Appalachia Gardening

How to Grow Your Own Mushrooms

The Deer Hunter and I have been talking about growing mushrooms again. The logs we inoculated back in 2010 had a nice long run, but they’re pretty much gone. If you missed our whole mushroom project check out the post below that was published in March of 2010 here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn.

How to grow mushrooms

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 has been a commercial mushroom grower for years and presently grows Shiitakes on a smaller scale.

Christy was an excellent teacher. She is very knowledgeable and has 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 by inoculating their own log. I left the class knowing how to grow Shiitake mushrooms and knowing I wouldn’t have to take out a loan to grow them. I decided I better get on the ball if I wanted to start this year because 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 took the first step in growing Shiitake Mushrooms.

Using logs to grow mushrooms

The logs should be cut in late winter or early spring. Anytime between when the 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. In other words when the 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 the logs are cut you need to inoculate them pretty quickly. At least 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 them as you soak them during the growing season. Large logs will 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.

Sawdust Shiitake spawn to grow mushrooms

During the class we used sawdust Shiitake spawn to inoculate the log. 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.

Growing shiitake mushrooms at home

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. You should have several long rows 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 you’ve just inoculated a log with mushroom spawn.

Inoculating logs with mushroom spores

After you’ve inoculated all the holes, you must seal them with a layer of wax. At the workshop, Christy said it doesn’t matter what kind of wax you use. Even candles or bee’s wax would work. During the class the wax was melted in an old crock pot. We had a fire going to warm by, so we 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 or other structure. The rain needs to be able to reach the logs.

There are many ways of stacking the logs, but the 2 they shared at the workshop were crib stacking and lean to stacking.

Lean to stacking basically 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 beause you can reach your hands in and around the logs. The downside to the crib stack method is you have to lift the logs more.

We went with the crib stack method. When the logs are stacked your’e done. The logs are left alone until it’s time for the mushrooms to start growing.

If you live near a water source you might want to put your stack in a shady area close to the water. Christy said 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. (*see update below)

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 MushroomPeople.com 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.

—-

*Update: It was 2010 when we inoculated logs to grow mushrooms in our backyard. We hemmed and hawed over how to submerge the logs and in the end we didn’t submerge them at all. Even without the water the mushrooms grew faster than we could use them.  If you live in a dry area or happen to have a very dry year the logs will probably have to be soaked. Maybe ours worked so well because of the unusually wet weather we’ve had over the last several years.

Last year the logs began to peter out. Chitter wanted to make her own little garden and I suggested we use some of the mushroom logs to border it since they were decaying and growing very few mushrooms. Chitter’s garden was a total flop, but by the end of the summer those logs we surrounded her attempt with had produced more than a mess of mushrooms.

Tipper

 

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Tipper
    February 29, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Tamela-thank you for all the great comments! I used my food dehydrator to dry mushrooms. I’m sure you could do it in a very low heat oven or maybe in the sun to, but I’ve never tried either of those methods. Maybe someone else has and they’ll chime in about it!

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    February 27, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Tipper,
    Jim and Don brought some Morals and Ramps and we had a nice cook-out with Rainbows and Cornbread a few years ago. What a nice time!
    But when I order Pizzas, I pick off all the mushroom pieces, mostly cause I don’t care for the taste…Ken

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 25, 2016 at 9:12 pm

    Lorie asked about the innoculated hazelnut. The Blackberry Farm up in the head of West Miller Cove at Walland, TN has planted hazelnut innoculated to grow black truffles. They were supposedly going to find out in 2015 if their attempt worked. But they do not say on their web site whether it worked or not. Not only that but the last time I looked they didn’t even mention the effort anymore.
    I like morels and they are fun to hunt. I have never found them in Georgia though I know they do grow in some ‘secret’ places.

  • Reply
    Tamela
    February 25, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    wonder if there is even a prayer for growing mushrooms in central Texas. . . . wonder if red oaks, Spanish oaks, post oaks, or live oaks would make a good growing medium.
    Are their any special secrets to drying them?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 25, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    The way you have the logs stacked in the last picture is what I call “pig penning” and is used to dry wood faster, but you are trying to keep it damp, right? What if you used only two logs per layer which would create a cavity inside, like a log cabin with no door. Then, throw your plant trimmings, grass clippings, weeds, cardboard or any plant based material inside to compost. The compost would retain moisture which would then seep out into your inoculated logs. Plus, the composting process would provide warmth without sunshine and might extend your growing season. And, if the whole endeavor failed you would still have a big pile of compost for the garden. Just a thought!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 25, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    Growing mushrooms around here would be an exercise in futility. I don’t doubt I could grow them but then what would I do with them? Around my house eating mushrooms would be like drinking buttermilk. “I don’t like them?” “Have you ever tried them?” “No!” “Then how do you know you don’t like them?” “I just know! Just shut up and leave me alone!” “OK, you win, but you lose!”

