How to Cultivate Shiitake Mushrooms
by Jack Mason
There are a few different ways of cultivating shiitake mushrooms. However, the most efficient method of cultivation is to grow the mushrooms from plug spawn (from logs).
Before you get started with cultivating shiitake mushrooms, you need to consider what kind of hardwood trees you have in your forest. A white oak tree is ideal, but elm, alder, sweetgum, and maple trees also make good logs. Coniferous and dogwood trees do not make good logs for growing shiitake mushrooms. However, if you don’t have a forest or have just coniferous trees in your forest you will have to buy the logs.
If you do have a forest, you need to find out the size of the logs and how much bark is on the tree. The logs need to be approximately four to six inches wide and three or four feet long. The more bark a hardwood log has, the more shiitake mushrooms it will produce. If there is not enough bark on the log, then shiitake mushrooms will not fruit.
Next, you cut your hardwood logs. Once the logs have sat around for two weeks, soak them in a container for a full day. This will give enough moisture to the logs to grow your shiitake mushrooms.
Now, you can begin the inoculation process of cultivating shiitake mushrooms. You start by using a drill with an eight-and-a-half-millimeter drill bit to make the first line of holes on your moist logs. Each of these holes should be five inches apart and one-and-a-half inches deep. The next line should be five inches away diagonally from the first line of holes. Continue this process for the other two sides in a way that forms the shape of a diamond.
The next step of the shiitake mushroom inoculation process is to insert the dowels into your log. You can use a hammer or a mallet to do this Then, you seal dowels in the holes by brushing molten wax on each hole. Paraffin or cheese wax is the recommended wax, but while beeswax can work too, it can attract unwanted bees to your shiitake log. The wax will keep your log moist and keep both moss and mold from growing on your log, so that your shiitake mushrooms will grow freely.
The last step of the shiitake cultivation process is to find a well-shaded and open space in your forest. However, if you don’t have a forest near your home, your house, apartment, condo, shed, or barn will do. Once you put your shiitake logs where you want them, wait for them to fruit. However, if there is a drought or if you live in a dry area, such as the Western United States, you will have to check on your logs every two weeks to see if they need to be hydrated.
Your shiitake mushrooms are now ready to grow. You will have to wait between six and twelve months before your shiitake mushrooms will start fruiting. Once the shiitake mushrooms fruit, they can fruit for between three and five years Ideally, you should wait for shiitakes to reach a decent size before picking them. You now know all you need to know to cultivate shiitake mushrooms from spawn.
Clark, Belinda. 2018. “Time to get your shiitake together – grow shiitake on logs.” Accessed January 26, 2023, https://forestfungi.com.au/blogs/forest-fungi/time-to-get-your-shiitake-together-grow-shiitake-on-logs
Koncepts, Kapp. 2022. “How To Care For Your Logs.” Accessed January 26, 2023, https://2funguys.com/how-to-care-for-your-logs/#:~:text=2.,shady%20fence%20or%20a%20tree.
Lyon, Erica, et al. “Shiitake Mushroom Production: Inoculating Logs with Spawn”. Accessed 26, January 2023, https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/f-0040#:~:text=damage%20the%20bark.-,Inoculation,conditions%20for%20the%20spawn%20run.
Russell, Stephen. “The Essential Guide To Cultivating Mushrooms”. North Adams, Massachusetts. Storey Publishing. 2014.
Solderheim, Eric. 2014. “EXPERT TIP: “Choosing and Preparing Logs for Shiitake Mushroom Production”. Accessed 26, January 2023, https://www.carolinafarmstewards.org/expert-tip-choosing-and-preparing-logs-for-shiitake-mushroom-production/#:~:text=For%20the%20sake%20of%20easy,from%20soaking%20to%20encourage%20fruiting.