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Beginner's (mis)adventures and questions: Stropharia, Shiitake, Oyster, King Oyster

 
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Hi everybody!

I live in London (UK) and we have a little rented garden.
Last summer I got into gardening and, among others things, I mulched much of the garden with hardwood chips and tried my hand at growing several types of mushrooms in beds and bags.
With very limited success, I should add.
This year I am giving it another go, but with a few kits and bags of straws instead, in the hope to do a bit better.

I have been lurking on this forum quite often over the last year, to try and figure out what I did wrong.
I was hoping to describe what I did with various species and ask a  few questions in the hope someone can clarify things for me.
Apologies if my post will end up being too long by forum standards. If it is better form not to bunch up too many questions together, please let me know and I will repost as several posts.

King Stropharia
I inoculated with spawn more than 6 sq meters of soaked woodchips last summer, and it worked very well, in that within a few months the beds had turned into a solid mass of white spawn just under the surface.
However, I only saw one mushroom in Autumn! And that was very good looking but half eaten already by some pest.
I think gray squirrels, but perhaps rats or slugs, might be the culprit.
I am about to make some cages around the beds, with wooden sides and liftable lids covered in netting or perhaps horticultural fleece, which should prevent even slugs, but not rain, to get in.
Then I will replenish the woodchips and hope for the best.

 


Question: is there any way to encourage Stropharia in beds to fruit?
I was thinking of watering it, but then, it has rained quite a lot over the last months, I checked often and, while it is a huge block of white spawn under the surface, I spotted no mushrooms at all..
Perhaps I should cover it the area with a taurpaline?

King Oyster and Pioppino
I inoculated several square meters in the back of the garden, which is extremely shady and way to dark for any vegetables to grow.
Again, I used hardwood chips (soaked for several days before hand), and covered the bottom with cardboard.
No luck at all.. The spawn seem to work for a while, I kept it wet, but then just died out.
The only patch which seemed to develop was covered by some boards.

Question: do King Oyster beds need to be covered for the spawn to take over?
I followed the instructions for the spawn (3kg every 1,5 square meter) but perhaps is it better practise to inoculate a large post of woodchips, let it turn into a giant amoutn fo spawn and then inoculate the bed with that?

Shiitake
Here, given the previous failures, I took no chances.
I boiled the woodchips in small batches on my stove (making a giant mess of the kitchen and seriously endangering my marriage in the process, but anywyay).
Then I put it in several unicorn bags with fine filters, and experimented with 100% woodchips, but also 30% spent ground coffee, 50% ground coffee, and also 30% straws.
They all took forever to develop.
In the end, I put the bags in my shelter in the garden over the winter, well covered and protected from light, and only now some turned into big white or brown blocks, and one started fruiting.
I have to say, the spent ground coffee was not very effective, but then the strain was meant to be used with hardwood.

 

 


Question: What shall I do now to have them fruit?
Shall I take them out of the bags and perhaps hang them in netting (so to leave exposed the whole block)?
Do they need to be soaked and/or refrigerated beforehand?
Do they need to be kept in the dark while fruiting, or partial shade?

Oyster in straw
Two weeks ago I bought a kit with two bags of straw and spawn in grains.
I pasteurized the straw with boiling water poured in the bag, left a few hours and then drained.
They are developing already.

2019-03-30-00h56-21

Question: Once I get a few flushes, can I use what is left to spawn more straw?
Are Oyster which can grow in straw specific to straw only, or can they grow on hardwood chips too?
If they can, I would like to try spawning an outdoor bed..

King Oyster block kits
I found a deal for three kits, which came as blocks already spawned, but with instructions for another kit.
Given the seller is not getting back to me with the right instructions, and given they were fruiting already, I improvised, tooking them out of the bags and letting them grow in darkness, spraying with water every day.
I am not sure what substrate they were grown on and have no way to check with the seller.

2019-03-30-00h57-58  



Question:
Is it a reasonable guess that the substrate must be hardwood, so suitable for inoculating hardwood dust or chips, after they fruit a few times?
Is it ok to let them fruit in darkness, or is it better to let some light in?

