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composting wood chips with chicken litter and fungi  RSS feed

 
Posts: 108
Location: Southern Illinois
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Hello all and a great big thanks in advance,

I was convinced via this forum to abandon a plan to use excess 10-10-10 to jump-start wood chip decomposition.  Instead I have opted for a combination of chicken litter and fungi.  The dimensions of the pile are approximately 8'x5'x3.5-4'.  I left the rake handle in the picture for scale.  Thus far I have been able to incorporate chicken bedding (and possibly one more load of chicken bedding) and hamster bedding.  I think this will take care of my nitrogen and micro organism needs.  I have been inspired to use fungi to assist decomposition, perhaps even fungi dominated compost by the time it is finished.  My main question is how to go about adding in the fungi.  I have never done this before but I am leaning towards wine cap mushrooms.  I can't seem to get a good, reliable grip on how much mushroom spawn/spores I am buying.  Some sites list by grams, others by volume of sawdust infused with spores.  Can anyone give me firstly a good source wine caps, and secondly, what do I need to do to get this fungi off the ground.  As the picture suggests, the pile is completely exposed.  The tubes on the pile are drip lines that I have used to keep the pile evenly moist.  The chicken bedding is really beginning to heat up--it steams when I turn it.

Thank you so much in advance.  I always appreciate the high quality info I get here.

Eric
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Wood chip pile
 
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look at fungi perfecti. They seem to be about the gold standard as far as quality mycelial products go. I know they sell straphoria spawn in sawdust as well as several other species.
 
gardener
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Hi Eric, there's a couple ways to go about getting fungi in your compost pile there, which by the way, looks great and I think you will have good success with the chicken litter as your nitrogen source (I use chicken litter in my compost). Buying mushroom spawn/spores is one way to go about it, but another way is to get mushrooms from the grocery store or pick wild mushrooms, any mushrooms, and put them in the blender with a little clean non-chlorinated water, whir it up into a slurry, and pour that on your wood chip compost pile there. You can certainly get a wine-cap kit, eat the delicious mushrooms, and then whir up the exhausted mycelium in the blender again and pour that on the pile too.

Permies resident soil scientist Redhawk has written about this and graciously shared other fascinating soil & compost information here on permies. Here in this gateway to his threads: https://permies.com/wiki/77424#637639
 
Eric Hanson
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James,

Thanks for getting back to me.  I certainly appreciate your input.  Earlier this morning I went ahead and bought a pair of wine cap kits from fieldforest.net. They were very knowledgeable and quite helpful.  At present, the plan is to dig little holes around the base of the chip pile (maybe make 2-3 rings around the base) and stuff the infused sawdust into the holes.  I will get the kits around 4/4 and I will plant soon after.  For the summer I will have to keep the pile moist and we will see about maybe creating a little bit of shade--I just don't know how important shade will be if I keep the pile moist.  Anyhow, with luck this fall. I will have the beginnings of some good mushroom compost.  Additionally, thanks for the Redhawk links.  I agree that he is a fountain of knowledge on all things permaculture.

Again, thanks for the info and helping me get started in the right direction--I will keep this updated as I continue work this summer/fall.

Eric
 
James Freyr
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Eric-

Happy to be of help. Yes, please keep us informed on how this goes! Good luck!
 
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Hello Eric, I wish I had first hand knowledge of inoculating piles with mushroom spawn.

Alas, I have to settle for the high quality videos of the Edible Acres youtube page;
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAfiUuy-Ekg&list=PLihFHKqj6JerqOGegzgVgGHu3z7VBNlJF&index=7

That's not exactly inoculating a pile of wood chips, but I imagine those inoculated sacks could be used to inoculate wood chip piles in a similar way. I'm going to attempt such this growing season--we can share notes.

I must have missed it in the previous thread, but I thought I'd ask again, what's the finished pile destined for?


