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Winecap spawn not growing too well

 
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On May 6th (24 days ago), I started my first ever batch of mushrooms.

I have twelve quart mason jars with pressure-canned sterilized material, that I injected with Portabello and Winecap spores (liquid syringes). Six jars are Portabello, and seem to be doing great! They almost fully colonized the jars. Six jars are Winecaps, and have barely colonized theirs, and two jars seem entirely dead.

My substrate was:
Mostly aged sawdust (pine)
Partially composted chicken manure
Partially composted cow manure
Some pelletized gypsum
A little bit of dirt
A tiny amount of shredded straw and wood shavings

I forget exactly what my moisture content was, but I looked up a good balance and did it as precisely as I could.

I sterilized everything in mason jars, waited 24 hours, then drilled holes through one lid (with a sterilized drill bit), squirted on top three different spots of liquid spores from the syringe (the 1" of empty space on the top of the mason jar prevented me from actually *injecting*), and then put on some microporous tape over the drilled hole.

I put all twelve jars in a dark-ish pantry, that's usually around 65-70°F, but they get a little indirect light from a mostly curtained window behind them.

After a week or two, I realized I had a spare seed heat mat, and put that under them also.

All twelve jars started forming white fluffy areas on top where I squirted them. After a week or so, I gently shook up four jars of each mushroom type (to disperse the spores in the jar more, to speed colonization), and left two jars of each alone.

The portabello jars took off real well, but two of the winecaps barely recovered, and are colonizing somewhat, and the other two seem entirely dead. The two unshaken Winecap jars have continued to colonize, but very very slowly in comparison to the portabello.

There are zero miscolored areas, as far as I can see, in any of the jars.

A week ago, because the two jars looked dead, I risked contamination by squirting a little sanitized water into each of the two dead ones, just incase I got the moisture levels wrong. A week later, no difference.

I attached two photos - one of the portabello thriving, and one of a "dead" Winecap jar. The white spots you see in the dead jar are gypsum pellets.

My questions:
1) Why did loosely shaking the Winecap colonies kill them?
2) Is my substrate wrong for Winecaps? (sawdust and manure)
3) Do Winecaps take longer than four weeks?
4) How would you suggest I proceed with my four Winecap jars that are still alive but haven't colonized much of the jars?
IMG_20200530_213304.jpg
Portabella
Portabella
IMG_20200530_213342.jpg
Winecap
Winecap
 
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Jamin,

When I have done wine caps, it took me a lot longer than a month to get noticeable growth.  I am impressed that you got some visible growth before.  I would just wait a bit and see what happens.

Good job so far!

Eric
 
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From what I've read in Stamets books, winecaps need soil bacteria to really thrive.  I would guess that sterilizing the media would kill all the bacteria and make them struggle.  Not sure why the shaking would have an effect.  I've grown lots of winecaps, but only in unsterilized outdoor beds.  If you put down spawn and a preferrably woody substrate, they take off in that environment.  Since they are so aggressive, other fungi species seldom can outcompete them.  Sometimes I get fruiting in 2 months in composted woodchips.  They will also colonize chopped up leaves pretty readily.
 
Jamin Grey
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Eric Hanson wrote:Jamin,

When I have done wine caps, it took me a lot longer than a month to get noticeable growth.  I am impressed that you got some visible growth before.  I would just wait a bit and see what happens.

Good job so far!

Eric



That's a relief! I was thinking a month is the "definitely should be done by now" point. I'm happy to leave them another month or two, or even until fall.

How long do Winecaps normally take, and are you using sterilized nars/bags, or growing outdoors?

Jonathan Baldwerm wrote:From what I've read in Stamets books, winecaps need soil bacteria to really thrive. [...] I've grown lots of winecaps, but only in unsterilized outdoor beds.  If you put down spawn and a preferrably woody substrate, they take off in that environment.



I'm trying to grow the spawn from spores, so I can put them outside in woodchip'd beds with my tomatoes. Right now I don't have much of the spawn colonized... maybe I should've used a different medium for Winecap, though the Portabello seem to love it!

I suppose I could take one of the Winecap jars that are doing semi-acceptable, and move it to the woodchip beds now.

I could also try moving one of the "dead" jars to a garden bed of woodchips.

