Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Log and Stump Cultivation of Mushrooms

What does the process involve, generally?
Here’s a quick reference for the steps of inoculation:

  • Select your log(s)!

  • Order your Mushroom Spawn, being sure to select suitable mushrooms for the log species you’ve got to work with. Your Mushroom Plug Spawn can be stored in your refrigerator for a couple of months after receipt, but it’s always best to order them around the time you plan to inoculate, so that they’re fresh.

  • On inoculation day:

    • Tapping Plugs Into LogsDrill holes every 3–4 inches along the length of your log—you’ll need a 5⁄16" drill bit.

    • Insert a plug into each of the holes, tapping them in with a rubber mallet.

    • Seal your logs with wax.

    • Give your logs a good place to incubate (somewhere shady, and where you can water them occasionally).

Once colonized, initiate your logs, and watch for mushrooms in the spring and/or fall, when temperatures are right!

What kind of log should I use?
There are several factors to consider with this question:

  • Age: Ideally, your logs will be recently cut from healthy trees, with all of their bark intact. Freshly cut or fallen logs should be allowed to “rest” for 2–3 weeks before inoculation. As a rule,  logs that are over 6 months old should be avoided, as they likely have other fungi living in them.

  • Tree Species: There are a variety of suitable wood-types upon which to grow mushroom plug spawn. For a listing of ideal wood species, visit the “Cross-Reference Chart: Wood Types to Mushroom Species.”

  • Size: the ideal log should be 3–4 feet in length, and 4–8 inches in diameter. When inoculating logs of this size, you will use approximately 50 plugs per log.

Wax-Dipped End of an Inoculated LogWhy wax?
After plugging your logs, sealing the holes and ends of the logs with food-grade wax is recommended to ensure a higher success rate. The wax will seal in moisture, providing optimal growing conditions for the mushroom mycelium. (This step is more critical in drier climates, as it helps reduce moisture loss significantly.) It also helps to keep other fungi out, limiting competition in your log. Wax should be applied to any areas where the bark is damaged or missing. This includes the holes you have drilled for plugs, as well as the cut ends of the log. Simply melt the wax, and use a brush to “paint” a thin layer onto the exposed area. In general, we find that one pound of wax will cover up to 600 plugs (and the ends of those logs). This assumes that your logs are around 3–4 feet long, and 4–8 inches in diameter. If you are using larger logs, you may require a second pound of wax to cover the increased surface area, etc.

Shiitake Logs Stacked in a RickWhere should I store my logs once they’ve been inoculated?
During incubation, your logs should be placed on pallets or cinder blocks, or otherwise elevated to avoid direct contact with soil. Logs can be stacked in crisscrossed piles, called "ricks," to help conserve moisture and space. You can also help with moisture retention by covering them with burlap or shade cloth. Avoid plastic, as this will encourage growth of mold or bacteria.

Can I put more than one species in a log?
No. Mushrooms are very competitive organisms, so we don’t suggest putting more than one species in a log. If you attempt to grow multiple species on a single log, they will expend lots of energy competing for space, instead of producing mushrooms for you to enjoy!

My logs have moss and lichen on them, do I need to scrape it off or get new logs?
Moss and Lichen live on the bark of the logs and do not affect the wood. For ease of inoculation, you can use a wire brush to remove debris, but be careful to not damage the bark. If your logs don’t have moss on them at first, you may notice moss growing on them eventually, but don’t worry! Since the perfect location for mushroom growth just so happens to be perfect for moss as well, they will often cohabitate.

How often and for how long should I water the logs?
This depends greatly on the incubation environment. Initially we recommend at least once or twice a week, for 5–10 minutes until freezing temperatures or heavy rains begin. You only need to water them when they are not getting regular moisture. If you live in a dry environment, water more frequently.

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