Frequently Asked Questions
What species of log is best for growing mushrooms?
Each mushroom description includes a note about preferred log species. Oak and Maple are preferred for most mushroom species. Poplar also works well with Oyster mushrooms. You may try a wide range of tree species including beech, birch, hornbeam, etc. and they may work but you may get varying results in yield. Oak and Maple are very dense and offer a lot of nutrition for a longer, sustained fruiting period. Poplar and other soft hardwoods will colonize faster and produce mushrooms sooner but generally don’t yield as much or produce for as many years.
There are different strains of mushrooms, and the suggestions for types of logs are based on North Spore's particular strains
Type and Difficulty (1-10) Preferred Possible
Chicken- 10 (very difficult to cultivate) Large Diameter Oak log or stump (Oak only)
Shiitake- 1 (great for beginners) Oak, Maple Alder, Ash, Beech, Hickory
Italian Oyster- 3 Oak, Maple, Poplar Alder, Beech, Birch
Snow Oysters- 2 Oak, Maple, Poplar Alder, Beech, Birch
Golden Oyster-3 Oak, Maple, Poplar Alder, Beech, Birch
Chestnut Mushroom- 3 Oak, Maple
Reishi- 8 Oak Maple, Plum
Oyster-2 Oak, Maple, Poplar Alder, Beech, Birch
Lion's Mane-4 Oak, Maple, Poplar Beech, Birch
Hen of the Woods-6 Oak *buried after incubation (Oak only)
Wine Cap-1 * DOES NOT GROW ON LOGS *
What size should the logs be?
Any size logs will work. You can use branches or saplings, if that is what you have available. Small-diameter wood will colonize faster, but will not produce for as many seasons as a larger log. You don't want the logs to be so large or heavy that they are difficult to use. For drilling methods, a 4-6'' diameter with a 3-4' length is ideal. For the totem method, they can be up to a foot (or more!) in diameter, and 12-18'' high.
How long does it take for me to get my first flush of mushrooms?
First fruitings are variable, but you should expect to wait at least a year for most of the species to fully colonize their logs. After they begin to fruit the logs may produce for up to a year per in of diameter of the logs.
When do I cut the logs?
The best time to cut logs is in late winter/early spring before trees have budded out and the bark is still holding fast to the trunk. The best time to inoculate logs is in the spring within one or two weeks after the logs have been cut. This allows the cells in the tree to die but is not long enough for the log to dry out or for other competitor fungi to become established. You should not use logs that were cut last year. A month would be about the longest reasonable stretch of time between cutting and inoculating. If your order is going to be shipped, you’ll get it sometime during the first two weeks of April. Plan to cut your log in mid-March. If you are picking up your order at our tree sale, cut your log in early to mid-April before the buds have opened.
Should the wood be old or freshly cut?
Only freshly cut disease-free wood should be used. Old or rotting wood should be avoided as it will likely contain contaminant fungi or be too dry to support mushroom growth. After cutting the wood the sooner you can inoculate the log the better though you can wait up to 4 weeks after cutting before inoculating the log. During the winter months the inoculation window can be extended for several months by covering freshly cut wood with snow to maintain moisture until you are ready to inoculate in early spring.
Is my mushroom spawn moldy? / Why has my mushroom spawn has developed a white mold-like substance?
Mushroom spawn will naturally develop a white (yellow in the case of Chicken of the Woods), mold-like, substance called mycelium. It is the feeding structure of the fungi. This is normal and signifies a healthy living mushroom spawn. Simply break up the spawn in the bag by twisting or crumpling it before using. If your bag develops an abundance of green mold, than the culture has become contaminated and should not be used.
What are the little 'dots' that I am seeing in my plug spawn bags?
Millet! we use it to pass the mushroom culture on to the wooden plugs. They are normal and can be ignored during your log inoculation!
What if I buy spawn and can't get around to inoculating in the spring?
Store the spawn in the fridge and do it during the summer. Just be sure that you harvest your fresh log within a few weeks of inoculation. Avoid cutting logs during leaf-out. Dormant trees and fully leafed-out trees make the best logs.
What kind of yield can I expect?
The general rule of thumb is one year of production per inch of log diameter. However, yields will vary depending on the strain and the conditions of the season.
