This past week my husband Eric and two of our kids, who have been home since the pandemic began, have been busy inoculating logs to grow mushrooms. Eric attended a workshop a few years ago and started growing mostly shiitake and oyster mushrooms since. I have to say, it is quite fantastic to grow your own mushrooms.
About three weeks ago Eric selected a few healthy maple and oak trees to be cut into logs between 3 to 8 inches in diameter and about 3 feet long. They were then left to rest for a couple weeks allowing for cells within the log to die back and for colonization to occur. This step should be done in early spring before leaves are out. Logs should be prepped close to the anticipated date of inoculation as you don’t want other competing organism to get into your logs.
For Shiitakes Eric uses the drill and fill method. First the log is cleaned with a brush getting rid of any potential contaminant. Holes are drilled throughout the log, then filled with the sawdust spawn. Finally each hole is covered with a layer of melted beeswax. Once inoculated the logs are stacked in a shaded area in the woods and left to rest for several months. If there are extended periods of drought be sure to water the logs every so often as you don’t want them to dry out.
For Oysters Eric uses both the drill and fill, and the Totem method. The advantage of the Totem method is that it is much faster. For that you would select logs of a 6 to 12 inch diameter range and about 2 to 3 feet high. Eric cuts each log into two 12 inch length sections and one 3 inch length. At the bottom of a large plastic bag a 1/4 inch layer of the spawn is spread out to the same diameter of the log being used. The first section of the log is securely set on top of the spawn. A second layer of spawn is spread then covered by the second section of that log, and again one more time and covered by the final thinner section of that log. The plastic bag is loosely closed to allow for some air to come in but not enough for too much moisture to escape. Logs are kept in the woods in a covered area. Those logs should be left to rest for four months after which the bags can be removed. If you rather not use plastic this method can be done using cardboard at the base and covering the log with a large paper bag.
While it may take up to a year for Shiitakes to grow, you can expect to harvest your first Oyters, depending on the variety, in late summer or the fall of the same year.
If you like mushrooms, have space and means to grow them, I highly recommend doing so. I am quite fond of Shiitakes, I like using them fresh, they are easy to dry, and they rehydrate very well when needed.
For detailed instructions and to order spawns here are some great websites to check out.
British Columbia and Ontario : https://growmushroomscanada.ca
Quebec : https://www.mycoboutique.com
Wisconsin, USA : https://www.fieldforest.net