Growing mushrooms on logs is something we’d LOVE to see in many more backyards – for all the good reasons.
Growing mushrooms on logs will increase your household resilience – plus add amazing flavour, nutrition AND medicine to your home-grown diet.
And you don’t need a single garden bed to get started. Though if you DO already have a veggie patch, growing mushrooms on logs somewhere at the edge of that will only add to your garden’s diversity (and flavour).
And the best bit – once you understand the basics, growing mushrooms on logs is very straightforward.
To start with, let’s take a look at what makes growing mushrooms on logs so excellent, what species are best suited to this approach, and what life as a home shiitake cultivator will look like for you.
Are you ready to get your shiitake on?
Growing mushrooms on inoculated logs – a permaculture approach
Log culture is a fantastic example of the permaculture principle “using the edges and valuing the marginal”.
If you look at farmland, or indeed at your backyard, you’ll often notice small patches of trees (downsize that to a few shrubs at backyard scale) on the steep or tricky-to-access land at the edges of the landscape.
But you know what? That shady, protected understory of the forest, or the shrubby nooks in your garden, or that ‘twilight zone’ bit down the side, that gets no sun and only grows moss and weeds – is not only providing biodiversity to the ecosystem around it, it’s also often PERFECT for mushroom log cultivation.
Which means we can all create more resilience in our backyards or properties by adding mushroom logs to the mix – utilising unused space, producing delicious and medicinal mushrooms – AND coexisting with the biodiversity of the scraps of forest, or our backyard’s shrubby patches… so everyone in your ecosystem wins. More mushroom logs, please.
Sound shroomy good? Let’s get started – firstly, here’s an introduction to mushroom log cultivation, taken from a lesson inside our 8-week Home Mushroom Cultivation online course…
… so that’s a basic overview. Let’s recap a few of the central points –
Mushroom species that you can grow on logs…
So, what species can we grow on logs? Well, a log is a piece of dead wood (no way!), so most of the recently-dead-wood-loving saprotrophic mushrooms can be grown on logs.
Common edible species grown on logs include:
- Lions Mane
- A wide variety of Oysters
- Chicken of the woods
- Chestnut Mushrooms
- Turkey tail
And our favourite, the main species that is commercially cultivated on logs, the shiitake!
Growing shiitake – the perfect beginner mushroom for log grows
Shiitake is the species we focus on in our free Mushroom Cultivation Guide and in our Grow Mushrooms on Logs short course (which is included as part of our fully mentored and guided 8 week Home Mushroom Cultivation online course) – because it’s delicious, nutritious, medicinal AND (possibly most importantly) it’s super easy to grow on logs.
So shiitake is THE beginner mushroom we recommend for log cultivation.
But wait – there’s more good news – while some elements, like preferred type of tree, or ideal fruiting temperatures, might differ between species – the same basic log cultivation technique we’re talking about here applies to ALL the wood-loving mushrooms listed above.
Mushrooms species that will NOT grow on logs…
It’s worth clarifying that when we say ‘wood-loving mushrooms’, we mean saprotrophic mushrooms, which are the ‘primary decomposers’ – these are the species who love to eat WOOD specifically, in it’s purest, woodiest form – ie: a dead branch, or a stump.
Separate to these mushrooms are the beloved and super-useful ‘secondary decomposers’ – the mushrooms who like to eat organic matter that is already well broken down.
These are the ‘compost-loving’ mushrooms such as King Stropharia, Wood Blewits, Agaricus (the button mushrooms) and Shaggy Manes.
These types of mushrooms will NOT grow on logs – they’re much more suited to mushroom gardens – which you can learn how to create here.
Home cultivating shiitake
As a home-cultivator, growing shiitake on logs presents a particularly special opportunity to weave mushroom growing into your garden, your kitchen and your community. So what could this look like for you?
Cultivating shiitake on logs is all about playing the long-game.
