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composting wood chips with chicken litter and fungi

 
Posts: 44
Location: Virginia
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Ok, so it is "done". I have to go back out and take a final photo and I think I may add more straw in the morning. I am really hoping we get some rain as it is so hot.
So, in looking back change number 1 i think i would make going if i had the choice, dont build, innoculate, or start a mushroom bed when it is mid 90's out. I watered, and watered, and watered that thing. But the chips were already hot (and steaming) when they were in the pile and that heat dried out any watering attempts. We will see how the blewits survive. The things is, this is when I was blessed with chips, so this is when we put in the bed. There was already a ton of fungi spread happening especially where there were any leaves matted together.  I'm glad I didnt wait any longer. But, it is hot (I know this is relative, as areas on the West Coast have had record highs this summer) . Rain was forecast for today but hasnt materialized. Maybe by Friday. The whole bed would benefit tremendously from a good slow soaking.
Change number 2, I will probably put logs around this bed. I wont care if these rot out, as this is mostly a soil growing bed, but if I am really ambitious I may collect rocks from around the yard and line it with rocks, I just like the look of big logs holding it all in nicely.
And 3rd change would be to do this all on rainy days or when rain is scheduled for many days in a row.
I dug holes and trenches, put spawn in watered, added straw and woodchips. I only did one layer in the holes and trenches. I did spawn the entire bed after layer one of woodchips and layer one of straw. Roughly 4ish lbs of spawn between the two "coats" Then added trenches after layer 2 of woodchips. I probably put just under 1 lbs of spawn in the holes and trenches.Then I spawned the entire top of layer 2 of woodchips. 5 lbs worth. Then I spread 8 bales of straw on the entire bed.  I only put 2 bales in layer 1 of straw. So it is definitely thicker on top. Thanks for your support and encouragement. Fingers crossed that i can start on the veggie garden beds next week. When i do, you know I will be back with pics.
Liz
20210810_154326.jpg
Trenches with straw topping
Trenches with straw topping
20210810_154322.jpg
Some trenches before straw
Some trenches before straw
 
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Liz, it looks great!  And timing aside, everything you did sounds textbook perfect.  

Unfortunately, yeah, you are right that this time of year is probably the worst for actually sowing the types of mushrooms we want to actually use.  I live in Southern Illinois, and my climate is much like yours--hot, humid summers.

At this point, I can only think of 3 pointers.

1)  Water!  I know this is obvious, but keep that bed moist.  The good news is that all that straw you put down will do a great job at regulating moisture.

2)  Shade.  Is there any way you can add shade to the bed?  Just a thought, but it would keep the sun off and help keep water in.

3)  Patience!  This was the hardest part for me to learn.  I kept thinking I had failed, but I just needed to wait longer.


This has been a great project.  When do you see yourself starting on your Wine Cap and Oyster beds?

Eric
 
Liz Weber
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Eric,
This has been a great project! I had written a long reply earlier but didnt submit it and now I dont know where it went, so I will write another one...
1. I water it everyday, usually twice a day. I'm out there super early and am glad my neighbor isnt up and out yet. Some might think it a little strange to see me watering/growing soil. We got maybe a 1/4" rain today but more is forecast this weekend.
2.  I'm attaching a picture I took around 2pm. The bed gets a good amount of shade throughout the day. The trees around/in it are large persimmons maybe 30'+ tall. And the shade moves around so I dont think any part of the bed gets full sun all day.
3. Ah, patience, it's a tricky thing, isn't it. I'm glad I put the blewits here, because I really do just want to grow soil in this location, so if it takes 3 years, then so be it. I will continue to make sure it has plenty of water and I will wait.
My husband and I picked up some of the cinderblocks today. We still need more but I think we can probably start on the winecap/veggie garden sometime in the next week or two. The oyster bed will require clearing out some prickly bushes and other yard trimmings. But maybe by mid Soetember I can have that ground prepped.
It was fun doing this bed, even with limited prior experience I still felt like this project was within my pay-grade.  It definitely helped having you and Jay to bounce ideas off of and get encouragement from. I hope my pictures (and having this forum active) will help others take the plunge on growing mushrooms in woodchips.
20210811_141536.jpg
All done, so purdy
All done, so purdy
 
Eric Hanson
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Liz,

Yeah, patience is the tricky thing isn’t it!  But really, you grabbed this project with both hands and never let go.  I think your bed looks great and I am glad to hear the bed gets that good shade just as the heat of the day hits.  

And I think that you are undertaking this project for all the right reasons—growing soil as well as growing mushrooms.  I am so curious as to what this bed produces down the road.

