I am interested in beginning a growing operation for my father. I want to set up a low-maintenance operation that could provide a household-sized yield. I do not mind a physically involved initial set-up process, so long as the maintenance is easy. For this reason, I hope to inoculate some fallen timber a few steps into some woods on his property (I believe indoor, controlled would be too involved for him to continue using in my absence). I understand different species or genus want different types of wood. I must identify some downed trees before I make a final decision. I wonder, could you make any recommendations for varieties to inoculate with at this time of year? Both summer and spring/fall harvests are desirable (I know I will wait 9-12 months before first harvests). We are in south-central KY (zone 6b -6/7)- we have had plenty of water and the heat is coming on right now. In addition, can I inoculate whole trees? Must I cut and split the wood before innoculating, or may I use an entire tree that has recently fallen down? I presume trees must be recently alive (6 months or less).
I'd like to help you with your mushroom project, but first I have some important questions. What species of trees are they? When and why did they fall over? (Fresh, clean, green logs without any drying are the best.) Were they healthy or diseased? How thick are the trunks and main branches? In general, oyster (Pleurotus) mushrooms are the best choice for beginners for growing on logs , as they have aggressive mycelium and are easy to grow. There is a popular strain for hardwoods and another one for conifers. These fruit throughout the spring and fall. If you have access to a chipper, King Stropharia is another one good for beginners. It fruits in the summer and grows on a wide variety of hardwood chips, some conifers as well. Be sure to read the books by Paul Stamets called "Mycelium Running" and "Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms". However, I always recommend that people buy fresh spawn from Field and Forest Mushrooms in Wisconsin- I have good luck with their spawn. (BTW, it is usually better to inoculate 2-3 foot long logs with oyster mushrooms, instead of whole trees.)
Thank you for the great reply! This was copy and pasted, with some editing, from an inquiry I sent to Field and Forest a few days ago! They have not yet responded, unfortunately.
Am I missing the the boat for this year? I do not know if there is a season for inoculation.
As per your questions,
There are approximately 65 acres of woods, so theoretically I could choose conifer, oak, poplar, maple (though not sugar!), hickory, ash, you name it (I'm in zone 6/7). The specific tree I was thinking of I believe is an oak (I will be sure to find out exactly before any inoculation). This tree fell over approximately two months ago after 50mph+ winds. The trunk is approximately two feet in diameter, main branches I did not observe, but I imagine proportionally they must be around 6-12" thick (guessing). It was a beautiful tree, and I wish it hadn't toppled. It snapped about ten feet up and is still propped up, so it would require a bit of maneuvering, however I feel that this could be accomplished if it were worth salvaging as a growing medium. If not, we'll wait for it to fall and either let it rot or chop it up. Back to your questions. Very healthy tree. How does this factor in? Would I do best to avoid diseased trees?
I appreciate your endorsement of Field and Forest because I liked their website and was hoping to purchase from them. In addition, I'm now kicking myself I didn't buy a copy of Mycelium Running when I had the opportunity at a used bookstore, oh well.
Am I doing a disservice to the tree, fungi, and myself, by not cutting a trunk up into 2-3' sections?
It would have been best to have cut the branches into logs and then to have inoculated them with fresh oyster spawn right after the tree fell over. Because it is getting warm and sunny in your area, the tree might have already lost a lot of moisture from exposure to the sun and wind. This lessens your chances of success. However, it is difficult for me to really judge the moisture content of your log without being at your site. If the tree is in a shady spot, it might not be too late. Maybe you could soak the logs too, in order to rehydrate them. (I suggest calling the folks from Field & Forest on the phone and maybe they will be able to consult with you on this issue.) I prefer to inoculate freshly-cut hardwood branches in late winter with fresh, made-to-order spawn. I then put the logs in a large cardboard box, cover them with super-clean sawdust from a hardwood mill, then leave the covered box in an insect-free 70 degree room for 6 months for incubation. (This method eliminates the chances of drying out or contamination problems.) In late summer, I put the logs in a 55-gallon clean plastic pickle barrel, fill the barrel with fresh cold water and soak the logs for 24-48 hours. Then I stack the logs in a shady place for fruiting, sometimes under a clear plastic sheeting "tent". Maybe you could try this method next winter with some of the other hardwoods on your homestead. If the downed oak tree seems too dry, maybe you could put the small branches in a chipper, make a raised bed and then inoculate the chips with King Stropharia/Wine Cap spawn. Good luck!
