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

Propagating a shiitake mushroom log for free

Shiitake mycelium

When we inoculated three mini-logs with shiitake mycelium in late February, my primary purpose was to deal with the winter doldrums. But I also wanted to experiment with a method Tradd Cotter suggested for propagating shiitake logs without lab conditions. If you've been reading for a while, you'll know that oyster mushroom spawn is pretty easy to expand on cardboard, but shiitake spawn is more particular. Traditional shiitake farmers simply lay new logs beneath older, fruiting logs and hoped some spores would take, while modern farmers get their shiitake mycelium from a lab.

Propagating shiitake mushroom logsI'm looking for something more reliable than the traditional method but less expensive and painstaking than the modern method. Enter Tradd's expansion totems! Once the mycelium started spreading across one end of my mini-log (about 5 weeks after inoculation), I soaked a small sheet of cardboard and stacked a fresh mini-log, the cardboard, and then the colonized mini-log (with the most mycelium-rich side down). My little tower went into a trash bag on the living room floor, which I tied loosely closed...and then ignored for a while.

After two weeks, I took a look inside and noticed that bad molds were starting to grow. You don't have to be a fungal expert to tell the difference between good and bad here --- shiitake mycelium is white, so any other color is a bad mold. In this case, what I was seeing was little black dots on the cardboard where the paper product stuck out past the logs. Bad molds are a sign of excessively high humidity, so I opened up the trash bag (but also poured a bit of water on the cardboard so it wouldn't dry out). Then I went away for another week.

Disassembled mushroom totem

At the three-week mark, I decided it was time for the moment of truth. Not expecting much, I lifted off the top log...and the cardboard came along with it, proof that the mycelium had run out of the wood and into the cardboard. So far, so good --- but was there mycelium on the log below? Yes there was, as you can see from the photo above!

Step two involved soaking the cardboard and both logs for another couple of hours, then reassembling, this time with the untouched side of the newly colonized log up. I'm pretty confident now that this log-colonization method works, so the next experiment will answer the question: are these mini-logs big enough to be worth fruiting, or do I need to let multiple mini-logs fuse together before asking the mycelium to make me a mushroom? Stay tuned for further experiments as the summer progresses.

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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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Well that is pretty neat. Encouraged by you guys, and reading March Weekend Homesteader, I ordered some shitake plug spawn and we just cut down an oak to inoculate.. The four foot long pieces are so heavy I can barely move them. What about using smaller, shorter pieces of log?
Comment by deb Tue Apr 21 22:58:53 2015
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