Fruiting cupboard
I was thinking of making a cupboard in my garden shelter, only for storing the fruiting blocks.
My idea was to enclose it in transparent sheeting, given I read that mushroom spores are not healthy, and I use the shelter as a workshop too, so I want to protect the mushrooms from wood dust.

Question: is it a bad idea to put different species fruiting in the same space?
Will they interfere with each other?


Ok, that was the last clueless question

I really hope somebody can stop by and give me some directions.

Thanks for reading!

Aldo
 
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Aldo,

First of all I would say congratulations for taking on so many different mushroom projects at once--that takes some guts and determination.  Like you, I too and a relative newbie at growing mushrooms, and I have come here several times looking for information about how to grow and what to expect from my mushroom projects.  I have only used Stropharia in my project as my main goal is to break down wood chips with edible mushrooms being a distant second place goal (don't get me wrong though--I still want to eat some Wine Caps!).  As such, I will only comment on the Wine Cap mushrooms as this is the only mushroom with which I have any first-hand experience.

So my project was more focused than yours (Wine Caps only), but a larger scale.  My mushroom bed was about 6 feet wide by about 18 feet long (Check my math but I think that is about 12 square meters) and about 1 foot deep.  I inoculated this with two packages of wine cap spores that totaled about 11 pounds.  From what I have learned, this was FAR too little spores for the volume I was trying to decompose.  I inoculated my bed on April 10, 2018 and by fall I only found 4 mushrooms and they were pretty small, so small that I am not even certain that they were wine caps, but then I never checked them closely as I was busy with other tasks.  What I have learned in the past year is that the fungal mycelia and hyphae must thoroughly innervate the wood substrate, consume it, and basically run out of food before they will produce mushrooms.  As I understand things (and I could be wrong here) is that the fungi will be plenty happy to eat up wood day and night for months, maybe even over a year.  As long as they have a ready supply of wood to eat, they have no particular reason to produce a visible mushroom.  The mushroom is the sexual organ of the fungi.  It forms when the rest of the fungi starts to run low on food.  Producing a mushroom and releasing spores is the fungal method of survival--on another wooded substrate.  So as long as you have woody "food" for the fungi, there is no reason for the fungi to release spores.

In my case, it would appear that I should have used much more fungal starter to get a better jump-start, or I should have used a vastly smaller amount of wood chips so they could be eaten faster.  Hopefully this year, at least some of the fungi will run short on woody food and find the need to produce mushrooms.


So what exactly does this mean for your wine cap mushrooms.  My first thought is that you may not have enough initial loading for your volume of wood chips.  In addition, I have been told that wine caps in particular like to have at least some contact/communication to the underlying soil.  The few mushrooms I did see were directly adjacent to fertile holes I dug in my chip bed and filled with topsoil and manure.  I suspect that these few areas did run short of woody food for the fungi and thus they sprouted mushrooms.

So among the possibilities for you wine cap bed are the following:

1)  not enough contact with the soil

2)  not enough fungi/too much woody substrate

3)  simply not enough time has passed for the fungi to grow and push up mushrooms

4)  possibly not enough bacteria in the chips.  Wine Caps do like to grow with bacterial cultures.  It is possible to add in additional bacterial cultures into your chips


From the sounds of what you describe, my suggestion would be simply to wait and encourage more fungal growth.  You mentioned that the fungi had thoroughly infiltrated the wood ships so I would not replace these chips but maybe just add to them.  Ideally, wine caps actually like to have some dappled sunlight unlike virtually all other types of mushrooms.  Perhaps you can adjust the lighting levels.

This has been quite the experience for me as well and I too am eagerly awaiting my first flush of mushrooms.  Hopefully I will see some as the weather warms up a bit, but we will just have to wait and see.  


This is a great thread to start and while I can only speak for my own experiences, hopefully these experiences combined with those much more knowledgeable than myself can assist you better.

I hope this helps,

Eric

 
Aldo Caldo
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Thanks for writing such a detailed answer, Eric, much appreciated!

While it is a pleasant thought, I am not sure whether me going for multiple species is indicative of guts and determination :)
In truth, given I was anyway buying woodchips in bulk, I tried to cover as many bases as possible in the hope that at least one thing worked out.
Actually, even with my first attempt at gardening last year, I started thinking strawberries and tomatoes, and ended up trying all kind of stuff for the same reason.

You make some very good points.

