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wine cap compost observations

 
Eric Hanson
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Hello,

I just did a quick check of my mushroom compost bed.  I have mentioned this many times, but just to keep people updated, the bed is approximately 6'x12' and is/was about 1' thick.  The bed was first inoculated with wine caps almost exactly a year ago (4/10/18) with a mere 11 pounds of inoculate from Field Forest.  In retrospect, I should have used much, much more spawn for a bed that size, but nonetheless, the spawn is spreading nicely. Today I went out to check the progress of the mycelium innervation deep in the bed and not just in the top 2 inches as I had done before.  In previous checks, the top 2 inches were thoroughly colonized with nice white mycelium strands, but I never dug all that deep.  Today I wanted to see the progress deep in the compost as in 6 inches to soil contact.  My findings were a bit surprising and I wonder if anyone could shed some light on what is going on (I have my own idea, but I wanted to check with others).

So first, just a couple of other details of the bed.  Last year I grew tomatoes by digging in 8 fertile holes with a manure-topsoil mixture.  The holes were dug in an 2x4 pattern with the center of the bed (18" wide by 6 feet long or so) bracketed by 4 fertile holes.  The center strip definitely showed the best evidence of decomposition over the last year.  The chips are darker, more crumbly and the surface lower (I think indicating decomposition) that that of the edges.  

Today when I checked on the fungi, I first dug a small diameter hole (4"-6" diameter) at least 8 inches deep in the corner of the bed where I was pretty certain that I had the least amount of decomposition going on.  The hole in the chips was reassuring.  Deep down inside the white mycelium strands dramatically innervated the chips to at least 8 inches and probably deeper.  As I gently moved the material aside I kept finding more obvious signs of fungi.  In fact, the whole of the chips from that little hole almost looked like the spawn I bought a year ago, almost like they were ready to be transplanted into another pile of wood chips.  Although the surface looked relatively undisturbed (a thin layer of straw, followed by a bout 1 inch of mostly intact chips), the depth was obviously infused with fungi.

With that bit of encouragement in mind, I went straight to the center of the pile where the signs of decomposition are blatantly obvious.  The surface had virtually no visible straw, nor any intact wood chips.  The surface was also much darker, and lower than the edges.  In previous examinations of the fungi progress, the center strip always had the most obvious signs of decomposition, especially plainly visible strands of mycelia.  I dug in expecting to see even better results, but the results were more puzzling.  Obviously decomposition had taken place.  The "chips" felt more like coffee grounds.  The "chips" yielded to my little trowel easier than the chips at the edges.  However, I found relatively few strands of mycelium.  There were a few to be certain, but nowhere near the levels of what was at the edges.  This puzzles me as the center strip is obviously decomposed (I am sure it can break down further) and in the past had shown the most obvious signs of fungi.  A totally novice/inexperienced eye (I consider myself to be only one tiny step ahead of this level) might not even recognize the signs of fungi at all, though they would likely still see the signs of decomposition.  

So a thought I had was that maybe the wine cap fungi has thoroughly digested the center strip and is looking for more food out in the more plentiful material around the edges.  Does this thought make sense or is it just wishful thinking?  If the center strip is thoroughly broken down, then should I expect to see mushrooms popping up as the weather warms?  Did the center strip fungi starve over winter?  Is the decomposition complete from the standpoint of the wine caps?  Am I missing something altogether?

Thanks for taking the time to read this post.  I am planning on moving forward with more wine cap inoculation and wood chip decomposition within the next month or so, weather permitting.  One encouraging note I found in the center strip:  last weekend (10 days ago) I pushed about 300 peas into the chip bed in the hopes of fixing nitrogen, giving the wine caps some other roots with which to interact, and to get some vines of peas to provide dappled sunlight.  In the center strip I accidentally dug up a couple of peas that were busy getting to work and developing tap roots about 2-3 inches long.  There are no visible peas poking through the surface, but in the center strip, at least a couple of peas found the environment suitable for starting their growth.  I tried the same trick with beans last summer in the barely decomposed wood chips and got nothing for my troubles.  It may appear that the wood chips have decomposed to the point where the peas think of them as soil and not wood chips.  I also might be overly optimistic.



