There are many reasons to grow your own mushroom log. Perhaps you consider yourself something of a chef and have discovered the unparalleled taste of locally sourced mushrooms. Perhaps you’re just looking at a way to grow extra food. Maybe you’re interested in the health benefits.
Whatever your reasoning is, fungiculture is not hard, and can be seen as an easy extension of your homesteading/prepping efforts. You could go with a shiitake log, but today we’re going to take a look at growing what is probably considered the best “beginner” mushroom out there: oyster mushrooms.
Tools You’ll Need for Making a Mushroom Log
You’ll need the following tools to begin constructing your mushroom log:
- Fresh cut hardwood logs
- Oyster plug spawn (buy them here)
- Rubber mallet/hammer
- Beeswax (I get mine at a craft store. It comes in a brick)
- A drill with a 5/16” drill bit
4 Steps to Making Your Mushroom Log
Did I mention this is super easy? Here are the 4 steps you need to take.
#1 – Cut a Log
The first thing that you need to do is harvest your logs, either with an axe or with a chainsaw. Ideally, this should be done in the colder months when the sap has shifted within the tree. A summer-cut log will work as well, but your yield may not be what it could have been.
Oyster mushrooms aren’t too picky when it comes to the type of log that you decide to use, but they like hardwoods the best. You’ll get best results if the logs you are using were cut within the past 3 months, however. The older the log is, the higher the chance that some other type of mushroom has already begun colonizing it. This means that if you use an older log, you could end up with your oyster mushroom spawn being outcompeted, and potentially eating a mushroom that you THOUGHT was an oyster, but in reality was something else. So, the best practice is to get as fresh of a log as you can.
I typically cut my mushroom logs into 2-3’ lengths, and I try to use logs that are 6-8” in diameter. You could use larger, but mushrooms like to grow after they’ve colonized the entire log, so the longer the log, the longer it will take until your mushrooms grow.
#2 – Drill Holes in It
After I have my logs, I get my drill with a 5/16” drill bit on it. That’s the typical size for the spawn-inoculated wooden dowels that you’ll be using. I like to put a piece of black electrical tape around the drill bit too, so that I know how deep I’m drilling every time. I hold a piece of plug spawn up to the drill bit, and then wrap the tape around the bit right above the dowel.
The next part is the hardest part, and you’ll probably burn through two sets of batteries for your drill. I drill a diamond pattern throughout the entire log. You want each row to be 1-2” apart, and each hole to be around 5” apart.
#3 – Put Plugs in the Log
Once this is done, you’re ready for my favorite part: whack-a-mole. Using a rubber mallet, you’ll pound the plug spawns into each hole, trying to get them as far in there as you can.
#4 – Cover it in Wax
Once this is done, you’ll have to paint over each plug spawn you just hammered in. This is what you need the beeswax for. I normally just melt it in a backpacking bug out stove. Once the wax is melted, use something to brush it atop each dowel’s head. This seals off the plug spawn from the outside world, keeping everything from drying out too quickly.
The last thing to do is to move your new mushroom log to a proper location. As long as you’ve placed it in contact with the ground someplace shady, they should be fine. And that’s it! You now grow mushrooms!
How Long Will it Take to Grow Mushrooms on a Log?
Your oyster mushrooms won’t begin to fruit until they’ve fully colonized the log with mycelium, or mushroom roots. Once they take hold though, they’ll produce roughly three flushes a year (being most prolific in the fall) for 2-3 years. By year three, the log will be pretty much spent of nutrients, and will probably have disintegrated.
You have to be patient when growing mushrooms from logs. It can take anywhere between 6-12 months for full log colonization to occur. Part of it depends on your local weather conditions. When you harvest them, you can cook them just like you would any other mushroom. You’ll probably not enjoy eating the stem as much as the top, however. That being said, the stem makes a great addition to broths for making stock.
Oyster mushrooms are a complete rock star as far as fungi go. They have one of the highest protein contents of any mushroom on the planet, weighing in at roughly 15-30% of their dry weight being protein content. Medically speaking, lab studies on mice have shown that they shrink tumors, decrease obesity, and help to regulate blood sugar as well!
If you really want to delve more into the science behind mushroom farming, you really need to check out the works of Tradd Cotter and Paul Stamets. They are the kings of the mushroom world. Stamet’s book Mycelium Running is absolutely fantastic, and Cotter’s Organic Mushroom Farming will teach you everything you need to know about raising a year-round harvest of mushrooms for your plate.
Have you prior experience with growing mushrooms? Are there tips and tricks that you’ve learned along the way? Let us know in the comments below!