How to Grow Gourmet Mushrooms on Salvaged Logs

 

Harnessing mycelium’s natural recycling power is an easy food-producing DIY project.

Mycelium is nature’s ultimate recycler, faithfully breaking down cellulose and wood debris. It’s the unseen organism that forms reproductive fruiting bodies that we call mushrooms. And it can easily be used to grow your own mushrooms at home. Here’s how.

 
Mushrooms are high in protein and other beneficial agents. They can impart a flavor different from anything else in the kitchen, ranging from nutty to lobster-esque depending on the mushroom species. More exotic species are also quite expensive (think truffles) so growing your own mushrooms is a great way to save money while helping the environment.

 

With no human intervention, a downed tree or stump will become colonized with a variety of organisms including mycelium.Eventually, that mycelium will have obtained enough mass to produce mushrooms such as these naturally occurring Turkey Tails on a oak log. By directing mycelium’s natural tendencies, we can produce mushrooms of our choice.  If you already need to clear healthy trees (too close to the foundation, invasives, selective thinning), you can accomplish this DIY in an easy weekend.

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Step 1

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Start by sourcing healthy, clean logs. Generally, cultivated mushrooms require deciduous hardwoods. In this case, oyster mushrooms will be grown on oak logs. Look for trees or large branches in the 4″ – 8″ diameter range and at least 3′ long. If you don’t have any trees that need to be removed or thinned, try calling a tree removal company as these smaller logs have less resale value and they may let you pick up scrap pieces for free. The logs should be no older than 4-6 months as competing fungi can have already gained a foothold. Late winter and early spring are the best times of year to gather these logs, but remember to let them sit at least a week or two to allow any naturally occurring anti-fungal elements to dissipate.

Step 2

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Once you know the quantity and species of logs you have, source plug spawn in wood dowels from a reputable grower. Choose a company with a proven history and one that continuously works with their source mycelium, and pick a species best suited for your climate and wood type using a resource manual or online guide. Generally, you will need about (100) dowels per 8′ of log. After you receive the plugs, let them “recover” from the trip in a cool dark place. If it will be more than 1 week before you use them, store them in an opaque bag in the refrigerator.

Step 3

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Once you have all your tools and supplies ready, trim 3-4″ off the ends of your logs. This will remove the driest part of the wood as well as any competing organisms (if the logs have been sitting for more than a week or two).

Step 4

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Next, holes need to be drilled in each log no more than 4″ apart and in staggered rows. To expedite the process, use a drill stop or piece of tape 1 1/2″ back from the end of the bit. To quickly space the holes, use a 3 1/2″ piece of wood as a guide. Don’t spend too much time on this step as the holes do not need to be perfectly in line.

Step 5

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Melt 1/4 lb of wax per log in a spare pot on medium-low heat. I keep a special pot and small hot plate in the garage just for projects and non-food items. Let the wax continue to melt as you move onto the next step.

Step 6

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Drive one plug into each hole on all logs using a rubber mallet. If needed, drill a couple extra holes to use up all the plugs. Once the bag has been opened, the plugs are under threat of contamination.

Step 7

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Using a small brush, cover each plug with wax to hold in moisture and hold out invading fungi. Also be sure to cover any areas where branches have been removed or bark is missing. Completely cover each end. I do this by carefully dipping the entire log end in the pan. Be sure not to burn or spill the wax as it could create a fire hazard.

Step 8

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Mycelium grows and fruits best in cool, damp places, so stack the logs in a cool shaded area. In this case, a west fence line was chosen for shielding from the sun. If you have at least (4) logs, stack them in ricks (think large-scale Jenga). Otherwise stack them with a spacer to allow airflow. In this case, (3) logs were stacked with a cedar spacer (left over from Blog Cabin 2012′s hot tub) as cedar will not host competing organisms. Try to also elevate the logs from ground contact to prevent the same.

Step 9

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Once the sealed logs are stacked, water them for 10 minutes every other week until freezing temperatures loom or heavy rains occur. You can also cover the logs in a natural cloth or burlap to help hold in moisture (in this case a failed art supply for Blog Cabin 2013). Avoid solid materials such as plastic as they will encourage mold growth.  Finally, wait at least 6 months for the log to become fully colonized. Mycelium typically fruits in the spring or fall when temperatures are cool and moisture is high. Refer to the product guide that came with the plug spawn for further tips on fruiting.

Safety note: Always be sure to properly identify any mushroom before eating it. All the mushrooms from the log should appear the same and similar to the photos found in your resource guide. When in doubt, leave it out!

Materials

  • 3-4′ long logs 4-8″ in diameter
  • Plug spawn wood dowels
  • Food grade (soy, bee) wax

Tools

  • Drill with 5/16″ bit
  • Rubber mallet
  • Small clean brush
  • Spare pan
  • Hot plate
  • Chainsaw or handsaw
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves
About Dylan Eastman 

5Posts

At a young age, I learned how things worked by taking them apart and (successfully) putting them back together. I've always approached life as an opportunity to learn new skills, ...

More About Dylan Eastman

2 Responses

  1. 540sam says:

    And stay away from the Death Angels.

  2. Love those edible"toadstools," Dylan! Thanks so much for the growing and cultivating lesson! Must try it! :D Kitty

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