Ever thought about growing your own mushrooms? They can grow in all sorts of medium such as straw, woodchip, cardboard and coffee grounds. We don’t have to be limited to the button mushrooms we see in the supermarkets; there are literally thousands of edible types.
One way my partner and I have experimented with growing mushrooms is by inoculating hard wood logs. We buy dowels impregnated with the mushroom mycelium and just drill holes in the log and bang them in. The mycelium will then take between 8 months and a year to spread through the log and will give spring and autumn crops for up to 4 years! We are currently growing, Oyster, Shiitake, Lions mane and Chicken of the woods. It is very exciting.
When choosing a log it is important to go for the right type, most mushrooms do not grow in pine and dislike fruit wood but love oak and ash. The best time to cut the log is in winter when the sugars are in the wood, not the leaves as this is what the mycelium eats up.
When you have cut your log leave it to rest for a couple of weeks so that the sap loses its anti-fungal properties, some people leave them ‘to rest’ for 4 weeks or more but this can raise the risk of other competitive fungi inhabiting your log.
So now you have your log and your dowels (there are plenty of places on the internet to buy them from).
Usually, the correct sized drill bit is supplied with the dowels. Drill your holes about 6 inches apart and tap the dowels in, you will also be supplied with cheese wax, this is to seal the dowels in the holes and must be heated so it sizzles when you dab it over the hole. The wax keeps the moisture in and competing for fungi out!
All that is left is to put the log somewhere shady and damp. It is really important that it does not dry out. In time you will see the white mycelium at the end of the log. If you are growing Shiitake you could try forcing it to fruit by dropping it, banging it, or it soaking in in water.
Last but not least, beware of slugs!! They just love mushrooms and will eat your precious crop overnight!
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