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Alternatives to mountains of disposable plastic bags  RSS feed

 
Owen Cramer
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Location: Near Bloomington, Indiana
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I've been exploring mushroom cultivation as a business, and it appears that the current method for oyster mushrooms, and similar is to use disposable plastic bags, so the growing medium can be sterilized before inoculation.  I hate that waste, and I was wondering if anyone here had an alternative that would still allow for sterilization via Steam or pressure cooker.  Would glass jars with a filtered lid work?  I understand that procuring a few thousand glass jars could be cost prohibitive, and getting the spent media out could probably be a pain, but in the end much less would be thrown out.

Thoughts?
 
Deb Rebel
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Useable canning jars can usually be had for cheap at rummage sales, thrift stores, flea markets or advertisements in the paper. I've managed to accumulate several hundred over a few years. Most are in use for the putting up my harvest, but. Just keep your eyes out (last year neighbors had a massive rummage sale and marked their old jars higher than new ones with rings and lids from store. Of course nobody bought. After the sale, they threw them. I dumpster-dived and got 13 dozen plus (only three broke) for free. Had they marked them a quarter a jar like the thrift store they would have sold... that's okay, I was happy to adopt them after abandonment. The season for NEED is mid summer to late fall, then they seem readily available.

Many bulk condiments are still packaged in useable half gallon or gallon jars. Talk nicely to some church groups, the ladies auxillary may have some after an event and be glad to gift you or let you have them cheap. (me being a lady, a donation to their bake sale or a big plate of cookies for the social goes a long ways)
 
Austin Eschenwald
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Location: York County, PA
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My wife and I are actually starting a mushroom farm and will be in production by next month.  We have the same feelings about disposable bags so we decided to look around and found some other mushroom farms are using plastic food grade buckets with holes drilled in the sides.  I found a grocery store manager who sells his used bulk buckets on Craigslist.  He sold me 80 4-gal buckets with lids for $60 and he said anytime I need more I can just call him.  $60 at Home Depot will get you $10 5-gal buckets.  Below are what two people suggested for hole placement (we aren't going to use kitchen trash bags though, we will sterilize each bucket after use).  The downside to buckets are that you cannot see how far along the mycelium is during spawn running.  You have to watch closely for them to just start to pinhead and then take them into the grow/fruiting room.  If you want any more advice on starting a mushroom farm please feel free to ask!

Suggestions for hole placement:
For oyster mushroom hanging bags, I put 1/4-1/2" holes. I did 12 holes.
I did 4 evenly spaced holes in a circle at the top, middle, and bottom of the substrate.
So three horizontal circles. Space the center circle so its holes are below the empty spaces between holes in the top circle.
Place the bottom holes similarly below the empty spaces left by the center hole.

I have been using these for oysters for a bit over 5 yrs.  5/8" to 3/4" holes seem to work just fine. 
I use white kitchen trash bags to line the buckets and poke a small hole in the bag at each hole in the bucket. 
The bags do several things for you. Having just small holes in the bag will help the bucket maintain moisture and drastically reduced the amount of exposed substrate and possibility of contam. 
The bag also aids in the stuffing and compacting the straw in the bucket. Before I poke holes in the bag, I like to give the whole surface of the bucket a good wipe down with a bleach solution and allow them to dry.
 
Casey Williams
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In my opinion a good option is logs, stumps, or wood chips. These options take a bit more time to fruit.

On a shorter time scale, though, you can do the 5 gallon bucket method with pasteurized or "cold fermented" straw. I got lots of food grade buckets from local stores (Wal-Mart bakery icing buckets) and restaurants. Just call around and ask. Many times they are just throwing them out, anyway.

15-20 holes are drilled per bucket. I think 1/2" diameter, but can't remember off the top of my head...I'd have to look it up. And you drill 5, 1/8" holes in the bottom for drainage.

I have been using this method and it is (comparably) fast, very easy,  and has very low energy input.

****You usually inoculate the straw with myceliated grain spawn (or maybe cardboard spawn?) when using this method****

I don't think you would get enough production from fruiting only out of jars to make it worth your while. But I'm not sure on that front...just what I think based on my experience.
 
Permaculture isn't that hard to understand. Sometimes a little bump helps: richsoil.com/cards
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