Friday, October 16, 2015


Today I found what appears to be a bunch of clustered wood lovers fruiting on dead roots near my "farm."  I'm assiduously verifying the identity because this little brown mushroom has some deadly near-look-a-likes.  If they are hypholoma capnoides (aka clustered wood lovers), I might try to cultivate some - on wood chips.
Mr. Hanners, our local mushroom mogul, gets his thousands of logs delivered by tree service companies for a fee.  One thing the innumerable tree service companies are happy to drop off at no charge are fresh wood chips.  We had a pile conveniently dumped in our driveway early this year and now I have decided that several more are needed.
A byproduct of portable, powered equipment, and thus destined for near-term decline, wood chips are usually made from ramial wood, i.e. less than 4" diameter branches, in order to save on hauling or to avoid creating brush piles.
I have a solution to both of these problems.  Not only is hauling of bulky branches unnecessary, but forests would also benefit if wood chips were left behind and used as mulch for saplings.  My second solution is that, once we reach the point where it is too expensive to chip wood, purposefully constructed slash piles make an instant low-emissions biochar-generating burn opportunity.  Again, the biochar could be used to amend the soil for young plants in the vicinity.  Since biochar needs an initial charge of microbes and nutrients, the rich soil under the previously laid mulch beds would be good places for spreading biochar.
Along with these two measures, the forests subsequently benefit from the proliferation of various saprophytic fungi that break down the wood chips and leave a profusion of exudates, chitin, and complex carbohydrates that nourish trees and their soil buddies.   Mycorrhizae also flourish in biochar-rich soil.  The resulting humus is a living, networked organism that emerges much more quickly than over the natural cycle time.
The most well-known wood chip gardener example is Paul Gautschi in Washington.  Maybe I can help bring some of that attention to Southern Maryland.  I have a plan to combine wood chips, biochar, and gourmet mushrooms in commercial quantities.  Don't hold your breath though, when you are dealing with wood chips, it takes a year or so to get an end product.

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