Archive for October, 2011

Mushroom Garden Beds Using Far West Fungi Farm Mushroom Sawdust Loaves

Monday, October 31st, 2011

If you joined us on the Far West Fungi Field Trip and brought back some of the mushroom sawdust blocks or loaves to use in your garden, here’s some info on how to treat them:

The loaves with the leathery chocolate colored skin are shiitakes. The rest that are white are most likely white, brown, or gray oysters. Trumpet oysters form white sheets of mycelium on the top of the block that often retain the thick cut bases of the trumpet oysters. The loaves of golden or pink oysters should have some remnants of those colors on them. In addition you may by chance have some of the less common Reishi, maitake/hen-of-the-woods, or lion’s mane/crabalone.

First cut any mushroom stems remaing on the loaves down to the surface of the sawdust so they don’t continue decaying.

Soak the loaves in water in a wheel barrow, tub, or barrel with a weighted board on top to keep them submerged for 12-24 hours (not longer at one time as they may drown). Some folks like to soak them in hydrogen peroxide water as it kills off the mold some, though this is an extra overhead step that isn’t necessary. This should be no more than .3% concentration. That would be two bottles of 3% H2O2 from the drug store poured into a 5 gallon bucket and fill with water. After 24 hrs the H2O2 decays to water and can be poured off into the garden.

Put the soaked loaves of sawdust bottom side down on a bed of chippy wood chips 6-12? deep and 3×3′ or 4×4?, or longer in length if you have more blocks. You want chippy wood chips from logs and branches as they are the better food for these wood eating mushrooms than leafy or twiggy stuff that doesn’t last very long and gets more mold and bacteria. On top of the wood chips should be placed one or two layers of unwaxed carboard as the bottom of the blocks are more likely to leap off and grow into the chips if they are in contact with the layer of cellulose cardboard against the surface of the bottom of the loaf. The blocks should be placed side by side butted up against each other and they will often grow back together sideways, especially if they are all of one kind like shiitakes or oysters.

On top of the loaves of sawdust you should place fluffed up straw, excelsior, or draped burlap as a humidity layer for the mushrooms to sprout up into and not dry out. Excelsior is the stringy aspen wood fibers sometimes used in packaging material instead of syrofoam peanuts. If you use burlap you can place stakes in and around the bed to tent it above the mushrooms.

A simple way of taking care of the cardboard layer and the humidity layer is to place the loaves in unwaxed cardboard boxes on top of the wood chips. The blocks can be placed one layer deep in a cardboard box side by side in contact with each other filling the bottom surface of the box. The box should be the depth of the block height plus that much more to allow the mushrooms room to grow above the loaves. The flaps on the top of the box provide the humidity layer when the box is folded closed.

When the loaves are installed in your mushroom beds in a shady, non windy part of the garden the rains will keep the blocks and humidty layer wet all winter long during the November to May rainy season with very little work on your part, except to harvest mushrooms. If the weather goes through a dry spell you may have to water periodically.

Ideally the mushroom loaves will send out mycelial tentacles down into and through the cardboard to the wood chips anto pick up more nutrients to add to the blocks. If they don’t “leap off” they will at least continue producing mushrooms out of the sawdust remaining in the loaves until they are used up in a few months to a year.

Your success may vary depending upon how fresh the blocks are and the type of mushroom and how regular the rains are in the season as extra watering maybe needed. Check through the straw/excelsior/burlap once a week or so for fruiting mushrooms and keep the straw fluffed so it doesn’t get compacted.

Let us know on your results at or

Far West Fungi Farm Field Trip Potluck BBQ – Halloween Sunday October 30th 2011 12-3ish

Friday, October 21st, 2011

The Merritt Community College Mushroom Cultivation class is having our annual Fall Potluck BBQ Field Trip to the organic Far West Fungi Farm in Moss Landing on Sunday October 30th from noon to 3ish. The Merritt Fermentation Club will be meeting there at the same time, too. Members of the Mycological Society of San Francisco are hereby invited to join us to kick off the mushroom season with a bang.

John and Toby Garrone, who have their Far West Fungi shop at the Ferry Building in SF, grow white, gray, brown, pink, gold, and trumpet oysters, shiitake, lion’s mane, maitake, and reishi in several large warehouses along with some acreage of traditional crop plants that their employees grow for their own use. They grow everything certified organic on recycled materials.

After the farm tour John and Toby will have their big grill out for grilling their fresh mushrooms and whatever grillables you bring. It is free with admission of a pot luck item andor slabs of something for the grill. You may invite your friends with their potlucks, too.

The Merritt Fermentation Club is joining the field trip for their monthly fermentation meeting/ taste testing/ ferment comparisons. Ferments include but aren’t limited to wine, beer, mead, kombucha, kimchee, sauerkraut, yeast rising bread, tempeh, yogurt, cheese, etc. If you would like to check out the club and try the brews, and contribute yours bring them to share with your potluck. Check with “David Gardella” for details about the Fermentation Club.

After the tour and potluck we can raid the recycle pile for mushroom compost and bring back as many once-harvested mushroom blocks as we can carry. We try to take as big of vehicles as possible to pick up as many mushroom blocks as you like. Bring big tough plastic garbage bags to sort and carry the various types. Or plastic trash cans. The blocks have plenty of life left in them and can be used to make mushroom beds in your back yard that can continue fruiting for months in your garden. We describe that process to you there and on the Cultivation Blog of the site.

CARPOOL 9am Rockridge BART escalators: For East Bay folks (or West Bayers BARTing) that want to join the Mushroom Cultivation class carpool, we’ll meet at 9amish and leave by 10ish at the Rockridge BART at the base of the escalators. Bring your car and your self and we’ll see how many cars can park there and how many will take passengers. Riders pay $5 to the driver for gas. Email me if you would like to participate in the carpool.

To assure that we have more than enough cars compared to riders please don’t just show up expecting to get a ride. Please email me personally, including your phone, to let me know that you are coming and can bring your’s or a friend’s vehicle that can take some extra passengers. If we have more than enough vehicles, the extras can coalesce into as few vehicles as possible. What cars aren’t needed can be left at the BART parking lot. Priority is given to seating all the class members first.

If West Bay folks would like to organize a carpool at one of the peninsular BART stations let me know and maybe we can help some with that.

Bring your cameras for pix and vids.

You may also purchase fresh organically grown mushrooms from the Garrones at the farm.

This event is on rain or shine so bring your rain gear if needed to get from warehouse to warehouse. Everything else is outside if the weather is good or under shelter if it is wet.

Thanks Ken

litchfield.ken@… litchfield dot ken at gmail dot com

Directions (Print them out to take with you): Farm-Far West Fungi 1186 Trafton Road Moss Landing, CA 95039 (831) 728-5469 The farm is off of Highway 1 south of Watsonville (2 routes available)

1. South 280 to Hwy 85, follow to Hwy 17 (towards Santa Cruz) Hwy 1 South towards Watsonville, turn right on Jensen Road (at Dominic’s Fruit Stand – now demolished for the widening of the road) Right on Bluff Rd., right on Bluff, right on Trafton Rd. First driveway on the left

2. 101 South passed Gilroy, 129 west to Watsonville, South on Hwy 1 Right on Jensen Road ( at Dominic’s Fruit Stand – now demolished for the widening of the road) Right on Bluff Road, Right on Trafton Road. First driveway on the left