 
Jonathan Baldwerm
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Sorry, didn't catch that you were growing from spores, never tried that myself so not sure on the techniques.  Sawdust was how I started my first bed of winecaps that I used to multiply them to other beds, so I would think it should work fine as a substrate indoors as well.  If it were me, I'd probably hedge my bets and try moving the most colonized jar to an outdoor bed and continue growing the others as you have been.  Like Eric said, sometimes winecaps are slow to colonize initially.  
 
Jamin Grey
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Thank you, I'll try that - moving the best one outdoors into a bed, and giving the rest another month to see what happens.

I'll probably move a "dead" jar into a different bed also, just to see if it recovers.
 
Eric Hanson
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Jamin,

I can give you some background information on my approach to using wine caps, but the short version is that it takes a year.

I typically sow spawn (not spores as you are doing, so I cannot comment on that) in April and very little happens until late fall when white threads begin to inhabit my woodchips.  The threads multiply and start really consuming the wood starting around Christmas (we have wet and fairly mild winters).  In early spring, the woodchips get very mushy, and by April—a full year later—I have actual mushrooms.  I am not doing this in a sterile environment or on straw, both of which would speed up mushroom growth.  Also, I grow wine caps not so much for the mushrooms (that’s a tasty bonus), but more for the compost.

I hope this helps,

Eric
 
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I'm a complete newbie to wine caps but I did manage to get them to grow in my kitchen garden this year. I bought some wine cap spawn last fall and broke it up and just stuck it under the mulch in my garden. This spring I noticed a lot of growth through the wood chips and leaf mold and about 2 weeks ago wine cap mushrooms starting popping up. The first ones are now spent but new ones are popping up in other areas in my beds. Right now I'm not harvesting any of the mushrooms--not really enough at this point to use and I want them to spread further so I just left the mushrooms. But it was exciting to get mushrooms within 6-7 months of putting the spawn in.

I'm mostly using wine caps to speed up soil building in my kitchen garden but I'm hoping for enough mushrooms this fall or next spring to actually harvest and use.

I do plan to get more wine cap spawn this fall to add it to other areas--especially my hedgerows and food forests.

Not sure if the above helps at all but I thought I would share my experience just in case it's helpful for you.
 
Daron Williams
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One thing I forgot to add... I noticed that the wine caps seem to be doing the best when they were sown near my perennial vegetables or winter greens. In areas where there wasn't a plant growing over the winter they're growing but they're slower and no mushrooms have appeared.
 
Eric Hanson
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Daron,

I like that you grow wine caps as a soil builder.  This is exactly my main motivator for growing them as well.

Eric
 
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Daron, you can just move the winecap substrat to where you want it to spread. I've started a small wine cap mycelium nursery bed outside and i'm moving  buckets full of colonized woodchips into the production garden pathways, which are a layer of woodchips as well. I dig a hole and chuck woodchips and mycelium in there, so it has a chance in the summer to dive under where there is some humidity and protection from heat if it needs it..  
 
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Anyone seen this video?
 
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There was a comment above about inoculating woodchip beds in April, and not seeing spawn developing for months. Our new bed stalled out like this for a while, but I have since given it two thorough soakings to make sure the chips were moist through the whole depth of the bed. Seasonal summer rains were only penetrating an inch or two, and the inside of the bed was dry.

After watering the spawn took off like crazy, and has spread through the whole bed.

I definitely recommend a couple of good soakings to get wine cap spawn going.
 
Eric Hanson
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Michael, you make great points and I should explain my background and technique.

Firstly, my primary goal for wine caps is the compost and not the mushrooms themselves.  The mushrooms are good too and I love seeing them pop up and harvesting them, but I started wine caps specifically to break down a whole bunch of wood chips.  So from the start I was not optimizing for mushroom growth.

Secondly is the timing.  I sowed in a wet, cool, cloudy period of Spring (April-May is commonly cool, wet and gray weather for us).  This is perfect for starting fungal growth, but by June, things start to heat up, the clouds go away and the General moisture lowers considerably.  And as it is my plan to let the fungus do the work, I don’t water after the initial inoculation.  Summer is very hot with sporadic rainfall.  We haven’t had a drought in several years but I am certain that the top inch or two of chips dries out and fungal growth slows to a crawl—definitely not optimal for growing mushrooms.

By fall conditions get better and the fungi recovers and devours wood over our mild winter, but I am pretty sure that winter is too cold to support mushroom growing.  But the fungi is alive and well during this period and by spring the woodchips don’t really look like woodchips any more—which was the goal in the first place.

