Mushrooms are attractive, tasty, interesting and once they get going, they look after themselves very well.
Those reasons alone would be a great reason for any keen gardener or mushroom walk enthusiast to consider whether they could get some growing in their own garden. Let alone that they can be decorative, create an ambience and knock money off your grocery bill.
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Finding Wild Eatable Mushrooms Is Hard
They might not be leafy greens but they are full of B vitamins, fiber and vitamin D. Not to mention being a great source of protein. Foraged mushrooms are a lovely idea, making you think of woodland rambles and perhaps even Tolkien’s hungry mushroom loving hobbits, but the process of finding them and identifying them on the spot has drawbacks.
For one, finding the wild mushrooms is a very hit and miss process. You can either head out with no certainty that you’ll return with anything or choose to shell out to have an experienced guide take you to look for the mushrooms.
Another important consideration is that identifying wild mushrooms is difficult and getting it wrong can be hazardous. You will be more likely to bide your time and be sure of your identification if you can encourage mushrooms to grow in your own back yard.
It should be possible to consider getting a second opinion from a knowledgeable friend. As an added bonus, you will be able to walk out from your kitchen, pick mushrooms for dinner and then walk back in to cook them, all in the space of time it takes you to sautee the onions.
How To Get Mushrooms To Grow In Your Own Garden
Once you know that you want to encourage mushrooms to grow in your garden, you will want to identify the areas which would be the most suitable.
You want to concentrate your efforts on an area that is somewhat sheltered but not too cold and ideally, you want it to be able to get some moisture on its own.
At the foot of a tree that does not have large leaves to block out the sun and divert rain but keeps off any major heat for example.
In partial shade from a shed or fence could also work well. If you choose a place that gets too much sun it will dry out too easily to encourage wild mushrooms, likewise, if it gets no sun then the necessary mild temperature will not be there for any spores to take hold.
Find The Right Places For Your Wild Mushrooms To Grow
Ok, so you have a place in mind or at least the tools to look for one. Now you’re ready to start considering what interventions you could make to persuade mother nature to stump up with some mycelium action.
Giving the mycelium some nourishment and somewhere to live is a great start to help them begin to make what we think of as mushrooms.
If you have or can source some logs to put in your new mushroom patch, that would be a great start. Hardwood logs are often considered particularly good for the purpose of growing mushrooms.
If you have an oak tree, elm or birch tree that you’ve been meaning to cut back, that would be perfect for a range of mushrooms. The next time you get going with the secateurs or shears, take the branches, roughly take off the leafy end branches and let the branches sit in a dry spot for several days.
Now Provide Mulch And Nutrients to get the Fungi To Grow
Once that’s done, you can begin to pile them up in the new mushroom patch. Logs with a diameter between six and eight inches are ideal but the spores aren’t too picky.
If you only have some branches but you happen to have some sawdust or wood chips, scatter the dust or chips over your woodpile.
It all goes towards providing a mulch and nutrients for the fungi that you are hoping will grow. It helps shore up the stability of your woodpile and uses up the waste that would otherwise take a long time to turn into useful compost.
An extra option that you might not know would be helpful in trying to encourage wild mushrooms to grow comes as a byproduct of your morning caffeine kick.
If you drink coffee from a standard filter machine, a french press or an espresso machine then I have news about those coffee grounds you’ve been throwing in the trash can. They are a fantastic medium for growing mushrooms or starting mycelium growing. You could also mix coffee grounds in with a normal compost or topsoil to make a DIY compost adapted for mushrooms.
Will Coffee Grounds Help To Establish A Healthy Colony?
Coffee grounds aren’t the only things you can rescue from the rubbish that will help a healthy colony of mushrooms get established. In several studies, powdered eggshells have been noted as useful for both improving the growth of mushrooms and improving the amount of calcium they contain once grown.
Do yourself and the wild mushrooms a favour by breaking up your old eggshells and scattering them on your patch or over and around your woodpile.
If you have access to locally grown organic mushrooms or you can buy locally foraged mushrooms then that could be your secret weapon. You can eat your mushrooms in a delicious dish but keep the stems and press them into the cracks in your woodpile or any deeper rivets in your logs.
Household Items To Help Wild Mushrooms To Grow
Alternatively, you could just bury them in a coffee ground or sawdust layer. You don’t want the leftover pieces to be exposed to the direct sunlight which could kill your chances of giving nature a helping hand.
Outside your kitchen, you still might have other things around the house you could use to encourage wild mushrooms to grow in your garden. Newspapers (but not plasticated magazines) or plain brown cardboard can be very useful.
Thicker cardboard is best for putting down at the bottom of the mushroom patch to discourage heavy weed growth but newspapers are better as a top layer, acting like a blanket keeping just enough light off and just enough heat in. Shredded paper can also be used to make a bed cosy for the future mushrooms.
If you keep any animals or pets that use straw or sawdust for bedding, that is a great opportunity for compost generally but also to help mushrooms to grow.
As long as the straw or sawdust is from an animal which eats only vegetables and fruit, absolutely no meat, then it will be safe to use as a naturally decomposing mulch on your mushroom bed. As the compounds break down in the straw and animal manure, the fungi take them in and convert them into energy to grow the wild mushrooms that you are hoping for.
The same will be true if you are lucky enough to keep horses or ponies or have a local source of excess manure. Manure is great for so many things in the garden, but mushrooms also benefit from a generous helping. Unlike using manure on a standard garden bed, you don’t need to age manure to help mushrooms grow. It can go on fresh.
If you go through a dry spell in your area, then you might want to do the fungi in your garden a favour and take your watering can their way. To see mushrooms, you never want the mushroom patch to dry all the way out.
Depending on where you live and the weather, you might want to check on the patch every few days or every week or so. As a rule of thumb, you would need to water a mushroom patch about as often as a chilli plant. Not too much but if it’s a heatwave, throw it a bone.
Final Thoughts And What To Keep In Mind
If you have no interest in growing mushrooms for edible purposes but you just love the decorative aspects of wild mushrooms on a tree or in a fairy ring in your garden, then most of the same tips apply.
You might choose to use less mulch and concentrate on preserving a more natural look by supporting the fungi purely with moisture and a more scattergun approach to scattering dead leaves around the toadstool ring or the base of the tree.
The big things to remember for wild mushrooms are that they need warmth, dim light and a medium to grow in. If you have all of that, you have the essentials but any of these little helping hands could improve your chances of getting a healthy tapestry of mycelium running around your garden.
What’s more, once you have a healthy sized log fruiting it can go on fruiting for as many as six years. A great return on an initial investment of effort.
The last thing you can do to help you when you’re growing wild mushrooms in the garden is remember that nature takes its time. When fungi are impregnating a large log or woodpile it could take up to a year to see results, don’t lose heart if results are not immediate.
If you carefully take a peek and you can see white threads that look slightly furry, your mushrooms are on their way.
Mushrooms are a fun, interesting wild crop that will keep on giving so why not give them a try?