Contact with soil
This could be a problem.
I prepared both beds with cardboard as the first layer, and one was just over weeds and grass, so another layer between the mycelia and the soil.

Not enough Fungi or too much substrate
I did over spawn, so probably that was not the issue. Compared to the other species, the Stropharia colonized very fast, within 6 weeks (it was a very warm summer).
As a comparison, I used the same amount of spawn you did, but my substrate volume was a quarter (6 square meters and 15cm deep, so half the are and half the depth).
However, as you point out, in order for the colony to produce mushrooms resources must be low.
Admittedly, only now the beds have reduced visibly in depth and to an extent size, so perhaps last year there was still lots of woodchips to consume.

Not enough time
Certainly possible. However Stropharia is fast compared to most strains, and one bed did produce a very good looking mushroom in in autumn, which fell immediately pray to animals.
So, tecnically it seems that the conditions for fruiting were there to an extent already.

Not enough bacteria
That is a very good point. I was not aware of the fact that bacteria colonies can help Stropharia.
Thing is, when I prepared my woodchips I unwittingly performed what some call "cold pasteurization" (not the high pressure variety).
Because of other commitments, I left the woodchips soak for longer than expected (over 5 days in very warm weather).
I understand that this causes aerobic bacteria to die, followed by the anaerobic bacteria when chips are left to dry for some time.
Not quite as efficient as boiling the woodchips, but it does indeed curb down microbial activity.
So, it is possible that by doign so I killed off useful strains of bacteria.

You mention that it is possible to supplement bacteria colonies. Any tips on how to do so?

Light exposure
This is an interesting one.
From what I read before preparing the beds, Stropharia is one type of mushroom which is relatively tolerant of light.
Because of that, I  saved the back of the garden , which really never see direct light, for pioppino and King Oyster.
The Stropharia went under a cordon apple, which in summer provides good shadow and filtered light only, but in Winter and spring is bare.
The other bed is in a corner, wedged between a tall fence, a tall bush and a trampoline.
That spot is generally quite dark, but it does get direct sunlight at noon.

So, it is possible that too much light is the issue.
Confusingly, I just read somewhere that light exposure is truly an issue because it reduces humidity. I need to research this fact more, as I was under the impression that light in itself was damaging to mycelium strains.

Plus, I think squirrels and perhaps rats and slugs are definitely after my mushrooms. A large patch of wild mushrooms which appeared not long ago was eaten up within days.

In conclusion:
There is probably nothing I can do about soil contact I think, beyond perhaps making other beds with no cardboard lining.
I could research how to supplement bacteria colonies, if not too expensive and time consuming.

However, I could tackle both pests and light exposure/humidity by building cages over the beds, lining the top with horticultural fleece or other materials which stops light but let rain and air in.
I will give that a go.

Done that with the existing beds and a few new ones, to be inoculated with the remains of my new oyster kits, I might buy a few cubic meters of woodchips and perhaps make another caged bed for Stropharia just under the trampoline, a spot which is definitely quite dark, humid and easy to protect.

Again, thanks for your help Eric.
It got me thinking and I feel a bit less lost :)



 
Eric Hanson
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Aldo,

I can think of one thing you might be able to do about soil contact.  When I first made my bed I was absolutely itching to see the fungi at work ravenously breaking down the chips into something like peat moss.  However, I knew it would be some time before this would happen and since I had other beds that were absolutely heaping full of piles of chips (as in 4'-5' tall fresh wood chips) I wanted my chip bed to do something productive while the wine caps worked their magic.  What I did was to dig 8 fertile holes I filled with a roughly 50-50 mixture of store bought topsoil and manure.  I realize that the store was not an ideal place to get these, but that is what I had to work with at the time.  At any rate, I excavated out 8 holes and refilled with a couple of shovel fulls of topsoil-manure.  The excess chips simply were scattered across the top of the bed, perhaps adding an extra inch.  I then planted tomatoes into the fertile holes.

