Lucinda Flynn on unusual ways to grow mushrooms


Lucinda Flynn, from Hurstbridge, writes about some unusual ways of growing mushrooms.

I wonder if there is a hidden gene that some people have that give them a fascination with mushrooms?

I absolutely love mushrooms of all types and my ears always perk up when I hear stories about how to grow them in different ways and I want to give it a go. Not all of my experiments have been successful but that doesn’t stop me from trying. Some mushrooms seem fussier than others and some need daily attention (which I don’t always manage). Here are some of the ways that I’ve experimented with.

Grow mushrooms from spent mushroom compost

There is a wonderful biodynamic mushroom grower local to us who sells his spent beds as mushroom compost. He only delivers them in bulk, so we get 20 or delivered to our driveway and offer them at cost to whoever local wants to collect some. With some care and attention, it is possible to keep watering them and get some more flushes of mushrooms before consigning them to the compost pile. And if it fails, it’s not a problem as it is such a rich organic material to add to the compost. This has been our best ongoing source of mushrooms, although it took us a while to get it right.

You need to find a growing space that is sheltered and can contain a degree of moisture. After much trial and error, we found a space on our front porch which works well. It is a three layer stand we found at the local tip shop, covered by a woollen blanket, tucked out of the wind and extreme heat.

Once you have found a good location, you’ll need to water daily with a fine spray – the red tops in the photo were bought from the Diggers Club and screw onto any soft drink bottle. They are designed for watering seedlings but are perfect for mushrooms too!

As you can see, the top right-hand bed currently has a large flush, whereas the left hand one has none at the moment (although there might be little ‘mushroomlets’ starting off).

Different weather effects how well they grow. Cold or windy weather is not ideal but, as you can see, has not stopped ours from growing – we’ll be eating mushrooms on toast and mushroom pasta this weekend!

Create your own mushroom buckets/bags

Of course, you can buy a ready-to-water mushroom kit but, to make your own, you will need to purchase mushroom spawn from a mushroom supplies shop. There are various methods of filling the buckets/bags. The method that I used was to pasteurise straw with water mixed with hydrated lime, then mix with mushroom spawn, then pack tightly (removing air pockets) into buckets with holes drilled and/or bags with holes made.

These did start growing beautifully but then I got sidetracked by work and forgot to water them for a week; and that was that. I tried to revive them and, with more experience might have been able to, but not that time. I’ll be trying this method again as soon as winter is past.

Growing shiitake mushrooms in logs

This method takes up to 1½ years until you get any mushrooms, but then the harvest goes for a longer duration. It mimics what might happen in a forest with naturally fallen logs.

You’ll need freshly cut hardwood logs (not too hard – you need to be able to drill into it) and they need to be no older than 5 weeks (so that there is plenty of fresh sap in the wood for the mushroom spawn to feed on).

Take your logs, drill holes 10 centimetres apart up and down the sides, insert a piece of inoculated dowelling into each hole (buy from a mushroom shop), and seal the hole with melted beeswax.

The logs then need to be leaned up against a wall in a sheltered spot, in a bucket of water so they don’t dry out. Once the mushroom spawn has grown and infiltrated the log, you ‘should’ start to see mushrooms growing up and down the log, and the supply should keep going for several months. We prepared these last spring and are hoping this spring will start to show some results.

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I buy my supplies at Aussie Mushroom Supplies.

If you have any experiences at growing mushrooms in unusual ways, I’d love to hear about them. Use the comments section below.

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