 
Eric Hanson
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Kamaar,

Thanks for the video link.  I would love to share notes with you once our projects are on their way.  I guess that I did not state my intentions earlier regarding the ultimate use of the wood chips.  The ultimate goal is to use them as a high quality soil/bedding material.  I know this goal is a long ways off.  My reasoning is partially revealed in the picture.  Several years ago we had a terrible storm that blew down approximately 20 large red oak and hickory trees on our 3 acres of wooded land (9 acres total).  It was heartbreaking to see so many trees felled by sustained 100 mph winds.  A part of my solution to them was to cut the trunks into about 8-10 ft sections and use them as borders for a raised bed (the trunks are about 12 inches in diameter).  I now have several beds that have tree-truck borders, but I never got them enough material to fill them completely.  I know this is a rather long-term project, but I would like to start chipping up the invasive autumn olives that grow like mad around here and each year start another chip pile until the beds are full of high-quality mushroom compost.  I optimistically hope that each bed will be a two-year project, but the wood-chip material is free and I kinda need to clear out the autumn olives anyway or they will take over my grassland.  In the fall I will rent a chipper, collect all of the cut bushes, feed them in and dump the resulting chips on another bed.  I hope to harvest at least some of the resulting compost by fall at which point I will start the composting process over again.

Let me know how your project progresses,

Eric
 
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Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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i have wine caps coming up all over my property. i started out w/ a 6 by 6  bed w/ fresh hardwood sawdust then mixed in 2 sawdust inoculated kits from  field and forest. after 6 months i mulched around my trees and berry plants with this inoculated sawdust , then covered with 3in of fresh sawdust and kept well watered. the shrooms popped up everywhere! more than i could ever eat! 3 yrs later, I'm still getting shrooms. i give fresh sawdust every spring.
 
Eric Hanson
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Steve,

I don't suppose you know how well your bed was composted after the harvest?  If you need to add more sawdust each spring, it sounds like the wine caps really break down the wood quickly.

Eric
 
steve bossie
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Eric Hanson wrote:Steve,

I don't suppose you know how well your bed was composted after the harvest?  If you need to add more sawdust each spring, it sounds like the wine caps really break down the wood quickly.

Eric

yes they do. nearly all the 3in. i put on in the spring is gone by fall. left over is beautiful black soil full of worms. when i fertilize with compost , i place that down then cover with the sawdust. i use only organic and the wine caps love it as well as the plants. I've mixed in some blewit spawn in composted sawdust and did the same and now i get a mix. wine caps in summer, blewits in fall.
 
Eric Hanson
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Steve, since I am not growing mushrooms for harvest as much as I am growing them for their composting abilities, this sounds absolutely perfect!  To be able to break down 3 inches of woody material in one season sounds amazing!  And worms to boot.  I am curious as to how this will work in my wood chip pile.  I imagine that my first ring of Mushroom spawn should be right near the base of the pile where hopefully they will decompose sufficiently close to the ground level that they bring worms into the pile itself.  My plan then is to plant in successively higher rings up the pile until I run out of spores.  Perhaps by the end of the summer I can peal off the outer layer of material and distribute it as a garden bedding material.  I don't think I can break down my entire pile in one season, but then I don't expect this to be a 1 year project.  Thanks for the insight, this thread is really giving me high-hopes!

Eric
 
steve bossie
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Eric Hanson wrote:Steve, since I am not growing mushrooms for harvest as much as I am growing them for their composting abilities, this sounds absolutely perfect!  To be able to break down 3 inches of woody material in one season sounds amazing!  And worms to boot.  I am curious as to how this will work in my wood chip pile.  I imagine that my first ring of Mushroom spawn should be right near the base of the pile where hopefully they will decompose sufficiently close to the ground level that they bring worms into the pile itself.  My plan then is to plant in successively higher rings up the pile until I run out of spores.  Perhaps by the end of the summer I can peal off the outer layer of material and distribute it as a garden bedding material.  I don't think I can break down my entire pile in one season, but then I don't expect this to be a 1 year project.  Thanks for the insight, this thread is really giving me high-hopes!

Eric

the quickest way to spread the mycelium is to make your pile  flat 12in. after mixing in the spawn. then turn your pile every few months till all the chips turn white, which means its colonized. the mycelium needs soil contact and air. too big/tall a pile and it won't colonize properly. once your chips are all white you can mix in the same amount of these,  as the original spawn you started with, to start another pile. if your not growing out the shrooms use elm oyster spawn. it colonates a lot faster than wine caps. your pile could be colonized in 3 months or less.
 
Eric Hanson
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Steve,

So knock down that pile before I inoculate?  I do have room for it if that would work better. 
 
steve bossie
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yes . spread it out . otherwise it won't colonize completely. trust me , i know. the heat caused by the decomposition will kill the mycelium. remember the spawn needs to have soil contact and o2 to spread and thrive.
 
