Finally today I managed to start planting our mushrooms. There are two different ways you can grow mushrooms; in soil or on logs. Several weeks ago, I ordered some wooden dowels coated in mushroom spores. The theory goes, you can have several years of harvest from a single log. Sounds simple enough. Upon opening my parcel of mushroom dowels, I saw at once I was clearly in over my head. The instruction manual was an A5 booklet describing in extensive detail every single step complete with a plethora of diagrams. Oops! This was not going to be straightforward.
The three logs I have kept especially for the mushrooms in the Stumpery, I lugged up to the veranda. Carefully, I read through the booklet (twice!) and laid out all my tools I would need. The logs used for mushrooms should be hardwood ideally, preferably oak, beech or chestnut as these give higher yields and will come back for several years. In addition, the logs should be fresh with no more than 6 weeks since being cut but not less than 2 weeks to ensure the log is clean and hasn’t been invaded by anything untoward.
I put the log flat on the veranda and checked the instructions again. It all sounded easy enough but I know from past experience that the simpler the instructions, the harder it usually is. In order to drill the holes in the right place, I needed to measure the circumference of the log, minus 5 then divide the answer by either by 6 or 7 depending on the log circumstance. I got there in the end and made a start. It’s not often I get unsupervised access to power tools (with good reason!) but I really enjoyed preparing the log for the dowels. I used an 8mm drill bit which had a stop on the end. This ensures that you don’t drill too far into the log.
By the time I had 30 holes in the first log, I took a quick break. That sail canopy provides essential shade when working down the allotment. As I relaxed in the shade, I re-read the instructions for putting in the dowels. The number of dowels you need to ensure a harvest of mushrooms depends on the size of your log. I had ordered three different types of mushroom and a pack of 30 dowels for each variety. This first log was to have chicken-of-the-wood dowel. Chicken-of-the-wood is an orange mushroom that grows in a shelf form. Apparently, it has the taste and texture of chicken but I am yet to be convinced! Into each drilled hole, I hammered in the dowel, making sure that the dowels were fully flush with the top of the hole.
The final step was to cover the dowels and the hole with wax, protecting the delicate spores from detritus, invasive fungi spores or anything else. Cliff was on site and I asked for some hot water to melt the wax. We sat and had a chat whilst the kettle boiled. He poured half the kettle’s worth of water into a pot and I placed the wax in a metal pot into the water. This process ensures the wax melts quote quickly. As soon as it was all melted, I made a start on covering the dowels with a good layer of wax.
Once the wax was dry, I put the log into the shed. For about 3-6 months, the logs benefit from being in a sheltered and dark place to help the mushrooms to spawn. I moved onto the second log, congratulating myself on getting through the entire process without any issues. That was until the battery on the drill died. Frustrating but not a disaster. What was the disaster, was being unable to remove the drill bit from the hole! I quickly hammered in the dowels into the holes and sealed them with rapidly solidifying wax. Typically, the drill couldn’t have died after I had finished that log, but right in the middle. Putting everything away, I ambled home, ready to finish it all off tomorrow once the drill battery was full charged!