A mushroom garden is a low cost, DIY way to increase the diversity of your home-grown produce, as well as your overall resilience. It’s also surprisingly simple to do, once you understand the basics of how and why.
Recently Nick was over in the US doing some training with Paul Stamets at Fungi Perfecti, and one of the many techniques they covered in the the myco-remidation training was making simple mushroom gardens with king stropharia mushrooms…
Stropharia rugosoannulata are known as King Stropharia, Wine cap mushrooms or Garden Giants. They are a tasty addition to any garden and grow up to 30cm across.
King Stropharia are native to the Northern Hemisphere but are a hardy fungi that will do well with the right growing conditions, which is mainly woodchips, with partial shade. A simple mushroom garden is a great way to grow them.
Step 1: dig your hole in a shady place: A shallow semi-circle is dug around the base of a tree (in this case an alder) to provide the fungi with shade, and some scrap cardboard is laid down.
Step 2: add your woodchips. These woodchips had been soaking (and therefore fermenting) in the barrel in this pic for a week prior to draining for use in this garden.
Soaking the woodchips in this was is a lo-fi way of semi sterilizing them: all the aerobic spores/bacteria die off during the soak, and the anaerobic spores/bacteria die off once the woodchips are drained. It’s not perfect, but it’s quick and it’s simple and it works.
As with cultivating any mushrooms, you are trying to provide your chosen mycelium with a neutral substrate (in this case the woodchips), so the mycelium can feed on said substrate and grow you many mushrooms without having to compete for supremacy with whatever spores or fungi might already be in residence.
Step 3: take your bag of spawn (in this case King Stropharia grown on sawdust) and break it up, ready for application.
Step 4: sprinkle that spawn good. All over your woodchips. Many mushrooms will you grow.
Step 5: top with more semi-sterilized woodchips. And that’s your mushroom garden done. You can water it occasionally if the weather is dry, or let it fend for itself, if you’re trying to cultivate the most resilient strain for your location possible.
Step 6: in due course, the woodchips will be fully colonised and one morning after rain, you’ll be able to harvest the first of your delicious mushrooms. And eat them with herbs and butter and lemon. Or whatever else you like with them.
The actual timing after setup that this harvest occurs will depend on your site, the garden’s aspect, relative humidity, soil temperature, rainfall and a heap of other factors. So dont watch it like a kettle, go and make another 10 mushroom gardens while you wait.
Once you get the hang of this technique, you can make your mushroom gardens here, there and everywhere.
Some will produce faster than others. Some might not work. Some will be amazing. It’s a great way to enhance your garden’s overall offerings while introducing a touch of mystery and drama into your planting plans…
If you’d like to learn comprehensive mushroom cultivation, we run online Mushroom Cultivation Courses for students around the world.
See here for a list of mushroom grain spawn suppliers, including our recommendations.
>> More posts about Mushroom Cultivation at Milkwood.net
Big thanks to the crew at Fungi Perfecti for being world-class legends and for continuing to innovate in mushroom cultivation techniques of all types and at all scales. With these folks around, Mushrooms might just infact save the world.
Great post! Do you have a link for where I can buy the spawn?
Fungi.com is Paul Stamets websites. We just actually bought some Pink Oyster Mushrooms from them! They were very pretty and very tasty. I recommend that site as a good place to start. Mostly because you know you can trust the mycelium that they sell. Plus they have a really good guide on what areas different mushrooms thrive in, their grow difficulty level, and their humidity levels and such. Good luck!!! 😀
Thanks Erynn, I’ll have a look at that web site. I’m very interested in the health benefits of mushrooms because I have cancer. I notice that you can get a ‘mushroom extract’ pill at the health food shop now that claims to help boost your immune system but I would much rather eat real food than take a supplement (and my oncologist strongly advises against anything except vitamin D while I’m having chemo!). I think there are all sorts of things happening with live food that just don’t translate into supplements, particularly with something as complex and fragile as a… Read more »
I know there are many poisonous mushrooms and I do not know how to tell them apart. What concerns should I have of some wild poisonous mushrooms also growing in with the mushrooms I planted?
Susan you should familiarise yourself with how to confidently ID the edible mushrooms. It’s not hard to do and your ancestors have (by indication of your existence) been getting it right for thousands of years. It’s just educating yourself as to what constitutes positive ID.
