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Overwhelmed by beginning fungi info

Posts: 528
Location: Ontario - Gardening in zone 3b, 4b, or 6b, depending on the day
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Mushroom propagation is .... scary. I have looked into it before, and it's either "buy this expensive kit and grow one batch" or "by this culture, have a sterile environment and a ton of specific equipment and a bunch of weeks process and then ....(not sure).". I glance, get overwhelmed, and stop looking.

But- my mom wants to grow mushrooms, so I have been tasked with making it happen. Theoretically, I have the lab skills to do it, probably, but having to do things completely sterile sucks some fun out of it.

I think what we want is to have an outdoor bed of woodchips that fruit mushrooms.

1) How do you inoculate a bed of woodchips? Any good species?
2) Are they perennial? Able to handle very cold temperature over the winter?
3) Do you need to keep buying mushroom spawn?  
4) Is liquid culture an appropriate starting point?
5) can you have multiple types of spawn in one bed, or should you seperate them?
6) does the mushroom bed need to be kept weed and vegetable free?
7) Are woodchips with significant "green" materials (chipped branches) appropriate?
8) Can you start in the fall, or do I need to wait for spring?

Any resources you can throw at me are more than appreciated!!!

Posts: 330
Location: Chicago
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If you choose a type of mushroom that naturally occurs in your area, and buy from a source in your area, you may increase your chance of success growing outdoors, especially with regard to overwintering.  The type of material will depend on the type of mushroom you want to grow.  Some will grow in wood chips, others need a real log or stump. Some "fruit" in cold weather.

I used to have two varieties of oyster mushrooms sharing a mulberry stump-- the white ones fruited in warmer weather, the tastier brown ones in late fall or even warmish winter days.  After a few good years of this, now I hardly get any oysters, however, and the stump is largely taken over by shaggy manes and slime molds.  I have heard the shaggy manes are edible, but they usually disintegrate too quick for me to get them.  I don't know if the shaggy manes actually out-competed or "pushed out" the oysters, or if it is just that since the stump is more rotted out conditions favor the shaggy manes over the oysters.  I am also not sure that anything could be done to stop an unwanted fungus from colonizing an outdoor area--at least no without also killing your preferred fungus.  The point of all the instructions about starting with sterile media are to give your chosen fungus a head start against any wild spores that show up, but if you're setting up outdoors, the wild spores will get there sooner or later.

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Location: Southern Illinois
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Growing mushrooms is not all that difficult, nor expensive.  Since this is your first attempt I am going to suggest either Wine Cap mushrooms or Blue Oyster mushrooms.  I will give an example based on Wine Caps as that is what I have used, though most of what I will say applies to Blue Oysters as well.

First off, you don't need to sterilize the wood if you are using either of these species as they are so aggressive that they massively out compete just about any other mushroom out there (but don't use them together.  They are so strong that they get into a sort of arm wrestling match and then neither wins--just use one type).  Wine Caps grow best on hardwoods, which in this case really means non-conifers.  They grow the longest on oaks, but pretty much any non conifer will do the trick.  They even grow very quickly on straw, but they absolutely devour the straw in no time.  Personally, I go trimming up around my property and collect all the wood in a pile.  Then I rent a chipper and chip the whole thing up and place them in beds about 1' deep.  I use about a foot of thickness because that is a lot of chips, but still allows the wine caps to have some ground contact--something they like.  Personally, I am growing the mushrooms for the compost they produce, though the actual mushrooms are a nice treat as well.

Regarding question #2, yes, essentially mushrooms are perennials, provided they have a continuous supply of fresh wood on which to feed.  I always top off my garden beds and the mushrooms keep on coming.

This means that regarding question #3, no, you do not need to keep buying spawn.  They produce their own spawn and if you wanted to, you could take a sample of the resulting compost and start a new bed.

#4--There is no need to use a liquid culture

#5--As I stated above, for starters, keep the mushroom species apart.  In time, you can experiment with some other mushrooms that play well, but that is for a more advanced grower (I hear blewits can grow with wine caps).

#6--Absolutely Not!  In fact, I deliberately grow tomatoes in my beds as they get started.  This is for several reasons.  First, the tomatoes provide dappled shade to the wine caps--just what they like to have.  Secondly, having that shade helps keep the moisture levels well regulated--no abrupt drying out.  Mushrooms don't like that.  Wine caps actually grow best in association with some plant roots.  In fact the wine caps help the tomatoes grow better and the tomatoes help the wine caps grow better.  In fact, the mushroom "roots" are wrapped around the tomato roots.  I could go on and on, but plants and wine caps grow very well together.

#7  Green branches are perfectly fine.  I get plenty of actual foliage when I chip and inoculate my wood.

#8  You could start in fall, but I can't give good commentary about that timing as I have only done so in the spring.  However, I would think that if you got the chips inoculated about now, they would have time to really colonize the wood.  I am doubting that you would get any mushrooms, but my wine caps continued to consume wood over winter and gave a nice flush in spring.  One note though:  In my experience, wine caps take a year to produce actual mushrooms.  This was fine by me as I was after the compost, but if you want the mushrooms (and why not), then a couple of things have to happen.  The main body of the wine cap grows in the chips.  After they completely colonize the wood and consume it, they start running out of food.  This triggers the fungus to produce the fruiting body or mushroom so that they can produce spores, blow away, and start the process over someplace else.  I use a large pile of chips.  If you had a smaller volume, you might well get a flush of mushrooms much earlier than I did, but that is something left to your

I do have two long running threads about growing mushrooms  HERE:


And I have a detailed set of step-by-step instructions HERE:


The first thread details my experience starting from a complete, total fungal newbie to having a degree of competence.  I try to keep it updated.  The second is a detailed step-by-step set of instructions of how I went through the process.  This is only one way to grow mushrooms so feel free to alter whatever steps you wish to do, but the process has worked well for me.

I hope all of this helps and if you have any questions, by all means ask.  And keep me updated.  I love seeing how these things work out.


Posts: 47
Location: Reno, NV
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Take a mycology class and you'll get proper guidance. When you score the internet for it you'll find a bunch of voices telling you what you should do. One specialist that knows how to guide you is what you need. I'm an instructor in mycology and I have online classes about how to propagate mycelium, how to make spawn and such. Let me know if you're interested
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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Joseph Lofthouse has a much less complicated, and not sterile method. He explaines it starting in this post:

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Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
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Once you get a bed of oyster or wine cap, just keep on adding fresh woodchip/straw and it will keep on producing.
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