A few months later some changes were noticeable.  Obviously the wine cap spores were doing their thing because the fertile holes turned into fertile mounds--the entire surface of the chips dropped by probably 2-4 inches.  At the time of planting, the fertile holes were not quite filled to level with the rest of the chip surface--they were filled to probably 1 inch below the surface level.  When I was digging out the wood chips to make room for the manure-soil, I kept the excavated chips in the bucket of my tractor.  After planting the tomatoes, I added the excavated chips (there were a lot of them) first to add a surface layer of mulch over the manure-soil, probably about 1 inch.  I then added in the rest of the chips more or less evenly across the entire bed, adding perhaps another inch.  By this point I estimate that the manure-soil was 2 inches beneath the surface of the chips.  Over summer the tomatoes grew nicely and the deer ate all the tomatoes (another story) and by fall when I went out looking around for mushrooms I found 4 small ones growing right at the interface of the chips and soil.  A couple of months later (December) and the fertile holes once buried with two inches of mulch now protruded about 2 inches above the surface of the chips.  Please check my math and these are estimates, but this sounds to me like the surface of the chips dropped by four inches.

The changes kept on coming.  In December I was really wondering why I had not seen vast fields of wine caps--I thought I had done everything right.  The chips had obviously dropped and the chips were dark brown/black as opposed to the blonde color they had in April when I first inoculated the chips.  So some decomposition was clearly happening, though by some accounts I had gotten the impression that these fungi should have devoured the entire pile--naive thinking on my part.  One month later and I had some dramatic changes.  We had a warm December with plenty of rain and hardly any sun--perfect fungi conditions.  By January, I checked on the bed and I was distinctly surprised when I stepped onto the bed.  The bed sort of squished and gave way.  The surface felt almost like a soft mattress, almost with a little bounce in it.  One month earlier when I stepped onto the bed, the surface resisted my weight, with each chip retaining most of its own strength and rigidity.  By January the chips on the surface lost most of their strength and crumbled with no effort if I picked one up and applied even a little pressure.  What I was told was that the lignin had been largely broken down (apparently in the preceding month) and when I dug into the chips, white mylelia crisscrossed everywhere I looked.  Most noticeably, the softness and the mycelia were most prominent in the middle of the pile.  

When I dug the fertile holes, I did so in a 2x4 pattern that left a strip about 18" wide by about 6' long.  Now the area in between the fertile holes is darker and softer, and the mycelia more obvious.  My thoughts for you is that it may not be too late for you to do something about the soil/chip contact.  I was told not to till or mix soil and chips together, but that digging the fertile holes might give a bit more surface area to work with without having soil mixed everywhere throughout the bed.  Perhaps you could dig a couple of fertile holes?  I planted tomatoes partly because I thought that they would provide the dappled sunlight that wine caps seem to like best.  Maybe you could gently dig a couple of small fertile holes and plant in them?  It is your bed, so you do what you think is best, but maybe this is an avenue you could explore.

I wish you the best of luck on your project.  It would also be interesting to see how your project advances so please keep us up to date.  I am learning this too, so I would love to see things that you got right that I got wrong.

Good luck,

Eric
 
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I've been resisting commenting because I'm pretty recently infected with the mushroom bug.

Some good videos
This is a great set of videos. He expands spawn on cardboard and then puts the cardboard or coffee bags down as a base layer. This is much quicker, the mycelium is really ready to colonize, and you need much less spawn.

Unfortunately, something was off. I used fresh chips from that day, didn't sterilize (because you shouldn't have mycelium in really fresh chips from a healthy tree, just spores), and did it just like in the video. I think it may have been too dry, or not enough kitchen scraps/nitrogen. Anyhow, it didn't work. I would try it again and probably will next time I'm making a patch. Right now I'm more interested in other mushrooms.

I made a patch with straight spawn, not expanded, and it did well pretty much like Eric is discussing. I don't think the sunlight is a major issue, but the soil moisture can be. It needs to be pretty moist in that layer of chips. I let the grass grow up through it for shade, and we had a wet summer. I would put it in pretty deep shade if you are not going to water it in dry periods. Mine is under a pine tree.

One thing that is murder on stropharia is chickens. They ate all the mycelium in that patch, and appear to have been very thorough. We shall see, I should be getting them around now and haven't seen them. Other birds may do the same, and that could be your issue. It is so bad I quit using sawdust spawn because the birds will peck through the wax to get the spawn. I've had to switch to peg spawn.
 
Eric Hanson
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TJ,

The time period after being bitten by the mushroom bug is the perfect time to comment!

