Incorporating 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 or perenial 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’. Fungi species that are mid-way along the decomposing spectrum (wood decay and litter-decomposers) such as oyster mushrooms (particularly blue and pearl) and King Stropharia (aka wine caps) are good species to start with in our climate.
When and where to make your bed
- In our climate, we highly recommend making your mushroom 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 or straw in mid-summer to early fall, you can try to pasteurize them before making your bed to reduce the chance of wild spores already in the substrate outcompeting the species you want to grow. 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 to partially 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. If you have quite a sunny spot you would like a mushroom bed in, try king stropharia as it can handle much more sun (in fact they will produce bigger flushes and more often is partial to full sun than in full shaded areas.
Step 1: Prepare substrates
- Beds can be made with hardwood chips and/or straw, so how do you choose? Use wood chips (either alone or with straw) if you want a ‘perennial’ bed as it give more food for the mushrooms and dense substrate improving the chances of the mycelium surviving the winter in our climate. Use straw (alone) only if you want an ‘annual’ bed as there is less chance it will survive the winter but it will likely fruit sooner than a wood chip bed as the mycelium will likely decompose the substrate faster!
- 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 you are growing king stropharia your chips can be up to 25% from coniferous trees but DO NOT USE CEDAR as it has a resin that prohibits fungi growth!.
- If the wood chips 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 and drain.
- Chop straw ~4-6″ in length
- 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″ deep and ~1sq.m in area
- The bed can be any shape that fits your site best (e.g. rectangle, square, semi-circle etc)
Step 3: Inoculate the bed
- Wash your hands and break up the sapwn in the bag
- Line the bed with a layer of damp cardboard to help reduce the competition from wild fungi in the soil
- Sprink a layer of spawn ~2″ over the cardboard
- Cover the spawn with a layer of substrate ~2-4″ thick
- Repeat with a second layer of spawn and then substrate
- Water thoroughly
- Label with date, mushroom species and spawn source (e.g. fungi akuafo) * WHEN IT COMES TIME TO HARVEST, BE SURE THAT THE MUSHROOMS YOU ARE PICKING ARE THE SPECIES YOU PLANTED AS MANY WILD FUNGI MAY ALSO INHABIT YOUR BED*
Step 4: Establishment Phase
- Check your bed once a week for the first couple of weeks for moisture level and 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 5: Maintenance, Overwintering and Harvest
- Once your bed has myceliated, it will begin to fruit when the temperature range is suitable for your species and there is enough moisture
- 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, the substrate you use and the microclimate of your site. Expect up to 4 – 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. If using plastic be sure to remove it early spring to allow the mycelium to breath, get water and reduce chances of mold growing under the sheeting.
- 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/straw in the spring by layering substrate on top.
- 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.
- If you are short on space you can consider making mushroom ‘beds’ in 5 gallon buckets (or chicken feed bag, tub etc) and keeping them out on your balcony or porch.
- When using buckets/tubs be sure to a few drill 1″ holes in the bottom of the bucket for water to drain.
- If growing oyster mushrooms we suggest you also drill 1″ holes (~ 3 per side) for the mushrooms to fruit from but cover with these holes with tape while the wood chips are myceliating to limit moisture loss and contamination.
- We have not tried king stopharia using the ‘bucket’ method yet but if you do be sure to layer some soil in there with the substrate and no need to drill holes in the side as these guys like to grow straight up out of the ground
Fungi Akuafo Experience
- We choose a shady area in our mixed boreal forest for the wood chip bed for blue oyster mushrooms
- We also have grown king stropharia (wine cap) in wood chip beds in the vegetable garden and in the wood chip path between garden beds – they did incredibly well!
- Choose an area that you do visit somewhat frequently – once the mushrooms start to pin, they will grow very quickly and lots of critters like to eat them (wildlife and insects)
- We found that sometimes when growing oyster mushrooms in a wood chip bed they end up with bits of wood in the mushroom that is diffiuclt to pick out. Interestingly however, this did not happen when growing on wood chips in buckets or growing king stropharia on wood chips.
- 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