean, fresh chips free of mold are best), but Oyster Mushrooms are allegedly hyper aggressive and typically out compete most everything so I worked with what I had.  I repeated the steps 3 more times: Straw, water, Mulch+inoculant, water and then finally capped the now 1′ tall mound with a thick layer of straw to act as a mulch to keep the inner chips moist and shaded:

 

Viola!  Total time including running for chips was under 1 hour.

Viola! Total time including running for chips was under 1 hour.

It is possible that I will see mushrooms this fall as Oysters typically fruit in the Autumn, but more likely it will be 2010.  I have also used another packet under one of my Peach Tree guilds.  There I am less concerned about  eating the mushrooms, rather I would like to have them colonize the mulch and I will let them drop spores to hopefully naturalize to some degree to improve the soil fertility in that bed.

This was an uber simple project – total time was under an hour.  If you would like to start a bed of your own, I highly recommend Fungi Perfecti as a source of spawn and information.  Very helpful folks!  Fungus Farming is a great method to function stack in odd places in your yard – producing mineral rich food while drastically increasing the soil’s diversity and fertility with little effort.  What’s not to like?

Be the Change!

-Rob

5 Responses

  1. I know I mentioned this before, but I highly recommend Fungi Perfecti’s Three Amigos pack: Garden Oyster (Hypsizygus ulmarius), the Garden Giant (Stropharia rugoso-annulata) and the Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus). They’ve really helped my garden’s productivity, and they’ve been tasty as well.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! This is exactly the kind of succinct info I’ve been looking for.

  3. I’d like to recomend a Wisconsin company called Field and Forest (which is much closer to home for me than fungi Perfecti.) They carry many varieties of spawn and their catalog is very informative. I am currently growing 2 different types of Oyster and wine cap Stropharia also. It’s great to grow food in the shady parts of my yard! Good luck to you.

  4. I got my plugs from fungi perfecti this spring, I am hoping to put the area under the deck to productive use. I dropped a few innoculated logs under it and now, like you, I’m in wait and see mode.

    I really want to try growing king stropharia alongside some veggies next year.

    great post Rob!

  5. Hey Rob,

    Just came across your site yesterday when I googled permaculture guilds or some such. Well done sir, excellent site!

    I’ve been growing shiitake on logs for the past several years and from doing a lot of mushroom research am now a huge fan of Paul Stamets. If you haven’t already you should check out his book Mycelium Running from 2005. He’s all over this backyard mushroom patch concept. Totally low-tech. Cardboard and woodchips.

    Keep up the work. So much to be done.

    Paul–Northampton, MA

    Looking forward to reading

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