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Inoculating mushroom logs with sawdust spawn

We’ve written in the past about our mushroom experiments, which mostly centered around using plug spawn in logs. So I was thrilled when our local library offered an opportunity to try something a little different — sawdust spawn.

(Yes, we do have the best library around. Yes, they did let us take home an inoculated shiitake log of our very own.)


Pros and cons of sawdust spawn

Newly inoculated mushroom log

Sawdust inoculation tool

As best I can tell, the only real downside of using sawdust spawn is that you need to buy an inoculation tool. At $45 per tool, that means sawdust spawn makes the most sense for folks who intend to inoculate at least 36 logs (although you don’t have to do them all at once, of course). My math in today’s dollars:

  • Sawdust spawn: about $1 per log in spawn cost
  • Plug spawn: about $2.25 per log in spawn cost

In addition to long-term price savings, other benefits of using sawdust spawn include:

  • Your logs will produce mushrooms faster (in 5 to 12 months instead of 9 to 18 months).
  • I actually found inoculation with the sawdust tool gentler on my wrists (no hammering!).


Other inoculation innovations

Measuring mushroom log hole locations

Other than the inoculation tool, using sawdust spawn is pretty much the same as using plug spawn. But I thought you might enjoy seeing our teachers’ entire process since it is definitely better than ours!

First the infrastructure: They built tables with little wooden cradles at intervals to hold the logs in place. That means the only time you really need a second set of hands is when drilling the holes.

Also note the measuring stick with the spacing information on it. No laborious hand-measuring each log!

Drilling holes in a mushroom log with an angle grinder

Another innovation is the use of an angle grinder rather than a drill gun. Mark shared a video in which you can see how¬†much faster this is than what we’d done in the past.

(Do be careful though. I could see someone drilling through their hand with this setup.)

Shiitake sawdust spawn

After the holes are drilled, it’s time to insert the spawn. Sawdust spawn comes in a block like the one shown above. You break it up with your hands then scoop some of the loose sawdust out into an empty yogurt container (or something similar).

Inoculating a mushroom log

Waxing a mushroom logNext, bang the inoculation tool into the container a few times to fill it with spawn. Place the tool over the hole and depress the button at the top to insert spawn. The goal is for the spawn to fill the hole up to about the bark level.

After that, all you need to do is wax over each spawn-filled hole. In the past, we’ve used beeswax from local hives, but apparently any food-safe wax works. Our teachers were using paraffin, melted then daubed on with cute little brushes. But they mentioned that there’s a new kind of wax, primarily used with plug spawn, that you can wipe on cold with your finger.

After that, it’s the usual waiting game (with the side note that, since we now live in an area with less extreme precipitation than we used to be located, we need to remember to water our log if we don’t get at least an inch of rain per week).

We haven’t had productive mushroom logs since moving to Ohio, but remembering how fun and easy inoculation was put the process back on my radar. Maybe next year we’ll push wildcrafting mushrooms onto the back burner and inoculate more logs.


About our teachers

Soulshine Acres mushrooms

I want to end with a huge thank you to Soulshine Acres for sharing their expertise with us. They’re a frequent vendor at the Athens, Ohio, farmer’s market if you want to check some of their mushrooms out. Or just follow them on instagram using the link above to learn about their forest farm, full of over 400 mushroom logs.

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Summer harvest tips: Peppers, chanterelles, tomatoes, and beans

July harvest

It’s harvest season! Mostly, this post is just pretty pictures I couldn’t resist snapping while bringing goodies in out of the garden and woods. But here are a few tips to add redeeming value:

  • Go ahead and start those peppers early! Last year, our lunchbox peppers (started inside two months before our frost-free date) had only given us a bit of color before the fall frosts nipped them. So this year, I moved things back another three weeks. Sure enough, we’re already harvesting our first orange peppers in the middle of July. Success!
  • Assertively fling the dirt out of mushrooms. I thought it was really clever to outsource cleaning wild-harvested mushrooms to Mark, but since you all can’t do the same I asked him for his secret. He told me he assertively flings dirty chanterelles into a white bowl. Most dirt flecks will pop off (and be easy to see against the white). Then he scrapes any remaining dirt off with a knife.

Summer bounty

  • Save tomato seeds while making sauce, soup, or juice. Do you have enough tomatoes that you’re starting to cook them up? Set aside an extra minute to save seeds from your favorite varieties in the process.
  • Freeze a bit at a time as you cook dinner. Another thing that’s easy to put off is food preservation. But if you just steam a handful of extra beans every night then sock them away in the freezer, they add up fast!

How’s your garden and pantry growing?