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Some help for a mushroom newbie

 
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Hi guys, Im thinking of adding a small raised bed built from reclaimed brick at the bottom of my garden underneath a large old tree, I have a couple of questions

Will they grow under this tree? I dont know what type of tree it is but I want to say silver fir? Or pine? I might be wrong. If anyone could ID the tree too that would be helpful. The tree drops needles and cones heavily and lots of pollen. The ground around the base doesn't grow grass due to acidification I think. Which is why I thought mushrooms there as opposed to crops. But that's if the mushrooms will grow with needles etc falling on the bed.

I want to grow wine caps from sawdust spawn, mixed with wood chips. The bed will be lined with cardboard.
Any more tips?

Am I right in thinking I should inoculate and fill the bed after last frosts in early spring?

Lastly, does anyone know of a good UK supplier to get the sawdust spawn?

Thank you all in advance for any assistance or input you can give.

Attached are photos of the tree in question, and the corner of the garden beneath it where I'm thinking of putting the bed (where the pile of dead branches are now)
IMG_20191123_120707.jpg
Potential corner for Wine Cap Mushroom production
Potential corner for Wine Cap Mushroom production
IMG_20191123_120653.jpg
Conifer tree over potential Wine Cap mushroom site
Conifer tree over potential Wine Cap mushroom site
 
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Location: Southern Illinois
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Samuel,

Welcome to Mushroom Madness!

Only about 18 months ago I too was full of all sorts of uncertainty and anxiety regarding growing mushrooms, but I am very pleased you chose to start with wine caps!!  They are a great mushroom on which to cut your teeth, really get to know the ins and outs of growing mushrooms, and they are quite easy to grow.

The main problem with your setup is the proximity to that pine tree or whatever conifer you have there.  I am not saying that the project won’t work, I am saying that you might have to take some extra steps or consider growing in a different place (is that possible?)

Let’s start with the biggest problem I see:  Wine Caps and conifers don’t play well together.  Specifically, wine caps don’t like the resins in conifers.  Also, Wine Caps like to have some interaction with the soil beneath.  With that in mind, you have a couple of options.

Option #1 is to move the bed.  This would most easily solve all the potential problems.  Assuming that you have the room, this is a good choice.  Something to consider:  Wine Caps don’t need the kind of shade typical mushrooms need.

Option #2 would be to make the potential mushroom bed as much like a patch of hardwood as possible.  This is what I would do:  I would go ahead and make the bed where you plan make it any way.  But first I would lay down some cardboard layers on the bottom.  If possible, I would get some topsoil not from under a conifer even a couple bags of topsoil or manure would work, and I would spread a thin 1-2” layer on the bottom. This is to simulate some topsoil not associated with the conifers.  I would then build the mushroom bed as normal.  This should be 4-6” deep, though I prefer 12”, but this takes longer to get mushrooms.  Inoculate with spawn, water down, cover with straw, and water again.  The straw will serve two purposes for you.  #1, it helps protect the spawn from drying out.  #2, it will help protect from needle drops.

I think this will work for you, but let me add a 3rd variant.

I like to use my wine caps to make an excellent mushroom compost for a future garden bed and that is the reason I start with 12” instead of the usual 4-6.  After I make my bed, I dig fertile holes and plant tomatoes for 1) dappled shade for the mushrooms, 2) for their roots as wine caps love to interact with roots and both mushrooms and plants benefit, and 3) Tomatoes!  I actually want to get some garden produce my first season and Wine Caps might take up to a year to produce their first flush.  Also, the fertile holes serve as another source of soil contact for the wine caps.  My greatest decomposition of woodchips took place between fertile holes.

Samuel, I have given you the long winded version of a set of directions.  Don’t be intimidated, and really, if you have any questions (I certainly did) don’t hesitate to reach out.  I have a long thread documenting my insecurities during my first year growing wine caps.  You can find it here:

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

Actually, the experience is fairly easy and highly rewarding.  The single most important component by far is patience!  It takes a year to get the mushrooms and in the meantime I was all insecure about what I was doing wrong.  You will get the hang of it.  And by all means, if/when you get questions, please reach out.  I for one am curious about your project and would love to hear how things progress.

Eric


 
Samuel Mcloughlin
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Location: Midlands, england
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Hi Eric. Thank you so much for your reply.
I had feared that the tree would pose some problems. When I first moved in to this property my instinct was to chop it down to free up the space and make it more productive... But I've really come to love it's age and grandness... When the pollen drifts off it it's like smoky tree ghosts. So it's staying and I'll work around it.
I don't have the space elsewhere, because I'm planning on fitting a lot in this garden and it's one of the few nooks that hasn't been decided on a purpose already.
I like the idea of soil in the bottom to give the shrooms non-coniferous soil to work with. Will definitely do that.
Hadn't considered the use of straw either. Would I have to soak/heat treat this even if it's just a top dressing of mulch and not the main substrate? My thoughts are it would be fine as it is but then there's bacterial contamination to think about I suppose.
So: brick built bed
An inch or so of compost and topsoil blended
Then layers of the inoculated sawdust spawn
And layers of woodchips

(I'm aiming to find a local arborist for these but may end up buying them as it's only a small bed. Should they be specific hard woods or doesn't it matter so much?)

