In spring of this year we visited the first 3 participant market gardens in our Farming with Fungi project. This has been a useful trial for delivering the package of cultivation schemes we are proposing for small to medium scale horticulture enterprises. Here we are going to provide an overview of what happened and how we can improve the process as we look forward to next spring when we will be visiting the further 7 participant market gardens.
Firstly, we’d like to say thank you to William of Black Mountain, Peni at Syn y Coed and Emma and the team at Asha and Elm for taking the time, in an already busy time of year for growers, to gather the materials for these cultivation schemes.
At each of the sites we had a day to create beds for three different species of mushrooms and begin inoculating logs for a further 2 species (more details can be found here). This required the participant to source 2 cm3 of woodchip, .2cm3 of manure, 1cm3 of good garden compost and, if possible, up to 200 hard logs around 10-15cm in diameter and 80cm in length. The beds could be all made during the day and the log inoculation initiated with the tools then given on loan to finish the task over the coming days. Participants were welcome to invite volunteers, interested in mushroom cultivation, or even run the day as a workshop event.
In all cases we began by making the wine cap bed and predictably this has been the most successful with all participants cropping from the beds within 4 months. In all honesty this was better than expected. It was most likely due to the warm May and June we had this year followed by the cooler wetter July.
Here we are making a bed at Syn y Coed
And here are some pictures of the fruitbodies
Here is a very pleased Peni!
Creating the Wood Blewitt bed is similar in method to the wine cap with the exception that around 20% manure is mixed into the woodchip.
It is too early to see any results from the bed as it is a winter fruiting mushroom and it is likely that it won’t fruit until winter next year, at least in our experience it does take longer to get established. But remember the aim is to create a perennial “mother patch” of the species from which it is easy to create more “spawn” to make more beds.
The more experimental scheme tests a trenching method for the Almond Portabello as a companion fungi alongside tomatoes. On a small scale it is easy to grow this species in pots with tomatoes in a greenhouse. The species can become established in a covered growing area (polytunnel). We aimed to make a 15x30cm trench next to a planned row of tomatoes. It does require a high moisture level and a consistent 25c for fruiting. Only Ash and Elm managed to get some fruitbodies. The cooler late summer we had may not have helped. However, the beds can be overwintered and enhanced in the spring.
For the log culture we needed up to 200 hardwood logs. For our participants this was the biggest challenge with only one participant farm able to get in excess of 100 and another unable to source any logs (and so will try again next spring). The Shiitake will take 12-16 months until it is possible to begin fruiting the logs, but the Turkey Tail is much quicker with smaller diameter logs fruiting in 6 months. Here is a turkey tail log fruiting at Ash and Elm.
The other cultivation scheme, and in some ways the most commercially viable, is the lime treated straw for oyster mushrooms in buckets. Two of the participants received the training for the process involved. The challenge is setting up a growing environment for trailing the fruiting and harvesting we were unable to begin the loan of our mobile grow this year it also has limitations that we hope to overcome, as described below.
Evaluation and Improvements
Thanks to these trails we see there are some areas we could improve.
- Preparation Time
Firstly, collecting the substrates is a demand on the participants so as much time to prepare as possible is needed, especially in sourcing the logs, that is why we are contacting the further 7 participants now to remind them of the materials they will need and we will setup an online meeting to answer any questions.
- Clear understanding of Substrates
There is a degree of flexibility in the preparation with some of these substrates in particular, the Wood Blewitt and Almond Portabello. For instance, if woodchip is a limiting factor the Wood Blewitt substrate can use any lignin/cellulose rich material. The Almond Portabello will thrive on leached cow manure; this might be an easy substrate if a local farm is producing this by-product. A good finished garden compost will suffice, but this could be enriched with a nitrogen source such as chicken manure pellets but it’s important to have a homogenous mix
- More flexible Indoor Grow Room
We have yet to begin the tour of the mobile grow room but of course with a 8 week trial this would be limited to only 4 (5 at most) of our participants during the growing season. To overcome this we have designed and put together a simple light weight grow room using the readily available indoor 3x2m grow tents used for hydroponics. If participants want to use one of these for their oyster mushroom cropping trials, they will just need a covered, ideally indoor space to put it up.
To make some of these options clearer, discuss the choices to be made and answer any questions we will hold an online meeting in January for all our participants.