Growing Mushrooms – To Eat

Growing shiitake mushrooms at home

I first read about growing mushrooms in a Carolina Country magazine a few years ago. If I remember accurately, the article was detailing how farmers in NC and GA had a new commercial crop to grow-mushrooms.

As a mushroom lover-I was immediately interested-but it sounded like the cost of getting started would probably be to much for me to afford. A few weeks ago I found out-I was totally wrong.

I attended a Shiitake Mushroom Workshop held by the Cherokee, Clay, and Graham County Extension Offices. Their guest instructor was Christy Bredenkamp who works for the Jackson County Extension Office. Christy was a commercial mushroom grower for years, and today she continues to grow Shiitakes on a smaller scale.

Christy was an excellent teacher-not only very knowledgeable-but she has such an engaging personality I do believe I could have listened to her talk about any subject and enjoyed it.

After the instruction portion of the class, each student got first hand experience with the beginning of mushroom growing-by inoculating their own logs. I left the class knowing how to grow Shiitake mushrooms-and knowing I wouldn’t have to take out a loan to do so-but I better get on the ball if I wanted to start this year cause-when growing Shiitakes there is a window of time during which the logs should be inoculated.

Last Saturday morning with snow still on the ground, the Blind Pig family begin our attempt at growing Shiitake Mushrooms.

Inoculating logs with mushroom spores

The logs should be cut in late winter or early spring actually anytime when the tree leaves turn brown in the Fall through the Winter and up to 2-3 weeks before the green leaf buds come out in the Spring-that’s when trees are in their dormant stage. What logs can you use? Christy said Oak are best but success has been achieved by using Sweetgum and hard Maple trees. After you cut the logs-you need to inoculate them pretty quickly-the quicker the better-within 3 weeks of cutting them in lengths. Some thought should be given to the size of the logs. At some point down the road you’ll be handling the logs as you soak them during the growing season. Large logs last longer, and of course grow more mushrooms-but are difficult for the typical home grower to handle. We took our cue from the class-and cut our logs 3 to 4 feet in length and 4 to 8 inches in diameter. You could cut them even smaller if you wanted to.

Using logs to grow mushrooms

During the class we used sawdust Shiitake spawn to inoculate the log. Since then, I’ve discovered spawn also comes in plugs that you hammer into the logs. Wanting to use the knowledge I learned at the workshop we went with the sawdust spawn. Having an Inoculation Tool makes the sawdust spawn easy to insert in the holes. However, Christy said she had great success by just using her fingers to press the spawn into the holes.

How to grow mushrooms

After you get the logs cut-the next step is drilling holes in them. Holes (7/16 inch bit) should be spaced 5 to 8 inches apart down the length of the log and 2 1/2 inches across. In other words you’ll have several long rolls of holes on each log.

Growing shiitake mushrooms at home

We put our spawn in a bucket to make it easier to work with. You kinda stab the inoculation tool into the spawn until it fills; place it over a hole; press the plunger; and voila you’ve just inoculated a log with mushroom spawn.

After you’ve inoculated all the holes, you must seal them with a layer of wax. Christy taught us-it doesn’t really matter what kind of wax you use-even candles would work-and of course bee’s wax would as well. At the class they melted their wax in an old crock pot. We had a fire going to warm by-so we just set a pan on the fire to melt ours. To apply the layer of wax you can use daubers or a paint brush.

Best way to stack logs for mushroom growing

Once the logs are inoculated you have to decide what to do with them. They need to be kept in a shady place-but not under a shed-they need to be rained on. There are many ways of stacking-but the 2 they taught us about at the class were crib stacking and lean to stacking. Lean to stacking basically just means leaning the logs up against something like a wire or fence. Crib stacking-is like building lincoln logs. Christy said she preferred the crib method because once the mushrooms start growing they are easier to harvest-cause you can reach your hands in and around the logs-the downside being-you have to lift the logs more. We went with the crib stack method. When the logs are stacked thats it-you just leave the logs alone until it’s time for the mushrooms to start growing. Once I reach that point-I’ll show you the next step. One other thought-the logs will have to be soaked at a later date-so if you live near a water source-you might want to put your stack in a shady area close to the water. The logs need to be soaked during the spawn run, either with a sprinkler or by immersing in water for about 8 hours. This is important because the biggest cause of failure is the logs getting dehydrated. It is also important to let the bark get dry between soakings.

So now you’re wondering how long till I have some mushrooms? Well it’ll takes a while-at least 6 to 9 months-maybe longer. But once you get them established Shiitake mushrooms will continue to grow on the logs until they rot away-typically 3 to 4 years.

The good folks at have been a huge help to my new Shiitake Mushroom growing venture. Jump over to their site and look around-they have anything you’d ever need when it comes to growing mushrooms-books, instructions, tools, spawn-you can even buy a small mushroom kit that comes ready to grow-and by checking around the web I’ve found you cannot beat their prices either.

