I made my first and only post on here about three months ago, following my first unsuccessful attempt at growing oyster mushrooms in which my grow bags suffered from some pretty bad contam, namely Trichoderma. I received a lot of support and feedback from two staff members, Bryant RedHawk and Eric Hanson, who helped me improve my technique and motivated me to keep on trying.
I'm glad I didn't give up. Growing mushrooms has been incredibly rewarding and this evening's meal of oysters was very tasty.
In this post, I will outline what I did to improve my previous technique and how I intend to better my current one.
Disclaimer: the methods I have used are rather unconventional. For someone starting out it's hard to justify investing in all the equipment such as PC, mason jars or an outdoor gas stove for pasteurisation. So, I've taken to using cheaper methods. Though some may criticise these as being unreliable, I think they are great for those who want to dip their toes in the world of mycology on a level which is a bit more sophisticated than just buying a grow bag, but doesn't require much investment in equipment.
So, let's start with what went wrong with my original grow. It was sometime in Winter and I had 2.5 kg of healthy mycelium ready to go. I checked the forecast ahead for a dry day and started cold-water pasteurisation of barley straw with a good dose of Ca(OH)2. Unfortunately, the following day brought light showers and mist, and so, not only did the straw not dry properly, but it was likely contaminated by the water droplets in the air as well. This was my first mistake. I then transferred the mycelium and straw with a ratio of about 1:4 to two large opaque rubble bags and cut a load of Xs so I could see what was going on inside. At the time, I thought this would allow the substrate to 'breathe', but I later learnt that it really just exposed it to open-air contaminants. Also, the ratio was a little low. These were my second and third mistakes. Finally, I let the bags sit in our drying room, where we dry clothes, which has high heat and humidity. This was my fourth mistake and, in hindsight, I was asking for trouble. Trichoderma found it's way into almost every hole and the mycelium started receding.
I did some other things wrong too but, long story short, the sub ended up in a tub outside for a while in case something happened. Eventually, the Trichoderma took over, so I chucked it in the bin.
Now, onto my latest grow. Some of you may have heard of the Uncle Ben tek. It's a technique for growing mycelium which requires inoculating a bag of ready-cooked brown rice, covering the hole with microporous tape and then putting it into incubation. It's quite a new method and, although it was developed in communities which predominantly cultivate psilocybin-containing mushrooms, it worked a treat for my oyster grow. As mentioned previously, the main benefit here was the low cost of using pre-cooked rice. Instead of buying a PC, jars and grain for £70+, I spent a total of £7.50 for 10 bags of various brands of brown rice. I inoculated the 10 bags on 10/04 using a SAB and an anti-bacterial kitchen surface cleaner for sterility. I used the cleaner because I didn't want to use my iso alcohol, which would have been more expensive to replace after the Coronavirus pandemic caused alcohol prices to skyrocket. And I was almost out of it.
By 18/04 I had 10 bags of healthy mycelium ready for transfer. You can see pics of one of the bags here: https://imgur.com/a/7bR4c8E They're good because they offer inspection windows and are flexible so you can break up the mycelium.
On 24/05 I cold-water pasteurised barley straw and shredded cardboard, using a slightly higher ratio of Ca(OH)2 than before. On the 25/05 we had a hot and sunny day, so I let the straw sit for a good 20 minutes. In future, I will let it sit for longer, as the substrate was still rather wet. I then cleaned some used bread bags using the surface cleaner and mixed the spawn with the sub at a ratio of 1:1. Wanting to avoid contamination, I refrained from puncturing the bags in any way; however, a few days later, I saw a buildup of moisture and so added some drainage holes at the bottom. It probably would have been wiser to add these in the first place.
N.B. the appearance of green is due to the lighting and camera.
On 03/05, once the mycelium had grown a bit, I put the bags into fruiting by hanging them in a small enclosure with chickenwire walls and a corrugated-plastic roof in our garden. I reasoned this would be the best place as there is plenty of FAE and low temps. I cut holes in the bags using a sanitised Stanley knife. Here are some pics: https://imgur.com/a/Zr9u6AN
I monitored the bags daily and sprayed them with water when they started fruiting. This is where things started to go a bit wrong. On 05/05 I noticed Trichoderma on some parts of the straw. I think this is because I hadn't left the mycelium enough time to fully colonise the substrate before putting the logs into fruiting. So, I cut the Trichoderma away using the sanitised Stanley knife; however the Trichoderma wasn't the only invader: a few days later I spotted fungus gnats crawling around inside the substrate! I set a fly trap using cider vinegar and washing-up liquid, which wasn't that effective.
Next time, I plan on wrapping an old shopping basket I have with garden netting and keeping the blocks in there so that pests can't get in.
You may have noticed that one of the fruits is a bit demented and that they're all overall quite small. I've read this is due to the Trichoderma, which sucks. But regardless, I'm happy to finally see some results and hope I can get something more the next time. Coming back to what I said earlier about costs, I've so far invested very little in this project, and so am happy with anything that grows.
Thanks for reading and I hope you found my experience interesting. If you have any comments for improvement, please write them below. I appreciate any help you can give :)