Thursday, February 14, 2013

Building Unity Farm - Planning for Mushroom Cultivation

In a few weeks, my wife and I will be taking down approximately 30 poplars which are growing near the house and barn.   Poplars grow to 75 feet and these trees are within 50 feet of structures.   We've lost many poplars in recent storms because the wood is soft and the roots are shallow.   We'd rather remove them before they fall into the house.

What are we going to do with the soft wood from 30 trees that are not suitable for firewood?

The answer - grow mushrooms.

I know that soft wood is an ideal growing medium for growing Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)

But what strain should I use?   Should I grow them on logs or wood chips?  What's the best growing environment and how much moisture is needed?

I contacted my friends at Fungi Perfecti and asked these questions.   Their response:

"You would probably be most successful if you grow the mushrooms on the poplar logs.  Also, you want to use wood that has been dead for 2 weeks to 6 months. After you cut your wood you want to keep it out of contact with the soil until the logs fruit, to avoid contamination.

As to which species you should use, we recommend both pearl oyster and blue oyster.  The only difference is that the blue oyster prefers cooler fruiting temps.  By inoculating some logs with pearl oysters and some with blue oysters you will have a longer fruiting season in the fall and in the spring.

I have attached to this email a .pdf copy of our plug spawn instructions so that you can review them and get more information on what is involved in log cultivation. If you have any more questions after reviewing these, please feel free to contact us."

For a local perspective, I contacted local (Petersham, MA) mushroom farmer Leo Mondragon at Forest Harvest  to ask his advice.

He recommended that we cut down the poplars now before the sap runs, as the wood will be moister and more amenable to inoculation.

He recommended we stack the logs in the shade of the forest and we use a high speed grinder with a 1/2 inch bit to create inoculation holes.  Here's a video from Leo illustrating the technique

He also recommended that we create mist irrigation to keep the logs moist during the summer months.

The kindness of strangers is always an inspiration to me.    Leo and his wife Marie generously provided me with all the advice I need to begin mushroom cultivation with our poplars.

I look forward to a bounty of oyster mushrooms from the forests of Unity Farm when they first fruit next Spring.


Unknown said...

Wow, I have followed you for a year now, and cultivaling oysters takes this from admiration to bromance!

Unknown said...

Can't wait for the follow up on this! Hopefully the crop is bountiful and it doesn't turn out your "nice" neighbors are the local mushroom-growing competitor! Hahah, anyways, thanks for sharing. I'd like to try something like this as a senior when I retire - you're living well. -Natick