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DIY mushroom housing: research

June 22, 2012 | Appropriate Technology, Education, Mushroom Cultivation, Resources, Small Farm Skills | 8 comments | Author:

At the moment we’re doing some serious research on how mushroom cultivation will best fit into the integrated systems at Milkwood Farm. We’re looking for options that are low-energy input, appropriate for our climate, use waste materials we have on-farm, and yield lots of yummy mushrooms!

It’s proving a little trickier than we thought. Our relatively exposed site and low humidity may not suit a more conventional mushroom house, so we’re looking at the margins of existing systems and structures to begin with…

Basic mushroom house for growing straw mushrooms – image from Mushroom Growers Handbook 1, © Mushworld
Traditional tropical mushroom house in Thailand – image from Mushroom Growers Handbook 1, © Mushworld
Straw mushroom house in Swaziland – image from Mushroom Growers Handbook 1, © Mushworld
Mound culture for straw mushrooms – image from Mushroom Growers Handbook 1, © Mushworld

Firstly, we’ll be taking the ‘inoculate it, and they will come’ approach for some types of mushrooms for outdoor cultivation. We’re already inoculating pine seedlings with spores, inoculating shiitake logs with sawdust spawn and dowel spawn, and making grain spawn to grow oyster mushrooms etc in bags.

It’s likely that what we’ll aim for is a combination of managed and free-form mushroom cultivation:

– cultivated logs, bags and jars of mushrooms in the suitable spaces that we have with relatively high humidity (bags/jars/logs under the benches in the shade house, logs in the denser parts of the forest garden).

– inoculated plantings (most notably pines) that have complimentary species of fungi (saffron milk caps etc) added to the soil in the form of spores at time of planting

– straw mushroom gardens (summer only)

– woodchip mushroom gardens and mushroom rafts in the forest gardens

Mushrooms and fungi are an excellent addition to any farmstead or backyard growing operation for a couple of fundamental reasons – the biggest reason (perhaps surprisingly) is that fungi BUILDS SOIL BIGTIME by breaking down carbon, wherever it goes.

So regardless of the fact that our low-humidity climate is not super suited to growing some edible mushrooms, we’re committed to mushroom cultivation for its compost acceleration abilities and its abilities to convert wood to food (albeit sporadically).

However the mushroom integration strategies that are most pushing my buttons at the moment is at the fabulous Growing Power. Within their excellent integrated food growing systems they manage to stash mushrooms all over the joint:

Growing Power’s DIY mushroom cultivation systems have attracted some serious attention
Oyster (i think) mushrooms growing in cages in the Growing Power greenhouse, vertically stacking even more food and nutrient cycling into a small space
Mushroom logs in the same greenhouse hanging over the aquaponics fish ponds

As well as vertical mushroom growing in bags, they also grow mushrooms on vertical logs over some of their aquaponics fish tanks. A great explanation from David of perspectives on permaculture:

Each oak log in the photo has had holes drilled in the side, and each hole has been filled with mushroom spawn, and then capped with food-grade wax (to ensure there’s no contamination). These mycelium slowly begin to eat the log from the inside out, until they sprout out the top. At this point, the folks at Growing Power know they’re ready, and they dunk the logs into the tilapia water.

Like mushrooms in the wild, as soon as these mycelium get wet, they immediately begin to propagate in an attempt to preserve themselves, blooming into the mushrooms we recognize in our supermarket aisles. Once the mycelium have grown through the log, this dunking process can be repeated every 2 months for 6 years. That’s a lot of mushrooms!

Image from the blogpost quoted above

Definitely something to think about for incorporation into future greenhouses at Milkwood Farm!

For both our and your further research, thanks to Will Borowski we are able to share a copy of the most excellent Mushroom Growers Handbook 1: Oyster Mushroom Cultivation – a truly excellent resource on the basics of mushroom growing across the world , created by the very fine www.MushWorld.com, an excellent mushroom resource node which seems to have gone offline.

[scribd id=97323446 key=key-sfx8t7tvku1qvkj8h98 mode=slideshow]

There’s also a great stash of free resources here on log, stump and many other sorts of mushroom cultivation…

If you’d like to learn the excellent and intriguing art of mushroom cultivation, we host intensive workshops with Will Borowski in Sydney and at Milkwood Farm which cover lots of different techniques and skills for indoor and outdoor mushroom cultivation.

>> More posts about mushroom cultivation how-tos, resources and fungi info at Milkwood…

Thanks to Will Borowski for his ongoing knowledge on all things fungal, and also to Paul (Speedy) Ward for the awesome inoculated pines!

Lead image: Edible Tricholomas growing in a Garden in Thailand. Photo © Taylor F. Lockwood.



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8 COMMENTS


  • Speedy June 22, 2012 at 9:12 am | Reply

    yes, Mushworld…
    I was so sad when mushworld.com suddenly evaporated.
    there were so many great research papers and articles available there.
    from very well funded universities to small projects in remote places in Africa trying to alleviate poverty and malnutrition by growing mushrooms on agricultural wastes.
    It all dissappeared before I managed to obtain hardcopies of their books :-(
    downloads are good, but I like books.

    I’ve given it some thought over the years (mushroom house for dry climates).
    I think a polytunnel type shadehouse/hothouse lined with with geotextile right up along the sides covering about 80% of it, just leaving a strip at the top open.
    Cover that with polyfilm to keep humidity in and allow a bit of sunlight from above.
    Then some heavy shadecloth above that to temper the intensity of the sunlight comming in.
    Ventilation at the ends and a bit from the sides (rolled up a bit on hot days)
    the whole house to be surrounded by shrubs that can humidify the air comming into the house.
    geotextile inside the house wetted by a weeping hose that has been wrapped up in
    the top of it
    hessian could be used instead of geofabric, but would need more to exclude light.


    1. milkwoodkirsten June 22, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Reply

      Bloody font of knowledge you are, Speedy!


    2. Bill March 8, 2014 at 1:12 pm | Reply

      Downloads? If I remember correctly I got off on a wild goose chase for several books from mushworld and wound up with only one. Since they were freely available would you be willing to share? (I am OK with downloads.. as is my banker. ;-)


      1. milkwoodkirsten March 8, 2014 at 2:25 pm | Reply

        sure, start here http://www.scribd.com/doc/38272411/Shiitake-Mushroom-Handbook


  • Shane June 22, 2012 at 10:40 am | Reply

    saw some really cheap 2nd hand coolroom panels online at greysonline..may help
    good luck


  • Andi Houston June 22, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Reply

    This is so inspiring! We tried the mushroom log + fish pond idea a couple years back. We left the logs in the water too long and the fish ate out the plugs! They scoured that log clean. Never got a mushroom out of it again. An important lesson.


  • Isaac June 23, 2012 at 7:15 am | Reply

    Mushroom growing and aquaponics – I would have never thought of the two working together. This is fascinating!


  • Gregory July 8, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Reply

    Have you read Sepp Holzer’s methods for mushroom growing?



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