So far it sounds like we are in the same boat mushroom speaking.  My chip bed is certainly decomposing and it sounds like yours is as well.  Like yourself, I am itching for my first real mushroom (and occasionally wondering why I have not seen them yet).  If things go well this summer then I will convert all my beds to mushroom compost and when I inoculate I will use a lot more spores to do so.

Good luck on your project and thanks for the video.  Keep us updated with your project.

Eric
 
Tj Jefferson
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Eric, I didn't make it clear in the post (oops), but the non-expanded spawn under fresh chips got me a bunch of stropharia. They are OK, not in my top three for sure, they do taste like asparagus cooked in a red wine sauce, kinda. The expanded spawn didn't expand. Then the chickens cleaned me out this winter during their rotation through the section that contained the inoculated chips.  

I don't think in this climate I have to inoculate with anything at all. Left for six months there are mycelium in every chip pile. I could speed it up with a mushroom slurry, but again, that is down the task list. If I start really coming into the stropharia after the reinoculation this spring, I think I will try the mushroom slurry with stropharia, because apparently it has mycorrhyzal benefit, while the false turkey tail and LBMs don't in my understanding. I have better mushrooms to eat, frankly. I do think they are nice used the way we used to use portabella as a base for herbs and maybe cheese as like a tapas kind of scenario, before we became incorrigible mushroom snobs and quit eating them.

 
Tj Jefferson
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when I inoculate I will use a lot more spores to do so.  



Not to nit pick, but one very important distinction is that we are not generally inoculating with spores, we grow spores out on a substrate to inoculate with actual mycelium- making spawn. Those little grains and sawdust have mycelium just waiting to take over a nice uninhabited area, and by using mycelium we can prefer one culture over the spores in the area, because they are ahead in the life cycle. It's why you need to put spawn in pretty frequently if you don't want contamination. This is a brief primer. There are probably a mix of hyphae and small mycelium in a typically purchased bag of sawdust, but if you leave it it is more white, meaning it's more mycelium. Fungi take some time to go from spores to viable mycelium, so I use fresh chips without sterilizing, since they should be mycelium-free, but have lots of spores. IF you are growing in bags it's different, but the moment you put your nice sterilized chips out in the grass they are loaded with spores again. So I skip that step- ONLY if the chips are really recent and its been cold. Honestly, the stropharia are not really doing much until the soil/chip temps are in the 50F range probably anyway, so even if you put down your spawn before that, there are other fungi making a move.
 
Eric Hanson
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TJ,

Well in that case, congratulations on actually getting mushrooms, unlike myself.  If I were to guess, I imagine my problem was not getting enough spawn for my large volume of chips.  

On the other hand, my main goal for my wine caps was to get great mushroom compost, with actual mushrooms being secondary.  After I checked this morning, I found the center of my bed to look and feel more like deep used coffee grounds as opposed to actual wood chips, so in that sense I have been successful.

Now on to actually getting mushrooms and converting my other two beds with wine caps.  If I get really ambitious, I may eventually try re-inoculating an older bed with some other type of mushroom such as an oyster mushroom, but that is for another season.

Nice to hear you had some good luck with your project.

Eric
 
Aldo Caldo
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Eric Hanson wrote:My thoughts for you is that it may not be too late for you to do something about the soil/chip contact.  I was told not to till or mix soil and chips together, but that digging the fertile holes might give a bit more surface area to work with without having soil mixed everywhere throughout the bed.  Perhaps you could dig a couple of fertile holes?  I planted tomatoes partly because I thought that they would provide the dappled sunlight that wine caps seem to like best.  Maybe you could gently dig a couple of small fertile holes and plant in them?  It is your bed, so you do what you think is best, but maybe this is an avenue you could explore.

I wish you the best of luck on your project.  It would also be interesting to see how your project advances so please keep us up to date.  I am learning this too, so I would love to see things that you got right that I got wrong.



Thanks Eric!

That is an interesting idea.
I might give it a go, however probably with plants other than tomatoes, given the area is a bit too shady in Summer, on account of the cordon apple tree just above .
Courgettes did well just a few feets away though, and a self-pollinating variety could actually do well even if inside the cage I am planning to encase the whole bed in.

