We have grown mushrooms on many occasions. The kits available make it easy to grow shiitake, oyster and buttons but for serious hobbyists, purchasing innoculated plugs and loose spawn are the preferred methods. Last year in the spring, Darry innoculated some oak logs with shiitake plugs and 16 months later, we are harvesting mushrooms for the first time here in Virginia. It takes a long time for the mycelium to spread out within the log and when conditions are right, it produces fruit; mushrooms are the fruit of the mycelium.
Fresh shiitake look very different from the ones commonly found in the supermarket. Notice the shaggy appearance of the cap? It was surprising to me as well-I forgot about that!
While many mycelium grow in wood, many more grow in the ground. The mycelium for a web that spreads out under the soil surface and when the conditions are right, mushrooms pop up. Right now, stink horns are popping up all over the ground under our crape myrtle and in areas of our former vegetable garden. They are bright orange and are the subject of more than a few less than “tasteful” jokes in our yard. The greenish-brown top has a strong odor which attracts flies who in turn, spread the spores of the fruit. Without flies, these stink horns would not be able to reproduce.
Stink horns are very fragile and do not last long. They come up early in the morning and by late afternoon, this is what they look like. The good news, mushrooms growing in the garden is not a bad thing. Not only are they good at helping to compost things like wood, they can also improve the soil in the garden and increase the yields of vegetable plants. When you see them growing in the garden, leave them there and enjoy the benefits of the mycorrhizae-the symbiotic association of the mushroom mycelium and the roots of plants as they grow in the same space.
Along with the stink horns, our former garden is full of these fragile mushrooms. They are rather small, notice the blades of grass? And just like the stink horns, they do not last long and are generally gone by late afternoon. The mycelium for this mushroom is all over the garden area. They came up in beds and walkways and all over the front yard. We let them do their thing and left them to break down in the beds. This spread the spores and allowed them to spread and it also helped to improve the soil. If you are looking for good, organic garden soil, be sure to grab a bag with mycorrhizae in it and see the difference it makes when you have active and living soil in your garden!