Of all the many plants you can grow in a garden, mushrooms are not often at the top of the list. But if you’re a mushroom lover, you may be wondering how to grow them in your backyard. Read on to find out how to grow mushrooms on logs.
Growing mushrooms on logs: Growing mushrooms on logs is not that difficult. Start with freshly cut logs that don’t have any rot or bark damage on them. They should be hardwood, like a maple, but individual mushrooms prefer different types of trees. Drill holes in your logs and insert a mushroom spawn. Place the logs in a cool, dark area. Then, in one to two years, you will have mushrooms growing and ready for harvest.
Can you grow mushrooms on logs?
Mushrooms naturally grow on logs in the wilderness, so it makes sense that you can grow them on logs in your own backyard. While it takes a bit to set up the whole process, if done correctly you can have mushrooms for harvest for up to seven years.
There are certain types of mushrooms that are easier to grow than others.
Oyster mushrooms are perhaps the easiest and most common. They naturally grow on logs in the forest, although commercial production can have them growing on straw or even coffee grounds.
A benefit of growing oyster mushrooms is that you can harvest them within the first year. Their incubation period is much shorter than other options.
Another good option is shiitake mushrooms. Culinary people will understand the amazing flavor these mushrooms have and having them in your backyard is a real bonus.
Shiitake mushrooms can take up to two years before you can harvest. They are also great for dehydrating, so if you have a surplus harvest, you can enjoy your shiitake mushrooms for the whole year.
Lion’s Mane is a rather unique mushroom and has the appearance of many white needles that grow in a shaggy way. At their full size, these mushrooms can be 15 inches wide.
Even though this isn’t a very popular mushroom, it has a lot of benefits. It can be used for both cooking and medicinally, and has a taste that is similar to lobster when it is cooked.
Finally, if you are up for a challenge, you can try growing reishi mushrooms. This is not an edible mushroom but instead is grown purely for its medicinal properties.
Reishi mushrooms are dried and then ground down before being combined into a tea. They have a gorgeous, bright red color to them.
If you are trying to grow reishi mushrooms, make sure they are in an environment with lots of humidity, preferably close to the ground. They take up to two years before they are ready for harvest.
What kind of logs do mushrooms need to grow?
The key to growing mushrooms is trying to replicate their natural environment as much as possible. Different mushrooms like to grow on different types of wood.
As a rule, aim for deciduous hardwood trees. Coniferous trees are not recommended.
Think oak or maple trees. These trees have plenty of nutrients stored in their wood and will provide more food for mushrooms as they start to grow.
The one exception is oyster mushrooms, which prefer pine or poplar trees.
Here is a small list of common mushrooms and their preferred type of wood:
- Shiitake: alder, beech, maple, oak, sweetgum
- Oyster: aspen, cottonwood, willow
- Lion’s mane: beech, maple
- Chestnut: aspen, beech, birch, cottonwood, maple, oak, sweetgum
- Reishi: hemlock
How to choose logs for growing mushrooms
Starting with suitable types of logs is essential to growing mushrooms.
First look for size. They should have a diameter of 4 to 10 inches and be about 4 feet in length. If you start with logs that are too big, the mushroom spores won’t be able to penetrate into the nutrients.
Never use logs that have any sort of rot or disease on them. This can quickly kill the mushroom spawn.
Finally, don’t use logs that already have fungi on them. This can stop the growth of your mushrooms and could add a toxic element to your mushrooms.
How to grow mushrooms on logs
Prepare the logs
The first step in growing mushrooms is to have your logs ready for use. Make sure they are the right type and are cut to the right size.
Try to cut your logs between December and March. This way they won’t be out in the open for too long before you start the process.
If you won’t have access to logs in the winter, cut them in the fall. However, store them under a tarp to keep as much moisture in them as possible.
Choose logs that don’t have any bark damage and don’t have any rot on them or other fungi. You also want the diameter of the logs to be between 4 and 10 inches, and be about 4 feet long.
Choose your mushroom spawn
Think of mushroom spawn as seeds. There are two methods you can choose and they are dependent on the type of mushroom you want to grow and the space you have.
The most common is plug spawn. This comes in the form of small plugs that you can place into drilled parts of the logs.
The other way to grow mushrooms is with sawdust spawn. This method is more involved and is better suited if you want to inoculate a lot of logs.
You will also want to really research what type of mushrooms you want to grow. It may be difficult to find mushroom spawn at your gardening center, so look online for specific strains of mushrooms.
Inoculating the logs
The process of putting mushroom spawn into your logs is called inoculation. Start by drilling holes into the log, which is where you will place the spawn.
The holes should be about 1 inch deep and spaced out by 6 inches. Make rows of these holes about 2 inches apart.
After your holes are drilled, you can add the spawn, one plug for each hole. Take a hammer and make sure the spawn plug is firmly inside each hole.
If you are using sawdust, fill each hole with the mixture and then cover each hole with a layer of wax. This will prevent the sawdust particles from coming out or drying up.
Location and Water
The best time to start the mushroom inoculation process is in the spring. This way the logs will be moist and the mushroom spawn has enough time to start growing before winter comes.
Stack all your logs in a shaded area. If they are in the sunshine, the spawn will dry out.
The logs also need good air circulation. If not, the logs will dry out.
You can place your logs at the side of your house, in a shady spot. You can also place them at the bottom of a slope in your yard, as long as it is in the shade. This way they will naturally get any water runoff, which will keep the logs moist.
For those that don’t have a lot of shady space in their yard, you can construct shade netting and make a temporary dark, damp space.
Finally, try to place your mushroom logs somewhere that is easy to access. You will need to check the moisture content and the logs should also be close to a water source or in proximity to a water hose.
Be sure to keep an eye on the moisture content of your logs and try to aim for about 50%. You can purchase a testing kit to measure this level.
If there is no rainfall in the forecast, water the logs every two weeks. They should be saturated with water for at least five hours, so setting up a sprinkler is the easiest way to do this.
How long does it take to grow mushrooms on a log?
This process is not for the impatient! It will take at least one or even two years before your mushrooms are ready for their first harvest.
The good news is that mushrooms will keep growing on that same log each year, so you can then get up to six or seven years’ worth of harvests.
How to harvest mushrooms
Depending on your growing conditions and type of mushrooms, you may be able to harvest after just six months, or you may need to wait another two years.
Most mushrooms are ready for harvest in late summer to early fall. You should be able to have a continual harvest during this period.
Wait for the mushroom caps to turn from a convex shape to a concave one. This is a sign they are ready.
While you can’t simply plant mushroom seeds in a garden, you can get them to grow in your backyard. Start with mushroom spawn and freshly cut logs. Drill holes and place your spawn into them, and then within two years, you will have fresh mushrooms ready to harvest.