I’ve been experimenting with growing various kinds of mushrooms on hardwood logs. I started in September of 2016 when I inoculated a handful of logs with “plug spawn”, that is, short dowels that have specific mushroom mycelium growing on them. Mycelium is the part of the mushroom that is hidden inside the wood (or ground if it is the kind that grows in the ground). I chose the following kinds:
1. Turkey Tail on oak log
2. Lion’s Mane on oak log
3. Chicken of the Woods on oak log
4. Reishi on oak log
5. Shiitake on maple log
6. Nameko (or so I thought. More on that later…) on maple log. This plug spawn looked oddly blank, or just like plain damp wood.
The downside of using logs is that you often have to wait at least a year, maybe two or three before you see any visible mushrooms.
2016 gave us a particularly early, cold, and long frozen winter in the Vancouver, Washington area. I wasn’t sure if my mushrooms had survived or not. When June 2017 rolled around, I decided to double up and inoculate the same logs a 2nd time, just in case. I also had a couple of Douglas Fir stumps in which I put Phoenix Oyster plug spawn.
Through the hot summer, I kept watering the logs, and even gave them a soak in a small kiddie pool. Soaking all of them together turned out to be a mistake, which I’ll go into later.
By August I started seeing visible growth of mycelium happening on the Turkey Tail log, and a bit on a couple of others. By late September, the Turkey Tails mushrooms were about the width of a quarter-dollar. By mid-October I realized that all of the oak logs were growing Turkey Tail mushrooms. I knew I had purchased a variety, so chalked it up to soaking them all together, and Turkey Tail being a particularly aggressive mushroom.
(First obvious mycelium growth on the Turkey Tail log)
(Turkey Tail mushrooms on an oak log. Snap them off and collect them, dice them up or use heavy scissors. Too tough to eat, these are used to make a broth and extract.)
I never did see any of the other kinds of mushrooms produce at all. The maple logs aren’t even growing Turkey Tails. I read that Nameko can take years to show up. I bought some more plug spawn from the same company, and was again wondering about it being so entirely free of obvious mycelium growth. This is the stuff that is supposed to carry the mushroom spawn into the log, and it if has no mushroom spawn, I am wasting time and money buying it. I took a picture of the package of damp dowels alongside a bag of another company’s bag of plug spawn and sent it to the vendor Mushroom Mountain asking what was up with the blank plugs.
No response at all from Mushroom Mountain. It has been months and still no response. I am certain they twice sold me blank wood with no mycelium. I gave them a bad review on Google and discontinued business with them. I hope the other spawn I ordered from them that had mycelium is actually the varieties I ordered. I even kept the little bag of dowels until this week, and no mycelium ever showed.
In October 2017 I was able to take several plum wood logs. This wood is very dense! The logs are 2 to 3 times as heavy as other logs I’ve used. I inoculated them with Blue oyster, Maitake, Shiitake, Reishi, and Lion’s Mane. Around Halloween, I ordered a bag of Nameko sawdust spawn (spawn grown on sawdust instead of dowels) from Field and Forest Products, along with the tools needed to do the inoculating. I inoculated 4 logs with Nameko and sealed the holes with wax. I also chose to put some into one of the Douglas Fir stumps I had. I also put some in the old log from 2016 in which I thought I had put Nameko previously. Sawdust spawn carries more mycelium into the log than plug spawn. The holes are larger, and the mycelium amount is greater.
(This out of focus shot shows the plum logs inoculated and waxed)
(This shows a plum log drilled and inoculated with Nameko sawdust spawn)
(This shows the bag of Nameko sawdust spawn white with mycelium, and the tool used to insert a measured amount of the sawdust into drilled holes in logs)
NOTE: I switched to using cheese wax instead of bee’s wax because I found that hornets and maybe bees have been stealing the wax and leaving my plug spawn exposed. I had never read that they do that, but I witnessed it, so made the change. So far, the cheese wax has been ignored.
The weather has become freezing as it is almost Christmas, but the logs have had two months of mild temperatures for the mycelium to become established, so if the mycelium likes plum wood, I should start seeing some obvious mycelium growth around Fall of 2018. I figure that Japanese varieties should do well in plum.
The Turkey Tails are still growing on the oak logs I have from before. I harvested some of them and made a tasty broth (hot water extraction) by chopping them up finely and boiling in a pot of water for about 4 hours. I also did an alcohol extraction of them by placing them in a mason jar and filling it with vodka and sealing it for 2 months, shaking it daily. The broth and the extract are said to contain substances helpful for fighting diseases and boosting the immune system. I figure they can’t hurt, so I’ll try them. At least the broth is tasty! I also bought a large Maitake mushroom from an organic store and am doing the same broth and alcohol process with it.
UPDATE: 8/31/18 After babying these logs for nearly a year, lots of mild weather and rain at the beginning, there are no signs at all of mycelium growth. The hot weather we had recently cracked a few of the logs and there is no growth on the inside either. So I’m calling this experiment a failure. The only ones that grew were the Turkey Tails. I still have some alcohol extraction of those with some purchased maitake. If I decide to grow any in the future, I’ll stick with sawdust bags since those seem to work fine.