Thanks in advance for reading through another long post and considering my puzzling (to me at least) observations.

Eric
 
Dennis Mitchell
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I’m in my first year with a Winecap woodchip bed, so I’m of no help. I was digging around yesterday and have been wondering about transplanting some of the mycelium. I’m also wondering how long I can keep the bed going by feeding it more wood chips. I wasted too many mushrooms last year by not harvesting them soon enough and by improperly drying them out. It has been a fascinating project.
 
Eric Hanson
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Dennis,

From what I understand, as long as you keep adding chips (or straw, or whatever) to the surface, you should be able to still get new mushrooms.  Last year I only found 4 small mushrooms.  I would think that if you wanted to spread your wine cap goodness to other beds, you could dig up a spadeful or two and inoculate another bed.  I would just make certain to fill the holes with more chips and the cycle of fungus continues.  I agree, this has been a fascinating project.  One of my surprises this morning was digging into my center strip and finding that the chips had basically turned into coffee grounds.  This should make for very easy planting when I do decide to use the bed a a regular garden again.

Please, keep us updated on your progress.  I would love to compare notes and learn from each other's mistakes (In which case I am sure you will learn more from me--I am pretty sure I have made plenty of mistakes along the way).

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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I just got back from my chip bed where a few weeds are popping up.  In particular I have some crabgrass growing and I want it out so I was pulling the weeds.  Some weeds have a very well developed root system and were a bit of a challenge to remove intact.  Interestingly, ALL of the roots I pulled out were deeply intertwined with mycelium hairs.  In fact, I think there was more fungal activity around the roots than away from the roots, almost like the roots and fungi like growing together.

Does this sound like wine cap type of activity or more like some other type of fungi?

Eric
 
Dennis Mitchell
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That is exactly like my bed. Complete with crab grass.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Eric, What you are observing is the way mycelium work and spread, that central area will need some new food to wake up the mycelium that sounds like it is going or has gone dormant for lack of food.
Just make an addition of chips in that area of the bed to bring it back.

Mycelium is the actual "plant" when we talk about fungi. The mushrooms will come when the mycelium has fully occupied the space. At that point the organism fruits so it can spread further afield via spore release.

For great mushroom beds, it is normal to have to add to the food supply along the way to first fruiting, at that point you would make an addition of chips so the organism can continue to have a food supply.
After you get those first flushes of fruits, you can "seed start" a new bed by simply taking a piece (or pieces) of the old bed to add to a new bed, then you just add in new chips to the old bed where you took out the seeding pieces.

Redhawk
 
Eric Hanson
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Thanks again Redhawk!

I suppose I will be topping off my chip bed with more chips—I have plenty of chips to pile on.  Does this mean that I could use a couple of shovel fulls of chips from this bed to start a new one?

Regarding the mycelium I found around the grass roots.  Is this normal for wine caps to do this or is this likely another fungi at work?  I have read that wine caps like to interact with roots of plants but I don’t know this authoritatively.

At any rate, I certainly appreciate your input.

Eric
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Eric, yes you can take portions of that first bed and start new beds (you can do this with any species).  
If the wine caps mycelium is present, then the hyphae will seek out plant roots (wine caps are one of the exo (external wrapping) mycorrhizae), this is a great thing and one of the best reasons to grow them.
Wine caps are also one of the major players in the extensive fungal network, in the woods they rarely give off flushes because there usually isn't enough detritus for them to colonize thick enough to give off fruits.

Redhawk
 
Eric Hanson
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Redhawk,

Again, thanks very much.  That bit of information is extremely helpful and adds considerably to my (admittedly limited) understanding of fungi and how they work.  I already knew that wine caps were ravenous decomposers, but I did not know (but I did suspect) that they established a relationship with roots of plants.  