Also, I am thankful that you can get something useful out of this long-running thread.  Like you I was craving any type of help early in my fungal journey.  And while I still have a long ways to go, I am happy to help someone to get started.  That’s kinda the purpose behind Permies in general and this thread in particular—to have a place full of resources and to be able to bounce around ideas.

And again, you are really off to a great start.  I am sure that the experience you gained building this bed will help tremendously as you build your Wine Cap bed and then your Oyster bed.  We live in similar climates so I am really interested in how this works out for you.  I have a bed right now that hosts a large pile of wood chips.  I want to move most of the chips, inoculate with Oysters and plant asparagus.  I have been told that Oysters are even more ravenous than Wine Caps so I am eager to see how they compare to Wine Caps and it will be fun to compare experiences.

Congratulations on getting this bed up and going!  I eagerly await the beginning of your next bed.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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So I have not updated in about a month.  My tomatoes finally started ripening and this weekend I plan to go out and harvest whatever I can from my tomato plants.  After I do I will check closely to see how the wine caps fungi spread over the summer.  I intentionally buried some straw on top of spawn, all under wood chips, cardboard and more wood chips and cardboard.  Specifically I want to see if the fungi propagated along the straw paths I laid out.

This summer, however, was not all that conducive to growing mushrooms.  In addition to being hot, we had a prolonged dry spell—I don’t quite know if it qualifies as a drought but it got plenty dry.  My personal metric for drought is it begins on the 3rd week of high temperatures and no appreciable rain.  It seems that it takes 3 weeks for things to dry out for us.  We had a number of 3 week dry spells followed by a little bit of rain.

Nonetheless the tomato plants grew nice and big and I did not water them at all.  I am hopeful that the area by the root zone had enough moisture to foster fungal growth.  I know that I won’t find any actual mushrooms, but I will dig in and check on the subsurface fungal growth just to get an idea of how well it survived and grew during the summer.  I basically have not touched it since inoculation earlier this summer.

We shall see,

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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9/27/2021

Just because I felt like it, two days ago (Saturday afternoon) I went out to my tomato garden bed which got freshly inoculated with Wine Cap spawn this spring.  I was curious as to how much spawn had grown.  I have done absolutely NOTHING to help it along over the summer.  I did not add a layer of straw to the top.  I added in no additional water.  The only water the bed has had was that which fell as rain.  I did incorporate a bit of straw into the initial sowing, but that was then watered, covered with cardboard and more chips and then watered again.  Since that point back in early June, I added no water and it has been a hot, dry summer.

At any rate, I went out, picked a couple of tomatoes, but first had to work my way through some tall weed grasses that shot up.  I did absolutely no weeding over summer, partly because I don't like weeding and partially because of what I found.  When I pulled out my first mass or grass roots, the roots were filled to overflowing with white strands of fungal hyphae.  The hyphae was intricately wrapped around the grass roots.  I suspected this was going to be the case.  I imagine that the root zone had the most moisture and therefore the best conditions for fungi to grow (I am assuming it is Wine Cap fungi).  Not every place I looked had white strands of fungi, but the zones near plant roots certainly did, especially the root masses that were the most difficult to pull out--These were also the largest root masses.

I did include a couple of pictures just to show how much the fungi grew around the root zone.  I did not specifically check the tomato roots as they are still growing (and look green and vibrant and have lots of tomatoes). But I am sure that those root masses have just as many if not more fungal strands in them as the grass root masses.

One other note:  I mentioned that I did use some straw.  I did not use a full square bale so I left the remaining square bale just sitting in an empty patch of the garden.  I checked and the chips near the base were loaded with fungi.  Actually, the bale was sitting in another bed (also Wine Cap inoculated) for months prior to use.  When I lifted it from the surface, I heard an definite audible RIP as the bale pulled up.  It turns out that while sitting, fungi from below the bale worked its way into the bale.  There was actually a perfectly rectangular patch of white where the fungi had torn loose.  I am curious to see how that bale will look this fall when temperatures drop and rains come this fall.

I added in these two pictures just to give an idea of how much the fungi had spread.  Take a good look at the root masses in both images, but also look at the mass of white/gray in the bottom left of the second picture.

Eric
IMG_6125.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_6125.JPG]
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[Thumbnail for IMG_6127.JPG]
 
Eric Hanson
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So I am contemplating adding more mushroom species to my garden beds.  I have two options ahead.  

My first thought was to start a new bed for asparagus and inoculate with oyster mushrooms, specifically a variety called PoHu mushrooms that was recommended to me by field and forest.