I would suggest trying the Oak Mushroom, Lentinula edodes, for oak logs. (Also known as shiitake.) Shiitake evolved to live on oaks, so it is a good match. (Other species will grow on oak too.) Shiitake seem to be more insect resistant than many of the other mushrooms, and can tolerate low-humidity fruiting conditions better than many of the other species. (And I greatly prefer the taste of shiitake to that of the oyster mushrooms.)
Shiitake supposedly do best on logs 4-6 inches in diameter. That doesn't mean they won't grow on larger logs, but people don't seem to recommend it. Oysters on the other hand like big logs and stumps better than they like 6-inch wide logs. So perhaps leave the trunk in one piece for oysters, and cut the branches into manageable lengths for shiitake. A large trunk, resting horizontally on the ground, should be able to wick up moisture from the soil.
There are many different wood-loving mushrooms out there, and many are readily available as plug spawn. If you have the logs and the spare time, try as many different species as you can.
A lot of people get by with soaking their logs using a hose. Not as efficient as soaking in a barrel, but easier on the back.
Frankenstoen has some good suggestions- I think shiitake probably is the best species for oak logs, with oysters being good for oak stumps. I also think an outdoor incubation might work in your climate because you probably have humid, moist summers- similar to the climate in Japan where shiitake is native. (I use the incubation-in-a-box technique for log culture because the summer climate in the Pacific Northwest where I live is rather dry with low humidity and little or no rainfall.) Field and Forest Products now carries a strain of shiitake that is naturalized to the Midwest- this strain might be good for naturalizing for permaculture in your area as well.
Thank you two for the responses. Field and Forest is sending a paper catalog. Mary (of F&F) suggested a Fall inoculation, because at this point with avg. daily highs in the 90s and low precipitation, I have missed the spring inoculation. We definitely have high humidity here. Does that mean I'd still need to water? I'd prefer to leave the logs out in the woods where they are. I understand I may need to do some cutting.
I wondered- does cutting simply expedite the yield? Perhaps if I left the logs larger, would it draw out the yield to 2, 3, or 4 years? Perhaps I would have less yield per year, but overall similar yields over a longer time period? Just a thought, no clue as to whether it works like that or not. Okay, this room is too hot to sit in any longer! Thank you!
Cutting the logs into smaller pieces makes them easier to handle - easier to inoculate, easier to move, easier to stack and easier to hydrate. Also, lots of people are obsessed with tidiness (much to the detriment of the soil). Leaving logs (or even twigs or leaves) lying around just offends the sensibilities of most people.
(I tried to convince my father to let me inoculate stumps with mushrooms but instead he just spent a lot(!) of money purchasing a stump grinder.)
Larger logs may very well give larger yields over a greater length of time. In the case of oysters at least, larger logs will yield larger individual mushrooms as well.
Leaving a log in contact with the earth will increase the hydration of the log, but is also considered a path for contamination by other fungi and other organisms. Monoculturalists concerned with yield hate the idea of more than one species occupying a space. I have found oysters growing on the same stumps and logs as Dryads' Saddles (delicious when young and tender), seemingly happy to share.
Shade will help keep a log hydrated - full sun is obviously bad. Any landscape will have its wetter and dryer areas, often just a few yards apart. Moving the logs just a few feet to take advantage of a slightly damper soil or increased shade may prove advantageous.
Mushrooms are quite ephemeral - if the logs are in an area where they can be checked easily and often, it will increase the chances of actually finding the mushrooms before they go bad. Oysters can last for a week under optimal conditions, but can also grow and rot and be inedible in just two two days. (Not to mention the insects and slugs.) Shiitake will last slightly longer. Some other species like Chicken of the Woods will last longer still, but most have a lifespan similar to oysters. Leaving the logs where they are COULD give the right person a little more reason to get out and go for a walk every day. Or it might mean that the mushrooms are not harvested at their peak of flavor (or at all).
I think waiting for cooler temperatures before inoculating is a good idea. Plus it gives you more time for research.
Again, thank you. I appreciate your thoughts on it. I am more than happy to share the wood with other organisms. There are some that are very concerned with maximizing production (the landowner is in this case as well), however I view it as, "Previously zero mushrooms were cultivated and harvested, so any is better than none". I am sure in years to come if this is even a mild success growing trays will be kept in a root cellar for easier access, more dependable harvests, and less "invaders" taking up valuable resources. In the meantime, I hope to set up a resource which will be available for a few years. I appreciate the advice about cutting, watering, and moving logs.
I had not thought about mushrooms rotting within a few days. I ought to have thought of that and I'd forgotten. That is definitely going to be a factor as the landowner is an over-the-road trucker and here infrequently for the next year or two. Ah, well. Like you said, time to think.