I came to this forum in search of this answer. The last thread started by Christine Wilcox was unbelievable so props to her great work. However, I need a wide swath of acceptable chip varieties. One website says to use fresh hardwoods, the next, aged hardwoods for several months. I’m wanting to use beech, fresh oak and tulip poplar. Since every website that sells the sawdust spawn has a different set of chips they recommend I’d like to hear from you, the experts. Thanks in advance, Scott
Wine Caps will grow on just about any non-conifers. Probably should avoid black locust and cedar. I have used oak, hickory and lots and lots of autumn olive, my main food for wine caps.
Aged chips help wine caps as they get a little upper hand as wine caps like to have some bacteria around, but I have also sown wine caps on freshly chipped wood. I have a huge pile of wood waiting to be chipped. I planed on chipping it by the end of January. But then February hit and with it, non-stop rains. I was wanting to get just a couple of months aging before inoculating with wine caps, but it now looks like I will inoculate fresh chips—no big deal.
Often hardwoods are recommended because they will support the fungus for a longer time, but it will also take long to get a mushroom flush. Some people use straw for fast flushed of mushrooms, but wine caps will really devour the straw quickly.
Even though it is not supposed to work, a member on Permies actually got wine caps to grow in black spruce as that was all she had in her spot in Alaska.
I wouldn’t get too worried about the exact wood as long as it is not pine or locust. Almost anything else that rots will work and wine caps are pretty good starter mushrooms that don’t require huge amounts of care.
All of the wood that you mentioned should work, fresh or aged.
Before you go try to use any of the information I suggested, I do have to ask you a question. Are you trying to grow mushrooms or are you trying to make mushroom compost. The ideal substrate mix will vary slightly depending on your end goal. Personally, I was trying to get the mushroom compost as a primary goal and actual mushrooms as a distinct secondary goal. I did get both, but you might be able to tailor your mix depending on exactly what you want.
Hi Eric, i'd like to start Winecaps too. The plan is to chip different types of wood up and fill up the path ways in between the raised beds. Would you recommend when i have received the spawn that i first multiply it on boiled straw, so that i have a lot of it to infect the freshly chipped woodchip walkways?
Or will the mycellium have problems adapting to it's new food source?
Creating edible biodiversity and embracing everlasting abundance.
Personally I would not worry about the straw, especially boiled straw. The whole purpose of the boiled substrate is to ensure that you have one and only one fungus growing and is most relevant for growing mushrooms for food. Since your plan is to go and spread them outside anyways, it would be a little like washing your hands prior to digging in mud. I would just get a nice layer of chips down, get them thoroughly wet ans sow the spawn. I would still use that straw though. My technique has been to lay down chips, sow with spawn, soak down the chip/spawn mix, then add a nice, thick layer of straw (to keep the underlying wood from drying out) and soak the whole thing again. The straw will dry out fairly fast, but soaking it helps to work it into the straw so that it does not blow right away. The wine caps may indeed consume some straw and that is OK as well. Just make certain that the whole thing is kept regularly moist.
I have been thinking about getting some straw bales, soaking them and inoculating the straw with spawn and leaving them in my garden just to see how fast they produce a crop of mushrooms and how fast they break down. Again, I am really interested in their compost and I am pretty certain that straw will not produce as much compost as the woodchips will simply because the woodchips are more dense.
But at any rate, this is the way I would do things.
I hope this helps and by all means, please let me know how things work out for you--I will be very curious to see your progress.
Thanks for your guidance Eric. That was the kind of answer I was hoping for! I have considered making my bed with layers of straw, wood chips and sawdust from my Lions Mane experiment. I saved most of the sawdust from cutting the logs into totem poles.
that details my experience from being a total fungal newbie and utter novice to having a basic degree of competence. I still have a long ways to go on this fungal journey, but at the very least I can make wine caps. I keep that thread updated in order to help anyone else making the same journey.
In my technique I lay down about one foot/30 cm of wood chips in the bed. I then excavate 8 holes about 1 foot in diameter and 8-12 inches deep. I backfill these holes with a good topsoil/manure mix (I use bagged topsoil/manure for convenience) until they are level with the rest of the chips. These are your fertile holes. You should have a lot of chips left over from digging fertile holes. Save them for a later step, don’t just throw them on the surface yet.
Now take a stake, tomato tower or something to stick into the fertile holes to mark them for later. Next, dig a series of little holes about 5” wide and deep around the bed, mounding the excavated chips right next to each mini hole. Then connect all the mini holes with little trenches 2” wide and deep.
Now take your spawn (I need 2 5.5lb bags for a 6x16’ bed, last year I used 4 bags for a 8x16’ bed) and break it up and crumble it while spreading liberally in each hole and all trenches. Cover all mini holes and trenches and if you still have anything left, sprinkle it evenly over the surface.
The reason for the holes and trenches is that each hole now contains a node of spawn (really give the holes a healthy amount of spawn). The trenches then provide little highways to connect the nodes. This will help get the fungi off and running.
Now take all those chips left over from the fertile holes and spread over the surface. This usually gives me an extra 1-2 inches of chips. Now liberally water the chip bed till it is soaked, cover with 2-4 inches of straw and water again.
Lastly plant something in the fertile holes, I use tomatoes for the following reasons:
1). As the tomatoes grow their leaves will cast shade on the surface of the chip-bed
2). The tomato roots extend beyond the fertile holes and interact with the wine caps. Wine Caps love to grow in association with plant roots (some peas or beans just poked in randomly will only help).
