An experiment in growing mushrooms

A couple of years ago, some large trees fell in my neighbors’ field. I had meant to chop the logs, but never got around to it and they started to rot. Then I got the idea from Ben Falk’s The Resilient Farm and Homestead to use them for growing mushrooms.

If you haven’t grown mushrooms before, they’re different from growing plants. Instead of growing them in soil, you grow them in a substrate, usually some sort of wood like logs, sawdust, or wood chips. Instead of seeds, mushrooms are planted with spore-inoculated wood, either plugs or sawdust depending on the type of mushroom.

While it’s doubtful you’ll live exclusively on mushrooms, there are some compelling reasons to grow them. Primarily, they’re pretty low maintenance once they’re established and will return season after season. Some will come back for longer than others and some take longer to start growing than others.

For our experiment, I ordered 25 golden oyster plugs from Etsy for $10. The golden oyster mushrooms are reportedly easy to grow and easy to identify. You can find much bigger deals on larger packs of plugs, either of one type or a variety. I wanted to keep our initial experiment focused and cheap.

I should say up front that we didn’t do things exactly by the book. Here’s how you’re supposed to plant mushroom plugs:

  1. Cut down a small-diameter tree.
  2. Soak the log or logs in water.
  3. Drill holes in the log(s). The pros inoculating a lot of logs recommend an angle grinder with a special attachment over a drill, as it’s faster.
  4. Drive the plugs into the holes with a hammer or mallet.
  5. Coat the holes and each end of the log with melted wax to hold in moisture and keep out competing organisms.

I didn’t use a fresh log, but there wasn’t any visible fungi growing on it. And I wasn’t concerned about moisture because it’s in a shady spot next to a creek and practically dripping with moisture. So I opted out of using wax.



I took my oldest son out with a drill, a hammer, and the plugs. He cheerily used the claw end to knock bark off the log while we took turns drilling holes and hammering in plugs.


  • Comments (7)

    • 3

      I’m looking forward to how your fungus garden turns out.  While they have almost no calories, they are loaded with nutrition and are heart healthy.  I might grow some myself.  Surely I’ve got some rotten logs around here.

    • 2

      I really hope you do get some mushrooms, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up if I were you. 

      Sorry to say, the instructions about using fresh logs exist for a reason.  Fungi is what eats the wood and makes the log rot, so it’s there whether it’s visible or not, and has already eaten a lot of the best food your oyster mushroom mycelium will be looking for. 

      Sorry for the negativity, but I think you should try again next time you have new wood to use.

      • 1

        Maybe he could have shaved off some of the rotting log and exposed some fresh or less rotted wood and planted in there. Hope it still works out for him!

      • 1

        Well maybe it’ll work and maybe it won’t. That’s experimentation! I always like seeing how far I can stray away from the “proper” way and still get results.

      • 1

        That’s true, you did say experiment! 

        Just don’t get discouraged about growing mushroom in the future if it doesn’t work:)

    • 4

      This is super cool! Are you familiar with David Dinkenberger and Allfed? They’re working on plans for scaling up food production in a moderate to severe food shortage, especially for a protracted nuclear winter. One of their early plans was to push mushrooms, which don’t require much sunlight and feed on stuff that’s humans can’t eat. Fun to see how it would work in the real world. 

      We could feed all eight billion people through a nuclear winter. David Denkenberger is working to make it practical.

      • 3

        I’m not familiar with the names, but I have heard of that project.