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composting wood chips with chicken litter and fungi

 
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I love this post! I just reread it from the beginning, and am thinking about how to get spawn, because I can get sawdust and shavings (though not chips).

A couple of ideas occurred to me while reading it...

About the logs bordering the beds rotting and disappearing, I wonder why your beds have to be raised. Why not make them at ground level? Especially since you have a tractor so you can dig out a new bed.

About the thin wood being annoying to chip, could you just pile the branches whole, into the beds before filling with chips? Seems like the mycelium would colonise them. Or are they too zigzaggy and would stick up too much?

About the apparently reducing growth of the fungus, could that be this thing about earthworms eating up the mycelium? What is up with that? Is it really a thing?
 
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Hi Rebecca,

Thanks for the interest.  I will try to answer your questions as closely as I can.  But last question first, I was grasping at straws when I was told that earthworms would eat mycelium.  After a bit of research I can safely say that this is not true.  Fortunately, my wood chips are teaming with earthworms.

Regarding the raised beds, the whole reason for creating raised beds in the first place was really two-fold.  The first reason was to dispose of a big pile of chips.  Secondly, I had wanted to grow in raised beds so I thought this was a good start.  Originally I considered using left over 10-10-10 fertilizer from my pre-Permies days in order to jump-start bacterial growth.  I was fortunately persuaded to go the fungal route and never looked back.  My ultimate goal is to decompose so much wood in the bed that I get about 10-12” of mushroom compost bedding.  This will probably take a very long time to accomplish.

In the meantime I am trying to restart my earlier progress in a couple of experiments.  I got a couple of new blocks of spawn that I will sprinkle back into the mix.  I also have some straw which I will try to use growing in directly just to see if I can get a fungal colony growing really quickly.

Actually Rebecca, you may have hit upon part of the main problem at the beginning of your post.  I may not have enough soil contact & soils organisms to partner with the fungi so I am planning on digging up some topsoil from a healthy spot nearby.

In any case, I will keep this thread updated as I continue to work in the bed.  I wish I could have posted more often recently, but events have conspired against me.  The end-of-school grading was weirdly chaotic, and we had two kids plus a niece graduate.  I feel like we have had a graduation month this May/June.  Fortunately we only have one last big graduation event next weekend at which point our graduation month should be over.  I will try to keep more up to date after then.

Eric
 
Rebecca Norman
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Eric Hanson wrote:... I was told that earthworms would eat mycelium.  After a bit of research I can safely say that this is not true.  



Yay! I'm happy to hear this.
 
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Carla Burke wrote: Hi, Eric! Well.... I suppose you could plant sorghum, in the spring, harvest it, make your own blackstrap, and go from there. It would take another year, but it could absolutely be done.



If you grow your own sorghum solely for this purpose, couldn’t you just chop it up and add it to the compost pile? Skip the extraction? It might take longer to decompose than sorghum, but saves the labor of harvest, extraction, boiling and bottling.
 
Eric Hanson
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Hi everyone!

I am starting my garden late this year and was a bit disappointed by the lack of mushrooms earlier this spring, but I have some interesting news.  

In my bed #3, I will likely grow nothing this year owing to my very late start.  But several weeks ago I did pick up 3 bales of straw and just threw them on top for storage.  At the time the bed looked just like bare chips, and even digging in only revealed a few places where some mycelium was growing.

But today I actually need that straw so I pulled up a bale and moved it to a new bed.  Underneath the bale in an almost perfect rectangle was a nice, fluffy, fuzzy mat of fungi, presumably Wine Cap mycelium!  With a little luck the mycelium is already in the straw as well and will transfer easily to the new bed.

I will try to get some pictures in a little bit after I get done planting my tomatoes.

Eric
 
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Eric Hansen wrote:

In my bed #3, I will likely grow nothing this year owing to my very late start.

Have you considered throwing any old, heat-loving seeds in that bed and letting them fight it out? If nothing else, you might get organic matter to chop and drop, and at least there will be lower odds of "weeds you don't want" moving in?
 
Eric Hanson
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Jay, that’s a great question.

A few years ago in my 1st mushroom bed, bed #1, I did scatter peas in the spring solely for the purpose of fixing nitrogen.  The summer squash I grew that year was the best by far I have ever grown, though I think a lot of that credit goes to the fungi and not the soil N.

I do have plans to start some beans in the same bed as tomatoes, but in a different place.  I will likely have leftovers and I might well scatter those as you suggest.  Great Idea.

As it stands, I just got back from planting tomatoes—all 6 plants.  Not a great big garden this year, but something I can grow and eat.  I also spread some new spawn in trenches that I filled with straw.  I then spread straw all over the planted surface.  Since the spawn self-started in a bale of straw I thought I would build on a theme.  

I spread spawn more densely than usual, wetted everything down thoroughly and came inside for the afternoon heat.  After the heat subsides this evening I will go out and water again, lay down cardboard and cover with a mixture of wood chips and more straw and water a third time just to be thorough.

I am laying down cardboard as a digestible weed barrier and moisture trap.  I figure that since I found healthy mycelium growing under the moist underside of a bale of straw, some cardboard would serve the same effect.

At any rate that’s where I am now.  I will try to get pictures uploaded soon and I will update as I continue to build this bed.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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7/17/2021

OK, I just had an interesting development.  2 days ago I checked my bed #3, my newest bed and one that had a rather disappointing Wine Cap harvest last year and no Wine Caps this year.  I mentioned in earlier posts that I dug into the chips and found some patches of dense, white mycelium growing and that I also found fluffy mycelium growing under a straw bale I sat out on the bed for storage.  At the time I assumed this was all Wine Cap mycelium.

