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Shiitake Mushroom Plugs
Photos by Matt Lindler

Mushroom plugs

Drilling Holes for Shiitake Mushrooms

Create a row of holes 6 to 8 inches apart, offsetting the next row of holes to create a diamond pattern around the log or stump.

Insert Shiitake Mushroom Plugs

Insert hardwood plugs and set with a rubber mallet.

Sealing Shiitake Mushroom Plugs with Wax

Seal holes with hot wax to protect the plug from insects and prevent competing fungi from invading the wood.

DIY: Using Mushrooms
in Forestry

Land clearing projects for timber, foodplots, roads, timber stand improvement, hardwood restoration or invasive species removal often create a surplus of logs and stumps in need of disposal. A fun and tasty method of recycling hardwood stumps and logs is using edible mushrooms. Mushroom cultivation kits are inexpensive and, under the right conditions, will yield a bountiful gourmet treat for months or even years.

Look online for "mushroom plugs" on search engines or visit websites such as www.fungi.com. Almost all plug-based kits will require recently cut hardwood logs or stumps, such as oak, maple, sweetgum, elm, alder, maple, birch, sycamore and beech, for mushroom cultivation. Check with the source to see which species of edible mushroom will grow best with a particular hardwood tree.

Cutting trees during winter or early spring ensures the sapwood has high sugar and moisture content. Logs and stumps need to be at least 4 inches in diameter for mushroom cultivation and should have been cut at least a month before plug inoculation. Newly cut logs and stumps still have many anti-fungal properties that will prevent colonization — this will fade as the wood ages. Conversely, you should not wait too long to inoculate the wood with mushroom plugs as competing fungi may colonize the logs and stumps. Cut logs to about 3 feet long for ease in transport, handling and stacking.

Plugging stumps or logs

Materials: You'll need hardwood stumps or 3-foot logs at least 4 inches in diameter, drill, 5/16-inch drill bit, rubber mallet, sealing wax, brush and hardwood dowels inoculated with mushroom mycelium.

Wait and see

During the incubation period, anywhere from 6 to 18 months depending on the species, logs should be protected from the wind and sun and kept in a warm, shaded area with good air circulation. Some growers stack the logs in cribs using alternating tiers of two logs per layer. Stacked logs will need occasional watering to keep the wood moist and mushroom mycelium alive and active. Or they can be moved to areas with better moisture, shade and temperatures.

Stumps have constant contact with the ground, so moisture should not be a problem. Weather and site conditions will dictate whether the stumps produce mushrooms.

Once the mycelium, the thread like structures of the fungus, has fully grown in the log, it will produce a rapid-growing fruiting body, the edible portion of the mushroom. This is usually in response to a change in temperature or moisture content (seasonal change or heavy rain). The fruiting period is known as a flush.

Harvest the mushrooms and continue to keep the logs in warm, shaded conditions. Depending on the condition and size of the log and the species of mushroom, the logs will continue to fruit several times a year for several years until the log is spent of nutrients or the mushroom mycelium dies. The logs can be added to compost piles for further decomposition.

Enjoy cooking edible wild mushrooms with wild game harvested on your property.

Mushroom production is an excellent way to education young conservationists about the wise use of forestry management and teaches them value of forestry beyond trees and wildlife. — P.J. Perea