Now if I were really interested in mushrooms faster I would Inoculate in Fall and I expect that I would get good results in spring.

Thirdly, I am growing on woodchips and not straw.  If I were growing on straw and kept it consistently moist by watering then I would expect that I would get mushrooms much, much faster.  But straw would likely be so completely obliterated by wine caps that there would likely be nothing left for compost when the fungus was done.  Even my woodchips take a real beating from the fungus after a year and I need to add in more woodchips just to keep my raised beds filled.  This is ok by me as more fresh chips means more mushrooms and more magnificently fertile compost.  Each year I just add a new layer of woodchips to fuel the fungal fire.

Now Hugo Morvan has recently taken to growing wine caps for the compost but he adds a simple, ingenious step that radically speeds up colonization.  He mixed chips and spawn but then added a layer of cardboard and about another inch of chips just to weigh down the cardboard and keep it in place.  The cardboard acts like a cap and really helps to hold in moisture.  In just a few days/couple of weeks, his fungus spread as much as mine did after months.  Wind could just blow in and through the upper layers of my chips and dry them out.  But the chips beneath his cardboard had loads of fungal strands in just days and even the cardboard itself was growing fungus.  I am now incorporating the cardboard cap to any new bed I start and I will continue to do this with existing beds as I add new layers of chips.

Michael, this response has gone on far longer than I anticipated, but I do that—I start writing and then have a hard time stopping.  I hope this is a helpful post for you and of course, if you have any questions, please ask.

Eric
 
Jamin Grey
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Oops, I forgot to post the followup:

I moved all my Winecap and Portobellos into the garden about a month ago (Portobellos around where I just planted my grapes, Winecape in the Tomato beds).

Some of the jars were infected with mold that I couldn't see through the sides of the jars - but oddly, it was the Portobello ones that were infected worse, yet the Portobello still did great.

And while there definitely wasn't as much growth with the Winecap ones, there was still some growth, that was easier to see once the jars were actually opened. About three jars I saw zero growth, but I used them anyway, thinking that they probably still had some active spores I just wasn't seeing.

For the winecaps, I put the cultured substrate on four different beds in one small concentrated location per bed (to give them a fighting advantage over anything else), and put wood shavings on top of them. I think there was already a small layer of straw or woodchips on the beds I set them on. I need to remember to add more woodchips though.

For the portobello, I was laying down cardboard to block weeds around the grapes anyway, so I scattered the portobello spores on the cardboard, and then put three inches of woodchips on them. I did this in three or four locations: cardboard, portobello substrate, woodchips.

Since that time, we've actually been getting a shocking amount of summer rains, so I'm hoping that helps them. I haven't checked them since I planted, but since I need to add woodchips to them anyway, I'll probably check them when I do add woodchips.
 
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We are about to enter leaf-gathering season here. This makes the backbone of our compost all year so we gather heavily. In order to vary the output a bit I am going to use winecap spawn as a test on a couple of bins. Usually I layer leaves and other inputs. Can winecap spawn make use of stuff like veg waste, SCOBY, etc or can I just use the spawn in pure leaf bins? Would prefer the latter and save the other inputs for the straight compost bins. Anyone out there only processing leaves this way? Other thoughts?
 
Eric Hanson
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Echo,

You have a really good question and I just don't know the answer to it.  I, too, used to collect huge amounts of leaves to pile on my garden beds.  I would typically pile on 2 feet of shredded leaves onto my garden beds.  Come spring, the leaves  seemed to disappear on their own.  This was long before I started using Wine Caps.  While it seems logical that Wine Caps would beak down the leaves I have been told that Wine Caps don't really grow well in leaf litter, and certainly not the greens from compost.  Wine Caps are happiest when they are growing in wood that has some contact with the soil.  In nature, Wine Caps can be found on dead, fallen tree trunks/branches laying on the forest floor.  I like to grow my Wine Caps in 12" of wood chips laying on my garden bed.  However, Wine Caps do like a bit of bacteria for some interaction.  Perhaps in you get your compost really going and then dig out a little bit of the biologically active area, you could spread this on your wood source to help boost the Wine Cap progress.

Early in my Wine Cap adventures I was convinced my plan was a failure and searched for all sorts of bacteria to add.  Turns out that the bacteria are plentifully available in the air and what I really needed was patience.  A couple of months after my little freak out, my mushrooms pushed up with reckless abandon!

