Alternative Cultivation of Shiitake, Oyster, and Other Mushrooms

Note: for exact directions for growing in sterilized sawdust or other divided media, please consult an expert manual like Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms by Paul Stamets, available at Mushroompeople.
Sustainable Forestry
Harvesting Nature’s bounty implies a responsibility to preseve the sources of this abundance. Instead of simply clearcutting a piece of forest, we can thin crowded trees, leave wildlife corridors and habitats, and avoid erosion.
Temperate hardwood forests sustainably produce 1-2 cords of wood per acre per year, depending on location, soil fertility, climate and rainfall. A cord of freshly cut oak logs inoculated with shiitake can yield a profit of $2,000 to $3,000 over three years. Wild and sustainably-cultivated mushrooms, gingseng, golden seal, nuts, and selective horse-logging are more profitable than clearcutting industrial timber and chipwood.  Sustainable forestry is better for both short- and long-term profits, for the enjoyment of Nature with our children and grandchildren, and for the many species of trees, grasses, deer, squirrels, birds, and the complex micro-ecology of soil bacteria, fungi, and insects that literally support all large animal and plant life.
Drilled Hole Inoculation of Logs

For more detailed information on this method, please refer to our catalog or web page titled “Cultivating Mushrooms in Natural Logs”.

Shiitake grows best in hardwood logs with spawn inoculated into small drilled holes in oaks or other dense hardwoods. Oyster grows best in softer hardwoods like cottonwood, poplar, and willow. Select healthy hardwood trees having a medium-thick bark, and cut while the tree is dormant in the Fall or Winter to provide a richer sap, less contamination, and minimize damage to the forest and the critters in the trees.
Since the bark is a barrier against contamination of the semi-sterile sapwood, the logs should be handled gently and kept fairly clean.

Reishi logs should be partially buried horizontally in a moist, shady location.

Maitake and Lions Mane require either sterile media methods, or the natural methods described below. Please note that Shiitake is far more reliable and prolific grower than Reishi, Maitake, or Lions Mane.

Oyster fruits abundantly in softer hardwoods: poplar, cottonwood, beech, willow, sweet gum.

Saw Kerf inoculation of Logs and Whole Felled Trees

The following method of inoculation is fast and reliable. Be very
careful when using a chainsaw; wear safety wrap-around glasses and sound protection.

Place the log securely on a sawbuck. Starting 2” from an end of the log, make a shallow cut around 1/3 of the log circumference, 1/2” deep into the sapwood. Make another cut right next to the first one, leaving a little strip of wood between the cuts. Later, knock off any left over wood strip with a screwdriver. Repeat the process down the length of the log every 12”, to about 2” from the other end. Turn the log over and make more cuts staggered between the first set of cuts. Then fill the cuts with sawdust spawn using gloved fingers or a putty knife. With a bristle brush, dauber, or waxing tool, apply a thin layer of melted cheesewax over the spawn to prevent drying. contamination and to discourage insects.

Log-and-Bag Method Indoors

This yields abundant oyster mushrooms in about three months. It’s also an experimental but promising method for Reishi, Maitake, and Lion’s Mane.

When you cut logs for shiitake, a trunk bigger than 6” in diameter is too big for logs, but will grow volumes of mushrooms. Cut the trunk into 6” thick rounds. Pick a cool, humid spot indoors, like a basement. Put the biggest round at the bottom of a tall white or clear plastic bag. Apply a thin layer of sawdust spawn on top of the round. Place the next round over it, and put in 3 toe-nails to keep it from slipping off. Repeat the process, then close the bag and tie the top. Peek in once in a while, and when small mushrooms appear on the bark, cut several slits on the bottom and top of the bag to provide oxygen without too much dehydration. Add water if mushrooms feel dry. You should get fruitings of oyster mushrooms within 3 months, and several fruitings every 8-10 weeks for a few years, depending on the log diameters. The other mushroom
species will take longer to fruit.
Log-and-Bag-Method Outdoors

Cut the trunk into 6” thick rounds. Spread a thin layer of sawdust spawn on top of the stump. Place the next round on top, and continue layering spawn with rounds, using small toe-nails to keep each round from slipping. Cover the whole thing with a plastic bag and duck-tape it at the bottom. Cut small cooling and
ventilation slits at the top and bottom of the bag, increase ventilation and sprinkle with water when the mushrooms appear. The sap brought up by the root system of the stump should make fast and prolific fruitings for any of the
wood-digesting mushrooms. The stack should not be in direct sunlight, use shade cloth if needed, and be mindful that curious birds, rodents, and deer could make holes in the bag.
Sawdust/Woodchip Bed Cultivation

For a faster spawn run, simply take the spawn out of its bag and bury it 3-6”
deep in a bed of hardwood sawdust and/or woodchips. Water thoroughly and often the first month, and like a lawn thereafter. A wire frame with 80% shade cloth can be used to protect the bed from drying and inquisitive cats and
dogs. Once the mushrooms begin to sprout they need more air circulation and frequent but not excessive sprinkling.
After several harvests, a few handfuls of healthy mycelia-laden sawdust can be used to inoculate another bed.
Good luck and happy harvest!

© Mushroompeople 2011