Incorporating wood chip mushroom beds into your garden is a perfect opportunity to be creative and experiment a little! There are many different locations to make beds such as pathways, around the base of trees, in vegetable beds etc. and different techniques for building them (depth, width, layering, location etc). No matter what design you choose, make sure to consider the temperature, shade, moisture and substrate requirements of the species you want to ‘plant’. Primary decomposer fungi species (wood decay and litter-decomposers) such as oyster mushrooms (particularly blue and pearl) and King Stropharia are good species to start with in our climate.
When and where to make your bed
- In our climate, we highly recommend making your wood chip bed in the spring when fresh wood chips are available (before trees have leafed out), the climate is relatively cool and damp, and there is plenty of good weather for the mycelium to establish before winter. However, that said, if you have access to wood chips in mid-summer to early fall, you can try to pasteurize them. Fungi can often surprise you and if you have a vigorous strain, it is possible for a bed to myceliate quickly enough before the first frost if started mid-summer
- Create your bed in a shady spot that provides a relatively cool, moist micro climate for the fungi to grow such as under a tree, or in a garden under broad foliage
- hardwood wood chips (chipper)
- sawdust spawn
- straw or other material for the top
- container for soaking wood chips
Step 1: Prepare substrates
- Wood chips should be relatively fresh to minimize competition with wild fungi and should come from trees harvested in the spring before the trees leafed out. If they seem a little dried out, make sure to pre-soak them. For example, place chips in a burlap sack and soak them in a food safe 55 gallon drum for 1.5 hrs.
- Remove all tape and staples from cardboard and thoroughly soak the cardboard (easy to do in a wheel barrow)
Step 2: Dig your bed
- Dig a shallow bed (6 – 8 inches) in a shady place
- The bed can be any shape that fits your site best, rectangle, square, semi-circle etc
Step 3: Prepare the bed
- Line the bed with a layer of cardboard to help reduce the competition from wild fungi in the soil
- Cover the cardboard with 4 – 6 inches of wood chips
Step 4: Sprinkle spawn
- Break up your bag of sawdust spawn and sprinkle over the wood chips
Step 5: Cover the bed.
- Cover the bed with more wood chips (2 – 4 inches) and thoroughly water
Step 6: Establishment Phase
- Depending on your local climate and the year, you may want to water a couple of times a week if necessary as the bed is establishing
- However, you may want to experiment a little. If you have multiple beds and/or strains of mycelium, try to cultivate the most resilient for your environment. Let it fend for its self. Tough love!
- Check your bed every couple of weeks or so to see how well it is establishing. You should begin to see an extensive mat of white mycelium throughout your wood chip layers quite quickly
Step 7: Maintenance, Overwintering and Harvest
- The timing from when you set up your bed until your first harvest and the success of the bed will depend on the species you cultivate and the microclimate of your site. Expect up to 9 – 12 months. 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 not see the fruits of your labour until after a spring rain! Experiment and learn by planting a whole bunch of beds, some might not work, some will need more tending than others, and some will be fantastic!
- To minimize frost damage, especially in the first year, cover the bed with a layer of cardboard, plastic sheeting or mulch (such as straw) after the first frost of the year
- Once established, your bed can thrive for years. You may just need to provide it with a little TLC every once and a while such as watering if you have a hot, dry spell and ‘feeding’ it fresh wood chips in the spring
- For those beds that produce very well, think about cutting out a piece of the bed (like out of a pie) and transplant it to a new location to establish a new bed.
Fungi Akuafo Experience
- We choose a shady area in our mixed boreal forest for the wood chip pile
- Choose an area that you do visit somewhat frequently – once the mushrooms start to pin, they will grow very quickly!
- We use quite a bit of sawdust spawn – it’s a competition with the wild fungi…
- Cover the top of the pile with straw or something similar
- Wild animals also like to eat mushrooms…
- All sorts of insects will also enjoy the mushrooms – it can be a challenge to harvest them at the right time!
- Our mistake with our wood chip pile is that we did not cover the top. We were not worried about moisture due to the high shade but we did find that when we harvested mushrooms, they were full of bits of wood that were difficult to pick out
- Wood chip buckets allow for much cleaner mushrooms
- Do not drown your mycelium – it is easy to over water, especially with cardboard at the bottom which will create a mini lake
- Once we cut down our Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) in the spring, we rent a wood chipper and chip all of the branches
- Ideally, the tree was cut down before it leafed out
- The branches should not sit around for more than two weeks – we find native fungi very quickly colonize these branches
- Using the wood chipper, we chip all the branches onto tarps to keep them clean
- Least time consuming technique