Mushrooms are a great addition to a small holding. If people have a small backyard then a few mushroom logs can easily be tucked away somewhere.
I personally love forests and love the idea of wild foraging mushrooms. Why not have it where I can forage from the edge of my own yard?
My home plot situation is unusual. I have .19 acres to play. But the edge of the property has a small woodlot that is more public and in between a school that lets it go wild.
It is shady and perfect because of the humidity features. I can only install a small fixed farm BESIDE it on the edge of my property though that works as it can still create a lot of mushrooms for the space.
I’ve been growing mushrooms indoors for a bit as I harvested some wild oysters and bought a Lion’s Mane kit since it is hard to mistake Lion’s Mane.
I’m leery of foraging mushrooms because the identification problem concerns me. People with experience do pretty well, but knowing me I’d get it wrong and end up needing medical care.
Watching the mushrooms pop out of logs and my plastic grow buckets has been fascinating. One of the staple beliefs about my current operation is using things where there is little plastic waste or the plastic I do use (like the pots) is used or recycled as many times as I can get out of it.
With mushrooms that means trying to not use the plastic grow bags and using a grow method geared towards producing less non compostable waste.
Lion’s mane is considered a superfood as well, much like the shiitake, except lion’s mane is geared more towards brain health. It is often sold in supplemental form that is pretty easy to buy. Though my focus is more for the culinary delights.
The lion’s mane is very tasty with maybe a lobster or shrimp sort of taste profile when cooked.
How to Grow Lion’s Mane Mushrooms Overview
Growing Lion’s Mane mushrooms is pretty easy with the hard part being deciding where you want the logs to go as they can be hard to move later, as well as keeping them moist, and picking a place to keep them.
The inoculation process is pretty fun and easy. I enjoy drilling the holes and waxing them over.
Preferably, you want logs cut from previously live trees. The logs should be able to age for around 3 weeks and then should be inoculated.
To inoculate you have to drill some holes. They should be drilled all over the log and filled with spores. People usually use dowels that have been grown over with mycelium but wood pellet material sent to spawn or sawdust with mycelium can also be plugged in there.
All the holes need to be plugged with some sealing wax, I use plain beeswax. People have a bunch of different ways of stacking the logs afterward.
I usually use not inoculated floor logs to raise the inoculated logs off the ground. Some people like to use a bed of straw.
The logs will sit incubating for a year and need to be watered routinely, in the meantime it is possible to spawn them inside with pellets and containers. After the year is up it is preferable to stack them up better so the mushrooms can emerge.
Logs can potentially produce flushes of mushrooms for 5-8 years, though need to be kept in shade and kept moist.
How Big of a Mushroom Crop Will You Get?
It is hard to give an answer here as it depends on wood type, the mushroom strain, and any rainfall.
I can tell you that I get many pounds of mushrooms just from my small indoor wood pellet grows so outside should be even more.
What Time of Year Do You Make Mushroom Logs?
I am in Zone 4 Minnesota. Most of the year it is ice and snow here. I like to inoculate my logs in spring or early summer to give the mycelium time to spread before the cold.
Another Midwest mushroom farmer likes to wait until temperatures are steady and usually in the 40s range. In general spring is when people usually make the mushroom logs where I am. Other regions can usually fit in a fall inoculation.
Sourcing and Harvesting Logs
Mushrooms grow well on many hardwood type logs like oaks or maples.
Lion’s Mane is a lot like cultivating Shiitake just slower growing. They both seem to do best from logs that come from alive trees. Do not use dead or previously cut wood left to sit. Competing mushrooms or some other things could ruin the grow.
The ideal size is about 40 inches long and 3-8 inches in diameter. Mushroom logs can be made from all parts of the tree that fit that criteria while the tree is dormant.
You also want to use trees that don’t have disease, blemish, or some other superficial damage. If you see a log with some defects you can coat them in wax to use them but it is good to not have to do any of that if possible.
After the logs are cut, they need to be kept moist so it helps to water them and cover with a tarp. The logs should age at least 2 weeks after being cut though can be stored for the duration of a frozen winter.
Lion’s Mane Spawn
My parent spawn came from a kit.
It helps to source good mushroom spawn that shows aggressive growth and doesn’t need a lot to get going. It makes the difference between a bad grow and a decent harvest.
