Making and growing mushrooms on logs using plugs is easy and fun! Mushroom logs will take 6 months to 2 years before fruiting depending on species and conditions. Once fruiting has initiated, they will produce mushrooms for 4 years or more. While some conditions for certain types of mushrooms vary, all logs need to be left outdoors in a shady place with occasional watering during the drier months. Mushrooms will sprout when outdoor conditions are conducive to mushroom growth or when logs are soaked overnight and shocked to initiate fruiting.
Materials and Synopsis:
Drill holes in fresh hardwood log 2-3 feet long 3-8 inches in diameter with a power drill equipped with a 5/16 drill bit. Knock plugs into holes with a hammer. Melt cheese wax in a double boiler or crock pot and apply to wax to plugs with a spoon or syringe.
Gathering Logs: You will need 2-4 logs for 100 pack of plugs, and 12-18 for 500 pack of plugs. Always use recently harvested, disease-free hardwood. Do not use wood that has been on the ground for more than a month or standing trees that are dead or dying. Ideally you will cut down a healthy tree into logs and store it on concrete surface for at least 2 weeks before plugging. Most people find logs 2-3 feet in length 4-6 inches in diameter to be the best size for handling, but logs can be larger especially for growing Shiitake.
Choosing wood:Shiitakeprefer oaks. Reishi, Maitake and Chicken of the Woods can also be grown on oaks but all can be grown on almost any hardwood. Oyster mushrooms, Lion's Mane, Bear's Head Tooth, White Elm, Beech Clam and Pioppino prefer the “softer” hard woods like Maple, Poplar, Beech, Birch, Elm, etc. Young trees with more sapwood (light) than heartwood (dark) will colonize quicker and produce mushrooms faster. Avoid evergreens hardwoods (live oak and magnolia), fruit trees and conifers (fir, cedar, pine, etc.).
Drill, Plug and Cover with wax: Drill holes with a 5/16th drill bit, spaced 4-5 inches apart and 1-inch deep along the log, add staggered rows 1-2 inches apart. Inoculate near branching twigs and add extra holes about one inch from ends of the log to establish a strong spawn run where contamination is most likely to enter. Hammer plugs into holes flush with the surface of the log. Cover holes with melted cheese wax to protect plugs and keep them from drying out. Some growers also elect to cover the exposed ends of the logs with wax, which may be necessary in dry climates.
Temporary laying: After inoculation, logs should be stacked like firewood on a hard surface where it is shady and receives precipitation. Stacking in a close horizontal pile keeps the humidity at the log surface. If you live in an area with low humidity/precipitation, logs can be watered and covered with plastic to keep humidity high. After 1 to 2 months logs should be separated so that mold cannot move in and take over. All of our mushrooms should be incubated outside with the exception of Oyster mushrooms and Pioppino. If temperatures are expected to go below freezing (32°F or 0°F) move oyster and pioppino logs indoors for incubation. Once mycelium is established pioppino and oyster mushroom logs can tolerate low temperatures outdoors.
Permanent laying: Find a shaded, damp area sheltered from the wind. The log will need to receive rainfall unless you are regularly soaking it. A north-facing wall out of the wind is a good place, alternatively under a shady tree. The most important thing is to put the log somewhere easy to see! Log cultivation requires patience and mushrooms appear suddenly without warning, and can dry up and fall off within a few days. The easier it is to check on them, the better.