Mushroom Inoculation Day

by Daisy


Sometimes when bloggers don’t post it’s because they haven’t been doing anything worth blogging about. Sometimes it’s because they’ve been doing so much they don’t have time to blog about it; things happen faster than they can photograph them and there isn’t time in-between tasks to sit down and write down what they’ve been doing.

Then sometimes bloggers don’t post because they just don’t.

I’ve been in the last category. I’ve been doing things, taking pictures even, but the sitting down and collecting it all in a post hasn’t been happening much. Maybe it’s the seven year blogger blahs. Who knows? I’m going to try to be better this year.  Call it a resolution, call it a well-meaning attempt, just don’t call me late for mushroom inoculating.

Which I was, actually. That is, I inoculated my mushrooms logs too late this year. Ideally mushroom inoculation should be done some time before prolonged periods of temperatures below 18 degrees F. (according to Tradd Cotter’s advice in his book Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation).  Hopefully, though, since we seldom stay below freezing around here for more than a few days at a time, I’ll be okay.

I inoculate like I blog: after a nice long bout of procrastination.

I inoculated about 25 logs with shiitake and oyster mushroom spawn, both different strains than the shiitake and oyster mushroom spawn I successfully grew last year.  I also used the totem method to treat some log sections with nameko and lion’s mane mushroom spawn.

I’ve never tasted nameko OR lion’s mane or seen them in real life, but I’m taking a chance I’m going to like them. That is my brand of living on the edge.

In the above photo you can see my set-up; the sawbuck on the left holding the log, a handy stump table for the corded drill, and a thrift store slow cooker to melt the cheese wax to seal the logs.

I drill holes in a diamond pattern all up and down and all around the logs. They are spaced about 6 inches apart for shiitake. There are recommended spacings for the holes depending on the type of mushroom spawn (shiitake, oyster, etc.) you are using. I don’t always adhere strictly to these rules so if you see some variation, that’s my creative license at work. I use a stop collar on my drill bit so my creativity is stifled regarding the depth of the hole; too deep and the spawn may dry out, too shallow the amount of spawn in the inoculation tool won’t all go in.


Here I jam the inoculation tool into the bag of spawn to fill it with the right amount of the sawdust spawn.  Once it’s filled up, it’s the correct, premeasured amount to fill the hole I drilled.


Then I position the inoculation tool over the hole and wham! hit it with a hammer. My tool sticks and won’t work with thumb or palm pressure. I have to wham it in. Even if it didn’t stick, my hand would be swollen and sore for days if I whammed that many logs without the help of a hammer. My hands aren’t as young and resilient as they used to be.


This is how it looks with the sawdust spawn.


The next step is to brush melted wax over the filled holes to seal in the moisture. I use cheese wax I get from the mushroom spawn supplier. I put chunks of it in a heatsafe bowl which I set inside the crock pot. If you are doing this for the first time, here’s a tip: Make sure to turn on the pot at least an hour before you start to drill because it takes quite a long time to melt in the crock pot. Other ways to melt include a camp stove or an electric burner. I like the slow, steady, and safe pace of the crock pot, but plan ahead because you don’t want to be waiting around for your wax to melt once the holes are drilled and the spawn is waiting to be sealed under its nice warm coating of wax.


Careful with the hot wax. And consider an apron; my wool coat now has a nice patch of wax right in the front with sawdust embedded in it.


If you are on the fence about the aluminum labels to tack onto your logs for identification, get them. They’re cheap and they make the logs look very official. (Plus they identify which is which).


Inoculating these 25 logs took me two (almost) full days of pretty tiring work by myself. Next time I work with this much timber I need to have a mushroom inoculation party, invite some people over, serve some good food, and knock this out in one day.

Disclaimer: This post may contain a link to an affiliate.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

michelle January 8, 2015 at 10:26 am

It’s January 8 and about 7 degrees outside. When is the next ideal time this year to start this process?

Daisy January 8, 2015 at 11:33 am

Michelle, For where we are, late March/early April. It’s considered best to inoculate after the last hard frost if inoculating in the spring. After that, for a fall inoculation, the best time is a month to a month-and-a-half before the first hard frost to give the mycelium enough time to begin to colonize the logs before persistent sub-freezing temps set in. (For us, ideally that would be late Oct./early November). It’s never too early to start your spawn wishlist, though!

Sue January 8, 2015 at 11:35 am

Perfect timing! I read your thousandth post about the reishi mushroom stump and your mycroremediaton post, and I decided to try the mushroom thing ( you are so inspiring!) so I asked for one of those mushroom kits for Christmas. I have oyster mushrooms growing on my dining room table as we speak. I’ve been exploring growing more, whether to do indoor or out door, sat down at my computer to do some more research, and here is your post! More inspiration! Thanks!

Amber January 8, 2015 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for sharing your experience! I have never done mushroom logs, but I want to.

Oh, and being a clumsy candle person, I totally hear you about the wool coat. *sigh* I hope you can get it brushed out!!

Debbie January 8, 2015 at 3:26 pm

I love that you’re growing mushrooms and sharing how to do this at home. I plan to buy the book you reference, as well. But, I do have a question. My mother in law says that it is possible for home grown mushrooms to become crossed with potentially poisonous ones, especially as I live in a hot, humid climate. Do you know if this is true or if this is an uncommon occurrence?

Thanks in advance for the info.


Daisy January 8, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Debbie–You’ve asked a good question. I’m not qualified to answer it. I did some looking around and found very little information on the subject. I suggest you ask a mushroom expert to get a definitive answer. I will say, just by the paucity of interest in this topic across the net, I would guess that it is, while probably possible, not a red flag issue in the world of mushrooming. But one should never guess about potentially dangerous things, so if this concerns you, keep looking for a definitive answer. I’ll be checking around, too. Anyone with the 411, please chime in.

radbola January 9, 2015 at 2:56 pm


radbola January 9, 2015 at 3:04 pm

Debbie ~ I am a “mushroom expert” and no, they do not cross breed like that however, poisonous and deadly look-alikes are out there and they don’t “look” poisonous. A mushroom field guide will list the spore color and characteristics for identification. If she is concerned that a poisonous mushroom will grow in with the others, they usually don’t do that either as one mushroom will dominate and take all the food in the patch, outgrowing and starving the other one. If you have a purchased patch or known strain everything should go well.
In 20 years I have not seen a kit produce another species. The safety is in knowing the spore color and characteristics. The Audubon field guide for North American mushrooms is cheap and very helpful. Cheers! Happy mushrooming!

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