Lee Valley Tools    Gardening Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 1
   February 2011
   Growing Edible Mushrooms in Your Back Yard

Edible shiitake mushrooms
A bounty of edible shiitake mushrooms ready for harvesting.

I'm fortunate because my profession as a forestry technician allows me to spend a lot of time in the woods. Many years ago, after I noticed numerous mushrooms growing on fallen and standing trees, I began to explore the wonderful process of growing my own edible specialty mushrooms on tree logs obtained from my woodlot in eastern Manitoba (American zone 3b / Canadian zone 3a). After many years of experimentation, I have succeeded. Two of my favorites to grow are the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) and the shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes).

Starting the Process
I begin in my home laboratory by taking a small piece of mushroom tissue and growing the spawn in a sterilized substrate. Once this process, called a spawn run, is completed, I can successfully inoculate logs by inserting the fungus spawn into the wood. After a log is inoculated, the fungus will spend its life digesting and breaking down the wood cells. When the fungus is well fed and environmental conditions are right, mushrooms will grow.

Growing Oyster Mushrooms on Logs
Oyster mushrooms are often found on dead standing trees or on fallen logs. The name is derived from the mushroom's oyster-shell-like form, which is quite fragile. In my opinion, homegrown oyster mushrooms harvested from logs far surpass supermarket mushrooms in both texture and flavor.

During the spring or early summer, I inoculate firewood-sized pieces of freshly cut hardwood logs by applying a thin layer of oyster-mushroom spawn to the log ends. I then secure aluminum foil over both ends of the logs to prevent drying.

I place the logs in a dark (not clear) plastic garbage bag in my garage for approximately three months. During this incubation period, the mushroom spawn has sufficient time to colonize the logs, after which the logs are unwrapped.

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