From the moment we moved onto our current property, we knew it was the perfect environment to grow mushrooms. The shade from large oak trees (that limit our gardening potential) also have endless opportunity for farming the shade with mushrooms. Starting our own mushroom log has evaded us for far too long.
Luckily, with the right supplies inoculating your own mushroom log is incredibly easy to do. Once the logs are innoculated, you get years of harvest with minimal work and maintenance.
We are started out with easier to grow mushrooms, shitake and pink oyster mushroom. They are perfect for beginners (like us!) and we alreaddy know we love pink oyster. We definitely are going to be trying out more and more. We just need a find a good source for the various types of wood needed.
Getting the right kind of wood during the right time is a pretty key factor. Logs can be cut anytime for inoculation with plug spawn. For best results, use logs that were cut in the late winter or early spring. This is when the logs will contain the highest levels of moisture and sap which the mycelium of the mushrooms will feed on.
Shitake prefer oak, maple, hickory, eucalyptus, or beech
Tree Oyster prefer softer woods like maple, beech, poplar, birch, or elm
Reishi prefer elm, maple, oak, and sweetgum
Maitake prefer oak or honey locust
Avoid: Evergreen hardwoods (live oak, magnolia, etc.), fruit trees (cherry, peach, plum, etc.), and conifers (fir, cedar, cypress, pine, etc)
The ideal log is about 3-4’ in length and 4 to 6 inches in diameter. The best logs are recently cut from healthy trees and stored on a concrete surface for at least 2 weeks (no more than 6 months) before plugging. Prior to plugging, the logs should be soaked in water for 24 hours.
Sources for Plug Spawn
Getting good quality plug spawn is a key to being successful. There are many great sources for mushroom plugs available on the internet. We really like Everything Mushrooms and the great help they provide ( plus its’s located in our hometown).
Be sure to store them in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them or follow storage directions provided by the grower.
- 100 plug spawn (for 2-4 logs) or 500 plugs (12-18 logs)
- 6-8” thick hardwood logs 3-4’ long
- Power drill with 5/16” bit
- (Or Angle Grinder fitted with a 5/16” bit)
- Hammer or Mallet
- Wax (Cheese, Soy or Beeswax)
- Syringe or paintbrush (to apply the wax)
- Double boiler
Innoculating Your Mushroom Log:
1. Drill Holes
Drill holes with a 5/16” bit. The holes should be spaced about 4-6 inches apart and should be 1 inch deep. Stagger the rows creating a diamond pattern of holes all equally spaced out. Add extra holes around the ends of the log about one inch from the end. This will help the mycelium seal up the ends of the logs and will prevent disease and pests from invading. Also add extra holes around branching limbs.
2. Tap in plugs
Get your plugs ready by breaking them apart if they are stuck together. Make sure your hands are clean while doing this, just another way to avoid contamination. After the holes are all drilled, start tapping in the plugs one by one with the hammer. You can also use a punch to countersink the dowels. This helps create a nice reservoir for the melted wax.
3. Apply Wax
Melt the wax in your double boiler. Cover each hole with melted wax. Do one side letting the wax cool and setup before turning and starting on the next. Cover any large wounds with wax as well. In drier climates, some growers also wax the ends of logs to hold in moisture.
4. Storing the logs
Innoculated logs should get stacked log cabin style on a hard surface. The area should be shady and either gets regular rainfall or access to a water source. The area should be easy to access because mushrooms can start to appear very quickly, so it’s a good idea to keep a frequent check on it.
Most logs do just fine with regular rainfall. If there is a prolonged dry period or full drought, give your mushroom log a good watering.
5. Trigger Harvest
It takes about 6 months for the spawn run to finish. After that, the logs are ready to fruit. Triggering the mushroom growth is accomplished by shocking the logs. Take the log and knock it on a hard surface. Then, soak the log in cool water for 24 hours. (We used a kiddy pool.) After that, place the log in a shady area sitting upright. The mushrooms should come in flushes over the next 1-3 weeks. Keep the humidity high during this period.
This is the time you also need to be concerned about bugs. We had issues with our first flush of shitake getting completely eaten. We now move our logs into a safe area when they are fruiting.
6. Harvest time
Harvest mushrooms as the caps begin to curl up. Using sharp scissors or hand pruners, cut the mushrooms off rather than pulling them. Pulling them can damage the mycelium.
7. Resting Logs
After the harvest is over, place the log back in its storing location for 4-6 weeks. Then, you repeat the cycle with step 5 to trigger another harvest.
We are looking forward to our many mushroom harvests to come. I already have a nice list of new types to try as soon as more good logs come our way.
Want to dig deeper? Here are more great resources for growing your own mushrooms: