Wintertime Log Inoculation

It’s late Fall and the nights are getting cold. You live in an area of harsh winters, and you are concerned that any logs you inoculate now will be exposed to hard freezing before the spawn has colonized your logs.

In the Southern states you have more time, because an occasional freeze will not set back the mycelium. But when newly inoculated, the log is vulnerable to hard or prolonged freezing, which can retard the first fruitings for several months to a year.

So should you wait until Spring?

Or should you inoculate those great logs your friend gave you, and try to store them inside? But what if you don’t have indoor space to store a bunch of logs?

Here are three or four options of increasing degrees of adventureness:

1. Wait until early Spring to inoculate. If you have already cut your logs in the Fall, they will probably be too dry by Spring, and you will have to cut some fresh logs

2. You can store inoculated logs in a relatively warm (36º to 75º) and humid place. A solar-warmed greenhouse is ideal!

3.  A basement or indoor room with a humidifier works fine, but requires either indirect sunlight or fluorescent lights – 12 hrs on & 12 hrs off – to kill any mold that may try to grow in the condensation on logs, walls, & ceiling. Stack or lean the logs slightly separated from each other, and cover them with plastic to slow down moisture loss. In about 3 months the logs are well-colonized enough that you can stack them outside. Follow the directions in How to Grow Mushrooms on Natural Logs in our website, or in page 6 of your catalog. Colonized logs can take minus 50º F without any problems, and the logs greatly benefit from Winter rains or a layer of snow on them.  Even in Winter, if it’s dry, you will have to water your logs deeply but infrequently.
4. You can make a very small simple solar greenhouse from the logs themselves. Here’s how:

a. Choose a location sheltered from the North wind and facing the sun. The best is a South-facing wall.

b. Lay down a thick mat of straw on the ground, or on pallets, to act as insulation from the frozen ground.

c. Stack the logs in open log-cabin stacks, not more than about 1 m (one yard) high. (See our directions How to Grow Mushrooms on Natural Logs)

d. Insulate the N, E, and W sides of the stack with a thick layer of straw, but the top of the stacks more thinly with about  3” of straw, so some of the sunlight can come in, but the daytime heat doesn’t radiate out from the top too fast at night.

e. Then cover the whole thing with clear poly plastic, held down with rocks, bricks, unused logs, stakes, or dirt. Slant the plastic on the South side out a little (see picture below). Since you are leaving the South side open but covered with clear plastic, you are essentially making a mini solar greenhouse or cold frame with your logs.

Even in coldest weather, bright sunlight coming in through the south side could overheat the logs. Put a couple of thermometers near the top of the stack under the plastic to monitor the temperature. If it rises above 95∫, you can cover the South side and/or top of the stacks with 80% shade cloth or burlap bags. In very sunny spells, it might be a good idea to keep 40% shade cloth on the stacks all the time to prevent overheating.

The idea is somewhat experimental, so we would love to hear from  folks who make this log mini-greenhouse. With your permission, we will post your comments here.

Happy Mushrooming!

©2011 by Mushroompeople