After a fascinating tour around Martin Crawford’s Forest Garden at Dartington, near Totnes, we resolved to follow his example and try to inoculate some fresh-cut hardwood logs with mushroom spores.
Following Martin’s advice, we bought dowels impregnated with mushroom spores from Ann Miller a specialist supplier from Aberdeenshire with more than 20 years’ experience. We opted for what are said to be the two easiest mushrooms for beginners to try and grow – Shitake and Oyster. The procedure is fairly simple, but it will take a long time before we know if we have been successful (probably a year or more).
Most mushrooms require fresh-cut hardwood logs to grow successfully – we used oak and ash logs about a metre long cut from recent thinnings (removing side shoots and any ivy or moss attached to the bark). We drilled holes for the dowels – approximately six inches apart, with the rows spaced about four inches apart. The dowels were then gently tapped into the pre-drilled holes till they were flush with the log.
When all the holes had been filled with the impregnated dowels we covered the tops with melted cheese wax to make an air-tight seal.
The logs were then stood on end in a shady corner of the vegetable garden to wait till the mushroom spores introduced on the dowels have managed to colonise the whole log. When (or perhaps if) they do this successfully they will be ready to fruit – something that in theory can happen on multiple occasions as long as the logs are kept in good condition – until, that is, they have eventually rotted away. Once the Shitake logs are fully colonised it is possible to shock them into fruiting (producing delicious mushrooms) by soaking them for 24-48 hours in a deep trough and then banging them sharply, end first, on firm ground three or four times. The theory of this method is that it imitates the natural forest conditions for fruiting – i.e. a tree branch falling to the ground after severe storms.
We will let you know if it works – but don’t hold your breath.
Three logs resting in a shady place to produce mushrooms