This relationship with roots only adds to my reasons to have the wine caps in the garden in the first place.  Given that the weeds I pulled out were clearly intertwined with hyphae, I suppose that this bed is ready for direct seeding, at least in the highly decomposed center section.

Thanks again Redhawk, you are truly a great asset here on Permies.

Eric
 
Jondo Almondo
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Sounds like a standard description of the healthy part of the colony 'running'.
Seeking new substrate for a satellite colony via rhizomorphs.
If the temperature and moisture were different, the colony may have chosen fruiting as a method of expansion.

If it looks like spawn, its spawn, but the really decomposed material won't have the active runners which jumpstart-inoculate a new pile.

Colonies can digest material and run away at high speeds - it's good to always be ready with more materials at the outer edges.
 
Eric Hanson
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Wine cap compost observation update,

About two weeks ago my daughter and I poked about 300 inoculated peas into the loose, friable compost bed in the hopes that the legumes will fix nitrogen into my mushroom super bedding mix.  Today the weather is beautiful, bright and sunny and just a little cool--perfect for peas, so went out to check to see if I had any peas coming up.  There were peas!!  Woo Hoo!!  I did not count the number, but there were several little pea plants, mostly under 1 inch tall coming up all over the bed, both in my well decomposed center strip and along the outer edge that has more obvious signs of active hyphae growth.

With a little luck there will be pea vines crawling all over the bed shortly adding their nitrogen both via their roots and by their own green foliage eventually rotting down.

Just keeping a little update here,

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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More Good news,

I just got back from weeding a part of my chip bed and every time I pulled up a weed (mostly grass) the roots were absolutely riddled with strands of fungus.  It still amazes me that 10 years ago I would have seen this as a sign of disease and not a sign of health.

Eric
 
Joe Grand
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I have 4.5-5.5 pH & asparagus like 6.0-7.0 pH, my qusetionis will lime harm Wine Cap mycelium?
It is easy to treat the soil before adding the dog food soup & sawdust spawn with 2 inches of mixed hardwood chips, but no pH will stay changed,so I will have to test & lime at least once a year.

"This spring (2001) when the new paths were set out, I tried something a little different with the inoculant – in some paths I mixed in some dog food soup with the Stropharia mycelium. I recalled hearing once in a microbiology lab that boiled dog food was a good substitute for Bengal Rose agar as a culturing medium, so I reasoned that a little dry dog food sloshed around in some warm water and dumped into the path might give my Stropharia inoculant a boost."
https://leslieland.com/2009/05/how-to-grow-delicious-mushrooms-in-your-garden/
The above Quote is why I am going to use dog food soup. Thanks, Joe
 
Hugo Morvan
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Hi Eric, hope you and family are safe! Guess it's Stropharia season, people coming with questions to you. I am no exception.
Did you put your Stropharia bed in full sun, partial shade or full shade. On You tube i see guys doing it in forest, dappled light.
I want to grow it out in a bed in the garden, where i can monitor it and add water if needed. Our seasons are out of whack, trees flowering early and now getting hit by frosts. It's very dry already, i fear another hot dry summer is awaiting us.

I am planning on making a nursery bed, 1 foot deep bed, 2 feet by 4 feet. Or something like that.(30x 60x 120 cm)
I have made some willow wood chips a few weeks ago from fresh willows and am going to use those, the softer texture will make for faster growth i assume. A little kickstart. And fill it further up with the one i have been putting in the garden path as of lately. Which contains of hazel/ may thorn/ black thorn. But maybe i'll mix it all, to give the Stropharia mycelium creature choice. Depends on what people say.
I am going to try to infect some of the pathways with the mycelium, once and if i get to get the Stropharia going strong in the nursery bed in the house garden.
I am very pleased to hear that it makes connections around roots and does trade offs with the plants i am growing in the veggie garden.
Planting plants is kind of clear-cut, instructions are kind of similar. I find mushroom instructions to vary wildly. I've read about Stropharia that i have to dump old compost layer on top because it needs the bacteria in there for a flush as well.  
This got mycelium/ chip mix got send to me. I have to wait till it's half white, which should be after 3 days, it's been 5 days, i don't call it half white. Then i am supposed to break it up, and push it together firmly, then it will be ready to go. It's a slow start i guess.
I know you like talking about Stropharia and mushrooms, but if you don't have the time, please do not feel obliged, these are challenging times for everybody. Stay safe!
STROPHARIA-mycelium.jpg
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STROPHARIA-possibility.jpg
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Eric Hanson
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Joe,

