I’ve been wanting to grow my own mushrooms for a long time now, even listing them as one of my Growing Challenge edibles, but never quite got around to buying the necessary supplies. So when, at Seedy Saturday a few weekends back, I saw local mushroom company Western Biologicals (no website – call 604-856-3339 or email email@example.com) selling mushroom plug spawn and indoor mushroom patch kits, I knew it was time to live the dream.
This is a mushroom plug, a wooden dowel colonized by shiitake mushroom mycelium. Actual size is about 1″ long by 1/4″ diameter. For $15, I got 150 of these guys – enough to do six logs.
I chose to go the plug spawn route, in which you inoculate a log with mushroom spawn-laced wooden plugs. The other option I considered was the indoor patch kit method, in which you buy a bag of mushroom-spore infused growing medium. While that would provide almost instant-gratification, the patch kits don’t produce mushrooms for as long, and, well, I couldn’t really picture mushrooms growing in my living room. Plus I thought shiitake mushroom-covered logs might look kinda cool in the woodland garden.
The first and toughest part of this whole project is finding the logs you want to use. The guy from Western Biologicals recommended fresh-cut alder with a diameter of between 4-10″ and a length of no more than 4′. I don’t know about you, but there aren’t too many fresh-cut alders hanging around my neighbourhood. Luckily, my parents live out in the sticks, and there are plenty of government-owned lots to pilfer scrub alder from.
Once we had our logs cut, the next step was to drill holes for the plugs to nestle into. Using a 5/16″ drill bit, we drilled holes 2″ deep and no more than 4″ apart, creating a spiral pattern on each log.
Next, you just pop the dowel plugs into the holes you’ve created.
Give them a gentle tap with a hammer if necessary. The plugs introduce the mushroom mycelium into the log and will, over six months to a year, colonize the wood. Once the logs are colonized, mushrooms will start to appear, popping up from cracks or channels in the wood.
Finally, you seal the plugs with melted cheese wax or other appropriate sealent to protect against other fungi and bugs, then stack or lean the logs in a shady area, watering during dry weather. Then you wait – for as little as six months, but more likely a year – until your little fungi friends appear. Then you make omelettes. Yum.
You can order mushroom plug spawn and other mushroom growing necessities from a number of online shops. Google “mushroom plugs” or try Fungi Perfecti if you live in the US.
I just found your blog this morning and love it! Congrats on your newest family addition too! (I am 34 weeks pregnant at the moment.)
Growing mushrooms sounds fun (not in my townhouse though, but maybe on my in-laws 40 acres…) I will have to remember it if I go overdue, drilling logs and hauling rocks as an induction method! ^_^
Fascinating. Wow, can you grow portabelloes in a similar way? Am imagining a “burger” with all the fixings straight from the backyard.
I’d like to try something like that sometime too. Thanks for sharing the information. I have a perfect setting for this type of project I think. Have you heard how long the colonies last?
Wow – growing mushrooms, sounds like a fantastic yummy idea!
I just inoculated a tree stump this spring with the same kind of plugs but I got them from fungiperfecti.com. Lots of info there.
i just started my own logs a couple weeks ago. I used Oak and i “planted” 3 logs each with maitake, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms. the cut ends of the logs are starting to show the black of the spores. I’m still 3-4 months from getting real mushrooms.
@cinj: apparently, a well colonized log will last a few years.
Wow, that looks so cool! I cant wait to see them in a few months.
Thank you, it’s really interesting!
As it may take up to a year, do you know if the logs can support a cold winter?
Gardener in Converse says
It took my logs about a year before they fruited. I did shitake on oak with plug spawn from http://www.fungiperfecti.com. The logs have been producing for a year and are quite the garden edition. I can’t wait for storm season to come again so I can get more logs.
Andrea– You looked AMAZING right up until the due date! Congratulations on the little one!
HOLY MOLY! Who would have thought! I never in the life of me knew about how this would happen… so thanks for sharing.
