Outdoor Mushroom Beds

I haven’t posted in a while as I have a bunch of current projects all currently in progress.

I did finally manage to finish one!

At the 2007 North Dakota State Horticultural Society meeting in Jamestown, I met Shirley and Joe Manning from Moorhead, who had great success growing shiitakes on oak logs. They shared their favorite spawn source, Field and Forest Products, and I finally picked up a catalog when I saw them again this year in Minot. I had been interested in the King Stropharia, or “Garden Giant” mushroom, since I had seen it discussed as an easy addition to home garden plots in Mycelium Running (if you are ever feeling a lack of inspiration about your gardening, this is the place to turn.)

So I ordered a sampler 15-square-foot pack of peg spawn — wooden dowels that have been inoculated with the stropharia mycelium. If you look at the ends of the pegs, you can see a whitish coating which signifies the mycelium is healthy and spread throughout the peg.

From Plant Pictures
From Plant Pictures

While these mushrooms prefer soft-hardwood chips, like maple or cottonwood, I (and North Dakota in general) are rather short on easily-sacrificeable trees. King Stropharia will also produce something on straw and white cedar bark chips, so I purchased a couple bags of chips and a bale of oat straw from a local garden center, and started with that. If the experiment is successful, the chips should be colonized with mycelium themselves and able to inoculate a new planting bed of their own next year, so I can spring for the maple chips offered in the catalog (if a local source has not presented itself. I must say I am starting to covet a woodchipper.)

I had a narrow unused shady space between my deck and the dog’s fence, so I laid out a 1×6′ bed of mixed cedar chips, oat straw and a shovelful of garden soil as recommended in the planting instructions. This does increase the chance of a local mycelium already present in the soil winning over the fancy-dancy imported variety – which is why it’s important to verify the variety before eating, even if it is a patch you’ve planted yourself – but it does aid in moisture retention.

From Plant Pictures

Patch Number 2 is a long strip behind the nascent raspberry patch. As part of the experiment, I left about one square foot in just straw, and did the rest in cedar chips. For additional protection from winter winds I covered the chips afterwards with a thick-to-thin layer of the additional straw you see piled on the sides. We’ll see which portion does best.

From Plant Pictures

Wow, it’s hard to take interesting pictures of a field of mulch.

My Lion’s Mane indoor sawdust kit was just about done producing, so I set that out into a bed as well. Lion’s Mane definitely prefer logs, with sawdust as a backup, which I don’t have. I did three small squares – one shredded cedar mulch with very fine particles, watered well to leach as much of the allelopathic constituents as possible, mixed evenly with sawdust from the kit, bottom left; one layered with mulch+sawdust, straw, mulch+sawdust, straw, top left; and one just straw, mixed evenly with the colonized sawdust, top right. I will be quite interested to see what these do come springtime.

From Plant Pictures

I just need to keep the beds moist but not soggy for the remaining few weeks till freezeup, and we should be good to go for fruiting next spring.

Off to the North Country Fiber Fair!

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