When it's wet in the garden, we notice lots of wild mushrooms popping up on the mulch. Some are lovely, some are quite ugly, but I delight in all of them, knowing that there is a wonderful web of mycelium down in my soil. Mycelium breaks down organic compounds and makes the nutrients more available to the plants. Heavy toxins can be safely consumed by mushrooms and make the soil safer for vegetable growing. If you have a healthy mycelium, you have a healthy soil!

Recently I dug out a neglected part of my back yard, getting some spots ready for some strawberry transplants. When I turned the top six inches over, I found a beautiful webby network of mycelium. Seeing that, along with earthworms in the soil, means our frequent additions of organic matter over the years have really made a difference to our heavy, clay dirt.

A month or so ago I read a wonderful book called Edible Landscaping with a Permaculture Twist, and  there is an entire chapter about growing mushrooms in your yard. On-purpose mushrooms, not the wild ones that come up and are hard to identify. It turns out you can grow mushrooms in almost any decomposing matter; sawdust, wood chips, coffee grounds. I decided to try it in logs.

First I ordered the spore, from a company called Field and Forest. (If anyone knows a more local company, please let me know. I used this one because it was recommended in the book.) The website has a great sort of flow chart that helps you know what to grow in your yard and when. I determined that the best ones for me to try are oysters. So I picked a variety called Golden Oyster, or Pleurotus cornucopaie. I stored them in the refrigerator until we were ready to inoculate the logs.

The amount of interesting things in my fridge continues to grow.

We picked a log of California Live Oak out of my parents woodpile, trimmed from the trees in their yard. And then we trimmed our Chitalpa tree, and kept a small portion of that to inoculate as well. We'll see which one is better for the job - old cutting, or new?

Today we finally had some time to get the job done, so Tom and I assembled our supplies.

The author of the book highly recommends some good beer, but we didn't have any available. We weren't sure we could carry on without it, but we soldiered through.

The log on the left is the oak, chitalpa on the right. We had a drill with a 5/16" bit, the spore plugs, a lighter, some candles, and a hammer.

First Tom marked the drill bit with tape about an inch down, so he would know how far in to drill the holes. Then we started drilling. We placed the holes in rows with the holes about 6" apart. We made 5-6 rows all around the logs.

Then we took out the plugs, which are inoculated with the mushroom spore.

We put one in each hole, then pounded it in with the hammer...

... until the plug was flush with the log.

We did this with every hole.

Then, the instruction is to fill in around each plug with melted beeswax, using an old dish to melt it in, plus a brush. We didn't have any of that stuff. What we did have was old Halloween candles, so we used those.

By the end, the logs looked like they'd been through some weird party, or were wounded.

I placed the logs in our wettest, shadiest spot in the front yard. They'll stay on the ground for the next few weeks, then I'll lean them up against the pepper tree. They'll need to stay wet and cool, even though they are a heat-tolerant summer mushroom.

There's already quite a bit of natural fungus growing on these logs, so I don't know if that makes me more hopeful for the mushroom crop, or less. Maybe the oyster mushrooms will get crowded out by these other fungi. I'll report back and let you know.