And then water it, top it with straw, and water it again.

I like the idea of companion planting directly in the bed.
As this bed could potentially fruit mushrooms for a few years, do you know of any (semi/) perrenials that would work? Or should I stick to tomato which we love and enjoy cooking with and caring for.
What do you mean by "fertile holes"?
Literally just dig holes and plant my tomatoes as if it were a raised annual bed?

As for protecting the bed, I saw my dad today and he recommended stringing up some kind of net hammock above it to catch needle falls. I could do this with ease and like it as an idea. If I was to canopy the bed like this do you think the straw would still have a use and be worth adding?

It's really nice to connect with another individual (I'm new to posting on permies) and I can't thank you enough for your fast, detailed and intelligent reply. I will give your link a read too.shared collective information is so helpful and I love reading others blogs etc to see what works for them
 
Samuel Mcloughlin
Posts: 11
Location: Midlands, england
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Oh! I've just understood that eventually the woodchips with benefit of the mycelium will turn into soil and so this bed will eventually become more suitable for veg than mushrooms... If I've understood that right? Or I could spade the compost out after some years and use it to fill other beds and then restart the mushroom process from day 1
 
Eric Hanson
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Samuel,

So great, your mind is off and running already with this project!! I like that.  And a brick edge!  Wow!  Now that is a serious garden bed.  

First off though, do you get enough light under that tree to grow a tomato plant?  If so, then great.  If not, we can work on that.  But at any rate, I will give you my step by step process

1)  Since you plan on using bricks, get them started first.  Maybe rake any obvious pine needles, pine litter off the surface, but this is not strictly necessary.

2)  Lay down a nice thick layer of cardboard.  This will serve as a temporary barrier against things that the Wine Caps don't like about pines.  It won't last, but hopefully by the time it breaks down, you will have plenty of mushrooms

3)  Get some bagged manure or topsoil and sprinkle to a depth of 1-2 inches.  This is just to simulate a soil base.  It is probably unnecessary, but worth a try

4)  Fill up with wood chips!  In fact, I would overfill just a bit so that the chips are slightly mounded above the edges.  If you get the wine cap spawn growing right, that level will drop significantly


******Additional optional steps detailled below


5)  Take the mushroom spawn you bought and mix in to the chips.


******Additional optional step


6)  Water down the chips

7)  Cover with 2-4 inches or so with straw (grass clippings can work as well

9) Water everything again

10)  Hurry up and wait!!  This might well take a year!


*******Additional optional steps:

If you want to use the bed to grow some vegetables the first season, you will have to have some growing medium.  The easiest is probably bagged topsoil/manure.  I use this to dig fertile holes.  A fertile hole, in this case, is a hole you will dig in your chips BEFORE you inoculate with spawn.  You simply dig a hole about 6"-12" across and deep.  Fill in with the bagged soil/manure, and then mark with a stake or a tomato tower or something so you can find it later.  Save those chips you dug out for a little bit.

Step 4.1)  Dig fertile hole and save chips

Step 4.2)  Fill hole with topsoil/manure

Step 4.3)  Mark hole with stake or something

Step 5.1)  After inoculating, spread extra chips from fertile holes (the ones you saved) and sprinkle over surface, maybe 1-2 inches deep.  This is to serve as a evaporation barrier and help maintain moisture in the inoculated chips

Step 11)  Plant your tomatoes (or other plants)  The tomatoes will

              1)  Provide dappled shade
              2)  give roots for the spawn to interact
              3)  Give you tomatoes!

You could grow potatoes also, or frankly, just about anything that you want to grow!  This last summer I poked a bunch of peas in my chips next to summer squash.  I had no intent of harvesting peas, I just wanted their shade, roots, and nitrogen they fix

But if your area is too shady, I would consider just about any annual plant that would grow in the shade.  You could just grow flowers.


I do have a couple of questions for you though

1)  do you want this to become a permanent vegetable bed?  If so, doing the above steps will get you off to an awesome start!  But if you want it to be a vegetable bed, I would aim for 12" of chips as their volume will radically decrease over the years

2)  If you just want mushrooms and compost to dig out and haul around to other places, that's fine too.  You won't need as many chips, but you won't get as much mushroom compost either.  Basically, the more actual compost you want, the deeper you want your chips (though I would not go much higher than about 12" deep)

3)  Personally I am a big fan of making the bed a dual purpose bed, growing mushrooms and tomatoes (or whatever) the first year and then each year, getting more and more veggies in the bed.


I hope this helps, and as always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask.

Eric
 
Samuel Mcloughlin
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Location: Midlands, england
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Eric, thanks for your help. I will reply again when I have constructed something.
 
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