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 as well out back.
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.
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.
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.
The lion’s mane is also 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 some holes 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
For our logs a small chainsaw was used on timber and a regular drill was used to make large holes for mycelium dowels. I made the dowels adding some regular oak dowels to my original Lion’s Mane spawn.
Drill bit used was 12 mm steel bit. Lot of mushroom shops have special custom bits meant for this process.
When drilling the holes you ideally want to drill holes every 6 inches from your starting point. I tend to neglect the side of the log I plan to keep near the ground and focus more attention on ideal harvesting sections.
Work these drill lines all around the log as preferred. Everyone seems to have their own style and method with this part.
Inoculating the Lion’s Mane Mushroom Logs
The big picture is that we will drill holes all over the logs, fill them with mushroom spores, and then seal them up with wax.
There are a few different ways to go about getting the spores into the logs, and we have only used the sawdust method- which is what I am giving detailed instruction for here. These directions are probably not interchangeable with other spawn types like plug, peg, or thimble spawn.
Once you drill holes in the logs, the inside of the holes will start drying out FAST. You’ve also opened the log to all the spores that could be floating around in the air- so you need to stuff and seal the holes immediately. You absolutely should not drill the holes and then finish the logs the next day, or even later that day.
Karl and I came up with a nice rhythm where he was the dedicated hole driller, I was the dedicated inoculator and waxer, but when he got ahead of me, he would come to my station and help me before starting to drill holes in a new log (since drilling is faster than the other tasks). That way we never had more than one log with holes drilled and waiting at a time.
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 you pack the spawn into the end of the inoculation tool.
When the end is pack 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. I liked to use an old steel cut oatmeal can to keep the spawn from drying out between being packed.
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.
For filling the holes I used some large q-tips though was later told it is better to just go ahead and buy some wool daubers. Wool daubers are the tool they usually use to apply leatherwork stain. General idea 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.
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 old 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.
Lion’s mane mushrooms go from being small blogs 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.