Shitake mushrooms are easy to grow. Japan has been growing them for more than 2,000 years. Along with their great taste, they are high in Vitamin B and low in cholesterol. Shiitake mushrooms are gaining popularity all over the world because of their health benefits and taste. In the United States, the demand for shiitake mushrooms has increased so much that forest owners have started growing them in forests as an angroforestry.
Shitake means “mushroom of the oak,” but you can grow them on sugar maple, ironwood, alder, poplars, yellow birch, and hophombhem. The mushroom, mycelium, produces a flush of shiitake mushrooms on oak. Both white and red oak are best for growing mushrooms.
You should avoid inoculating the log just after the cutting. The tree sapwood contains substances that kill any fungal invasion like coumarins. This defensive nature of the wood can last long, even more than a day. It is best to harvest mushrooms after two weeks of cultivation. But you can inoculate the logs after three days. Also, you should not inoculate them during the hot months of the year. It is best to harvest mushrooms as late as October.
Mushroom Plug Spawn
Mushroom plug spawn is a dowel inoculated with a Shiitake mushroom. The mycelium penetrates and colonizes over the dowel by consuming the lignins in the wood. These plugs help to inoculate freshly cut stumps and logs to harvest mushrooms for many years. After some time, a mushroom colony grows above and around the plug, which is also called mushroom logs.
If you wait for one year after inoculating for mushrooms other than shiitake, a log can produce eatable fungi several times during the year for three to five months. Shiitake logs are easy to maintain. If you are planning to inoculate three to four mushroom logs, then 100 plugs are enough for them.
How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms from Plugs
There are multiple steps for growing mushrooms from plugs.
1. Inoculate Mushroom
The spawn is not active during the cold months of the year, and it is best to inoculate the shiitake log after the cold weather. The ideal time for inoculating starts from the spring. You can continue the process through the warmer months.
2. Purchase Shiitake Mushroom Plugs
Once you get your logs, purchase shiitake mushroom plugs. One hundred plugs are enough for a log measuring 6” in diameter, and 3-4” long. If you want to cultivate more logs, then you have to buy more plugs.
It is best to use shiitake plugs as early as possible, but if you don’t use them, put them in the fridge. You may keep them in the refrigerator for six months or more.
3. Cut the Hardwood
Choose the hardwood tree or branches that are four to eight inches in diameter, and three to four feet long. Oak is best for growing mushrooms. For these dimensions, 100 plugs are enough to inoculate two logs.
Inoculate the logs as soon as possible, so that other species don’t land on the logs.
4. Drill Holes in Logs
Drill your shiitake mushroom logs with a 5/16” drill. Make sure you drill holes in parallel rows in each log. Your drilling will look like a diamond pattern. The holes should be 3-4” away from each other and 1 ¼” deep.
It is best to drill 50 holes in each log, and the log should preferably be 3feet in length. If you take a log larger than 3ft, you will need to drill more holes according to its size. But it is best to use a 3-foot log.
5. Insert Plugs into the Log
Firstly, wash your hands to avoid infecting the log. Take out the plugs from the log in a clean and shaded place. Put the log on the dry surface, such as a zip lock bag and a washed plate.
Place the log on a newspaper to avoid spreading wax on the floor or ground. Start inserting each hole with the shiitake plug. Press them into the holes with a hammer or a rubber mallet.
Make sure the plug fits snugly into the hole. The bottom of the plug should touch the inside surface of the log. Don’t leave any gaps empty because other species can enter into the hole. You can fill the remaining gaps with wax.
6. Apply Wax on Shiitake Logs
Heat the wax on a stove until it melts. Use a paintbrush to seal all the cuts in the log with melted wax. After that, seal each hole with wax, so that all the plugs fit tightly fixed in the hole. And this will create some space between the plugs and the log to allow competing fungi to enter the log.
7. Incubate Shiitake logs
Place the log in a shady and moist location. It should not touch the ground. The extra sunlight is not suitable for your log, and touching the ground can provide a path to other fungi.
You can place a log on a brick, an old palette, or on concrete blocks. You can also cover the log with a breathable cloth so that it isn’t exposed to too much sunlight and can remain moist.
8. Water for Shiitake Logs
Once you place your logs in a designated place, you have to water them sufficiently. In humid weather conditions, you only have to water them once a week for ten minutes. But when it rains, you don’t need to water it.
If you’re growing logs in dry climatic conditions, you will need to water your logs twice a week for more than 10 minutes. Also, avoid watering logs if the temperature is below freezing point.
9. Initiate your Shiitake Logs
Initiating means you have to force the log to produce the mushrooms. Ideally, they are ready to bear fruit after 6 months, but it is better to wait until 9 to 12 months.
Your logs indicate when they are ready. The upper surface of the log gets molted and dark. It means that a colony is spread all over the log.Sometimes log starts producing mushrooms themselves.
When your shiitake logs are ready, soak them in water for 24 hours. After a day, take them out and place them in a shady area, in an upright position. You will see baby mushrooms (primordial) after 2 to 14 days. Water the log once or twice a day for five minutes.
10. Harvest Shiitake Mushrooms
Once the mushroom starts emerging from the log, you can harvest them. There is no standard size in terms of consuming them. You can harvest them when they are small or big.
The Bottom Line
Shiitake mushroom plugs grow mushrooms faster. They help you to harvest mushrooms after some months, but this is the easiest method for beginners. You can enjoy fresh shiitake mushrooms the whole year.
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