I hope this helps and if you need any more help, don't hesitate to ask.  Leaves are a wonderful soil amendment--I added them for years and my soil turned from brown clay into something approaching a darker loam.  But the change does not happen overnight and Wine Caps can be your best garden buddy if you get them started right.

Good luck,

Eric
 
echo minarosa
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Thanks Eric.

I do have two pits that are about a cubic yard each that were filled with chunks of red grandis, mahogany, sapele, and poplar with the interstices filled by a large amount of poplar shavings. They were covered by a cage and the cage covered by heavy burlap coffee bags. Last year I saw 3 mushrooms but that has been it. I checked the mix and you can smell and see mycelium throughout the shavings but the wood hasn't been softened much. The slower processing of chinks I expected. So I'm trying to be patient with those but in the back of my head I am eyeballing those spaces for rhubarb beds if it doesn't work out. Anyway, the purpose for the current spawn was to aid in the processing leaves as the primary motivation and if some mushrooms manifest, so much the better. I keep seeing reports they can be grown in leaves though I have spoken to no one directly who has actually done it. I collect massive amounts of leaves. For the first 3 years I made huge amounts of compost to get the soil rolling here. Last year I collected my normal amount and then made a deal with a leaf remover to dump his "problem" here. At the same time I lost my coffee grounds sources to a local university. This meant I really generated more leaf mold than compost. I am harvesting that leaf mould now, emptying bins and getting ready for the leaf onslaught to pile up.

I'm hoping to experiment with one bin getting normal compost inputs, another as described but with LAB serum innoculant, a third as in the last but with winecap spawn added and a fourth with only winecap spawn. I usually have too much to be turning piles so I'm hoping to see some way of addressing static piles that helps with breakdown. Other leaves go straight onto beds for the winter. In spring, anything not processed usually becomes mulch, gets buried, or moved somewhere so as not to interrupt or smother new growth.
 
Eric Hanson
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Echo,

How is your worm count in your area?  My experience has been that earthworms absolutely love leaves.  I used to work in apartment management and one of the regular jobs was to clean fallen leaves that collected in the bottom of stairwells leading to garden level or basement apartments.  The leaves tended to add up there pretty thick, probably because they could fall in but not blow back out.  The stairwells were made entirely of cement--no earth anywhere for an earthworm to enter, yet somehow, whenever I went to clean out the stairwells, I always ended up moving large quantities of HUGE earthworms--they almost looked like baby snakes!  Since you have pits, maybe you could entice earthworms to come in and do the job that the Wine Caps were supposed to do.

Just my 2 cents,

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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I just found another approach that might work.  I found the article HERE:  https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/nov/22/grow-own-oyster-mushrooms, but you might hit a paywall so I will cut to the chase.

This involves using oyster mushrooms (I would assume Blue Oysters would be the best, but feel free to experiment).  Collect maybe 5 gallons of shredded leaves and moisten.  Add in 1 tsp of sugar and mix (molasses might work better if you have it).  Next make a nice, big pot of coffee and add in the grounds once they cool down to a warm (not hot) level.  Add in some mushroom spawn and mix everything up.

Now take that 5 gallon bucket out to your leaf pile and dump the contents into roughly the center.  This should act as a seed to start the spawning process.  Make certain that your leaf pile is moist.  With luck, the oysters will grow quickly in the 5 gallon "seeded" area and the spawn will spread to the rest of the leaves.

I have not tried this, but the process makes sense and I think is at least worth a shot.  I can't see much to lose aside from some prep time.

Good luck if you try this approach and if you do, please report back!

Eric
 
echo minarosa
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Worms were scant 4.5 years ago when we took over. Now, they are in fair supply despite the constant onslaught by centipedes, robins, raccoons, and probably opossums. It has taken a while though. It depends on what you're cutting into as well. The areas which stayed drier and got lots of hops and citrus...not so much. The areas that got lots of coffee, kitchen waste, and especially SCOBY is packed with worms. When I get LOTS of SCOBY, I've placed them on top of the ground near tomatoes, peppers, etc and then added leaves over it to help keep the SCOBY moist. In a few weeks these areas are HEAVY with worms. I don't drionk coffee but I'm still contacting nearby businesses looking for someone who would like regular pickups. That really added to composting efforts here.

I do have some oyster plug spawn left from inoculating a stump a couple of weeks ago. I may run a leaf cage if I can score some coffee. Thanks!
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