3). I get tomatoes! You don’t have to use tomatoes, but tomatoes grow tall and wide and cast great shade during the heat of summer. Peppers would work well also. The decision is really up to you.
I hope this helps and If I can be of further assistance, please don’t hesitate to ask.
We've been growing wine caps on hazelnut prunings that we chip in the spring. As for putting it in garden pathways, I think that walking on the chips would potentially injure the young 'shrooms as they begin to emerge and mess up the bed. We don't walk on ours but the deer sure do and they damage anything coming up. The bulk of the fruiting seems to happen nearer the edges so if you can avoid foot traffic on those areas that would be best.
I mostly agree with you. That being said, I have seen wine caps in unused corners of walkways, but those are the exception and not the rule. I imagine that for actual wine cap production a bed is best.
Thanks for all the great interactions on my post! I’m sorry I haven’t been more active but when I work I’m too tired to really be engaged. One more thought though; do you think they would grow with dried bamboo chipped up in the mix? I use it for trellises but the time has come to get some new bamboo. Thanks!
No worries about having to work. If you follow the thread I linked above, I have had a few developments. Mostly I finally chipped up my wood pile and made a rather huge pile of wood chips in addition to putting my back out of commission for a couple of days. Really, the bad back is worth the shear volume of wood chips I have acquired. Incidentally, I have a fairly wide variety of wood in my pile. Probably more than half is autumn olive, an invasive around here that I utilize for woodchips. Oaks and hickory make up most of the rest.
Wine Caps will devour most types of hardwood (which in this case is a grossly exaggerated term as autumn olive is pretty soft and I am pretty certain that wine caps will devour willow. Just don’t give it pine or black locust) and even straw. Basically hardwood just means not pine wood.
Thanks Eric, it does help. When I grew shiitake I was told not to use wood that had been down more than a couple weeks. The thinking was that it was already colonized by another fungi. The wine cap patch I’m making is going to be pretty small and I’d like to know what wood is going in it. Do you think I could pick up brittle, old limbs from the surrounding area to use in the mix?
So I think that if you are trying Wine Caps, most non coniferous wood will work. If you see some wood that is obviously colonized by another fungi, as in it is covered in mushrooms, you might want to leave that part out. But wine caps are aggressive. No doubt, if you are getting wood from the “wild” so to speak, they *WILL* have competing fungi. But for the most part, Wine Caps just don’t care. They are so aggressive that they will out compete almost any fungi.
Shiitaki mushrooms are nothing like wine caps, so they need a fairly sterile medium.
As far as what wood to use, one of the desirable qualities of wine caps is that they are not at all picky about what wood they eat, so long as it is not black locust or a conifer. If you are starting wine caps for mushrooms, then a softer, less dense hardwood will give you mushrooms the fastest. In fact, if you really want mushrooms in a hurry, sow them into bales of straw. If you want compost, use something like a hardwood. It will take longer to decompose but in the end you will have more compost.
The reason for this characteristic has to do with the lifecycle of a “mushroom.” Wine Caps (as well as many fungi) start off as a spore, which is kinda like a little fungi egg (not a perfect analogy). When the spores land on something they can eat, the have a massive party. The individual spores begin to form a fungal body inside the substrate. Once in the substrate the new fungal bodies (mycelium) really party hard. They reproduce sexually, swap DNA and eat and eat and eat. The new fungi will continue to grow in their substrate, digesting until the substrate until they run out of substrate. Once the food is gone, the party is over and the fungi may die of starvation so in a last, desperate attempt to survive they form an actual mushroom and release more spores to start the party again in a different medium.
The faster the mushrooms eat, the faster they run out of food and push up a mushroom. There is not all that much food in straw and wine caps are hungry so they run out of food fast and push out mushrooms. Wood will take longer to digest and therefore longer to produce mushrooms but will leave more excellent compost behind. Really hard, heavy woods will take a long time to produce mushrooms and will leave even more compost.
A perfectly reasonable approach could be to make a wood chip bed out of a variety of hardwood and softer non-conifers. This will give the fungi something to eat quickly and something to chew on for some time. You could even put some straw bales on top and inoculate those as well to give the wine caps a sugar rush just to get them started and maybe even get some mushrooms for your efforts.
These are just my thoughts and take or leave them as you see fit.
I missed s portion of an earlier question. Bamboo is not all that great a growing medium for wine caps. In fact, bamboo usually gets broken down by bacteria instead,
That being said, if you have a little bit of bamboo, give it a try in a corner of your bed and see what happens.
I actually recently asked this very same question. I have this strange obsession with growing my own wood destined to go through a wood chipper and into my gardens. One idea that floated through my mind was a bamboo grove. I asked about this idea an was told that bamboo probably would not work. Too bad as it grows so fast. If I do take on this project it will be with poplar which is easily consumed by wine caps.
Sorry I missed that point in your question. I was typing and reading while exhausted!
Thank you again Eric. I apologize once again for my prolonged absence due to work. I do not have a chipper unfortunately. I have been collecting wood and using pruning shears to cut them up. Some of the pieces are larger than I would like but that may be ok.
From my understanding wine caps don’t like the presence of pine sap. Apparently the sap impairs the growth of the fungi. When I first ordered my spawn, the seller was very keen to suggest I avoid pine at all costs.
All that being said, I have never tried to use pine wood and maybe pine relatively free of sap would work. I did have a conversation somewhere on these threads that suggested that wine caps were being used in Alaska on black pine simply because that is what they had around.
I think it would be interesting to see if wine caps can indeed grow on pine wood, maybe as a part of a mix.