I am not actually certain about the effects of either lime or low ph on the growth of wine caps in woodchips/straw/dog food soup.  My initial thought is that nothing can stop them, especially if you really get the media inoculated & really up and running before dumping the lime on them.  

Assuming that you can get the Stropharia established, I imagine that it will do wonders for your asparagus bed.  My wine cap bed I had last summer was without doubt the most fertile garden bed I ever had.  I expect similar results from your asparagus bed.  It is truly amazing how the two crops work so well together.

Sounds like a great project and I would love to hear how things work out!

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Hugo,

No worries, I love talking about mushrooms anyways so if I can pass around a little help as we go, then so much the better.  These are fun conversations to have.

So I constructed all of my mushroom beds in full sunlight.  BUT, the dappled shade is important, so what I did was to plant a garden crop that would provide me that shade.  For me, that shade was provided by tomatoes.  Tomatoes are great for a number of reasons.  First, it grows fairly tall and gives that dappled shade that is so important.  I like to plant my tomatoes in fertile holes backfilled with bagged manure I got from the store.  The second reason I like tomatoes is that they are heat lovers and really grow abundantly when summer turns hot, just when you need the shade the most.  A third reason I like tomatoes is that they send out a huge root system that helps the mushrooms grow (and the mushrooms help the tomatoes—it magic).  Finally, you get tomatoes!

Hugo, I think your little 1x2x4 patch is a great way to get started.  That might be perfect for two tomatoes, but you don’t have to limit yourself to tomatoes.  Other crops that could work just as well include potatoes, squash or really any crop that will give your ground some good shade.  Also I think that giving some willow chips is a great way to get your wine caps a little starter boost before they settle in on the hardwood main course.  Typically I will lay down 12”/30cm of woodchips, inoculate, then cover with 2-4”/5-10cm of straw.  The straw adds yet more shade, serves as an evaporation barrier, and eventually becomes mushroom food.

I think you are off to a great start.  Please keep us updated as I am very curious to see how things work out.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Joe, Hugo, everyone,

I am keeping a running thread HERE:

https://permies.com/t/82798/composting-wood-chips-chicken-litter

This thread chronicles my journey from being a complete, absolute fungal neophyte to having a basic degree of fungal competence today.  In the early stages I was desperately seeking guidance.  Today I offer some guidance.  Just to be clear, I am not an expert, I am an enthusiast amateur.  But I have had some success, my first wine cap bed has been productive both in mushrooms and I vegetables, despite the fact that I have no fertility other than wine caps since 2018.  I kinda think that if I can be successful at wine caps with all the insecurities I had, you can too.

I make this post and link not so much as a series of step-by-step instructions, but as a chronicle.  I started knowing almost nothing (it’s almost embarrassing how little I knew).  Though far from an expert, I have had some good success and if a record of this success (and failures, and anxieties, etc) can be helpful, then maybe I can ease these anxieties in someone trying mushrooms out for the first time.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Joe, Hugo, anyone interested,

I gave a step-by-step set of instructions for what I did HERE:

https://permies.com/t/130092/mushroom-newbie

This is how I got my mushroom bed started.  It certainly isn’t the only way to do mushrooms.  By all means, adapt or ignore as you feel appropriate.

The reason I made my mushroom bed the way I did was because I wanted to get use of the garden bed to actually grow vegetables that first year and not have a bed out of commission for a year before I could plant in it again.  I am fairly confident that planting the first year was helpful for both the plants and fungi.