However, I need to think about it.
Fitting plants in might require making a cage way taller than I planned, unless of course I stick to rocket, radish, carrots and other small species.
Also, given the proximity of an apple tree, a large blackberry bush and some very vigorous climber, the soil is likely to be packed with roots.
If I were to try, it would be ring colture style, with a full bottomless pot stuck into the mycelia. In any case I was planning to remove some of the mycelia and break it down to spawn a few smaller beds in other locations.

For the moment, I ordered some fine horticoltural netting, which  will cut down light a fraction, retain humidity a bit more and, more importantly, prevent any slug, insect or mammal to enjoy my mushrooms, if that is actually one of the issues.

Let's see how it goes.
We tried our first Shiitake yesterday, with pasta and in a soup (the stem seems to work well in soups).
It was quite nice actually and my wife asked me to grow more, so, at last, a success :)




 
Eric Hanson
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Also,

By all means, plant whatever seems appropriate.  The only reason I planted tomatoes is that I like tomatoes.

Eric
 
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Aldo, TJ, everyone,

My wine cap chip bed is finally producing actual mushrooms!  I am a little surprised by where exactly they decided to pop up.  The garden bed is a raised bed with sides made out of old oak logs that fell a decade ago.  In one 12” section, the logs don’t touch and the chips just slope down to earth.  In this 12” section, adjacent to two logs, covered in some residual straw and only a few inches above ground level the mushrooms are popping up left and right.  I am not going to eat these mushrooms yet as they got pretty big pretty fast and appear to have dried out (we have had some strong, warm southern winds).

This is making me think about how I will inoculate my second chip bed this spring (hopefully in the next week or so).  Given my observations and some useful thoughts from Redhawk, I am thinking of a couple of changes.

1)  I want to try mixing some bagged manure (the only type I have access to) with my chips in a portion of my new bed just to see if it changes how fast the new spawn will grow.  Thus far I have seen stropharia grow better in contact with soil, so we will see how things go.

2)  I think I will try burying some inoculated straw under the chips.  My thinking is that the straw will get colonized faster than wood chips.  If the chip level drops I can always add in more chips.

3). I think that the reason for my mushrooms taking so long to pop up is that the top inch of chips goes through cycles of being very wet followed by drying out.  I am going to try to keep a thicker layer of straw on top of the chips to regulate moisture.

This has been quite the learning experience for me.  Thanks to all who have chimed in.  Please let me know if I am doing something wrong or if I can improve on a point.

Thanks,

Eric
 
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This has been an interesting thread to read, I love to see first timers figuring things out on their own, the lessons stick far better in my opinion.

Mushrooms are the mycelium reproduction organs, so, you won't get mushrooms until the strata (your growing medium, what ever it is) is fully colonized with no where else to go.

Using plastic bags to hold the growing medium is fine but you need to have holes in the bag, both for moisture control and for a way for the fruits to grow outside the bag (the bags are substitute logs and mushrooms come through the bark layer usually).
If you are growing indoors, in bags, then you really want to make sure the bags have enough holes, bacteria are in the air (everywhere) and the fungi will help those species of bacteria it needs to thrive and it will eat those that are harmful.

growing mushrooms is a "plant and wait" situation, since there aren't going to be any fruits (the mushrooms) until the growing medium is fully colonized, the larger the amount of medium, the longer it will take to see fruits.
Some fungi can take as long as two years to reach this saturation point in an 8" by 4 foot "mushroom log, be patient.
Once you know the medium is fully occupied by the mycelium, you can soak (saturate) with water and set upright (if logs are used) or hang in dappled light so the fruiting will occur.

When growing "in ground" the bed needs to have the growing medium worked into the soil so the mycelium can grow "underground" just as they do in a forest. (a "rain wand" type waterer is great for forcing an in ground bed to fruit)

Using manures is fine as long as you have steam sterilized it prior to inoculation, this is so no other fungi are present at the outset, fungi will do battle via toxins exuded to ward off interlopers.

King Stroph is a ground dweller, make your beds similar to the natural habitat and you will have greater success.

Reshi is perhaps one of the hardest to grow since it prefers logs or large stumps for a medium, I have one set up that has been working for two years now and I expect that this will be my first "Reshi year".

