Friday, March 11, 2016

Oyster Gardening

I was sold on the garden plot that we began renting last year after spotting a bouquet of oyster mushrooms growing out of an old stump at ground level directly adjacent the gate. Since then, in addition to the tremendous amount of vegetables we've reaped from the garden, oyster mushrooms have been a frequent enhancement to our meals.

My garden there consists of several raised beds, separated with sunken paths that are filled with wood chips. These wood chips eventually break down and provide nutritious mulch for the following year's plantings. I was very happy to see one particularly deep path of wood chips thick with mycelium when I dug it up early this year. It's possible that the oyster mushroom mycelium had run over to the path, as it was only about 10 feet away from the stump. If oyster mushrooms come up in that vicinity later this year, that will be the most likely cause.

In any case, I aim to get oyster mushrooms from this garden path, even if I have to inoculate the wood chips myself. According to +Tradd Cotter, oyster mushrooms will grow on wood chips, though they are traditionally cultivated on logs. They are not rhizomorphic, so their rate of growth through the shady path won't be as fast as, say, garden giants. Myceliated logs buried in a bed of wood chips would be ideal. In his book, Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, Cotter shows how to use cardboard spawn to inoculate logs. If my bunker spawn from oyster inoculated coffee grounds produces mushrooms, that could be another route to getting oysters into my paths.

Oysters are supposed to be the easiest mushrooms to grow. I have had minimal success, so far. However, since my shiitakes are all doing great, I think it's just a matter of time before I master cultivating this species.

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