  • Reply
    Lorie Thompson
    February 25, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Tipper, I was so happy to read your article this morning. My “deer Hunter” and I have discussed many times trying our hand at mushroom growing, but just did not know exactly how to start. I followed your link to the mushroom grower website and have ordered the spawn and the tool needed to get it in the logs. We live on the side of a good mountain creek and there are several areas of our land that never see direct sunlight through the forest canopy. We are in hopes that the mushrooms will do well here.
    I would love to know if anyone has tried any other variety, beyond the shiitakes. We have talked about trying to plant hazelnut or filbert trees that have the truffles injected in the roots. Do you know anyone in this area who has tried that?
    Thank you so much for sharing the information!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 25, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Tipper,
    Lost my comment about freezing morels….at any rate…I dry my Morels, then put in a sealing machine before sticking in the freezer….Fresh mushrooms will not freeze well at all. Better cooked in your recipe then freeze…like sauces, pasta dishes etc…
    Thanks Tipper

  • Reply
    Lisa Snuggs
    February 25, 2016 at 8:34 am

    As a mushroom lover with the perfect place to grow them, this post made my morning. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Tipper
    February 25, 2016 at 8:31 am

    Jim-thank you for the comment! Yes we had great success in drying the mushrooms. As you said so good in stews and soups!

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 25, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Tipper,
    We love mushrooms too. I wanted to try this just about the time you posted this back in 2010. We had seen Co-op selling mushroom spawn. One idea we saw was to grow them in a dark basement, etc.
    We liked your idea much better but, somehow didn’t find our “round-to-it”! In the meantime when we are close to the Monterey Mushroom plant in Loudon County we always buy a big bag…Always fresh and good…We also take the truck and load up on their compost…great for the garden…
    Like Chuck…we are looking forward to Morel mushrooms this year…We are lucky to have a dry land fish “honey hole” under some old and dying apple trees. I hope the weather responds this year and we get a better crop…We usually have plenty to fry and put a bag in the freezer…We never pick them al and leave a few to scatter spores for later years crop…We are careful mowing around the trees in the Spring as well.
    In the meantime, since we are getting our time filled with just enough garden to handle…I suppose we will just make our little relaxing Sunday afternoon drives down by the mushroom plant and hope the guard at the gate has a stash of mushrooms in his guard house fridge…ha
    Thanks Tipper..for this re-read of a interesting “how-to” post and with great pictures also I might add!

  • Reply
    Quinn
    February 25, 2016 at 7:59 am

    I’ve wanted to grow mushrooms for years, but never manage to get the timing right for when I’ll have a pile of logs, the cash for buying the plugs and tools to start with, and a way to get water to the logs if needed. I’m encouraged to read that you had good luck with yours, and also that I can do without that special filling tool. I visited a local couple who had such good results with their logs that they held a workshop to teach others how to do it, but the next time I spoke with them it turned out that only their very first year had been a success, even though they did everything “by the book” and were very conscientious about every detail – kind of disappointing to hear, especially as I generally do things “by the seat of my pants” and hope for the best.
    Good luck with your new mushroom crib! I hope it does as well as or even better than your 2010 experiment 🙂

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 25, 2016 at 7:57 am

    I’m with you Tip, I love mushrooms. I tried to grow some in my back yard in Black Mountain but they just didn’t work there. If you and the Deer Hunter decide to grow some more maybe I can help you harvest them. LOL!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    February 25, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Tipper–Since you mentioned that at one point you had more mushrooms than you could handle, I wonder if you tried drying them? I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of morels on a piece of property I own, and every spring during turkey season I combine two great pleasures–chasing gobblers and looking for morels. Most years I find more mushrooms than I can use immediately, so I dry them. Reconstituted they do nicely in soups, stews, and the like.
    Jim Casada

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