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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
BFB846FC-26AF-49A0-B36F-2A760CB98706.jpeg
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
3EECF5B5-FCE0-402B-B258-D3689401D9D1.jpeg
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.
 
Liz Weber
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Eric,
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the sides. Lumber IS very pricey right now. There is a masonry company near me so maybe I will contact them and see if they have any products besides cinderblocks that could work even better. Maybe half blocks or something? Years ago my husband and I scored a large load of cinderblocks that had been used as garden edges. We've used them all over from erosion control at the barn to leveling/foundation for smaller buildings and even our beehives. We have used most of them up and they show no signs of rot in any of our projects.
I am planning on putting the competing mushrooms in different piles/areas.
I'm not sure how permanent it will be but I will take the chips while I can get them. Im pretty sure these guys are contracted with the power company and they probably travel all over the state. But I am so grateful to have the chips. Earlier in the season we put our last pile down on our fruit trees and it made me nervous or something. Having a pile of fertility in my yard makes me feel happy and secure or something like that. I am glad to have fertility working for me again.
Thank you for your reply and sharing your journey on permies.

Jay,
I am definitely trying to get as much delivered while I can.
I agree, other people catching on is a good thing for the planet. But generally it has made it harder to get chips delivered.
I have called, signed up online, but the most luck I have had is stopping when I see the trucks out there cutting near my house. These power guys is a home run for us.
Thanks for your input. I love learning from others with similar interests.

I think down the road I will rent a chipper, the big one, but for now as long I can get them delivered I will let my fallen limbs and trees just rot in the woods. I'll see if i can post some pictures as things progress here. It is nice to find community even online.
Thanks again,
Liz
 
Eric Hanson
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LIz,

I will give you some good news about the wood chips.  Since you had a whole lot of chips delivered all at once and had them delivered, you basically have a full loadout for the time being.  The level will go down--make no mistake, but subsequent additions will tend to last longer.  If you remember from earlier this thread, I chipped up a whole lot of brush I cleared from a fence line.  I used about half of those chips right away to make two new beds while the rest of the chips are still standing in place.  If you don't mind chips standing in place, you could possibly get a supply for years to come.  As it stands, I really need to move my pile to a less conspicuous part of my land.

At any rate, again, great that you could get those chips and I can't wait to see how your project goes!

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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Liz,

This is a late reply to an earlier post about how long it will take to condition a wood chip bed with mushrooms.  You mentioned setting up and inoculating the bed in fall to be ready by spring.

In my experience, Wine Caps take a year to really break down the wood chips but don’t let that stop you.  I actually plant in fertile holes and fertile trenches as soon as I inoculated the chips.  The veggies get a good start in the fertile holes/trenches and the fertile holes/trenches provide a nice soil interface for the Wine Caps.  I have had good crops growing in mostly non-decomposed wood chips during the first season, though the harvests get much better with time.

Also, inoculating in fall might be a better than spring inoculation as you might avoid the heat and dryness associated with summer.  

So by all means, give the fall time inoculation a shot and see what happens.  I will be itching to see how it works out.

Eric
 
Liz Weber
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Eric,
I went ahead and ordered blewit, king stropharia, and blue oyster spawn from mushroommountain.com I got 10 lbs of sawdust spawn of each variety.
I was wondering if I should wait the 19 days or so for the pile to heat up and do it's 'thang. I may be close regardless as they have been here for a week or more and i just ordered the spawn yesterday. I leaning towards waiting. I will try and take some pictures for documentation sake. I have two areas alreadybstaked out and a third "in mind". Do you if any other those three strains fare better if walked upon? One area will be raised beds, the second around fruit trees and the third a herb/flower area. I'm thinking the flower area will have more traffic throughout the year and so I could put the hardiest fungi there.
Weve moved over half of the pile into a giant pile in the woods so as to encourage more deliveries.  I am very excited to have a stockpile of eventual soil "growing" at my house. The current pile is in the front yard but I'm pretty sure all of what is there will be spread into those three areas.
Thanks for the encouragement and quick replies.
Liz
 
Eric Hanson
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Hey Liz,

So my inclination would be to get the spawn in the chips ASAP.  I don’t think the pile of chips needs to heat up, but it will continue to break down even when spread out.