Eric Hanson
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Steve,

Just so I am clear, after I flatten the pile, I add spores and then stir?  I have never worked with fungi before and I have read that you want to leave the little mycelium alone.  On the other hand, If I have moldy bread, breaking the bread in half does not stop the mold from spreading.  I was originally planning on poking the spawn into little holes on the side, but now I should drop this idea and spread on the pile itself.  Should anything go on top of the spawn (cardboard, etc,)?  By the way, thanks very much for your input, it has been very helpful.

Eric
 
steve bossie
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Eric Hanson wrote:Steve,

Just so I am clear, after I flatten the pile, I add spores and then stir?  I have never worked with fungi before and I have read that you want to leave the little mycelium alone.  On the other hand, If I have moldy bread, breaking the bread in half does not stop the mold from spreading.  I was originally planning on poking the spawn into little holes on the side, but now I should drop this idea and spread on the pile itself.  Should anything go on top of the spawn (cardboard, etc,)?  By the way, thanks very much for your input, it has been very helpful.

Eric

the more contact the mycelium has with the sawdust the better. wet your sawdust well. break up your spawn into tiny pieces then mix thoroughly .can cover it with straw , chopped up cardboard or burlap. make sure your ground is cleared down to the dirt as soil contact is important. mycelium spreads quicker if disturbed occasionally. so turning the pile every couple months speeds up the process. for shrooms to grow you would need to leave it alone . don't turn more often as it will weaken the spawn. also , going back to your 1st post, don't add any manure because too much nitrogen kills mycelium. compost that separately. also for your 1st. run only use a 6' by 6' by12'' high pile to start w/ those 2 kits. once that is colonized you can use that pile as a starter to start other piles. you need at least 1/4 your pile amount total to be spawn or it won't colonize. get some oyster spawn if you want results in half the time.  good luck!
 
Eric Hanson
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Steve,

So per your recommendations, I will not add any more chicken litter, but I will thoroughly mix up the existing litter into the chips.  I don't think I can effectively un-mix the litter already mixed in.  I will take a couple of scoops off the pile to use for mulch and spread out the rest to get a broader, flatter "pile," add the spores when they arrive and cover with something carbonaceous and organic.  The pile is located directly on ground so ground contact should not be a problem.  After I start seeing more white mycelium, I will stir/turn the pile to really get the pile inoculated.  Also, turning the pile does not really harm the fungi but will inhibit mushroom production.  As far as moisture, there has been so much rain lately that I can't imagine that it would be dry anywhere, but I will monitor the chip moisture.

does this sound about right?

Thanks again,

Eric
 
steve bossie
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Eric Hanson wrote:Steve,

So per your recommendations, I will not add any more chicken litter, but I will thoroughly mix up the existing litter into the chips.  I don't think I can effectively un-mix the litter already mixed in.  I will take a couple of scoops off the pile to use for mulch and spread out the rest to get a broader, flatter "pile," add the spores when they arrive and cover with something carbonaceous and organic.  The pile is located directly on ground so ground contact should not be a problem.  After I start seeing more white mycelium, I will stir/turn the pile to really get the pile inoculated.  Also, turning the pile does not really harm the fungi but will inhibit mushroom production.  As far as moisture, there has been so much rain lately that I can't imagine that it would be dry anywhere, but I will monitor the chip moisture.

does this sound about right?

Thanks again,

Eric

you got it. just don't turn more than every few months as it won't t allow good colonization. think of mycelium like roots. small roots separated from the plant won't regrow but bigger ones will . needs to be well established before disturbing. good luck Eric.
 
Eric Hanson
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I just got back from my chip pile.  I took three 4-foot tractor buckets from the pile and transferred them to another bed.  Amazingly I was able to get out the majority of the original chicken bedding which is now helping a smaller batch of wood chips decompose. Next I will rake the pile into a flatter mound.  Some good observations.  Firstly, the chips were evenly moist throughout the pile.  Secondly and more importantly, I actually spotted an earthworm crawling around inside the upper quarter of the pile so I think that the biota and micro-biota are thoroughly at work within the pile.  The mushroom spores are due in next weekend, though I may have to wait to spread them based on weather.  I will update as I get more info.