How long will it take from the time of log inoculation to harvest?
Most mushrooms need cool weather to fruit. Growth slows in the heat of the summer. If you inoculate in the spring, you might get your first flush of mushrooms in the fall but most likely it will take a full year until you see your first fruiting.
How often should I water my log?
It’s important to not let the log dry out but it’s also important to not over-water the log. Logs are stored in shady outdoor locations close to the ground and generally retain enough moisture to colonize fully without watering. During especially dry years or time periods watering can be necessary but most of the time no supplemental watering is needed. It’s OK to water the log to force it to fruit but most growers wait until the log fruits once naturally before starting to force fruit.
What tools do I need?
For plug spawn, you’ll need a drill with a 5/16” (8mm) bit to make holes in the log, a hammer to drive the plugs into the holes and wax to seal the holes. If you are inoculating several logs, you may find that an angle grinder adaptor with an 8.5mm drill bit will help the work to go more quickly.
For sawdust spawn, we recommend a drill with a 7/16” (12mm) drill bit and an inoculation tool to pack the sawdust into the holes. If you are inoculating several logs, you may find that an angle grinder adaptor with an 12mm drill bit will help the work to go more quickly. You can insert sawdust into the holes by hand but an inoculation tool greatly speeds up the process and allows the sawdust to be packed more densely increasing the success of log inoculations.
All of the holes need to be sealed with hot wax (cheese wax, food grade paraffin wax, beeswax etc…) to prevent them from drying out and to seal them off from contamination.
How do I choose plugs vs. sawdust?
Plugs are very resilient but are slower to colonize. Plugs require only a drill and hammer for tools, and are economical for smaller projects. Sawdust colonizes drilled logs about 30% faster than plugs. They're good for larger projects, but an inoculation tool is required, along with other tools if you'd like to speed up the project. The totem method, using sawdust, is good for urban settings or other locations without access to a forested or shady area. No special tools are needed.
How long can I store mushroom spawn?
Plug and sawdust spawn will store for six months to a year in a refrigerator. If you don’t get around to inoculating your logs in the spring, you can store them in the fridge and do it during the summer. Just be sure that you harvest your fresh log within a few weeks of inoculation. Don’t use old logs. Also, avoid cutting logs during leaf out. Dormant trees and fully leafed out trees will make the best logs. Mushroom spawn will naturally develop a white (yellow in the case of Chicken of the Woods), mold-like, substance called mycelium. It is the feeding structure of the fungi. This is normal and signifies a healthy living mushroom spawn.
Can I allow the log to freeze over winter?
Yes, logs will be fine in outdoors in the winter. A blanket of snow will help to protect the logs from drying out.
How many plugs do I need for one log?
100 plugs will do 1-2 logs; the drill pattern does not need to be perfect.
How many years will a log produce mushrooms?
Two to four years, on average; varies by type of wood, size of log, whether or not it's forced, rainy/dry balance, etc.
Do I need to pre-prep the logs ahead of time of inoculation?
Will Hemlock work for the Reishi?
No, not for the strain of Reishi that we are selling. Ganoderma lucidum (the strain we cultivate) does not grow on Hemlock, Ganoderma tsugae does!
Can Wine Cap be grown using drill or them methods?
No, the Wine Cap only grows on substrate that is already broken apart, like sawdust. It's best in garden path areas or other places where beds of sawdust, wood chips or straw can be maintained.
Are cultivated mushrooms the same size as their wild counterparts?
What kind of pests can I expect on my mushrooms?
Some mammals like deer or squirrels may take a nibble out of the mushrooms, but generally, they don’t devastate a crop. Occasionally, you may find some insect or slug damage. Just cut out that part of the mushroom. The rest will be fine.
How do you cultivate Hen of the Woods, what do you mean by bury logs?
Hen of the Woods should be inoculated in oak logs. After the one year incubation period, where you stack logs in a normal fire-wood style stack, you should bury your log under 1-2 inches of soil. Bury them someplace shady where they will have access to water or rainfall. Make sure to mark the spot where your log is buried and keep an eye for Hen of the Woods mushrooms sprouting from the soil throughout the year (usually fruits during Fall)