Eric
 
Joe Grand
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Thanks Eric, it is the fact that you where brave enough to make the leap & are willing to tell the rest of us, that it is okay to start with little or nothing.
You are a master among us, we know so little & as Hugo said we all get  mushroom instructions to vary wildly. You have no ideal how much you have helpped us.

Hugo, welcome to the thread!
I love the picture of your garden. I like the internet, because we get to meet people from around the world & see their garden.
 
Eric Hanson
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Thanks Joe!

I am pleased that my interest in mushrooms is seen as helpful and not obsessive—though many a combination is appropriate.

As it stands, I really only have the experience in wine caps.  Someday I would like to try oyster mushrooms or something else, but for the moment all my beds are dedicated to wine caps.

Joe, you are correct that we all seem to know how to grow plants, but mushroom cultivation is largely foreign to us. Worse, many of us (myself included) used to view mushrooms as bad, toxic, an extension of mold and generally harmful to plants.  It is only very recently that I started to see fungi as something genuinely helpful, even necessary.

So therefore, if we can all share our stories of success with mushrooms maybe we can have our own little fungal revolution.

Spread the Fungal Fanaticism!

Eric
 
Hugo Morvan
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Hahaha Eric, that's really funny, because i agree! Thanks for the welcome Joe! I love it too to see other people's projects!

Eric , you changed my mind about the place where to put my wine-cap "nursery".
I am going to place it in the sun and shade it out with tomato plants. As of yet it's too cold for them. I got a messy yellow mini tomato that i have in mind. It stays low and produces small tomatoes, but branches out and will cover it.
I am thinking of covering the top of the wood chip pile with the clovers i have been cultivating over the winter. There are dutch white creeping clovers and massive red ones. My thinking is influenced by your observation that the mycelium loves to congregate around root systems and there is an exchange of sugars the plant make for some nutrients the mycelium can access. It's wildly fascinating to me.
The clover has as well root nodules which contain nitrogen fixing bacteria.
The nursery may be placed where the watering can in the picture is. It's a hugelculture bed in a "n" shape. I'll dig it over, so the comfrey won't creep in too much.
One problem is the hugelculturebed which is surrounding the nursery. Those evil mycelia are established and hungry, they might want to get into the woodchips, i'll temporarily have to block it with planks until the Stropharia is big, strong and established.
Eric didn't you say Stropharia mycelium is eating other mycelia? I'd love it to take over the current mushrooms which are in the hugel mount.
Or should i go for the safe route? First run it in a safe place surrounded by bricks, grow it then try this place...
STROPHARIA-nursery-place.jpg
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Eric Hanson
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Hugo,

I don’t know about Stropharia actually eating other mycelia, but they radically out compete most other fungi and leave a sort of chemical stink that we cannot smell, but other fungi find offensive (fungi basically do this to establish dominance over an area so they can eat).  In the end, you get basically the same effect.

Nice garden you have there.  I am kinda flattered that you chose to shade with tomatoes.  I think they are the perfect plant for mushroom establishment, but this year I am trying with squash.  Mostly just to try something different.

I would love to hear how your mushroom compost works out!

Eric
 
Michael Cox
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I've just ordered 3kg of wine cap grain spawn to get started.

Hoping that this whole corona mess won't stop it  happening.
 
Eric Hanson
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Michael,

That 3 Kg should start a nice supply of wine caps and get you some really good bedding material.

Good Luck!

Eric
 
Jamin Grey
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:hau Eric, What you are observing is the way mycelium work and spread, that central area will need some new food to wake up the mycelium that sounds like it is going or has gone dormant for lack of food.
Just make an addition of chips in that area of the bed to bring it back.



I'm not the OP, but I have some questions if you're willing (I'm planning on starting some Winecaps in a few weeks, as soon as the last frost passes. Possibly Portabella also).

A) In the OP's situation, where he needs to add more woodchips as food for the mycelium, should the woodchips be dug into the bed, or just layered on top?

B) Also, if he wanted to start a new bed using material from the original bed, would it be best to dig some shovelfuls out of the center?

