Mushroom Cultivation - a Workshop in Photos and Its Aftermath March 21, 2013 15:24 1 Comment

It's often difficult to express to people just how great Scott's workshops are, so I made a point of taking some photos this time around.  I didn't get photos of everything, but this should give an idea of what kind of fun we got up to.  And if you make it to the end, you'll find sequential photos of oyster mushroom mycelium devouring straw and coffee grounds.

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we had a pretty good group for a crummy day

 Getting ready.  You can see most of the elements of the workshop here: straw on the left, wood chips center bottom, a bag of soon-to-be inoculated coffee grounds and spawn bags just in front of the wood chips, alder logs in the lower right corner, and of course the delightful attendees!

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Media for inoculation

 Cotton pillowcases packed with straw, waiting to get soaked in almost-boiling water for an hour each.  Some of these logs have already been inoculated with shiitake dowel spawn; you can see the telltale dots of green seal'n'heal covering the holes.

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Scott dispensing a nugget of fungal wisdom

 Scott poses with the steel drum he uses to soak the straw bags.  It takes a good propane burner to heat the water to just under boiling - hot enough to sanitize the straw and soften it a bit to prepare it for inoculation. 

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This is the same oyster mushroom kit we sell at Homesteader's, about to be repurposed as an inoculant.  Many of you have asked if it's possible to propagate these kits to grow on a larger quantity of substrate, and to date my best answer has been a hesitant "I think so."  Well, now I can emphatically state YES.

 Once the pillowcase of straw has cooled enough to handle, we alternated stuffing a handful of straw and a handful of kit material (inoculated red alder sawdust) into a bag.  Packing the straw loosely at first allows the sawdust and straw to mix more evenly.  Note the gloves - we sprayed down with denatured alcohol to keep the process clean.

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a prepared straw grow bag

 Only once the bag is mostly full is it time to really pack it down, then burp out most of the air and securely close the top.  If you had to set the bag down while packing it, spray it with alcohol to clean it, then air dry before punching 20-30 holes in the sides of the bag.  These will provide air flow to the growing mycelium and allow the mushrooms to fruit.

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note the moisture inside

 Finally, place this bag into a larger bag to keep it clean and humid.  The top of the larger bag can drape loosely to allow air flow while retaining moisture.   This photo was taken about 10 days after the workshop - note the thick white patch of mycelium in the bottom right beginning to colonize the straw.  Ultimately the goal is to get mushrooms to grow right here in the bag.

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dowel plug spawn


I forgot to take photos during the log inoculation, but gist was: start with fresh hardwood logs, clean off anything already growing on them, drill 21/64 diameter holes just deep enough for the dowel plugs, press the plugs in with minimal force (they should go in at least 1/4 of the way just by pressing by hand, otherwise the hole is too tight) then seal the plugs and any other breaks in the bark with seal-n-heal or beeswax.  We drilled holes spaced 3" apart in rows - one row for each inch of log diameter.

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oyster spawn valiantly attacking coffee grounds

 These are coffee grounds we inoculated during the workshop using some of Scott's millet spawn.  These came from a nearby Starbucks - many coffee shops are happy to provide coffee grounds free of charge in whatever quantity you're willing to take.  All that white is mycelium, and the mass of coffee grounds has taken on the spongy texture typical of an oyster mushroom mycelium mass.  There's not much here- probably only a few cups of coffee grounds and not enough to get it to fruit directly - so the plan is to use this to inoculate a larger batch of coffee grounds.  Perhaps sometime I'll stop by a coffee shop to beg some off them, but for now I'm collecting the grounds from my morning coffee in the freezer. I didn't get any photos of the wood chips we inoculated, but I'll keep an eye on them and throw up some pics if they start doing anything impressive.  The idea here is similar to the coffee shown above: start with a small mass of wood chips, colonize them thoroughly with oyster mushroom mycelium, then use them to inoculate a larger bed in an outdoor trench.


Got a few photos of the activity of the various mushroom growth media in the weeks following the workshop. First, the straw! You'll recall this straw was steeped in near-boiling water for an hour, then drained and mixed up with sawdust spawn from a mushroom kit.

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starting to grow! (look carefully)

 This photo, taken ten days or so after the workshop, shows the mycelium starting to colonize the straw. See that patch of white in the lower corner of the bag? That's mycelium!

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fully colonized straw

 A few weeks later, the mycelium has fully colonized the straw. In the photo it's hard to distinguish from condensation, but if you stop by the store I'll be happy to show you in person! Now the idea is that oyster mushrooms will pop right out of this bag. I'll keep an eye on it and try to get some pictures when there's some action! Wood Chips Spawn Everybody took home a small amount of wood chips inoculated with oyster mushroom spawn grown on millet. Mine didn't take very well - I'd had to run inside during that part of the workshop, so I don't know if the wood chips I got were prepared correctly. Anyway, they still just look like wood chips after a couple weeks, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.

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mixed hardwood chips, well soaked

 Here are the leftover wood chips from the workshop. It's probably five gallons worth. I understand these chips to be mixed hardwood, bark and all, from a local arborist.

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a spent oyster mushroom kit

 This is one of Scott's oyster mushroom kits that's already produced a flush of mushrooms. The mycelium in here is still very much alive, so we're using it for an inoculant.

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adding the kit, er I mean spawn

 Breaking up the sawdust. It comes in a block in the kit, so we break it up by palpating the bag. It's OK to stick your hand in, but wash your hands well beforehand or use gloves to minimize contamination.

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more spawn

 Here's all the sawdust spawn and mycelium from the bag, broken up. It's probably a 1:10 ratio of spawn to wood chips.

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all mixed up

 The wood chips and sawdust spawn all mixed together! This photo was taken about a week after inoculation. The mycelium has just started to colonize the wood chips. This plastic tote has lots of extra room and a lid that snaps on but isn't air tight- perfect for the mycelium that needs moisture kept in but a little air flow.

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white mycelium! good news!

 After about a month, the wood chips are well colonized! These are probably ready to move to an outdoor chip bed. Sorry for the photo quality!

Coffee Grounds

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filter coffee savings from the freezer

 We left off above with the small bag of Starbucks espresso grounds well colonized. The next step is to inoculate a larger batch of coffee to try to get enough mycelium growing to actually produce some mushrooms. This is a bag with about a gallon of grounds used to make drip coffee, filters and all. It took me about a month to save these in my freezer.

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slow growth after the second inoculation

 I broke off about half the "starter" bag and mixed it up with the grounds I'd frozen. This is about a week an a half in. The colonization was much slower than the first step. The photo doesn't show it well, but I think the problem was contamination - it looked like there might be some mold growing in competition with the oyster mycelium.

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 A week or two later, the oyster mycelium has triumphed! It's eaten whatever other microbes were present on the frozen coffee and has fully colonized the bag, giving it a whitish color. This may still not be a large enough mass to obtain mushrooms - perhaps now I'll take Scott's advice and visit a coffee shop for fresh brewed grounds. That's all for now!