Did you know that each type of gourmet mushroom has a preference for a different tree species? Different tree species also influence the mushroom yield depending on their specific qualities. This means your shiitake mushroom yield from oak-grown logs will differ from that of shiitake mushrooms grown on birch or poplar logs.
Contrary to popular belief, the best logs for growing mushrooms are the healthy, undamaged ones, not any hardwood logs you can access. Ultimately selecting the best logs for mushroom spawning is the key to a good harvest.
Softwoods Vs. Hardwoods
Mushrooms are typically plugged into hardwoods and soft hardwoods. This is because softwoods produce much sap, which is antifungal in nature. And since mushrooms are a type of fungus, inoculation will only be possible if softwood logs are used.
Hardwood trees, on the other hand, tend to have less sap, and it runs much quicker, making the logs easier to inoculate.
That said, symbiotic mushrooms grow around softwoods as they benefit from the trees. Bolete mushrooms, for example, like to grow around pine trees. On the other hand, non-symbiotic mushrooms favor hardwoods as they tend to drop more leaves that provide a consistent supply of food for the mushrooms.
The Best trees for Mushroom Logs
As stated above, each type of mushroom prefers a different type of hardwood. Shiitake mushrooms, for instance, tend to do better when oak logs are used. Reishi and Olive Oysterling mushrooms, on the other hand, prefer sugar maple.
Some mushrooms can thrive superbly on more than one type of hardwood. Lions Mane and Combtooth mushrooms prefer Maple, beechwood, hackberry, and mulberry. In comparison, Nameko mushrooms are best grown on Chery, Jack Pine, Aspen, Willow, Cottonwood, or Box Elder.
Most commercial mushroom growers prefer basswood, which is a satisfactory option for mushroom inoculation. Poplar, beech, oak, and maple are great options as they provide a sufficient food supply for the mushrooms. Additionally, they do not scar, and their bark does not come off easily.
Another key factor to consider when selecting trees is the sap content. Hardwoods that are more of a sapwood than a heartwood tend to be better options for growing mushrooms as they provide food for the mushrooms to feed on.
This is why many mushrooms prefer Maple and beech, as they have a sugary sap that helps to feed the mushrooms. The sapwood part also carries nutrients from the tree that helps mushrooms to grow better.
The tree’s durability also plays a role in the productivity of your logs. Oaks, for an instant, can provide mushrooms for up to seven years bi-annually. This is because they are very dense and can nourish your mushroom mycelium for an extended period.
Soft hardwoods such as poplar, paper birch, and alder tend to colonize faster but do not produce a high yield of mushrooms. They are a great option for mushrooms that fruits regularly and produce many mushrooms per harvest, such as oyster mushrooms.
How to Select Logs Mushroom Cultivation
Selecting the best logs for your mushrooms should be based on several factors;
Type of Wood
The type of log you pick should be based primarily on the mushrooms you want to grow. Once you have decided on the mushrooms you want to cultivate, you can select the type of tree logs you should buy or cut down.
Alternatively, you can pick basswood, which is popular among mushroom growers. And poplar or white birch for mushrooms that prefer a softer hardwood, such as oyster, turkey tail, and enoki mushrooms.
The health of the log
The logs you select must have intact bark, which helps prevent the log from losing moisture. Look for logs that look healthy and spot-free. Avoid rotten wood as they may already have other fungi growing on them that can compromise their ability to grow mycelium.
Inspect all the logs you select for damage and disease. Logs with a crack the size of a dime are perfect, as they already have space to plug your spawn. Ensure they have not been infected by another fungus first.
Size of the log
The type of mushroom you are growing determines the diameter of the log. Lions Mane mushrooms, for instance, require a larger diameter as they tend to grow very large.
Consider that larger logs take longer to colonize while smaller logs get colonized much faster. But the smaller logs also tend to run out of nutrients faster. You should also bear in mind the weight of the log. Oaks tend to be heavier, so selecting larger logs will make them difficult to move around.
As a general rule of thumb, look for 3-4 feet long logs with a diameter of 3-10 inches. You can also inoculate freshly cut tree stumps that meet the criteria of the type of log you need for your mushrooms.
Dos and Don’ts of Log Selection
Below are some key points to remember when buying or cutting down logs for mushroom cultivation;
- Look for logs that do not have branches, as these tend to dry out faster due to the lack of bark cover on the cut spots. They are also more prone to external fungus infestation.
- Avoid logs with obvious signs of bug infestation or woodpecker damage, as these weak points allow another fungus into the wood.
Tips when Cutting Down logs
- Look for trees that have partially begun leaf color change, as this signals that they are rich in nutrients and should be able to provide fuel for your trees.
- Harvest logs during fall or winter months as they tend to have a high sugar content which is good for nutritional benefits. Additionally, their barks tend to stay attached.
- Logs cut in winter or early spring while the tree has lost all its leaves have much moisture, which makes fruiting of mushroom spawn much easier.
- You can also use fallen branches that meet the size criteria as long as they have passed the leaf fall stage. Preferably fallen during early summer. Ensure you inoculate any fallen limb logs immediately to prevent colonization by other mycelium strains.
- If you cut logs during summer, you have to soak the wood as it does not have enough moisture.
- Do not cut logs that are partially decayed or have any signs of infection, as they may already have other fungi existing in the logs.
- If you plan to use your logs for shiitake mushroom cultivation, you must age them for a few weeks as they do not spawn in water-saturated logs.
- Curing time varies depending on the type of tree. Inspect the log ends for a slight crack to determine if they are cured. A larger crack indicates excessive dryness, and you may need to soak the logs before inoculating them.
- If you live in an area with excessive snow, you can cut your logs and store them in snow until early spring before inoculating them. Once inoculated, store them in a warm place to accelerate mycelium growth.
- Cut logs with a thicker sapwood layer as they have more nutrients.
- Do not cut logs that have a separating or cracked bark. Or a bark that is missing sheathes. This means the bark is fragile and will fall off eventually.
- Do not cut logs from trees that have suckers. This is an indication that the tree is not healthy.