The Mushroom Garden

 We raise plants and animals already. We’ve decided to add onto our farm by adding fungi – a new mushroom garden. For those that were at our potluck you probably noticed this small area fenced off between the house and the tower.

It’s a nice small area that we don’t use that spends the vast majority of the day in full shade. Because of this it also stays relatively moist as well.

We started with King Stropharia Mushrooms (Stropharia rugosoannulata). These mushrooms are giant wine red capped fungi that are easily started outside and can give you a perennial crop of mushrooms as long as you take care of it. The most difficult part of growing these was finding hardwood chips or sawdust. They can also be grown on straw but it’s a bit more labor intensive as you have to sterilize the straw in hot water before inoculating it.

Most of the chips available around here are redwood, pine or eucalyptus – all of which are not appropriate due to the oils in the wood. We had to get creative. As luck would have it, when we got Lucy’s new digs, we were also given some animal bedding. The majority of animal bedding is made from pine, but this bedding was Aspen – a hardwood. It was a small amount, not enough to do the bed, so we needed to find more. We were finally able to find large bales of Aspen bedding at a chain pet store.

We sterilized our wheelbarrow, dumped a bale and a half into it and moistened it thoroughly. We then broke up the King Stropharia spawn and mixed it into the shavings. We laid a thick layer down in our new garden and fenced it off to keep the dogs out. We water it once a week to make sure the moisture content stays relatively high.

I would have liked to have put it out in the vegetable garden but it just gets too much sun. However, if you decide to try and raise this fungi in your vegetable garden you’ll get one great benefit from it. A study has shown that this species of mushroom actually kills nematodes like the ones that cause pine wilt.

We didn’t stop at King Stropharia though. Jeanette gave us some Tanoak logs that were calling out to be inoculated. We did two of them with Pearl Oyster spawn. We have one more log that needs a mushroom feeding on it. I just haven’t figured out what kind yet. Fortunately these logs are still very wet so we didn’t have to soak them.

To inoculate these we bought plugs which are inoculated dowels of birch wood. We covered the cut ends of the log with beeswax and then drilled 5/16″ holes 1 1/2″ deep in a diamond pattern around the logs. Using a rubber mallet we hammered the plugs into the holes and then sealed them with more beeswax. We’re keeping these out with the King Stropharia as well. Don’t worry though, we’re not keeping them leaned up against the building. We don’t want any termites getting into the structure!

Now we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that we end up with mushrooms this fall.

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