The second option just became available to me and that is in the form of a big freshly cut stump I got from my neighbor.  I think it is Oak, but as it is just a stump it is a little hard to tell.  On the stump my plan is to drill and pound in some plug spawn.

However I just contacted field and forest and they told me that oysters are not as aggressive as I had thought and don’t particularly like oak in the first place.  For the stump I was suggested Turkey Tail and I may go this route.

I also inquired about my plan to make a raised chip bed for asparagus that would also be inoculated with oysters only to be told that the oysters probably would not grow well in a bed condition.  I was told that oysters are among the most aggressive when growing in a tree (not an oak) or a freshly cut log.  Also, their ability to rapidly break down straw in containers is due to the straw or other medium being sterilized first.

So this is all surprising to me as it counters virtually everything I have heard about oyster mushrooms up to this point.  Apparently in garden bed conditions Wine Caps are probably the best to let run wild and really break down the bedding.

At this point I might try some oysters over the winter in 5 gallon buckets, but I will probably plant my asparagus bed with Wine Caps.  

I will update as I go.

Eric
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:

So this is all surprising to me as it counters virtually everything I have heard about oyster mushrooms up to this point.  

I recall Paul Stamet growing oyster mushrooms in wood chips over top of contaminated soil to break down the hydrocarbons. Maybe what they mean is that they're so aggressive that you can't expect other plants to co-exist? Or that they wouldn't like being disturbed by you doing planting in the wood chips - which wouldn't be a problem with a perennial like asparagus. Would the oyster mushroom decide to decompose the asparagus roots instead of playing nice?

If it's not too expensive, you could always make a fairly small wood-chip asparagus bed and see if they're right or wrong? You've got me curious and I don't have enough spare wood chips to experiment with myself, although I've certainly got some asparagus that's desperate to be transplanted! I started it from the berries in a barrel with other plants in it because the berries were there... now they're blocking the light - duh!
 
Eric Hanson
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Jay, I still want to experiment and I might just make a 4x4 experimental bed just to see what happens.  I was also thinking about just laying down a couple of bales of straw and inoculating just to see what happens.

I have heard many say that oysters are highly aggressive, possibly even more so than Wine Caps.  This may be true but possibly the oysters are more picky about location, substrate, etc. where Wine Caps thrive on neglect.

This is really piquing my interest.

Thanks Jay!

Eric
 
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I've been reading and rereading this thread from time to time, scheming how I might get some wine cap spawn to increase the compost in my absolutely barren soil. An additional possible benefit comes to mind, and I guess nobody knows this for sure yet, but what do you think?

The tomatoes I grew in one corner of my garden for two years suffered from a wilt, maybe fusarium. I think it's a fungus in soil. I wonder if growing tomatoes in fertile holes in a wine cap bed would help by displacing other fungi from access to the tomato roots.
 
Eric Hanson
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Rebecca,

That is a really great question.  Thus far I have had no problems with fusarium, but that includes a lot of time before I was ever using wood chips and wine caps.  

But it does stand to reason that the wine caps would push out any other fungal strain.  Maybe more specifically, the Wine Caps help the tomatoes grow so much healthier that they can stand up to fusarium.

At any rate I would say give it a try and let us know.

Eric
 
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Eric Hanson wrote:7/17/2021


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!
...

Eric



Eric,

That is Pluteus petasatus. Edible, but not that great.
 
Eric Hanson
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Thanks Miriam!

That is what my mushroom app was suggesting, but nice to have some confirmation.

The app said that while the mushrooms are technically edible, they don’t exactly taste great and the texture is worse.

Eric
 
Miriam Johnson
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I've eaten them. I mean I wouldn't say they were *bad*. They'd probably be alright as a flavoring agent to a salad if you diced em or something. The texture and overall consistency is what's not that great, the gills kind of have a...sawdust texture? I don't know, I've never eaten sawdust.

Nothing to write home about, regardless.

On a topical note (sorry, I'm new here, let me know if these needs its own thread):

I've been using blewits and wine caps for my wood chips and leaf litter. I was picking up loads of mulch from the transit station to improve the soil of the whole yard, but I eventually just got a local tree company to dump like a 7 feet pile of mulch...figured it'd be good mushroom food! Plus who doesn't love good mushroom compost?
 
Eric Hanson
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Miriam,

You sound like you have quite a project with your mushrooms and more importantly, you sound like you have a lot of experience.  I am really just a lucky beginner but if you have more experience or suggestions, I would love to hear your input.  Additionally, 7’ of wood chips sounds like quite a lot.  Do you have any pictures of your mushrooms and/or chips you might want to add?  It might make quite an addition to this thread.

Eric
 
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