The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Growing and expanding spawn

Mushroom mycelium on a petri dishSo you've cloned your mushroom --- now what?  Paul Stamet's Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms comes at this from a commercial point of view, so he recommends working in an ultra-sterile laboratory and growing cloned mushrooms on agar in petri dishes.  Once the mycelium has nearly colonized the entire petri dish, he cuts the agar into sections and uses it to inoculate jars of grain.

Although Stamets' lab technique isn't really applicable on our farm, I still teased out a lot of information that will probably be equally true for our cardboard mushroom cultivation.  The purpose of this stage in the procedure --- known as the spawn run --- is to take a little bit of fungal growth and turn it into a lot of growth.  Stamets repeatedly urges you to keep the spawn running at all times by providing the perfect growing conditions --- moderate humidity of around 60 to 75%, a warm temperature around 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and darkness to moderate light.

If you play your cards right, the mycelium will run very quickly at this point and it must always have more room to grow into.  Never let the spawn cover all of its petri dish/ cardboard/ whatever or it will use up its food, build up wastes to toxic levels, and lose vitality.  Once the mycelium comes near the edge of its container, expand it by mixing the spawn into five to ten times as much fresh substrate.  Feel free to expand your spawn twice (which means it can become 100 times bigger than it was to start with!), but use caution when expanding beyond that or your mycelium may show loss of vigor.

Make your own homemade chicken waterer for as little as $1 per bird.

This post is part of our Growing Gourmet Mushrooms lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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As to keeping it dark, unless you intend to place them under trees in your orchard, you might think off getting a used shipping container. Some of these can be had quite cheaply depending on there location and general condition and size. They are made of steel with a wood floor normally. There are some places in Pa. that have used them commercially (saw on the local news some time back.) There are even people that make housing out of them. Food for thought, or a house for the mushrooms.
Comment by vester Thu Jan 14 17:01:37 2010

We keep our mushrooms under the shade of our trees --- we've got plenty of trees, and filtered light is actually good for them.

That said, we'd love to get shipping containers as easy house bases. Unfortunately, it's not really realistic to get them back to our living area --- it's a half mile walk across a creek and through lots of mud. It took a bulldozer to get our trailer back here. But maybe that would be a good cheap storage unit where we park our cars (and where stuff tends to accumulate until we get around to carrying it home.) Great idea!

Comment by anna Thu Jan 14 17:41:40 2010
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