C) Basically, should he shovel out a trench in the center, as material for other beds, and then fill the trench with just woodchips?

D) Since the mycelium is already established, does he have to sterilize the woodchips he's adding, or can the woodchips already be infected with whatever molds/mildews/whatever was in the woodchip pile they were acquired from?

E) Are morel and portabella mushrooms also beneficial to grow in raised beds alongside other plants (mostly tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, carrots, potatoes), or should they have their own space?

F) Is it bad to have portabella, morel, and winecaps in the same bed? I assume eventually, over several years, one will outgrow and kill off the others.
 
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Jamin,

I can answer some of the questions you asked.  Here is my input:

A). You could do either.  Conventional wisdom says that wine caps like to grow in wood that had a soil interface, but not actually mixed in with the woodchips.  Some evidence contradicts this assumption.  I am just throwing chips on the surface.

B & C). Yes, I can certainly dig up composted chips to inoculate new chips.  I just did this to inoculate some wine caps around comfrey plants.  I have 6 plants to mulch.  I took one shovel full of compost and spread it on the ground, then plopped a bunch of woodchips on top.  I then backfilled the excavated hole with fresh chips.

D). With wine caps there is no need to sterilize.  Wine caps are so aggressive that they will outcompete just about everything.  Oyster mushrooms also do this, but don’t mix the two—they will arm wrestle each other to death.

E & F). Morels and portobello’s will be good for plants, but they really like the shade, probably so much so that the traditional crops won’t thrive or grow at all for lack of sunlight.  Also, don’t grow the wine caps and other mushrooms together in the same bed.  The wine caps will win.  Grow those other mushrooms in separate beds.  Wine caps actually prefer some dappled sunlight which is why I grow them with tomatoes.  Lastly, even though growing morels and portobellos with plants is impractical, you can still use the composted wood in the garden after the mushrooms are finished, so all is not lost.

Hope this helps,

Eric
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:Jamin,
I can answer some of the questions you asked.



Thank you, Eric! Those answers helped. I'll do Portabellas and Winecaps, but put the Winecaps with the tomatos, and the Portabellas where I just planted two grapes vines. I'll rig up some extra shade for the Portabellas for a few years, until the grapes grow high enough to create a shade canopy.
 
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Awesome Jamin!

I would love to see pictures when you have both of your mushroom project underway.

A little disclaimer:  wine caps are so easy that they can make just about anyone feel like an expert, which I am not.  I am an enthusiastic amateur with some success in wine caps.  

I don’t know what growing portobellos is like, but wine caps are like mushroom growing training wheels (I hear oysters are similar).  I assume that techniques for growing wine caps can be adapted to growing portobellos, but I expect portobellos to be somewhat more finicky.  

But by all means grow those portobellos!  Please do learn what they like & don’t like and please report back to us.

Some day I would like to branch out and try other mushrooms.  Among the candidates are blewits (which can grow in the wake of wine caps), oysters for their awesome decomposing qualities, and portobellos for their flavor (I can’t stand the flavor of shiitake mushrooms—they give me an awful aftertaste that can last for days, yuck.  But if you like them, go for it).  

Aside from the blewits, which can take two years to grow, all the other mushrooms would need separate beds for growing.  I got in to mushrooms as a way to turn a bunch of woodchips into great soil bedding.  In that respect I have succeeded, beyond my expectations.  When I started I thought maybe I could get some good soil bedding, but I wasn’t expecting the shear, raw fertility that the thriving fungi would induce.  Now I cannot imagine growing veggies without mushrooms.

At any rate Jamin, I would love to hear how your mushroom(s) project(s) work out.

Eric
 
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Jamin,

Just a note about morels.  Morel mushrooms are extremely difficult to cultivate.  Although individual species differ slightly from one another, generally morels need a living root to grow on and need a fire prior to fruiting.  The commercial morel business relies on mushrooms harvested from the wild. I don’t think that you are going to get much in the way of compost from them.

