Richard Jack

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since Feb 11, 2020
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Recent posts by Richard Jack

Andrea Escobar wrote:Hey! Great post and the photos help a lot. What did you use to inoculate the rice bags? Just getting started so its a relief to know low tech works!

Hi Andrea, thanks for your comment. For the rice bags, I just used a spore syringe. You can find the full tutorial here:

Just switch every mention of P. cubensis with P. ostreatus and you're good to go
6 months ago
Hello everyone,

I made my first and only post on here about three months ago, following my first unsuccessful attempt at growing oyster mushrooms in which my grow bags suffered from some pretty bad contam, namely Trichoderma. I received a lot of support and feedback from two staff members, Bryant RedHawk and Eric Hanson, who helped me improve my technique and motivated me to keep on trying.

I'm glad I didn't give up. Growing mushrooms has been incredibly rewarding and this evening's meal of oysters was very tasty.

In this post, I will outline what I did to improve my previous technique and how I intend to better my current one.

Disclaimer: the methods I have used are rather unconventional. For someone starting out it's hard to justify investing in all the equipment such as PC, mason jars or an outdoor gas stove for pasteurisation. So, I've taken to using cheaper methods. Though some may criticise these as being unreliable, I think they are great for those who want to dip their toes in the world of mycology on a level which is a bit more sophisticated than just buying a grow bag, but doesn't require much investment in equipment.

So, let's start with what went wrong with my original grow. It was sometime in Winter and I had 2.5 kg of healthy mycelium ready to go. I checked the forecast ahead for a dry day and started cold-water pasteurisation of barley straw with a good dose of Ca(OH)2. Unfortunately, the following day brought light showers and mist, and so, not only did the straw not dry properly, but it was likely contaminated by the water droplets in the air as well. This was my first mistake. I then transferred the mycelium and straw with a ratio of about 1:4 to two large opaque rubble bags and cut a load of Xs so I could see what was going on inside. At the time, I thought this would allow the substrate to 'breathe', but I later learnt that it really just exposed it to open-air contaminants. Also, the ratio was a little low. These were my second and third mistakes. Finally, I let the bags sit in our drying room, where we dry clothes, which has high heat and humidity. This was my fourth mistake and, in hindsight, I was asking for trouble. Trichoderma found it's way into almost every hole and the mycelium started receding.

I did some other things wrong too but, long story short, the sub ended up in a tub outside for a while in case something happened. Eventually, the Trichoderma took over, so I chucked it in the bin.

Now, onto my latest grow. Some of you may have heard of the Uncle Ben tek. It's a technique for growing mycelium which requires inoculating a bag of ready-cooked brown rice, covering the hole with microporous tape and then putting it into incubation. It's quite a new method and, although it was developed in communities which predominantly cultivate psilocybin-containing mushrooms, it worked a treat for my oyster grow. As mentioned previously, the main benefit here was the low cost of using pre-cooked rice. Instead of buying a PC, jars and grain for £70+, I spent a total of £7.50 for 10 bags of various brands of brown rice. I inoculated the 10 bags on 10/04 using a SAB and an anti-bacterial kitchen surface cleaner for sterility. I used the cleaner because I didn't want to use my iso alcohol, which would have been more expensive to replace after the Coronavirus pandemic caused alcohol prices to skyrocket. And I was almost out of it.

By 18/04 I had 10 bags of healthy mycelium ready for transfer. You can see pics of one of the bags here:
They're good because they offer inspection windows and are flexible so you can break up the mycelium.

On 24/05 I cold-water pasteurised barley straw and shredded cardboard, using a slightly higher ratio of Ca(OH)2 than before. On the 25/05 we had a hot and sunny day, so I let the straw sit for a good 20 minutes. In future, I will let it sit for longer, as the substrate was still rather wet. I then cleaned some used bread bags using the surface cleaner and mixed the spawn with the sub at a ratio of 1:1. Wanting to avoid contamination, I refrained from puncturing the bags in any way; however, a few days later, I saw a buildup of moisture and so added some drainage holes at the bottom. It probably would have been wiser to add these in the first place.

Here are some pics of my bread-bag logs:

N.B. the appearance of green is due to the lighting and camera.

On 03/05, once the mycelium had grown a bit, I put the bags into fruiting by hanging them in a small enclosure with chickenwire walls and a corrugated-plastic roof in our garden. I reasoned this would be the best place as there is plenty of FAE and low temps. I cut holes in the bags using a sanitised Stanley knife. Here are some pics:

I monitored the bags daily and sprayed them with water when they started fruiting. This is where things started to go a bit wrong. On 05/05 I noticed Trichoderma on some parts of the straw. I think this is because I hadn't left the mycelium enough time to fully colonise the substrate before putting the logs into fruiting. So, I cut the Trichoderma away using the sanitised Stanley knife; however the Trichoderma wasn't the only invader: a few days later I spotted fungus gnats crawling around inside the substrate! I set a fly trap using cider vinegar and washing-up liquid, which wasn't that effective.

Next time, I plan on wrapping an old shopping basket I have with garden netting and keeping the blocks in there so that pests can't get in.

