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Introduction

Incorporating mushrooms along the edges of your compost pile or in your beds is a simple and great way to increase diversity. Of the saprophytic mushroom species, many are secondary decomposers that thrive in conditions of already partially broken down organic matter such as forest floors, soils and compost. Shaggy Mane, is a good species to start with in our climate. When choosing what fungi to plant, make sure to remember to consider the requirements of the species (temperature, shade, moisture, substrate) and pick one that aligns with the micro climates that you have available or you can create.

When and where to make your heap

  • Given our climate in southern Alberta, I would generally suggest to ‘plant’ your mushroom spawn in the spring when conditions are relatively cool and damp; a perfect growing environment for mycelium to prosper and get well established before the winter. However, if it is mid-summer or early fall I would not be discouraged from trying to create a small bed, as fungi can often surprise you!
  • If growing Shaggy Mane, you can build your ‘heap’ in a shady or sunny place but the best place is in partial shade which provides a relatively cool, moist micro climate for your fungi to grow. Remember that it will take several weeks to up to a year for heap to myceliate, so even if your site does not have sufficient shade yet (e.g. a seeded vegetable bed) as long as it will create the right micro climate when the mushrooms are ready to fruit, you should be good to go!

Equipment

  • Sawdust Spawn ( 1 bag for an area of ~1 sq.m) Shaggy Mane
  • Substrate – 50:50 Carbon:Nitrogen
    • Carbon Rich  Substrates
      • Wood Chips (ideally hardwood)
      • Straw
    • Nitrogen Rich Substrates
      • Compost
      • Manure
      • Rich soil
  • Water
  • Label and Oil Based Marker

Method

Step 1: Prepare Spawn and Substrate

  • Wash you hands
  • Break up your bag of sawdust spawn
  • Thoroughly mix together your 50:50 substrate – 50% Nitrogen (compost, manure or rich soil) and 50% Carbon (wood chips or straw) on a tarp/table/wheel barrow etc.

Step 2: Make your heap

  • Choose a partially sunny/shaded spot (ideal) ~ 1 sq.m but can be any shape that fits your site best (rectangle, square, semi-circle etc.)
  • Dig down ~ 6-10″
  • Line your dugout site with a layer of substrate (50:50 mix) ~ 2-4″ thick
  • Sprinkle a layer of spawn ~ 2″ thick over the substrate.
  • Repeat the last two steps and end with a layer of substrate
  • Water the heap thoroughly
  • Label your heap with the date, mushroom species, substrate(s) and spawn source (e.g. fungi akuafo)

Step 3: Establishment Phase

  • Depending on your local climate and the year, you may want to water a couple of times a week, as the bed is establishing

Step 4: Maintenance, Overwintering and Harvest

  • The timing from when you build your heap until your first harvest and the success of the heap will depend on the species you cultivate and the microclimate of your site. If you plant in the spring, you may get a flush later that summer/fall. If you plant in late summer/fall, be prepared to wait until after a spring rain the following season! Experiment and learn by planting a whole bunch of heaps to learn what species and techniques grow best in your climate
  • To minimize frost damage, especially in the first year, cover the heap with a layer of cardboard, plastic sheeting or mulch after the first frost of the year
  • Once established, your heap may thrive for several years, you may just need to provide it with a little help such as moisture during hot or dry times.
  • Remember that the species suitable for this method are generally secondary decomposers and may phase out with succession unless you provide them with fresh food each season (e.g. 50:50 substrate)
  • Remember, that many other critters like mushrooms too! It is good to keep an eye on your mushroom patch to catch the mushrooms when they first emerge as insects can quickly infest them (laying their eggs in the mushrooms) and small mammals such as squirrels find them tasty.

Variation

  • Cardboard box filled with sawdust spawn
    • Dig your hole in a place with partially decomposed organic debris such as your compost pile or garden bed
    • Place the box in the hole
    • Cover it with the substrate from the hole
    • Water it!
  • Inoculated straw spawn
    • Try turning straw inoculated with mushroom spawn into a field or your veggie garden in the spring and look for mushrooms growing under your leafy greens in the fall or next spring!

Notes

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