One of the placed that had the dense mycelium just pushed up a nice, dense colony of actual mushrooms--in July!  And they did not look at all like a Wine Cap though they were fairly large mushrooms at about 4 inches across (just eyeballing here).  I quickly checked here at Permies for help, did an internet search, purchased a mushroom ID app for my phone and eventually narrowed the list to 3 possibilities.  The first two were related species, and basically harmless and edible (but not exactly culinary quality) while the third variety was called the Destroying Angel!  Its toxin is the same found in the Death Cap!  Yikes!

After a little more searching, the Destroying Angel seems less and less a possibility.  My easily observable reasons are that the Destroying Angel is:
1)  All white
2)  Needs a living tree root to associate in order to live and grow

There are more factors I could consider but did not for a variety of reasons, mostly owing to the fact that it was raining most of the day and by the time I got back to check on the other features, the mushrooms had already started to rot away.  

I suspect that the mushroom was actually a Big Sheath mushroom, a different genus from the Destroying Angel entirely.  My reasoning is that the Big Sheath:
1)  Has pink/salmon gills
2)  Likes to grow on piles of wood chips (exactly the conditions in the bed!)
3)  Tends to grow in dense clumps

This is an interesting development in this particular bed and it will be interesting to see what happens this fall.  I am especially interested in what happens under those 2 extra straw bales that are sitting on the surface, presumably inoculated from the chips below--will they be inoculated with Wine Caps or Big Sheath mushrooms?  I may try to add in some extra Wine Cap spawn in a corner of that garden under some straw just to see if I can really get some Wine Caps going quickly and then see what happens.

At any rate this was a totally unexpected turn of events.  But as my ultimate goal is the compost and not the actual mushroom, this is not an unwelcome turn of events.  I will keep this updated.

Eric
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Mystery Mushrooms
Mystery Mushrooms
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A Solo Mystery Mushroom
A Solo Mystery Mushroom
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Up Close Mushrooms
Up Close Mushrooms
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Mushroom Gills
Mushroom Gills
 
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Eric,
I have throughly enjoyed reading this entire thread about woodchips and mushrooms. My husband and I put in a woodchip mushroom patch (king stropharia) on the edge of our woods earlier this spring.  We followed Michael Judd's info in Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist. https://www.ecologiadesign.com/
The power company is doing huge trimming up by us. I made friends with a couple of the guys (thanks to some ice cream and popsicles on hot days) and they have brought me at least 6 loads of chips in the last 2 weeks.
I am contemplating ordering more spawn from  https://mushroommountain.com. I think I will try blewit and oyster and grab another king stropharia as I dont want to bother my new bed yet.
My goals are very similar to yours. Turn wood chips into soil quicker, learn about fungi, and grow/harvest/enjoy delicious mushrooms.
I have access to semi aged horse manure and some lawn I want to convert into a garden with raised beds. Our current garden has raised beds with logs the power company fell two winters ago. After seeing what the mushrooms did to your first bed I made reconsider logs as my beds. Logs look so rustic and awesome(and are free to me), but I'm not a fan of replacing them every couple years. So you say untreated regular lumber with masonry paint is the way to go?
Like you, i have time on my side and i would like to get the woodchips where i want them and wait for them to become beautiful soil. Do you think I could put them in the beds in September, inoculate the beds, and by spring have a workable garden (even if I have to do the fertile soil holes)?
I guess I could try some with horse manure/straw mixed in and some just straight up woodchips.
I also have an area with 3 old persimmon trees I plan to spread some of the chips there just to improve the soil.
This thread has been so very helpful. Thank you for taking the time (years!) To document it all so that us newbies can benefit. Permies rocks!
Thanks again,
Liz
 
Eric Hanson
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Hi Liz!
 
Ah, what to do about the raised bed sides!  The truth is that I don’t know the perfect raised edge at the moment.  I have logs that are almost completely devoured and some that are still surprisingly stable after a decade on the ground and 3 years in contact with Stropharia.  My 2x10 lumber does look nice at the moment and shows no signs of deteriorating but was more expensive than I thought, was pretty time consuming and is not permanent.  At the moment I am thinking about converting my log-edge garden to cinder blocks.  They should be permanent, and are not any more expensive than the 2x10 with masonry paint (both of which are expensive, particularly lumber right now).  The cinder blocks might be just a bit more work to set up and level but they will never ever rot through.  If I were re-doing my other 2 beds, it would be with blocks.

BTW, great idea about trying different mushrooms, just make certain to do so in different beds as they don’t like to play nice with each other.  Wine Caps and Oysters in particular will try to arm wrestle each other to death and both lose.  But done in separate beds and you can have a real winner.  

Also great that you have secured yourself a long-term source of wood chips.  I still have to chip mine up and while I like the project, it can be quite a workout.

It will be great to see what comes of your plans.  Please keep us updated!

Eric
 
Jay Angler
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Eric Hanson wrote:Also great that you have secured yourself a long-term source of wood chips.  I still have to chip mine up and while I like the project, it can be quite a workout.

I suggest you take as much advantage of a chip source as you can while you can get them. In my area, everyone's figured out how useful they are, and you're lucky if you can get a single load and certainly not the multiple loads I was able to get years ago.

The positive side of that is that it means lots of people have gotten the message about building soil and mulching to conserve water!
The downside is, yes, lots of work to chip our own! Being in a fire zone, I still feel it's worth it, and since I have animals willing to inoculate those chips with their high-nitrogen excrement, I get to keep them happy too. Using bedding I chipped myself usually means that bugs and worms have already moved in, so the birds *much* prefer it to the sterile "wood shavings" you can buy.
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