Regardless of these setbacks, the oysters fruited on 13/05, see pics:

And yesterday, on 18/05 I harvested my first fruits. Here's what the harvest looked like:

You may have noticed that one of the fruits is a bit demented and that they're all overall quite small. I've read this is due to the Trichoderma, which sucks. But regardless, I'm happy to finally see some results and hope I can get something more the next time. Coming back to what I said earlier about costs, I've so far invested very little in this project, and so am happy with anything that grows.

Thanks for reading and I hope you found my experience interesting. If you have any comments for improvement, please write them below. I appreciate any help you can give :)
6 months ago

Yes, also according to the articles I read, laying paper down is the best method of preventing the barley from germinating. Perhaps as I develop as a grower I will become more adventurous with my endeavours; however, for now I think I'll stick to the tub and see what comes of it. I'm nevertheless grateful for your input and will do some reading on the possibility of growing mushrooms with our other plants. Especially wine caps as I had never heard of that species prior to you mentioning it.

Once again, many thanks for your help. I will post any updates as they come, likely on a new post.

9 months ago

I live in a house, we have a garden which has flowerbeds, some patches of soil where we grow tomatoes and berries, and some tubs for growing potatoes and carrots. The "oyster" tub is currently in an ex-chicken coop (the canopy I mentioned is part of it). The ground there was picked bare by the chickens, so it's just earth and a dead tree stump from an oak we felled many years ago. The earth might have been fertilized by chicken manure, but we haven't tried to grow anything in there since. My area is rural, we have a heathland nearby and lots of woods.

I am a bit weary of dumping the remnants on the ground, as I read on a few websites that barley shoots are essentially weeds and can wreak havoc if allowed to germinate. May I ask what the purpose of covering the tub is? Just so I know what result to expect and whether I need to add water or something.
9 months ago

I think that's a great idea. I've also heard of the many benefits plants and fungi can offer each other when grown in the same environment. I'm glad to hear your projects have gone so well, I can definitely attest to the tastiness of oysters, and hope you enjoy the fruit(bodies) of your labour next summer.

Unfortunately, I don't have any compost piles or such spaces which would be suitable for dumping the remnants on. The remnants are currently in an open plastic tub, which is protected from the elements by a plastic overhead canopy. I briefly inspected the tub after your response today, there are still green blotches on some strands of straw but also areas of remaining mycelium. Also, the straw on the top has dried a bit and the straw in the middle has retained its moisture. The tub is old and I wouldn't mind drilling some holes in it if needs be.

Given my available resources, what would be the best way to give the mycelium a second chance? If it's of any help, I'm located in the south of England where we have very mild winters, with average temps of 6-10C (43-50F) rarely dropping below 0C (32F) at night.
9 months ago
Eric, funny you should say that, I still have the straw in a barrel in the garden. I'll have a look and see what I can salvage.

To be honest, I'm more inclined to start again from scratch. I've got 3 450g bags of rye seeds almost at full colonisation and plenty more straw. Since it's my first grow, I really want to make this work.

Thank you both for your responses and advice. Going on what you've said, I'm going to make the following adjustments this time around:

- use a clear bag to get a better idea of what is going on
- keep the bag sealed until the substrate is fully colonised
- wait longer for the spawn to colonise the substrate
- cut holes only when the log is ready for fruiting

Please, feel free to add anything else I can do better.
9 months ago
Bryant and Eric, thanks for your responses. I will give it more time this next time round. I panicked when I saw the green blotches on the straw and assumed the whole thing was doomed.

I did actually take some pictures of what I thought was mycelium growth about 6 days in. I then determined pic 3 was spider's web because of the prevalance of other moulds/green patches in that area. They're not great pictures, but please let me know if you can determine whether it was in fact mycelium.[/img][/img][/img][/img]
9 months ago
Hi Eric

I transferred on 31/01 and chucked the bag out yesterday. So, 10 days.
9 months ago
Hey everyone, my first blue oyster grow just turned out pretty disastrous and I'd like to know how I can get it right the next time. Unfortunately, I chucked it all out before taking pics, but I'm certain of what I saw.

I mixed approx 4kg of straw with calcium hydroxide and left it to pasteurise for 24 hrs, before drying it in a porous net. During the drying, I noticed the straw was full of seeds but didn't think anything of it.

I then stuffed a sterilised opaque rubble bag with the drained sub and 1kg of colonised grain, cut a load of holes in it, and let it sit in the house. Not in a sterile room, just a normal room where we hang washing so high humidity and temp around 24C.

The mycelium started spreading after a few days, but then grass-like sprouts started growing from the holes in the bag. I pulled on a bit and there was a seed attached to the end. I left it, thinking the mycelium would continue colonising. But today I cut it open and saw cobweb mould, green trich and a hell load of these sprouts running through the straw and growing out the top where there wasn't even any light. The mycelium was gone.

This has left me with a lot of questions and I'd appreciate any help you can give. Should I look for different straw that doesn't contain seeds? Should I have left the bag closed and not cut holes in the side until the substrate was colonised? Should I try a 1:1 ratio for better chances of success? Is incubating in a room where washing dries a bad idea?

9 months ago