Outdoor Mushroom Beds
Log cultivation isn't the only method of growing mushrooms outdoors. With certain species you can establish outdoor 'beds', or piles of substrate for the mushroom species to colonize and produce mushrooms from. Outdoor mushroom beds are most often made from hardwood wood chips or straw. Beds are placed in shady parts of your garden or wood lot where they won't dry out from exposure to sun or wind.
OYSTER MUSHROOM CULTIVATION
With oyster mushrooms you can use grain spawn to inoculate outdoor straw beds. This is a very low-tech method accomplished by simply sprinkling grain spawn into moistened straw in a shady area. Oyster mushrooms grow quickly and will usually colonize the straw before other fungi outcompete the strain.
Many cultivators take a slightly more sophisticated route to oyster production by packing straw into mesh bags, soaking the bags in a high pH 'bath' overnight as a partial sterilization (using agricultural lime to get the pH to around 12.5), and then allowing the bags to drip dry by hanging them for another 12-16 hours. Oyster mushroom grain spawn is mixed into the partially sterilized and damp straw and packed into a hollow vessel with holes for the production phase. We've successfully grown oysters in this method using 5-gallon food grade plastic buckets with 1/2 holes drilled them. Buckets can be stacked indoors with humidity control systems or placed outdoors in greenhouses during the cooler months.
We've also been successful growing blue oyster mushrooms in our raised garden beds by sprinkling grain spawn directly on the beds in the spring. We had oysters growing right out of our soil within a few weeks!
Wine Cap is a vigorous mushroom that grows naturally on outdoor beds of woody debris. It grows best on straw (not hay) or hardwood chips or sawdust, but can tolerate a mixture that includes some softwoods, but generally no more than 25% softwood. You can mix different woody materials -Wine Cap seems to do better if the beds have a variety of particle sizes, such as a mix of both sawdust and wood chips. Avoid branches or other very large pieces of wood as these take longer to colonize and can create too much air space in the bed.
Freshly cut wood is preferred, though Wine Cap can also grow well on more aged materials. Many folks are having success with the chip mixes coming from roadside crews pruning under power lines- and it's a free resource!
Wine Cap does best in partial shade but can tolerate some direct sun. Ideal locations would be at the edge of fields and woods, around the base of trees, in perennial gardens, or as part of the mulch in vegetable gardens, where annual veggies will provide some shade.
Once established Wine Cap beds require little maintenance. During dry periods, the bed can be watered but do not over-water, as excessive watering can suffocate the mycelium.
If inoculated in spring, Wine Cap can fruit in as little as two months and will produce in the same bed for several years. Fish woody material can be added each year to maintain the health of the bed. Inoculated material from one bed can be used as spawn to inoculate new beds on your property.
- In a suitable location, remove any leaves, etc., down to either bare ground or plain grass. No need to dig a trench, but the bed should be in contact with the soil. One bag of sawdust spawn is enough to inoculate approximately 16 square feet.
- Spread mixed woody material over the soil, about 1'' deep.
- Break up the Wine Cap sawdust spawn and evenly sprinkle the spawn on top of the layer of woody debris.
- Add a second layer of woody debris about 2-3'' thick.
- Thoroughly water the bed.