In this six part Mycology in the Garden video series that is in collaboration with Central Texas Mycology, we will show you five low-cost and low-tech ways to grow edible mushrooms outdoors in shady areas where plants would not thrive. You can grow them alongside your vegetables, perennials, or in the shade of trees. These basic techniques require no special equipment or electricity, and can all be done outdoors using organic materials found such as straw, leaves, wood chips and logs which all make for great mushroom substrate.
Part 2 shows you how to grow different type s mushrooms using different types growing mediums. Stay tuned for future videos on how to grow mushrooms in straw bale, in containers, on logs, and also using the trench composting method.
WHEN TO GROW MUSHROOMS OUTDOORS
Late Fall or Winter into early Spring is the best time in Texas to grow mushrooms outdoors. Typically mushrooms fruit after the rain and require high humidity and temperatures between 55 and 75°F depending on the species. It’s best to try to time it up with the seasons that mushrooms grow in nature and with the rain that usually comes in the fall and spring. If you are unsure of when certain mushroom fruit is in the wild, you can use the app iNaturalist. Just search for a mushroom species, location, and filter by dates.
WHAT MATERIALS ARE NEEDED
Many times mushroom farms have used sawdust blocks that have grown mushrooms once, and then end up getting tossed in the waste stream. Check with your local mushroom farm to see if you can help them reduce waste and use the spawn in your organic garden.
If you are in the Austin area, send us an email to get mushroom compost blocks for FREE. You will be helping keep this wonderful source of organic matter out of the waste stream and help build healthy soil in your garden.
HOW TO GET STARTED
STEP 1: Choose an Area Find a shady area and keep in mind that one 5 lb bag of spawn can inoculate a 16 square foot area. If you are making a new bed, you can add a hardwood log frame around the bed. You can even use inoculated logs, which we will show you how to do as well in a later video. You can also use the footpaths in your garden to create more organic matter and suppress weed growth. Or you can use an existing garden bed that is already mulched or one that needs fertilization and more organic material. Also choose an area close to water either from irrigation or natural water flow. An area where water flows slightly downhill, pools up, or where you might have nitrogen-rich run-off from livestock is also a good area.
STEP 2: Cover Area with Cardboard If there is a lot of vegetation growing in the area, cover the entire ground with cardboard from flattened boxes that have tape removed. Water the cardboard until it is saturated.
STEP 3: Add Mushroom Spawn Next you will need to sprinkle the mushroom spawn lightly onto the cardboard.
STEP 4: Add 3” of Substrate Now add 3” of substrate and mix in a generous amount of spawn. Remember wine caps like wood chips and oysters like straw. While wood chips work well in paths and around perennials, we recommend using straw mulch in vegetable beds. As it decomposes, straw uses up fewer nutrients in the soil than wood chips.
STEP 5: Compact the Surface Pack the surface to get rid of any air pockets. Avoid branches or other very large pieces of wood as these take longer to colonize and can create too much air space.
STEP 6: Water the Area Next you will sprinkle lightly with water.
STEP 7: Add Layer of Torn up Cardboard Add another layer of torn up cardboard, so that the moisture can make it to the bottom layer.
STEP 8: Add More Spawn and Wood Chips Repeat steps 3 and 4, until you have reached a height of a little less than 6”.
STEP 9: Cover with Straw or Leaves Cover with straw or leaves to a depth of 1-2” to help preserve moisture and to shade the substrate.
Water every day for the first week, every other day for the 2nd – and then the same amount you water your vegetable garden. Don’t let your mushroom bed dry out! The first few weeks are critical, while the mycelium spreads. You don’t want soaking wet, because it creates an anaerobic environment where bacteria flourish. You can also cover your wood chips with straw to act as a mulch layer for moisture retention. Or, a tarp or other plastic sheeting can be used to prevent the bed from drying out. This is useful for straw beds or in especially hot or dry climates.
MAINTENANCE & HARVEST
Once established, mushroom beds require little maintenance outside of occasional watering during droughts. You can check on your bed every week or so to monitor moisture levels and how well the mycelium is growing. Once the mycelium has completely grown through the chips, you may notice tiny mushrooms, or pins, forming. If you’ve covered your bed with a tarp or plastic, that’s a cue to remove it so mushrooms can form.
The growing process can take anywhere between 4 weeks to a few months after inoculation, depending on your climate, substrate, and how heavily you spawned. After mushrooms fruit they will spread their spores and the cycle starts over again. Fresh woody material can be added each year to maintain the health of the bed, and give it some extra food to eat. ALWAYS properly identify the mushroom before you eat it.
You can also take some of the inoculated material from one bed and use it as spawn to inoculate new beds, or you can pass it along to a friend like a sourdough starter. Keep spreading the spores!