At the moment we’re doing some serious research on how mushroom cultivation will best fit into the integrated systems at Milkwood Farm. We’re looking for options that are low-energy input, appropriate for our climate, use waste materials we have on-farm, and yield lots of yummy mushrooms!
It’s proving a little trickier than we thought. Our relatively exposed site and low humidity may not suit a more conventional mushroom house, so we’re looking at the margins of existing systems and structures to begin with…
Firstly, we’ll be taking the ‘inoculate it, and they will come’ approach for some types of mushrooms for outdoor cultivation. We’re already inoculating pine seedlings with spores, inoculating shiitake logs with sawdust spawn and dowel spawn, and making grain spawn to grow oyster mushrooms etc in bags.
It’s likely that what we’ll aim for is a combination of managed and free-form mushroom cultivation:
- cultivated logs, bags and jars of mushrooms in the suitable spaces that we have with relatively high humidity (bags/jars/logs under the benches in the shade house, logs in the denser parts of the forest garden).
- inoculated plantings (most notably pines) that have complimentary species of fungi (saffron milk caps etc) added to the soil in the form of spores at time of planting
- straw mushroom gardens (summer only)
- woodchip mushroom gardens and mushroom rafts in the forest gardens
Mushrooms and fungi are an excellent addition to any farmstead or backyard growing operation for a couple of fundamental reasons – the biggest reason (perhaps surprisingly) is that fungi BUILDS SOIL BIGTIME by breaking down carbon, wherever it goes.
So regardless of the fact that our low-humidity climate is not super suited to growing some edible mushrooms, we’re committed to mushroom cultivation for its compost acceleration abilities and its abilities to convert wood to food (albeit sporadically).
However the mushroom integration strategies that are most pushing my buttons at the moment is at the fabulous Growing Power. Within their excellent integrated food growing systems they manage to stash mushrooms all over the joint:
Each oak log in the photo has had holes drilled in the side, and each hole has been filled with mushroom spawn, and then capped with food-grade wax (to ensure there’s no contamination). These mycelium slowly begin to eat the log from the inside out, until they sprout out the top. At this point, the folks at Growing Power know they’re ready, and they dunk the logs into the tilapia water.
Like mushrooms in the wild, as soon as these mycelium get wet, they immediately begin to propagate in an attempt to preserve themselves, blooming into the mushrooms we recognize in our supermarket aisles. Once the mycelium have grown through the log, this dunking process can be repeated every 2 months for 6 years. That’s a lot of mushrooms!
Definitely something to think about for incorporation into future greenhouses at Milkwood Farm!
For both our and your further research, thanks to Will Borowski we are able to share a copy of the most excellent Mushroom Growers Handbook 1: Oyster Mushroom Cultivation – a truly excellent resource on the basics of mushroom growing across the world , created by the very fine http://www.MushWorld.com, an excellent mushroom resource node which seems to have gone offline.
There’s also a great stash of free resources here on log, stump and many other sorts of mushroom cultivation…
If you’d like to learn the excellent and intriguing art of mushroom cultivation, we host intensive workshops with Will Borowski in Sydney and at Milkwood Farm which cover lots of different techniques and skills for indoor and outdoor mushroom cultivation.
Thanks to Will Borowski for his ongoing knowledge on all things fungal, and also to Paul (Speedy) Ward for the awesome inoculated pines!
Lead image: Edible Tricholomas growing in a Garden in Thailand. Photo © Taylor F. Lockwood.