Help me eat my backyard
January 5, 2022 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to grow edible mushrooms (ideally morels but I'm open to others) in a wooded patch of my backyard. Can you recommend a good mushroom growing kit? What else do I need to know?

The patch is kind of wet as the runoff from our block runs in a ditch / swail right adjacent to the wooded patch, and the soil seems to have a lot of clay. We spread a goodly amount of wood chip mulch over the patch in 2020 to control some runaway vegetation and I am hopeful that the mushrooms can grow in these conditions. It gets ... I think a medium amount of direct sunlight.
posted by gauche to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Morels are a tricky species to cultivate. I would file them under "Very Advanced" to the point where cultivation isn't really common, even among hobbyists. I would not at least start here, but if you're interested in growing mushrooms, this could be a feasible goal down the road. At kit is not going to get you morels; a kit is going to get you the raw materials to eventually get morels in an outdoor environment. You will still need a fair amount of equipment, knowledge and trial and error. Cultivating specific strains outdoors is harder than in controlled indoor environments, but it absolutely can be done. I have grown lots of mushrooms indoors and out, and my morel patch has failed to produce every single year. They're very very very hard ones. Here's an example of how to get some morels cultivated.

King Stropharia (Wine caps) are edibles that grow very well on chips and are pretty aggressive; spawn could easily be introduced to your woodchips and you will likely get edible mushrooms from them.

If you'd be okay keeping some logs back there, shiitakes grow on logs very reliably, and are easy to purchase 'plug spawn' in kits (these are just dowels inoculated with shiitake mycelium). This is a long-lasting great way to obtain mushrooms from gardens.

Youtube university is going to be your best friend, because while there are only a few basic steps to cultivation, there's myriad nuance to those steps and everyone has their own techniques that are modified for their own.

I would at least pick up and review a copy of Radical Mycology from your library (it's out of print right now, with more coming, but is still an intense haul of infomation. I just pick up a copy from the library every few months to reference things I need; growing mushrooms is a slow hobby).

Oyster muyshrooms are the easiest mushrooms to cultivate at home, and can be grown in a 5 gallon bucket, OR, in your case, if you're willing to have straw bales in that area, they would happily grow on that. They're largely happy indoors and out, and they're very agressive. They'll eat anything woody you give them. They won't produce for years on straw, but they'll do their thing and the straw will break down into great soil nutrients.

This advice is not meant to be gatekeepery or dissuade you from trying, but I would start with some easier mushrooms first, and at least grow indoors a couple of times to get the process down.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:24 AM on January 5, 2022 [20 favorites]

OH! I forgot to say: if you're growing edibles on chips outside, you will need to beef up your identification skills. The environments you have to build for mushrooms are agnostic to what mushrooms grow. You WILL get things you did not 'plant' and being able to ID the tasties and the nots is always important, even in more controlled circumstances.
posted by furnace.heart at 7:42 AM on January 5, 2022 [6 favorites]

So the main issue with morels is the issue with mushrooms that form symbiotic relationships with trees and other plants in the soil vs mushrooms that break down dead plant matter. It's far far easier to control and grow the latter since there's far fewer variables to control.

I have had morels randomly show up in my yard some years but not others, and this wasn't through inoculation or anything but due to a confluence of factors that worked out.
posted by Ferreous at 7:42 AM on January 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you want shitake growing logs check this place out. They also give workshops.
posted by mareli at 9:31 AM on January 5, 2022

Anecdata: I've lived in my house for 23 years and only once has a crop of morels manifested. They popped up in a part of the yard (USDA zone 8b, grass lawn on the north side of a tall laurel hedge) where, the previous fall, I had liberally spread the spent pomace from pressing a bunch of cider apples. Coincidence? Replicable? Maybe try renting a press from your local homebrew supply shop and making a batch of cider next year.
posted by mumkin at 9:57 AM on January 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

Morels don’t repeatedly grow on chips, but you can see random ones pop up sometimes. If morels are your goal and you are patient consider growing some heirloom apple trees- these are some of the most common hosts for morels but usually need to be very mature/almost neglected.
posted by genmonster at 11:03 AM on January 5, 2022

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