Eric
 
Eric Hanson
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So I got my Wine Caps this week--just in time for a snowfall!  In this region we never get snow this late, but it happened this year.  I still want to get that garden bed of wood chips inoculated as soon as practical, but I had yet another thought on this project.  Would it be possible to dig fertile holes on the wood chips and plant tomatoes?  My thought was that the tomatoes would help add some dappled shade for the mushrooms and I could still get use of the garden bed this year.  I would still have the mulch inoculated 6-8 weeks before the tomatoes would go in.  Would the fertile hole interfere with the wine caps growing or would they grow independently of each other?  I am thinking fertile holes as the wood chips are 12 inches thick.  If anyone has a thought or a different version of this plan, please let me know.

Thanks again in advance,

Eric
 
steve bossie
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Eric Hanson wrote:So I got my Wine Caps this week--just in time for a snowfall!  In this region we never get snow this late, but it happened this year.  I still want to get that garden bed of wood chips inoculated as soon as practical, but I had yet another thought on this project.  Would it be possible to dig fertile holes on the wood chips and plant tomatoes?  My thought was that the tomatoes would help add some dappled shade for the mushrooms and I could still get use of the garden bed this year.  I would still have the mulch inoculated 6-8 weeks before the tomatoes would go in.  Would the fertile hole interfere with the wine caps growing or would they grow independently of each other?  I am thinking fertile holes as the wood chips are 12 inches thick.  If anyone has a thought or a different version of this plan, please let me know.

Thanks again in advance,

Eric

as long as you don't mix the chips in with the soil, i don't see why not. wine caps grow well around plants and vice versa.
 
Eric Hanson
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Steve, thanks again for the quick reply,

No, I won't mix up the soil and chip.  I will fully inoculate the chip bed soon, and plant the tomatoes later.  When I inoculate, I will gently mix the spawn into the upper layers of the chip pile and then let them sit.  When I put in tomatoes, I will dig little holes in the pile, re-fill with a good tomato soil mix and then cover with the chips once again.  I thought this would be an extra "permie" step as the mushrooms and the tomatoes will be assisting each other--the mushrooms make good soil and release nutrients for the tomatoes while the tomatoes make shade for the mushrooms.  With luck, by the end of the season I will have some pretty good garden bedding.  Incidentally, I am giving some very serious consideration to your suggestion of adding in some oyster spawn to the shroom mix.  Thanks again,

Eric
 
steve bossie
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Eric Hanson wrote:Steve, thanks again for the quick reply,

No, I won't mix up the soil and chip.  I will fully inoculate the chip bed soon, and plant the tomatoes later.  When I inoculate, I will gently mix the spawn into the upper layers of the chip pile and then let them sit.  When I put in tomatoes, I will dig little holes in the pile, re-fill with a good tomato soil mix and then cover with the chips once again.  I thought this would be an extra "permie" step as the mushrooms and the tomatoes will be assisting each other--the mushrooms make good soil and release nutrients for the tomatoes while the tomatoes make shade for the mushrooms.  With luck, by the end of the season I will have some pretty good garden bedding.  Incidentally, I am giving some very serious consideration to your suggestion of adding in some oyster spawn to the shroom mix.  Thanks again,

Eric

your welcome. good luck and let us know how it goes.
 
Eric Hanson
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Chip Pile Update,

I thought I would add some pictures to more visually describe the evolution of this thread.

The first, mini "hot" pile is the remnants of the old pile I was able to scoop out.  I was able to find most of the chicken bedding in this part and some especially hot parts.  I will find a use for this somewhere in the garden as a mulch/fertilizer, or maybe the beginnings of another hot pile.

The second, flattened out chip bed is the old pile flattened out to a height of about 12".  I plan to plant 8 tomato plants here with the help of some new tomato ladders I just got through the mail.  hopefully this pile can both grow vegetables and grow compost all in the same season.

And finally, I have plans to make yet another pile of chips.  I think I still have enough weedy/invasive brush around my house that I can make a new pile that will go straight on a bed this spring and start decomposing right away (no extended down time sitting in a trailer), have good ground contact to encourage earthworms and other critters to get in and do their jobs and hopefully I can inoculate this pile either in summer of fall of this year and be slowly decomposing over winter.

