We first started growing Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms on logs in the spring of 2015. This past summer we finally tasted our first home grown mushrooms. We are pleased to have had some success, but also know that there is much more to learn. By far our biggest fungal project has been inoculating birch logs with Shiitake spawn, we now have 200 logs. We had tried three strains of Shiitake (Jupiter, West Wind, and Miss Happiness), and so far only the West Wind has fruited well. Jupiter and Miss Happiness are cold weather strains, meaning they should want to send out mushrooms in the Spring and Fall when cued by appropriate temperatures. So far we only harvested a few in the late fall, though they were nice and big. Some of the logs have Turkey Tails growing on their ends, so they may have been taken over by other spawn. We’ll wait and see if these logs produce in the year ahead, perhaps they are slow due to the dry summer conditions. In general we are learning that we probably need to intentionally water our logs on a regular basis and can’t rely solely on the rain.
The strain that did produce for us (West Wind) is conditioned to grow in a wide range of temperatures and requires the logs to be soaked in advance of their fruiting. We were thinking that the soakers sounded like a lot more work, but so far their increased productivity and regularity seems quite worth while. We harvested enough to eat a lot, dry a little, and include them in our CSA shares a few times. Hopefully this coming season with twice as many logs fruiting we can start to sell them. We’ve now established that the Shiitakes will grow on Birch, the follow up question is how many years will they keep producing? We also realized how much humidity plays a role in the size and quality of the Shiitake that fruit. Our first mushrooms picked during a hot and dry period were cracked and smaller (but still delicious).
We will play around with watering techniques and perhaps using some fruiting blankets to hold in humidity in the future. With more confidence in our ability to get some Shiitake to grow, we hope to inoculate 200 more logs this Spring.
In 2015 we had inoculated some stumps with Oyster mushroom spawn as well. For the oysters we just used the stacked cookie method (layering sawdust spawn between chunks of log). This was pretty quick and easy to do, but it felt like it used a lot of spawn compared to the drill and fill method used for the Shiitakes. The cookie method also seemed to allow the spawn to dry out more easily. A few of our Oyster logs did fruit in the spring, but the dry conditions limited growth. Little black beetles also proved to be a challenge. It appears nearly impossible to grow outdoor Oysters without a beetle infestation. We’ll keep watching to see what our little cluster of logs does, but we don’t have plans to gear up in outdoor Oyster production.
We also tried a new variety of mushroom that likes to grow in compost and heat, the Almond Agaricus. We just tried one bag of spawn placed in the soil around a section of tomatoes in the hoop house.
Sadly, we didn’t harvest any Almond Agaricus, but the tomatoes in that section did grow really well! I had held onto the spawn longer than recommended before planting and it was a bit blue, so perhaps that is to be blamed. The area was watered by the same drip tape keeping the tomatoes hydrated, but I expected it needed more regular soaking than we kept up with. We’ll have to try again.
And finally, King Stropharia, also called Garden Giant or Wine Cap. These tasty edibles often come on their own in wood chip piles and we have harvested them here and there in some of our flower and forest garden plantings. This year we intentionally bought a couple of bags of spawn and introduced them into wood chips along our older asparagus plantings. The asparagus beds were full of grass and in need of a real overhaul, so we weeded, laid down cardboard, and covered between the rows with wood chips, and around the plants with hay mulch. We didn’t finish this until September, so we won’t have results on the Stropharia production until next year. Our hope is that they will produce in clusters and eventually spread out through all of the asparagus planting on their own or with our help. If nothing else, the asparagus should be a little happier.
We move into a new year of mushroom growing and experimenting with an attitude of gratitude and curiosity!