Once you have success with growing oysters and shitake, you have the knowledge to be successful with all the other yummy mushrooms, as well as the medicinal mushrooms.

Redhawk
 
Eric Hanson
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Aldo, TJ, Redhawk, everyone,

Redhawk was spot on about figuring out your own way when starting mushrooms, but his tutelage is also invaluable and I am writing this in the hopes that someone else might benefit from my experience, both my successes and failures.

Just after my last post I checked the garden again and the results are very promising.  I found several additional mushrooms popping up around the edges of the garden, especially next to the oak logs.  Additionally, I was poking around the garden in a particularly decomposed area in between fertile holes.  The chip level there has dropped by almost 6 inches since inoculation last spring.  As I was poking through the decomposed chips I found a nice collection of mushrooms still buried trying to poke their way up to the surface.  This gives me encouragement that the process is indeed at work and basically doing well.  Their main purpose was after all to decompose wood chips so on that front I think they are working well.

A couple of weeks observations I have made is that plant roots in the medium seem to do wonders for accelerating the growth of spawn.  When I pulled out a couple of weeds growing in the chips, their roots were covered in mycelium.  I have planted in peas to fix nitrogen, provide cover and provide roots for the mycelium.

Also, my top inch or so of chips does not stay consistently moist, going through cycles of being soaked followed by drying out.  I did initially completely cover the chips with a thick layer of straw to regulate moisture, but I think the spawn has decomposed that layer almost completely as there are hardly any pieces of straw left.

I initially had plans to add in more spawn this year, but I think it is pretty obvious that the bed has plenty of spawn as is.  I am going to have to add in more chips to bring the level back up anyways.

I do have two new beds to inoculate and as I do I use the information I have gained over the last year.  Mostly I was impatient and concerned that I had missed some critical step, but now it is clear that I just had to wait.

I am attaching pictures to show some of the progress.

Eric
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Patch of wine caps in between logs
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Close up of wine caps next to a log
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Peas planted as a multi-purpose cover crop
 
Eric Hanson
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Hello everyone,

I wanted to post this as an update to my previous post on this thread.  I am directing this in particular to Aldo and TJ, who are in the beginning stages of starting mushrooms, and generally to anyone thinking about starting mushrooms, especially wine caps.  A year ago I started this venture with almost no direct knowledge and a lot of uncertainty about how things would work out.  I have to admit that I was terrible impatient and a bit disappointed when I did not get mushrooms by fall.  Mostly, I just needed to sit back, wait and be patient.  I did get some encouraging developments by late January when plentiful rains and a warm early winter really accelerated the growth of the hyphae and now in April, almost exactly a year later I am seeing plentiful mushrooms popping up all over the chip-bed.  

I am attaching the pictures here because as of my last post, these mushrooms simply did not exist (on the surface).  Every couple of days a new patch of mushrooms appears from some random spot on the chip bed.  In the very few places where I dig down to see what the growth medium looks like, I find numerous white strands, especially where weed roots had been present, and the former wood chips are now dark, brown-black partially woody, soft and moist--much like a growing medium should be.  The overall level of the chip bed has dropped by several inches (I went and measured against a former fertile hole which had been buried 2" deep in wood chips--now it protrudes 3" above the surface of the wood chips) and I will likely have to add in more chips this year to keep up with the decomposition.  Also, as this bed has borders made of oak logs, I will be surprised if the logs survive the season which means I will need new side barriers by next spring or maybe fall.

I am including pictures to show new mushrooms that were not present just a few days ago.  It is worth noting that many of these mushrooms have gotten quite large, about the size of my hands.

The first 4 pictures are of new mushroom growth.  The last picture is of my new wood chip bed that I have posted about in other threads.  On the right hand side I planted 8 tomato plants in fertile holes.  The left side will only be inoculated shortly and covered with straw (I will also inoculate the wood chips in between the tomatoes and cover with straw).  With luck, this bed will thoroughly colonized this year and pushing up mushrooms next year by about this time.  On the outside of the left side of the bed are a pair of comfrey plants that I will use to help fertilize the bed.  In a sense, the mushrooms and the comfrey serve the same purpose--they add in fertility to my garden bed perpetually and for free.  Ultimately I don't want to have to go the the garden center for any fertility whatsoever.