As always, any suggestions are mighty welcome,

Eric
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Mini "hot" chip pile
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Flattened out chip bed
 
Eric Hanson
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Hello,

It has been a while since this thread has been updated and I thought I would do so now.  I finally got my wine cap spawn "seeded" into my chip bed.  The process took about 2 hours.  Firstly, I went out into the chip-bed and placed 8 tomato ladders in the places that I want my tomato plants to grow.  Then, one-by-one I removed a ladder and dug out a hole in the chips down to soil about 15 inches across and about 1 foot deep.  Each hole received about 3 shovels of a manure mix for the tomatoes.  I kept the chips from the tomato holes separate for use later.  After the tomato spots were filled with their mix, I dug up mini holes in between and around the tomato holes.  Each mini hole was about 5 inches deep.  Then I connected all of the mini holes with 2 inch deep trenches.  Between the mini holes and trenches I substantially covered the bulk of the bed.  I then broke open one of the mushroom packages and began crumbling up them into the holes which were partially refilled, covered in more spawn and then completely covered.  All of the trenches were coated in spawn and covered.  I was actually surprised that I still had about 1/4 package left which I sprinkled over the surface.  I broke open over the second package and liberally covered the surface.  I then took all of the chips I removed from the tomato holes and sprinkled them over the entire surface of the bed to a depth of about 1 inch.  finally I got some straw and covered the bed with a layer about 2-4 inches deep.  Lastly, I thoroughly watered the entire bed to make certain that I had good moisture for the mushrooms. 

Some good observations already:  I saw LOTS of worms crawling throughout the chips while I was digging holes.  From what I have read, Wine Caps like wood that already has some decomposition going on and hopefully all of these worms are proof of just this.  Also, we have had nice gentle rains for the two days after the bed was inoculated.

Steve, you wanted an update, so here it is.  I wish I had some pictures to show, but the rain prohibits a good shot.  I will give a picture as soon as weather permits.

I think all I have to do now is sit back and wait, but being as impatient as I am, if anyone has any suggestions, fire away,

Thanks in advance,

Eric
 
steve bossie
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did you notice any white mycelium already in the pile? reason why i use fresh green swadust is it doesn't have any fungus in it. fresh is always best but if you put a good amount of spawn it should take. you're 3 zones warmer than me so i bet by early fall it will be colonized. don't touch it for 1 month, then dig down in the middle of the pile with your had and look at the chips. they should be whitish colored. that means its colonized. might even fruit for you this fall if not disturbed.
 
Eric Hanson
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Steve,

I did notice two larger pieces of wood in the mulch that were already growing white ribbons from them.  I tossed those out of the pile altogether.  Other than those two pieces, I saw no evidence of competing fungi.  Make no mistake, I am certain that there are other types of fungi already growing--after all, how could it possibly not have some fungal activity after sitting around for almost a year.

Eric
 
steve bossie
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well your goal is to break down the chips with fungi anyway so if you don't want shrooms, it doesn't mater what fungi is doing the work for you.
 
Eric Hanson
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Here is a quick picture of the bed that I snapped during a brief break in the clouds.  I will try to get better ones shortly.  It shows the bed as an as-of-now finished compost bed waiting for mushrooms and tomatoes to grow.

Eric
IMG_5671.JPG
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Long range bed covered in straw
 
Eric Hanson
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Here are some better pictures of the finished off bed
IMG_5673.JPG
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Side view
IMG_5674.JPG
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Length view
 
Eric Hanson
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Is this a good sign?

I "Planted" my garden bed with wood chips and wine cap mushroom spawn about 6 weeks ago.  The chip bed is about one foot deep with the spawn mixed in throughout the depth of the bed fairly evenly, with an additional covering on the surface.  That surface was then covered with about one inch of additional wood chips (total depth about 13") and finally a layer of straw.  I just went out to check and after digging through the straw I saw chips that were crisscrossed with white fibers and were slightly dry.  I dug a little further in and the fibers seemed to have disappeared, but the once blonde colored wood chips turned black.  The deeper chips were moist and quite warm.  Should I be seeing fungal fibers in the mulch or are they simply black like the rest of the chips?  It is a little late now, but I can send a picture in the morning.  Incidentally, as the top layer of chips were warm I did give them a nice watering.  Thanks for the info,

Eric
 
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