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HOMEGROWN Life: The Mushroom Garden






We raise plants and animals already. We’ve decided to add onto our farm by adding fungi – a new mushroom garden.

It’s a nice small area that we don’t use that spends the vast majority of the day in full shade. Because of this it also stays relatively moist as well.

We started with King Stropharia Mushrooms (Stropharia rugosoannulata). These mushrooms are giant wine red capped fungi that are easily started outside and can give you a perennial crop of mushrooms as long as you take care of it. The most difficult part of growing these was finding hardwood chips or sawdust. They can also be grown on straw but it’s a bit more labor intensive as you have to sterilize the straw in hot water before inoculating it.

Most of the chips available around here are redwood, pine or eucalyptus – all of which are not appropriate due to the oils in the wood. We had to get creative. As luck would have it, when we got Lucy’s new digs, we were also given some animal bedding. The majority of animal bedding is made from pine, but this bedding was Aspen – a hardwood. It was a small amount, not enough to do the bed, so we needed to find more. We were finally able to find large bales of Aspen bedding at a chain pet store.

We sterilized our wheelbarrow, dumped a bale and a half into it and moistened it thoroughly. We then broke up the King Stropharia spawn and mixed it into the shavings. We laid a thick layer down in our new garden and fenced it off to keep the dogs out. We water it once a week to make sure the moisture content stays relatively high.

I would have liked to have put it out in the vegetable garden but it just gets too much sun. However, if you decide to try and raise this fungi in your vegetable garden you’ll get one great benefit from it. A study has shown that this species of mushroom actually kills nematodes like the ones that cause pine wilt.

mushroom garden
We didn’t stop at King Stropharia though. Jeanette gave us some Tanoak logs that were calling out to be inoculated. We did two of them with Pearl Oyster spawn. We have one more log that needs a mushroom feeding on it. I just haven’t figured out what kind yet. Fortunately these logs are still very wet so we didn’t have to soak them.

To inoculate these we bought plugs which are inoculated dowels of birch wood. We covered the cut ends of the log with beeswax and then drilled 5/16″ holes 1 1/2″ deep in a diamond pattern around the logs. Using a rubber mallet we hammered the plugs into the holes and then sealed them with more beeswax. We’re keeping these out with the King Stropharia as well. Don’t worry though, we’re not keeping them leaned up against the building. We don’t want any termites getting into the structure!

Now we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that we end up with mushrooms this fall.


Rachel Dog Island Farm

My friends in college used to call me a Renaissance woman. I was always doing something crafty, creative, or utilitarian. I still am. My focus these days, instead of arts and crafts, has been farming as much of my urban quarter acre as humanly possible. With my husband, we run Dog Island Farm in the SF Bay Area. We raise chickens, goats, rabbits, dogs, cats, and a kid. We’re always keeping busy. If I’m not out in the yard I’m in the kitchen making something from scratch. Homemade always tastes better!

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6 Responses to “HOMEGROWN Life: The Mushroom Garden”

  1. That looks like something I can do. We happen to have a huge pile of sawdust woodchips from our sawing of firewood last fall. I wanted to get it out of the grass but it would overwhelm my teeny-tiny, brand new compost pile. Can you recommend any particular sources for more info on fungi farming!? I have just the location!

  2. You can find a bunch on info on

  3. Home Depot has hardwood mulch. My Garden Giants have been living on it for 2 years now.

  4. Unfortunately our HD doesn’t have any. They have small 1lb bags of smoker chips which are hardwood but they are $8 each – much too expensive. I think it really depends on which side of the country you live on regardeing the type of mulch you get. All of our mulch is either bark, redwood or eucalyptus.

  5. What a great way to utilize a space for growing Unique & yummy food, which otherwise might be useless. We too will begin mushroom gardening this year! I am getting some Wine Cap spore from a local who also grows shitake mushrooms. She is sharing a log of those as well. The tip she gave me when looking for the hardwood is to call local tree cutting companies. Let them know what you are looking for & that it is for growing mushrooms. They ussually will point you to a location where they will be cutting/trimming hardwoods and allow you to get what you need- chips & logs. Our township is cutting down a few oaks along main street that have grown too thick and close to the road {one of those blink & ya missed it towns}. I am in hopes they will allow me a truck bed full of the chips for our
    I have been dealing with Field & Forest mushroom spore/spawn supply and am VERY happy so far. Their site is amazingly informitive for even beginner like me. Not too mention they have been highly recomended by those I have spoken to whom have grown their own mushrooms for years. Just thought I would share the above for those who may be looking into & have some tips in success of locating a few things.
    Wishing you great success and a bountiful harvest with your new mushroom garden!

  6. Kellee Magee Says:

    Wow!!! Very cool. I love mushrooms too – and in case you’re not looking for such a labor-intensive project, I found a cool new product this year that takes all the effort out (and leaves only delicious pearl oyster mushrooms!) – a friend of mine blogged about it:

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