Eric
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:Jamin,
Just a note about morels.  Morel mushrooms are extremely difficult to cultivate.  Although individual species differ slightly from one another, generally morels need a living root to grow on and need a fire prior to fruiting.  The commercial morel business relies on mushrooms harvested from the wild. I don’t think that you are going to get much in the way of compost from them.



Thanks for the heads up! I've heard they are harder, so I'm going to start with Winecaps (supposedly easiest, but I've never tasted them), and maybe Portabellas (medium-difficulty, but I buy them regularly in the store, so I know I like them).

Do you enjoy the taste of your Winecaps?
 
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Jamin,

So I actually ate very few wine caps last year because they grow so fast that they pass their peak very quickly.  But the ones I ate were portobello like but a bit woodier/nuttier.  But don’t let them get too big, when they get huge, you would rather eat your shoe leather.

Eric
 
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Dug ahole, breeze blocks around, cartonned the bottom to block potent mycellium from the outside entering immediately, dumped older soaked woodchips on the bottom fresher soaked woodchips ones on top, broke up the mycellium, dumped crumby bits on the newer wood chips, left some blocks intact to keep some strong core bits inpenetrable, kept layering like that. Dumped older soaked woodchips on top of that.
Run wine caps run!
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Hugo,

I think you have the beginnings of a great system there.  Just keep it moist and it should inoculate quite well.  I just found wine caps in a part of my garden bed that was not inoculated by me!  This means that the actual fungi has traveled over 6' from where I sowed it.  This is exciting.

Thanks for the picture, and please, keep the updates coming.  I love seeing how these projects develop!

Eric
 
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That's good to hear Eric!

I've heard you talking about portobellos. The farmer i have the permaculture project with has put up a hoophouse, we've grown tomatoes in it last year. I had noticed field mushrooms popping up in there last year, but i had had enough of them after a soup that tasted bad the year prior. I didn't think much of it therefor.
Winter came, frost arrived, i'd cut the tomatoes down to the ground. I had dug holes and filled them with composted cow manure the season before planting. I thought let's see if i can grow something in those holes over winter. A winter lettuce will do, all the holes then contained a lettuce. I'd dug the holes a bit apart, like one spade and a half wide. I decided this year to put the tomatoes in and dig new holes for them in between the old holes. Once i cut the lettuces for eating that is. the lettuces popped back up, like lettuces do, 4 small ones in stead of one big head..
Once cut, i started bit by bit digging new holes when there was no foliage on the lettuces. While digging i noticed that it was full of mycelium of the field mushrooms, which i had tried by now, and i was pleasantly surprised by their taste.
They turned out to love aged cow manure.
So now i have started moving that mycelium and earth into buckets. On the low ends of the hoop house i want to grow basil this year, i'm about to lay long lines of cow manure there and i back fill it with this mycelium earth mix. You can see it in the picture that was taken from above. The old mushrooms that i missed i dried and put on top of that manure layer, the difference in color of eart and aged manure is very clear.
Somehow i doubt it is very clever to have the mycelium eat the cow manure, but i like the mushrooms popping up every time i water plants.
Maybe there will be some advantage that the mycelium sucks up water from the deeper layers up to the surface. I believe the mushrooms were there first anyway before we set up the hoophouse. I'll keep you posted on the projects, even if it all fails miserably. Because somebody will have something clever to say of which i will learn.
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Hugo,

I love that second picture because it shows how the fungus has completely occupied a zone, one that likely filled with living matter.  I checked where my new mushrooms are popping up and they similarly have completely occupied sections of wood.

Just a thought about the taste of mushrooms, I have found that the younger the mushroom the better the taste.  Mushrooms that just popped up taste better than mushrooms that have been up a day or so.  The older the mushroom, the woodier they taste.  The four I picked this morning were small and very tender and mild tasting.  Maybe the mushrooms in your soup were not fresh?  Just a thought.

Sounds like your project is really working well.