This is the tricky bit. I did almost exactly this with some oyster mushrooms, and when they fruited a couple weeks ago suddenly realised I didn’t know how to positive ID them! I didn’t really want to do it from a book and by the time I found somebody who could ID them they’d rotted. 🙁
I definitely recommend sorting out how you are going to ID them before harvest time! Made me very sad to see them rot, especially knowing that they were 99% safe to eat.
soaking makes so much sense! I run a cafe and keep all our swiss brown boxes in a heap in my back yard we collect 2-3 boxes a week im hoping the pile eventually will grow a patch ive just added some well rotted manures and straw xing fingers spring time ill have a feed. the amount of spores on the boxes is pretty amazing with all this wet weather it should really give it a good kick. Thanks for the post you just gave me some ideas.
I’ve had great results just burying a swiss brown box under my garden mulch. I bought the box full of mushrooms at the local farmers market and noticed all of the spores in the bottom of the box. I just ripped it up and tucked it under the mulch (delivered by the truck load from the guys that prune back around the power lines) and I had swiss browns for three years. Sadly we renovated recently and that garden is gone. Time to get another box!
Stroparia rugosa-annulata grows wild in Aust. and NZ.
I’ve found it on woodchip piles in NNSW…
specimens aren’t as big as the ‘Garden Giant’ strain
in Nth America, but they’re there though.
They fruit in late summer/autumn.
get some virgin spawn from the wild
sometimes have kits with spawn and woodchip
all in a plastic pail (10 or 15litre?)
good to know Speedy, ta 🙂 – and yes I’d forgotten about that crew’s woodchip buckets!
Might you know of any native Australian edible mushroom species that might work with this or other techniques?
Sadly the vast majority of the knowledge bank on Aussie edible fungi largely died with it’s custodians, and there hasn’t been a large amount of research done since. Start with what you can source that you can definitely eat and move outwards from there, i say…
Really interesting post, thanks. I really like the idea of thoroughly soaking the woodchips first. I have done it before in 250 litre wheelie bins – I was mainly thinking along the lines that it would help remove some of the natural preservative toxins (like tannin), so the chips could decompose a lot faster. But I would also really like to try this mushroom cultivation, by soaking. I only have tree lopper woodchips, and there are usually lots of leaves mixed in – hopefully this wouldn’t stop the intended fungi growing. I do occasionally see patches of mushrooms in untreated… Read more »
Sounds like a great way to get super locally grown, super fresh mushrooms.
Can’t beat a nice side of onions and mushrooms with a bit of white pepper.
Nice onions too. Like… Cipolini’s, so they are sweet and caramalise real nice… 🙂 Yumo! Especially when it sits next to a nice big lean 1/4 pounder of your favourite burger type. Fresh home made organic spelt flour bread rolls…
Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm!! Who is coming to my place for a BBQ when we return from the UK later this year?
Hi guys, great post, thanks! Just what we did a few weeks ago but forgot the mushrooms 😀 Would you know about how different mushroom species survive in the cold, I mean would they overwinter in a place like Finland..? Or perhaps it’s another thing to “sow” in the spring and harvest in the autumn hmm.
where does Milkwood get their spawn from ?? cheers
Ying these days we’re making it from mushrooms, cloning them and then taking that through the process of agar plates, up to spawn…
How does the backyard gardener get their spawn? Do you sell it? Thanks.
why half a circle?
To have a continuous supply would you need to repeat this every year or would the mushies be self sustaining? I’m trying to reduce my inputs, so I am happy to get this started, particularly because I have an old rotten tree about to be chipped. Interested to hear your thoughts.
Half a circle for the shade, maybe?
Thanks for this post, i am looking forward to doing this one day, what trees are the woodchips from, are they all good to use, i have often wondered when considering mulch, if woodchips were acid , alkali and it’s good to know they are neutral- is it the same as sawdust? -from a ‘future gardener’
Woodchip needs to be predominantly hardwood in origin. And fresh!
Hey, I have a theory on the soaked wood chips. Not to submiss your idea but, I don’t think your sterilizing the wood chips when you soak them in the water or “ferment them” (wood fiber does not have sugars present to act as food for yeast in order to consider the chips to be fermenting). I believe a more through explanation of what you could be doing is softening and adding moisture to your substrate therefore encouraging and easing the hyphal penetration. If you do decide to take a microbiological stance on the issue, it is more likely that… Read more »
In regards to cardboard toxins issue:
1. do you think that cardboard is toxic at any health concerning level?
2. if cardboard toxins and diffusion into plants is NOT an ‘urban legend’ would you suggest to throw away a couple of harvests before actually harvesting for eating?
3. are there any reliable/simple ‘in-house’ tests to see that toxins amount is minimal?
Thanks in advance,
how can i determine what mushroom i can eat when i go in the bush camping or hunting ?