I was waiting for you to plant them in the ground. haha
Andrea Bellamy says
Jaspenelle – Congrats, and welcome! Do you have any outdoor space in your townhouse? I’m in one, too, and I plan to put the logs on my balcony in a shaded corner.
Kate_has_roots – I think Portabellas are growth using the patch method. But I love your “burger garden” idea! That’s awesome.
Cinj – I’ve heard they’ll last up to four years!
Lisa – I can’t wait to taste them!
Chris – Love the idea of a tree stump colony – that would blend right into the woodland garden.
Justin – sounds delicious! Let me know how they turn out.
Valerina – I’ll be sure to post updates!
Francis – According to Fungi.com, they can be left outside over the winter, although it doesn’t specify temperatures.
Gardener in converse – oh, good! I’m glad to hear a first-hand account of it actually working. I’ll admit I’m a bit skeptical – it seems a bit magical to me.
Renee – thanks :)
James – glad I could enlighten you ;) (And BTW, you can “plant” some varieties of mushroom spawn in the ground, so you’re not that far off).
I just did a season of white button culture at home. Lots of fun, I am getting ready for bigger things, thanks for the info. They have some at home logs, I may have to do that being in NYC.
Drills are almost as fun as chainsaws!
I’m so excited – I just got logs from a country friend, and my fungi plugs just arrived!
So, have the sprouts shown any signs of emerging yet?
Andrea Bellamy says
Travis – nope, nothing yet. I expect that the soonest I’ll see anything will be next spring, but frankly, this is all an experiment! Fingers crossed.
Hi – My husband and I live in NC and we innoculated around 25 logs this past April with the shiitake plugs. I am pleased to announce that after our drenching from tropical storm Faye we have baby shiitakes sprouting from our logs. I am so excited and can’t wait until they are ready to harvest. We are planning to sell at a local tailgate market. Not sure what the going price per pound is though. We live on 17 acres in the Pisgah National Forest so we have plenty of oak trees. We are planning to innoculate another 30 to 50 logs next spring. Good luck!!
I have inoculated oak logs here in N. Virginia for the last 3 years and am harvesting shiitakes from the last two years’ sets of logs and this year’s logs are looking good. We did about 20 logs the first year and about a dozen the last two years. Currently we are not able to eat them as fast as they are growing.
I’m writing a post about shiitake mushrooms (health benefits), and plan on linking to this post to tell people how to grow them. Thanks so much for the info. I love shiitakes, and it looks easy, so maybe I’ll even give this a try. Thanks again!
Hans Gruetzenbach says
I am trying to find detail info on growing mushrooms on tree stumps. I have been searching the Web for hrs. with no results.
How to grow mushrooms says
@Hans. http://www.learnhowtogrowmushrooms.com has a couple posts about growing on woord. It’s not exactly tree stumps, but it might be helpful. :-)
It is a really helpful information about mushrooms. I live in a village and mushromms are very important for us,
there is also a very useful guide that i got great informatin about mushrooms:
Did the experiment work? I live in the Seattle area and wonder how well I will be able to grow Shitake mushrooms.
Andrea Bellamy says
You know, it actually failed. :( It’s been almost two years and no sign of a mushroom.
Not because we can’t grow shitaakes in the northwest though – far from it. But either the logs I used were too fresh (they should have rested for a month after being cut, apparently) or I left the plug spawn out the fridge too long (a week). I would like to try again, but will probably do a kit next time, just because this was so much work.
Thanks for the response! I’m going to give it a shot myself once I can find some alder or oak logs.
growing shiitakes in centeral manitoba, canada. it took two years to get any but now have had three harvests this year. i trick them by covering the oak logs in ice for a few days before a hot spell. seems to work great
I have alopecia universalis, I have been told to drink tea from don something reishi mushroom would help. I live in a town between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona. Can you help fining this so I may grow it here? Thank You for your time, Colleen