Eric
 
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Wine cap update.
I've cardboarded the wood chips, because too much water was evaporating.
The mycelium crept all the way up to where the black box was sitting with the beans in them. Normally it is the winecap mycelium
I've put these beans in the woodchips without much soil, they're peeping through the cardboard holes.
I'll water the planted holes only, so as to invite the mycelium to come peeking over there, in the hope they'll bond with the nitrogen fixing roots to help each other develop.
Tomatoes are still tiny, but they'll come later to shade out the wood chips instead of the current carton.
 
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Hugo that looks great!  

Your wine caps seem to be spreading very fast—no doubt due to the cardboard you placed on top that adds shade and regulates moisture.  I think I will incorporate this technique the next time I start a new bed!

I think your beans will do double duty in those chips as you will get both a bean crop and a nitrogen boost.  I did something similar last year with my mushroom bed.  I planted peas, not for use as a crop, but as a source of green manure and to help add in nitrogen once the peas died in place.  The garden was quite fertile.  But I like your approach better where you sandwich the chips under the cardboard layer to regulate that moisture.  

These are a fresh pile of chips right?   The reason I ask is that the fungus is spreading very quickly.  In places where wine caps grew last year, I have piled on a nice, thick layer of fresh woodchips and the fresh woodchips are getting colonized very quickly—I think due in part to our very wet spring.  Sadly, my bed that I deliberately started last year (I call it bed#2 because it is the second bed where I spread wine caps) did not produce a flush this year.  The chips did break down, but I had more white strands of fungi in January than now.  I am guessing (but only guessing) that the fungi ran out of wood at a time that was bad for producing mushrooms, but I am just guessing.

But overall, that is a fantastic post and I love your approach so much that I plan to copy it myself.

Great job!

Eric  
 
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Yep fresh wood chips. Couple of weeks old. I hope your mycelium will give a superflush later. It could be that the circumstances were not right somehow. All that energy must have gone somewhere! Just like with fruit trees, a year without fruit can lead to a record harvest the following year.
I’ll keep updates coming!
 
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Hugo,

I am not really all that worried about that particular bed as the composted chips are goal #1, and actual mushrooms are secondary.  In a couple of weeks when the weather gets better I plan to plant tomatoes and sweet potatoes.  When I plant them I will add a fresh layer of chips that should get the fungal coals going again, perhaps with a flush in fall.

As it was, the west part of bed #1 (I inoculated the east half of that bed) produced a flush of its own.  It wasn’t huge, but mushrooms were popping up 6-8’ away from where the nearest mushrooms from last year popped up.  That was actually really exciting to see as the fungi were clearly spreading far into areas I never touched before.  The downside is that dogs got into that bed last night and tore it up!  I mean they dug not only holes, but some deep and wide trenches in the bed.  I plan to level it out and plant some veggies there soon (maybe today or tomorrow if I can get the kids to help).

So I am in pretty good shape, but I am loving how well your wine caps have spread under the cardboard topper!  I am going to incorporate this into at least one and possibly more chip beds.  That was a great idea and it is going into my “instruction” thread and my experience thread—with a notation for you of course.

Great workings you have there and please, please keep this updated—I am fascinated by how fast your wine caps have spread and I really want to see their outcome.

Eric
 
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Hi Eric,
I've planted the first cherry tomatoes in the mushroom bed. The mycelium spot had grown quite a bit larger. When i dug little holes for the plants to go in, i came across quite a bit of mycelium. So i decided to dig some out ( especially the running bits ) and give it a go in the vegetable garden on the path with wood chips. I've chosen quite a shady place and dug a hole in the path. Dumped carton down and put the mycelium in layers in it, and the lumps together. Burried it in woodchips with a connection toward the path of woodchips which i hope it's going to colonize bit by bit. I 've watered it thoroughly and covered it in carton which i wet too and covered that in wet straw and placed a heavy container on top which it seemed to like in the starter place.. I hope it's really the Winecap mycelium i am running! hahaha. It would be weird though, ok something could have flown in from elsewhere, but' i've never come across such an agressive colonizer in the wild. It's going too good!  Haha.
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