As for the 3 strains, the Blewits are probably going to take the longest.  I have thought about adding these to my Wine Cap beds, but they sometimes take years to fruit out.  Be extra patient with those.

I will be interested in how the oyster mushrooms do.  They are supposed to be even more aggressive than Wine Caps.  But I think they are just a touch more temperamental.  I want to try some of these too so I am very curious as to how yours work out.

Having fungi grow where you are walking is probably going to be difficult on the hyphae, but my money would be on the Wine Caps as they just seem to thrive on neglect.  This is just a prediction and reality may turn out to be different.

Incidentally, last fall I dug up some Wine Cap inoculated chips and added them to my comfrey plants.  This spring I did get a few mushrooms growing up in the comfrey shade.  I don’t walk right there but neither did I baby the area.

This is all very interesting.  Please post pictures when you get the chance.

Eric
 
Liz Weber
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Here is my King Stropharia bed at the wood's edge.  We put this in (i think) April? I could go see if I have any pics from then. Didnt find any...so, some time after Feb and before now (probably before May).
I took lots of pictures of the woodchip piles and some pics of where I want to spread them. Thanks for your encouragement because I think this is one of the few projects that I actually took before pics. On purpose. Ha!
The other pic is where you can see the white "stuff" ribbon? Proof of life? On a woodchip. I didnt have to "dig" far. There is lots going on in there which makes me happy.
20210804_192247.jpg
King stropharia bed
King stropharia bed
20210804_192312.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20210804_192312.jpg]
 
Liz Weber
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Where I want to put raised beds for vegetable gardening.
20210804_192123.jpg
Yard, soon to be mushroom nursery
Yard, soon to be mushroom nursery
 
Liz Weber
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Here are some pics of the woodchips. We have one small pile because they couldn't get to the normal pile. Our "dumping" pile in an easier location for the trucks to dump. And a huge "storage" pile at the edge of the woods where we can get the chips at our convenience and they can sit as long as needed.
20210804_192503.jpg
Husband moving Chips out of front yard to storage pile
Husband moving Chips out of front yard to storage pile
20210804_192612.jpg
Dump pile in front yard
Dump pile in front yard
20210804_192558.jpg
Small pile (only one truckload)
Small pile (only one truckload) with storage pile in the background
 
Liz Weber
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My spawn is scheduled to arrive on Friday so I think I will get some of the areas prepped and ready to innoculate this weekend. I am very excited to start this project and to share my successes and failures with the permie community.  
I've got plenty of time so if the Blewit takes years I will try and come back and update then.  I will try and put walkways (stones) down in the flower/herb patch to lessen the disturbance for the mycelium. Other than that fingers crossed for a successful journey into the world of fungi.
 
Eric Hanson
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Liz,

WOW!  You have a lot of chips!  I suspect that you will be using that supply for some time—which is great.

Good that you already have some beds laid out and basic plans for more.  Also I think the stepping stones will help minimize disturbance as the hyphae strands reach out into new wood.

I think that you will get some quick growth on the oyster and wine cap beds—maybe not immediate mushrooms but probably some quick mycelial growth.  Good that you have patience with the Blewits.

Overall I like your pictures, it gives me a visual reference as to the scope of your project.  Incidentally, that one small pile will likely make a nice bed by itself.  Also, though I am sure you already thought about it, make sure you start off with plenty of straw to get things started.  I have found that straw is like kindling for the fungal fire—it starts fast, gets growing very quickly, spreads well to wood but doesn’t last well by itself.

Again, your project looks better and better the more I hear/see it.

