Mushroom farming in beds and bales

Since I’ve embarked on Mushroom farming I decided to really go for it and try several methods and see what works best.  I started by inoculating logs and they seem to be doing their thing (the mycelium is working its way through, inhabiting the logs) as best as I can tell at this stage anyway.  The log method is a bit labor intensive though and so I want to see what else works.  So I’ve also started some mushrooms in beds using a variety of methods….

Layout the planting area with wet newspapers

If you have a lot of grass you can overlay it with a thick layer of wet newspaper to start with. This is a really quick easy way to start any kind of planting bed and is obviously much less expensive than building permanent raised beds. The other reason I’m doing this on TOP of the grass is that in our area, anytime you dig up the grass and dirt it sends a universal message to the dormant blackberry roots to sprout up….I am not kidding….their roots are everywhere out here.

Burlap coffee bags

Another material I’m using are burlap coffee bags….no shortage of those around Seattle. Humm…coffee infused mushrooms?  Just ask at any coffee house and they will be more than happy to give them away. I love the graphics on some of these bags and want to upholster an ottoman or chair with the burlap, but I digress, that’s another post.

Cooked compost

The next step is to get some good compost and spread a thick layer on top of the newspapers or burlap bags. Fortunately we have been making compost for quite a while and had a lot of it built up and cooking.  If you have ever made compost before its actually pretty amazing to stick you hand in and feel how it “cooks” underneath. The temperature gets so hot that it can almost burn your hand. This compost is filled with earthworms, doing their thing.

Compost spread on top of base material

Next step is to soak the compost bed with water and get the mushroom spawn…..

Cube of Mushroom spawn

I purchased several cubes of Shaggy Mane and Oyster mushrooms to plant here.  These cubes are composed of sterile sawdust that is permeated with the spawn and compressed into the cube.  When they arrive in a plastic bag and you can see the “white” part is the spawn starting to grow. If you try this, don’t open the bag until you are ready to plant your mushrooms because they need to stay slightly moist and not contaminated inside the sterile bag.

Mushroom spawn

The cube of spawn breaks apart easily and its spread all over the prepared beds of compost. I probably could have spread this more sparsely…..but we will see what happens!

Mushroom spawn

Once all of the beds were spread with the spawn like this, I covered them with more compost and watered them….

Hay bale raised bed

Another way to make a raised bed, of any kind, is to use hay bales.  We had a bunch of left over hay that we harvested really late in the season. Our previous buyer, the bison farmer down the road, was already set with hay for the year, and we couldn’t find another buyer.  Since we were unable to sell it, all of this hay has been sitting there, becoming a mice condo tower.  We decided to evict them and create some raised beds using the hay for mushrooms (and also some potatoes).

Hay bale raised bed

The other aspect that I really love about using these hay bales for raised beds is that it creates the perfect loop of sustainability. The grass grew here, we made hay, we made the compost here, then planted the beds. After several years of use, when they decompose too much, we can turn the whole pile into another round of REALLY good compost and start over. The beauty of growing mushrooms is that once they are done blooming with delicious “fruit” they leave the soil even better than it was before.

At rest

Now we wait……and see which method works the best at keeping the grass and blackberries at bay!

Oop's

We had a few mishaps that sent the mice scurrying in exactly the opposite direction of all the planting activity. Unfortunately, that direction was straight into the highly permeable farm house. But that’s a story for another day…..