Know anyone who grows mushrooms? Got questions about the process?



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  • Reply
    October 16, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    Congratulations! That is so exciting! I’ve been thinking of growing mushrooms, but I’m scared of the start up costs. Definitely something I’ll do in the future. Fresh shitakes are delicious!

  • Reply
    Abbey Jenkins
    March 27, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Heya girlies! i am coming to the dance tonight and you guys better come! i love the pic of all three of us! love love love it!

  • Reply
    March 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Can’t wait to see how they do!
    And I’m hoping you’ll teach us how to prepare them, too! Or do you just use them like you would canned mushrooms. I’m curious.

  • Reply
    March 12, 2010 at 9:27 pm

    This was very intersting! We will look forward to your harvest!

  • Reply
    March 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    I had NO idea!. That is so vert cool!

  • Reply
    Glenda Beall
    March 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Tipper, you are the fount of knowledge on all things interesting! I had never dreamed mushrooms grew like this, planted in logs. I’ve seen mushrooms on logs in the woods, in damp leafy places but did not know about the inooculating of logs. Now you have mushrooms growing and your garden will be growing soon.
    Good post.

  • Reply
    March 11, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Great post Tipper. That would be such a neat project. I’ll have to find out if mushrooms will grow in this dry climate where I live!

  • Reply
    Patty Hall
    March 11, 2010 at 9:48 am

    well, that’s just cool!! I’m not a big an of mushrooms. Looking forward to seeing your harvest.
    Blessings Patty

  • Reply
    March 11, 2010 at 9:28 am

    B.-I have never hunted morels-but would love too. I hope you’re patch comes back this year too.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    March 11, 2010 at 9:26 am

    Rooney-Christy said there were 3 things that liked to eat Shiitakes. Deer, Slugs, and a type of Beetle. She said Beetles were the most common pest-and most everyone that grows Shiitakes has to deal with them at some point. I’m not so worried about the Deer-cause there are so many hunting dogs in my holler Deer usually avoid it.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    Rooney Floyd
    March 11, 2010 at 9:17 am

    I wonder if squirrels, possums, coons, etc. will eat your mushrooms.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    March 11, 2010 at 9:15 am

    I’ve always wanted to try growing Shitake mushrooms…..but wait we put it off since…
    Last spring…we found a load and I mean a load…of huge Morels in our semi-shaded part of our, would you believe yard!…We don’t mow that area much and dh nearly ran them over last Spring…LOL No one now is to go near that “treasure trove area” or face deployment to the pasture! We left some to spawn!
    We can’t wait to see if they return this year…we have some in the hilly woods but this would make easy pickin’. LOL I would love to start my Shitake logs..if the Morels don’t return…to old to climb the hills now…
    It’s just about Morel hunting time in your area too…do you hunt morels…?

  • Reply
    Jennifer in OR
    March 11, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Well, you never cease to amaze me! This sounds like a fun(gi) growing adventure!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    That was interesting. Dirt and I tried King Stropharia a long time ago when we first moved out the the farm.

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    March 10, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    You’re going to like this, Tipper! We’ve been growing shitakes for several years and have recently added oyster mushrooms which seem to do particularly well. Such a treat when you walk out one day and there’s a huge flush of mushrooms!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 6:41 pm

    I’ve never heard of doing this before. I can’t believe it takes so long for them to grow, I’ve always thought that mushrooms usually sprouted in the spring.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Christina-no poo on my logs : ) I hope you get to give mushroom growing a try.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Music, Giveaways, Mountain Folk
    All at

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Great post! Makes me wish I didn’t hate mushrooms! Something about them growing in poo that turns me off…however your logs didn’t have poo on them (I don’t think), so maybe I’ll give ’em a try. They sell inoculated shiitake logs are our community co-op (for a pretty penny), so maybe I’ll start there! 🙂

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm

    Very very interesting, Tipper. I have always wondered how we got the mushrooms we eat so frequently…. Thanks for the info..

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Wow! Tipper!! I am so impressed! I can’t wait to watch your mushrooms start to grow!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    March 10, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    Tipper: What a great story, the only trouble is that now we have to wait a long time to see what you reap. I await some mushroom photos.

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    We inoculated our first logs 2 years ago and had our first mushrooms last summer/fall…they were huge and awesome and it was all so easy. I burned up a drill drilling my logs but it was worth it! Plus, I got to go buy a new drill!

  • Reply
    March 10, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Great information. I’ve always wondered how they were grown.

  • Reply
    Amy - parkcitygirl
    March 10, 2010 at 11:59 am

    That looks like a lot of fun! and 3-4 years of mushrooms – wow! Joe would love it, I can’t handle the texture. . . 🙂

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