Shiitake logs are typically inoculated in autumn (or spring) and left to myceliate for two summers. Which means it can take up to 18 months or even 2 years till you harvest your first mushrooms. But, once it starts fruiting, a log can keep producing more mushrooms each year for up to 5 years.
So – because this is NOT going to get you a quick mushroom fix (unlike growing oyster mushrooms in a bucket, here’s an overview of that technique)… it’s worth thinking through a bit of a game plan for your log cultivation project. Here are the basic steps…
Growing mushrooms on logs – step by step
- You’re going to need to source some suitable hardwood logs.
- Then you’ll need to cut the logs to a manageable size.
- Next, you’ll need to inoculate the logs with dowel spawn of the species you want to grow.
- Then, you’ll need to store your logs in a shady, moist spot.
- Once your logs are fully myceliated (9-18 months later), you’ll need to stack them somewhere suitable for fruiting.
- Then it will be time to harvest your mushrooms!
- Then re-stack somewhere shady and repeat (you can get 5 years out of these logs).
How many logs do I need, for a regular shiitake harvest?
With outdoor grows, it makes good sense to future-proof your harvest by inoculating a batch of logs each year – this way, you’ll move into a cycle of both cultivating and harvesting year in, year out – with very little effort, once you know what you’re doing.
For a home-cultivator, 50 logs is a good amount to aim for, accrued over 5 years. This will give you a few kilograms of delicious shiitake mushrooms each week over mushroom season, which is perfect if you want to cook some straight away, and dry enough for the rest of the year.
When it comes to inoculating, the most cost-effective way to buy spawn is in big bags (supplier suggestions below), which will give you enough spawn to inoculate at least 20 logs.
Keep in mind though – if you inoculate 20 logs each autumn, you could find yourself wrangling 100 logs in 5 years time – which is doable, but it IS is a lot of work, and also a lot of mushrooms.
Mushrooms are better done with friends…
So, given that this is all going to take you a bit of time, effort and space, consider making this a thing you do with friends. Shiitake logs are best done with a crew, on all the levels.
This way, you’ll find that there’s a sweet spot in terms of logs, work required, and the sheer volume of mushrooms you could be harvesting. Cutting logs is faster and safer with a bit of help. And inoculating is faster and way more fun with a friend.
And, over time, when the logs are ready to fruit, you can then make a real event of it, if you like – because the best time to inoculate your logs is autumn… which happens to also be the best time for the mushrooms to fruit, and therefore is MUSHROOM FEAST season.
So some day soon, you could host an Annual Autumn Shiitake Festival, with friends inoculating, cooking, eating and enjoying shiitake goodness. Just an idea.
Want more info? Here’s our Beginner’s guide to Home Mushroom Cultivation free e-book for you:
And, as we mentioned, the video above is a lesson from our complete beginner’s online course on Home Mushroom Cultivation – which is teaching folks all over the WORLD how to successfully grow stacks of gourmet and medicinal mushrooms at home, using low-waste and organic techniques – on cardboard, in buckets, on logs AND in gardens.
This course gathers together our 10+ years of teaching mushroom cultivation, plus personal mentorship from our friendly expert crew of mycophiles, with ALL your questions answered, as you learn (and even afterwards, actually).
If this sounds like something you’d be into, you can find out more about this excellent online course here.
- All our articles on Mushroom Cultivation
- There’s also a whole chapter on Mushrooms in our book, Milkwood
- Spawn suppliers – all our recommendations and list of suppliers.
Special thanks to Woodlanders for sharing their beautiful footage of Shiitake Forestry in Japan with us, for the above video lesson. Head to their website to find the full film and their amazing online film series documenting land care, farming and crafts in forests around the world.
If you have any questions about any of this, fire away below, and we can help. And may the mycelium be with you!
We acknowledge that permaculture owes the roots of its theory and practice to traditional and Indigenous knowledges, from all over the world. We all stand on the shoulders of many ancestors – as we learn, and re-learn, these skills and concepts. We pay our deepest respects and give our heartfelt thanks to these knowledge-keepers, both past and present.