Eric
 
Liz Weber
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Eric,
Thanks for the reminder about the straw. I was thinking of top dressing the chips with the straw, but now I'm wondering if it would be beneficial to put a layer mixed in the middle as well. I buy the straw and I dont sterilize it, but I guess I could learn if needed. I did read up on it and I just felt like it was an extra step that might discourage me from attempting this (now) giant project. As you see, it started innocently enough with that single King Stropharia bed and we will see what it grows into.
My spawn is now scheduled for delivery tomorrow by 9pm. Which is too bad because it's supposed to be a high of 82 degrees, which would have been perfect weather (for August) and the rest of the week highs are all in the 90s. Well, what can you do...
Maybe I will get my first few inches down and wet them down really well. And then I can wet them again on Sunday and innoculate them and finish putting the piles down.
Thanks,
Liz
 
Jay Angler
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Eric Hanson wrote:

I have found that straw is like kindling for the fungal fire—it starts fast, gets growing very quickly, spreads well to wood but doesn’t last well by itself.

Do you know if you can use hay instead? Hay is much easier to find in my neck of the woods!  I forgot - do you mix the hay with wood chips or do it in layers?
 
Liz Weber
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I'd love to know the answer to this as well. Hay is a lot easier to come by, especially in large quantities, by me too.
I feel like it is maybe a no-no because of weed seeds that will be in hay, but let's see what Eric has to say. Hay would also be considered a green I think in terms of compost. But feel free to correct me if I'm wrong
 
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Unfortunately hay does not work like straw will.  I wish it did because I can get hay easier as well.  I am not saying it can’t be used at all, but straw is really tops.

As far as actual usage, you could mix straw and chips and this wouldn’t be such a bad idea at all on an old bed you were trying to rejuvenate.  But for starting out a new bed I like to use a strategically layered approach.  Again, I think of the fire analogy.  I get the fire started first in the kindling before it spreads to the actual wood.  When I build a bed I like to fill up a bed to about 12” deep.  Then I start digging fertile holes for tomatoes and mark them, saving the chips.  Next I dig a grid pattern of smaller 6”-8” holes and connect with trenches.

When I actually sow spawn, I start with the 6”-8” holes, laying in some spawn, layer with straw, then chips, then more spawn, straw and chips.  I repeat the same process with the trenches, though I frequently only get in one layer. Finally I spread any remaining chips on the surface, level it, spread any remaining spawn and add a thick, maybe 6” layer of straw over the whole bed.

My overarching goal is to make little junctions or hotspots where the spawn can really get started growing.  The pathways should connect the hotspots to each other to increase their “burn.”  Once those areas are “lit” the remaining wood chips should succumb rapidly.

That top layer of straw serves a couple of purposes.  For starters, it regulates and keeps moist the chips below, making ideal conditions for mushroom growing.  It also shades the wood chip substrate.  If thick enough, and if it gets some shade itself (such as from the tomatoes). The straw also acts as more spawn accelerant.  I have found that the top layer of straw is sometimes the most active layer in the bed.

Last point about hay vs. straw.  I have tried using grass clippings in the past in lieu of straw when I could not find straw.  The clippings matted down and sorta smothered the substrate.  Mushroom spawn actually needs to breathe oxygen just like us.  The clippings definitely did not help.  I have heard of similar things from people who have used hay.  

On the other hand, my daughter has a pet rabbit and it gets plenty of hay that ends up in the litter.  That litter itself gets thrown out and ends up in one of my garden beds so I do end up growing mushrooms with hay, but the hay is thoroughly mixed with rabbit wood chip bedding which itself is heavily loaded with the rabbit’s own urine and pellets.  So while hay won’t prohibit growth of mushrooms it is generally not recommended as the top dressing layer.

I hope this was helpful, the answer sort of got out of control as I was writing it.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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I will add one more anecdote about straw or lack of it.

I had hopes that I had enough spawn in my chips that I would never need any more outside inputs aside from fresh chips as the beds get depleted from time to time.