If you buy direct from a vendor then usually you will also get support and instructions.
How to Drill Holes in Mushroom Logs
A small chainsaw was used for our logs to cut the wood, and a standard drill was used to make big holes for the mycelium dowels. I created the dowels by combining my original Lion’s Mane spawn with some standard oak dowels.
A steel drill bit measuring 12 mm was utilized. Lot of mushroom shops have special custom bits meant for this process.
The only other piece of advice is to wear safety glasses.
You should aim to drill holes every 6 inches from your starting position while drilling the holes. I often pay less attention to the side of the log I want to keep close to the ground and pay more attention to the best areas for harvesting.
Work these drill lines as desired all the way around the log. Everybody appears to have their own personal style.
Inoculating the Lion’s Mane Mushroom Logs
The big picture is that we put holes all over the logs, fill them with mushroom spores, and then seal the holes up with wax.
There are a few different ways to go about getting the spores into the logs and my method is with the mycelium pegs.
The interior of the holes you drill in the logs will begin to dry out VERY quickly. You must instantly stuff and cover the holes because you’ve exposed the log to all the other spores that might be in the air.
There is no way you should drill the holes, then complete the logs later that day or the following day..
Inoculating Tool to Fill the Holes
There are a couple ways to get the mycelium into the holes you just drilled. You can use wood oak dowels covered in mycelium or get a special palm inoculator that works like a bit syringe and deposits the mycelium sawdust into the logs.
To use the inoculation tool you plug it with some sawdust spawn in a container and you pack the spawn into the end of the inoculation tool.
When the end is packed it is easy to stick into the drilled holes and fill it full of spawn. It helps to do the filling firmly and quickly. Then repeat the process.
Sealing the Inoculation Holes
The mushroom spawn need to stay protected from other fugal spores as well as stay moist. The key here is sealing them up. I’ve used beeswax though in really hot weather it will melt. It isn’t so bad in my zone most of the time, but is still a concern.
Cheese wax is the preferred wax of enthusiasts.
Wax needs a dedicated melting pot, or pan on a hot plate. I used a wax melting plate with a small metal bowl that sits on top.
I used some huge q-tips to plug the holes, but I later learned that it would be wiser to just go ahead and get some wool daubers. They typically utilize wool daubers to apply leatherwork stain. The broad notion is to dip your tool and apply the wax about halfway down the log.
You want the hole sealed and you are done.
Only the drill holes or any surface flaws should be sealed. A lot of the log shouldn’t be waxed for proper mushroom growth and health.
Stack sealed up logs aside when done and allow them to sit. Keep logs moist and allow them to colonize.
It can take one or two years before the mushrooms will fully colonize and erupt from a log.
Mushroom Log Incubation
Once the Lion’s Mane is in the logs, they need to incubate for a long time. This time is when the mycelium needs to spread.
Logs should be kept away from sun in a shady cool spot near the ground though not resting on bare ground. I am using waste wood to keep them stacked off the dirt.
Some people like to cover the logs with sterile straw and keep some sort of breathable fence or fabric to weigh it all down.
Some do not use the straw though it can help keep the logs moist. It helps to water the logs on occasion too or have them in range of a sprinkler.
Set Up Your Logs for Harvesting
After the incubation period you want to put the logs into a harvesting position. Some people lash them up vertical and some like to stack them in a square style. I plan to prop mine vertical against a wall.
When the logs are ready they fruit early in spring, some logs take a bit longer and Lion’s Mane is a slower mushroom. In the cold regions it is about April.
The main thing is that the mushroom logs aren’t touching the ground in any way. Otherwise they can be arranged however you want.
It is best to keep the logs in shade majority of the time. In my case, I keep them under constant tree cover with occasional dappled light.
The Lion’s Mane will begin to pop out of the holes. They will come out and begin to enlarge and create the “hair” structures again and again out of the same holes.
Lion’s mane mushrooms go from being small blobs to big and ready to harvest very quickly. You have to keep watch on them so you collect at the right time.
To harvest the mushrooms you want a sharp knife or a special forager tool to cut them off the wood.
Mushrooms, and other forage, usually do best in a breathable container such as a forager basket or a mesh bag. Mushrooms need to be refrigerated quickly or dried quickly as their quality degrades as soon as they are cut.