Growing Mushrooms at Home
Growing mushrooms is a relatively easy project. I learned from a friend named Mary who hosted a mushroom meet-up here in Lynchburg. While there are many nuances to growing mushrooms, here are the basic steps.
Step1: Gather Supplies
- Mushroom plug spawn (check out http://www.sharondalefarm.com/)
- Food grade cheese wax or beeswax (also available from http://www.sharondalefarm.com/)
- Drill with 5/16 bit
- Heat source to melt the wax
- Brush to wipe melted wax onto the plugs
- A shady ideally north-facing space where you’ll keep the logs
Step 2: Prepare Logs
You want logs that are about a foot and a half long so they are easy to move around and soak later in the process. Each type of mushroom does best in certain wood. For the Pearl Oysters, Sharondale Farm’s website says they do best on Tulip Poplar or Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) logs. Mary had cut some Tree of Heaven logs for us since they are invasive species and this is a good use for them.
Drill holes the same size as the plugs into the log. For ours, we needed a 5/16 drill bit. You want the plugs to fit snugly and for the depth of the hole to be the same length as the plugs or slightly longer, but not much.
The plugs are about 1 inch in length so Mary put tape on the drill bit right at 1.25 inches so that we wouldn’t drill too deeply. The more empty holes and space in the log, the more likely that other spores will infiltrate the log.
Drill about 30 holes in diamond patterns around the log. You don’t want a straight line and you should stay about one inch from either end of the log. The ends dry out more quickly and that is not a good environment for mushrooms to grow.
Step 3: Hammer Plugs into Logs
Once you’ve drilled the holes, take a mushroom plug and hammer it into the hole. You will want the plug flush with the log so that the wax is able to completely seal the plug.
Step 4: Melt and Apply Wax
Mary set up a propane stove in the garage and used a double boiler to melt the wax. She used two aluminum pie pans, the bottom one filled with water. We learned very quickly that one pie pan is not enough as it caught on fire almost immediately and burned a hole in the pan. So use two pans and keep water in the bottom pan.
Once the wax melts, quickly dip the brush into the wax and dab the tip onto each hole.
Step 5: Store Logs
Set the logs so that they are horizontal on the ground or standing on one end. Make sure at least part of the log is touching the ground. That is how the log gets moisture. If there are extended dry periods, water it as you would water the garden.
North facing areas are best as the logs should be in a shady, humid spot. Leave the logs for about six months in this area. You may see mushrooms in about 6-9 months. When they are large enough to cut or the size you like, cut them with scissors or a knife at their base. They will keep growing for a few years, as long as the log provides sustenance.
We’ll report back about our progress! For more mushroom workshops, check out http://www.sharondalefarm.com/workshops/.