Last spring, what with Covid shortages everywhere I planted almost all of my bed with potatoes.  I figured that if food did actually become short, potatoes would stretch my supplies better than any other crop.  I started by simply dropping seed potatoes on the surface and then covered with a thick (maybe 8”) layer of new chips.  I wanted to incorporate straw, but I simply could not find any locally and none of the suppliers knew when or if they would get any back.  Perhaps this was another Covid shortage, but I honestly don’t know.

Instead of straw, I did have some dried grass clippings left over from my lawn and I thought these would make a nice substitute for straw.  It did not work.  The clippings matted down and never became inoculated the way straw can.  It did keep the chips somewhat moist but I suspect that the conditions became slightly anoxic—not a good set of circumstances.  

I even contacted my spawn distributor and they told me some enlightening information.  For starters, hay, like grass, tends to mat down.  Also, the straw, being hollow little tubes makes for a great growing medium, even when compressed.  This year I have two straw bales just sitting on the surface of the bed to see what inoculates the bale.  In the past, this technique has obliterated the bale in the course of a season.  

This year I re-inoculated an older bed (bed#2) and added in straw.  I will be checking in fall to see if any growth started in that straw and spread to the newly applied chips.

Eric

 
Liz Weber
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So I think this will be my first area to mulch.  The small pile is close by, and I think I could put the Blewits here because currently this is a spot that we will not be cultivating any further any time soon, so I can have plenty of time to wait and see what happens to them. It should get plenty of shade thanks to those persimmon trees.
I aim to get this "bed" done tomorrow.
I read your description, thank you for all the detail. I only have 2 bales of straw maybe another 2/3 of one kicking around the farm.
Since I plan on doing 8" I am going to skip the cardboard step that I did on my earlier bed. I may live to regret that decision but others said over 6" (or maybe 8") seemed to smother the weeds.
So, I plan on 4" of chips, spread some spawn, 4" of chips with little trenches and fertile holes connected, topped by 2" of straw. Should I put any spawn directly on or in the straw or simply use it as the covering? I could put some down at the spawn level in between the two 4" wood chip layers.
I have to say, I love that I am saying 4". In reality I will eyeball it and hope to get around 4". Then maybe in the spring once the chips have "settled" (decomposed) I will add 4" more to the top.
Wish me luck, i will add photos as we go along.
Liz
20210807_175814.jpg
Persimmon tree area to be mulched
Persimmon tree area to be mulched
 
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Liz,

I would aim to add a little layer of straw between the chip layers.  Again, think kindling.  That straw will colonize faster than the chips and will only help the chips get really colonized later.  But do save the majority of the straw for the top.  

How much wind does that one place get?  The reason I ask is that you certainly don't want the straw blowing off.  You could possibly save a few chips to weigh down the straw or fence off the bed while you wait.  Either could work.

Hopefully the 8" of chips plus straw will choke out weeds, but I have seen weeds grow right through my 12" deep layers like they were not even there!  Maybe being in a more shaded spot than mine will help control those weeds.  However, even if you do get some weeds, this is not the end of the world for mushrooms.  Many mushrooms like to form associations with plant roots, my Wine Caps certainly did.

Blewits are not as bullet proof as Wine Caps, so watch them more carefully than I watched my Wine Caps.  I basically sowed my spawn, built my bed, stood back and waited 6 months before even checking for progress.  I really should have been more active, but then Wine Caps don't really need to be babied.  Blewits probably need more care, mostly to make sure that the chips don't dry out.  I would check daily at first to see if the chips are moist and add water (rain or ground water if possible--not chlorinated preferably).  As the chips start to decompose, they should actually release some water thus staying moist on their own.  Maybe by that point checking once per week?

At any rate, it looks like you are off on a sound footing.  I have only tried Wine Caps so I will be learning from your experience here.  Good luck!  I can hardly wait to see how things turn out and I am looking forward to regular updates.  I do hope to see pictures as your bed gets constructed!!