I don’t know for sure why the half circle under the tree, but my guesses would be a. for the shade aspect. and or b. only doing half, allows the trees shallow feeder roots to breathe. and or c. they only had enough cardboard and wood chips for half . hahahha.
does ANYONE HAVE KING STROPHARIA MYCELIUM ???? where can I get it or have it shipped to Perth WA. ???
Alex you can get King Stropharia plugs and buckets from http://www.fungi.net.au/grow_your_own_mushrooms/shop.html
Hey Alex. I know this is two years old but I am in Perth and can provide king stropharia spawn at a cost of 20 dollars for 2 kilos. Add me on Facebook if your interested. My name is Aaron Boyer. Cheers.
I AM AMAZED AT HOW EASY IT IS TO RAISE MUSHROOMS. BUT TWO QUESTIONS—ANY CRITTERS UNDER GROUND I NEED TO WORRY ABOUT THAT MIGHT EAT THEM? AND, HOW MANY VARIETIES (LOVE MORELS & PORTABELLAS) CAN I GROW THIS WAY?
I’ve seen this often, with the use of laying cardboard down first. Cardboard contains carcinogens and can pollute water that comes in contact with it. Can someone explain why this would be safe and how the mushrooms wouldn’t get contaminated by the cardboard?
The cardboard WOULD contaminate the mushrooms. I am always surprised because experts KNOW that mushrooms draw toxins out of their environment and concentrate those contaminants in their fruiting bodies (in other words, the mycellium draws out the toxins and contaminants from the soil and sends them up into the mushrooms when they flush) and then those same experts recommend using relatively “dirty” substrates for mushrooms they intend to eat! At the same time they tell you not to eat mushrooms grown beside highways! It would contaminate the first few crops, at least. After that, I think they would be safe… Read more »
Would you suggest to throw away a couple of harvests before actually harvesting for eating? Are there any reliable/simple ‘in-house’ tests to see that toxins amount is minimal?
Thanks in advance,
Hi I’m thinking of doing the Byron Bay course, I don’t have much in the way of a garden but I have an old garden shed, can I grow mushrooms in that or will it be too dark and too hot for them (gold coast)
‘It depends’ 🙂 – if you can keep it cool-ish (or do it seasonally) you should be fine
Thank you for this demo! I am in Savannah, Georgia and will have my own bed very soon. : )
Brilliant brilliant development and brilliant article! This semi-sterilization using water+patience is remarkable. I plan to try this here in Pennsylvania USA. – What can you say about the ideal and acceptable seasons for ‘planting’? After danger of frost is past or – ? – The discussion on cardboard leads me to ask, have you tried without the cardboard? Is its only purpose a weed barrier? Would a layer of sawdust work as well? – How are you succeeding with your breeding program? I have read that Stropharia does grow wild in Australia, so perhaps it’s not a huge step to… Read more »
Great tips – i’ve the perfect place on the farm for a few mushroom gardens!
I had success using your method. Adding some flaxseed seemed to goose the mushrooms. Deer were a big problem; they not only eat the harvest but root around in the chips. Making a frame with chicken wire and laying that flat a few inches off the ground worked well to repel them. Following up on the cardboard issue, there is a nice protocol by Cornell University in New York state USA where they use sawdust instead of cardboard http://blogs.cornell.edu/mushrooms/files/2013/06/Stropharia-21lckcx.pdf. (Clean sawdust can be obtained at sawmills; also makes good poultry bedding.) Notably they suggest adding fresh chips in the (northern… Read more »
nice one – thanks John
We just had several trees cut down in the backyard, already ordered some plug spawn to seed the stumps and a few logs. But the logger will be back in a few days to chip the branches. Can I just pile the chips deeper instead of using cardboard? The area I’m piling them is pretty free of weeds, not much worry there.
yes you should be right –
Hi Milkwood Team,
I have a couple old cork trees, one of the branches has just broken off. I was thinking of using the branches to make a wood chip and doing this under the cork trees, which are moist and shaded underneath.
Fingers crossed! I’ll let you know how I go 🙂
cool! yes do let us know how you go 🙂
great work – thanks for sharing!
Maybe my question is a little bit silly, but, what do you do with cats?
Where I live, there are so many cats, and I think they would use the woodchips like litter box.
ooh good point – hmm i”d probably loosely peg a bit of wide-square netting over the lot (like bird netting? or black tulle at a pinch) so that the cats didn’t want to scratch + poo in it, but you can see the mushrooms when they come up and there’s plenty of airflow…