In the background you can see a wood line that is actually a living fence that provides me with a virtually inexhaustible supply of wood chips every year.  Each year I go out and trim some of the trees/bushes and chip them up.  I never kill off the existing woody plants so that they will grow back and give me more chips in the future.  Also, I just love having a vibrant, living fence.

I had a lot of insecurities with this project and made a few mistakes as I went along.  I am posting this for others who are trying similar projects and either need a little information or need a little reassurance along the way.

If anyone is trying a similar project and needs help, please don't hesitate to ask.  I hope that this post can be helpful to someone.

Eric

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New Mushrooms
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A baby wine cap
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A brand new patch of large mushrooms
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A Wine Cap feeding on a log
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My new chip bed, tomatoes planted, to be inoculated with wine caps soon
 
Aldo Caldo
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Well done Eric, I am glad your patches are producing!

Following some heavy rain, mine have proved to be productive, but unfortunately my assumption was correct.. The reason why I did not see any mushrooms was pests competition..

This time I caught them kind of on time, when the mushroom were still inch-size, and covered the whole thing with some really fine horticultural netting secured with 40 or so pegs.
Unfortunately, the damage done to the small mushrooms was quite massive already, so they have grown considerably but with plenty of holes.
I should have dug some barriers in advance, but when I realized that the mycelia had colonized the soil well beyond the patch, I felt bad digging through it, but I cannot be helped, if I want to see some mushrooms.

Tomorrow I will collect these, and cut away the part which have been bitten.
Hopefully, with some cooking , they will be safe to eat..





Out of desperation I made a fruiting chamber in the garden for my shiitake and oyster, sticking in a bunch of wet perlite AND a cheap battery powered humidifier :D
At least that works, I might add an air intake with a fan powered at regular intervals and see how it fares..





Good luck with your next projects!
 
Eric Hanson
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Aldo,

Thanks for the comment, it has been a really rewarding experience growing mushrooms.  I did not harvest a terribly high percentage of those that came up, as they grew huge quickly and lost their appeal.  Also, like you, plenty of other critters beat me to the mushrooms.  In the end I did get a few and I liked them.  For me though the mushrooms were always a (tasty and desired) side effect, with compost they make the main goal.  I am blown away by how thoroughly they have broken down the chips.

Your patch looks wonderful!  I like the cheesecloth idea you had for keeping moisture in and munching critters out.  It looks like you will have plenty of mushrooms as long as they keep producing.

Good luck and please keep us updated!

Eric
 
Tj Jefferson
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Stropharia is definitely hard to get before the bugs. Here they must be picked barely past button stage if you want any, the slugs are voracious. If you leave them longer then the fungus gnats are all over them. I am having fewer problems now that the toads are out. I would recommend a pile of stones for toad habitat in any mushroom patch, it seems to make a difference. I also dug an ephemeral pond near the patches to create habitat. We shall see...
 
Aldo Caldo
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Tj Jefferson wrote:Stropharia is definitely hard to get before the bugs. Here they must be picked barely past button stage if you want any, the slugs are voracious. If you leave them longer then the fungus gnats are all over them. I am having fewer problems now that the toads are out. I would recommend a pile of stones for toad habitat in any mushroom patch, it seems to make a difference. I also dug an ephemeral pond near the patches to create habitat. We shall see...



I think the horticultural mesh I have used is actually quite effective at keeping most things out, the diameter is small enough to stop insects as tiny as carrot flies and fruit flies, so definitely impenetrable to slugs.
It does let air, light and water through, while retaining humidity. Watering over it will cause the water to pool and seep down as drops, so somethat similar to rain.
All the damage was done before I covered the patch, and the new mushrooms seem to be growing with no damage.

Obviously it is not very pretty, and I am not terribly fond of using plastic materials, unless I am recycling them , but apparently it does last several seasons.
One drawback is that, in order for it to seal the patch effectively, it needs to be pinned down every few inches, which makes it opening it and closing it back quite time consuming, and requires dozens of pins.
Also, it is relatively expensive, unless bough in bulk.
I needed quite a lot of fruit cages and mushrooms beds, so I ordered a lot directly from China, which worked out reasonably cheap, provided it does last me several seasons.
 
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