Eric
 
Liz Weber
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Eric,
I just tractor dumped/spread the small pile, it will probably be 6" on the first layer when I rake it out to more evenly spread it.  I will wet it down significantly before innoculating the chips and adding straw. I will then add up to an additional 6" of chips, innoculate, wet, put in some fertile holes and trenches, top the whole thing off with straw, hose down the whole pile, and then put a few rocks on top to hold down the straw.
I am very excited to get this one done. The stump under the plastic tote/bin is colonized with turkey tail, I hope that doesnt give me any grief, but really mushrooms are everywhere, I just happen to see these ones.
Liz
 
Eric Hanson
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Liz, that sounds like just about the perfect plan.  I don't know what the turkey tail will do, if anything, but it will be a fun experiment nonetheless!  Congratulations on starting off your first mushroom bed!  I can hardly wait to see pictures.

Do you have plans yet for where the other beds will go yet?

Eric
 
Liz Weber
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Layer one is down and wet. We are on a well, so no chlorinated water here. I will take pics as the project progresses.
I think we are going to use 4x8x16 blocks to build raised beds in the grassy/fence area.  I think I will aim for two high, I'm not sure how well they will stack though, so we may only do 1 layer, or use regular cinderblocks.  We have researched a little bit on the blocks and will likely source them in the next few days.  That area will be for a vegetable garden next summer.  I think I can add almost 300 sq ft of growing space (well that's using the outside dimensions of the beds).
Honestly, everywhere I look I think "I could put woodchips there". On the north side of my house as mostly a mushroom bed but possibly grow greens there next summer.
On the west side of my house is where I want to put a perennial flower/herb garden, maybe 3 smaller beds worth. I may put the oysters here and on the north side. I want to use the stropharia for the veggie beds.
20210808_092335.jpg
My helper in spreading
My helper in spreading
20210808_092338.jpg
One scoop at a time
One scoop at a time
20210808_095534.jpg
Even(ish) woodchips
Even(ish) woodchips
20210808_101245.jpg
Watering the bed
Watering the bed
 
Eric Hanson
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Liz, that looks like a great bed so far.

Have you added the thin straw layer and second wood chip layer yet?  And I assume you have some straw left over to cover the straw?

At any rate, that looks like the start of a great mushroom bed.

Eric
 
Jay Angler
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Liz, from what I'm reading the more mushroom inoculated wood chips you add to the land, the more carbon's going back into the soil, and the more healthy roots will grow in the area. If you decide eventually you want more shrubs/ berry bushes/ large or small trees, the soil health will already be there to ease those plans.

The only thing I'd add, but I know I'm biased by clay soil and summer drought patterns, is looking at the biochar thread to see if you can make some biochar at home to add into your beds. Biochar is great for holding on to soil fertility, along with the mushrooms, and helps to sequester carbon in the process.
 
Liz Weber
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Jay,
I have been lightly reading up on biochar. Is that something I could add at a later time? We heat with wood and have added ashes to our compost pile as well as sprinkling outside. I will check out the thread and read up some more. I know that ashes are not biochar, but ashes are a byproduct of our life and I am looking for ways to "recycle" them in a way that benefits us . I feel fortunate that we live with woods around us and we planted a dozen or more fruit trees this spring. I wish I had this many woods chips last year (or 5 years ago).  But I am all for improving my soil for everything growing here. I have a couple areas that we put in this year that I am going for a food forest/ permaculture guilds vibe. Fruit trees, fruit shrubs, berries, beneficial plants (insects, nitrogen, etc). We put compost down and topped with woodchips in these areas but did not "plant" fungi.   Knowledge is power, going forward fungi is the way for us. And hopefully we will have the ability to produce all we need (in time).
I plan of finishing the bed today and will likely post pics tomorrow. I saw some of the tree guys' trucks parked nearby, so I am hoping they still have more to give me this week.
Thanks for your replies, encouragement, and suggestions.
Liz
 
Eric Hanson
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Liz,

Biochar can be a great tool in the arsenal but it does require some skill to use.  If you can get biochar, probably the best thing to do with it is mix it with compost.  The char will sorta act like a microbial sponge and get loaded up with all the microbial goodies in a compost pile.  The real benefit is that when you move the char you bring the goodies with you which then spread out into your garden soil.

Wood chips will serve much the same function but with one significant difference:  eventually those wood chips will break down but the char will stay char for ages, maybe centuries.  You could add char to your mushroom bed but I don’t think it would change much unless you were moving the bedding later, perhaps as a way to inoculate more beds.  That would be an interesting experiment and I don’t know what difference if any it would make.

The other way that char can help is if you are amending soil, especially for the first time.  Char can loosen heavy clay, help sandy soil retain moisture and generally improve just about any soil.  Moreover, each piece of char will eventually become its own little microbial home so it can definitely do good for soil.

If you want to make Biochar, I could walk you through some ways to make it.  I have dabbled in char in the past with fairly good results but my batches were tiny.

Eric
 
Jay Angler
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Eric Hanson wrote:If you want to make Biochar, I could walk you through some ways to make it.  I have dabbled in char in the past with fairly good results but my batches were tiny.

I know the feeling of "tiny" batches. I use a stainless food warming tray with a lid on it inside our wood stove. You have to get one that fits with space around it for the fire,  and Hubby usually has a small fire and then builds it up adding the covered tray with fresh wood around it. We can take it out and put it somewhere safe to cool (concrete usually), water it down often adding a little liquid gold, and then it goes into the compost, as Eric suggested. If I lose a bird, I wrap it in an old feed bag with the fresh char around her, and that gets buried in the compost also. It's *very* small scale, but every little bit helps!  During our droughts, many locals water their veggies daily if not twice a day. I water mine every 2-3 days and not near as much water as most would use. I believe it's the combination of punky wood, compost with biochar, polyculture veggie patches, and supporting the local mushrooms, even if I haven't tried intentionally growing any yet. There's a local edible one I recognize and when I see it fruiting, I often try to move it somewhere I hope it will like living. I think it likes to be under fir trees, so it may not be willing to hang out in my veggie beds, but I do give it the opportunity to try!
 
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Eric and Jay,
Thank you for the info on biochar. I think I will make that my winter study subject. These woodchips kinda fell in my lap and are forcing my hand, but I am so very grateful to have them. I feel very blessed and want them to do good around my property, I know they will. I should dig up some of our lawn dirt to show you guys what our "native" soil looks like. We are in zone 6b/7 and usually have plenty of rainfall.
I can often be found in the late fall driving around collecting leaf bags before the city gets them. Totally embarrasses my kids, but that's our job as parents, right? I know no chemicals have been used here for the past 5 years and would guess not even the 20 before that.
Here is after inoculating the first layer and them covering with straw. I hope to finish the bed tomorrow.  This has been fun sharing our mushroom bed with the permies community and I will keep you posted on the other mushroom/woodchip beds.
I will probably come pick your brains in the winter regarding biochar. Like I said we heat with wood and have both a woodstove and a fireplace that we use regularly in the winter. I may just try making some on a small scale then.  I do have the ability to burn outside as well, but I feel building a kiln is beyond my capacity/ability right now. Burn barrel, maybe doable.
20210808_201534.jpg
1st layer done!
1st layer done!
 
Eric Hanson
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Liz, that bed looks great.  I assume that you plan to add spawn next?

And yes, absolutely, embarrassing our children is TOTALLY the job of parents!

Eric
 
Jay Angler
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Eric Hanson wrote:And yes, absolutely, embarrassing our children is TOTALLY the job of parents!

It teaches them humility and that the world isn't going to be perfect!
 
Eric Hanson
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Well put Jay.
 
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