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Mushrooms in Your Garden

Mushrooms are a great addition to a no-till garden, and to your landscaping and compost areas. They are also great in your woodlots and under your trees, and can even be grown in your lawn. That's right, tasty edible mushrooms can be grown anywhere in your yard or gardens where you do NOT use herbicides or pesticides (but you weren't going to anyway, were you?).

Mushrooms concentrate contaminants in the fruiting bodies - in other words, the mushroom "plant" is a great mass of mycellium (the technical word for mushroom fungus) that grows underground or in wood, or in your compost. They are great for cleaning up toxic messes, because they filter the gunk, and send it up into the fruiting bodies - those are the mushrooms you see above ground or on the logs, and which we eat - and in this way, they remove chemicals and other contaminants from the soil. This is why I am starting with this little bit- because they can be used that way to clean up an area that has been herbicided or pesticided previously. Just make sure you DO NOT EAT the mushrooms for 1-2 years. After that, they should be just fine for consumption, as long as you do not apply any more chemicals.

Mushrooms can grow symbiotically with your plants, either in your landscaping, or in your vegetable gardens, or fruit orchards. They make nutritients more available for the plants, and the plants in turn make moisture available to the mushrooms and provide shade. There are several types that work well in gardens and on the edges of compost piles, or in deep mulch under landscaping.

Elm Oyster - There is some confusion about this variety, as the majority of mushrooms with this label are NOT hypsyzigus tessalatus, but in fact a variety of Pleurotus (skip this if you don't understand it). The one you want is the one that looks like a fan shaped mushroom, white, with a short stem on the side, and gills that run across the mushroom cap and down onto the stem. It will grow on straw, in garden mulch, or on compost piles, and even on toilet paper or paper towels, or cardboard. It likes warm weather and will bear during rainy spells in late spring and early summer. It grows well with plants and can help your vegetables produce better.

Wine Cap - Can be grown in deep mulch that is partially composted, and loves the edges of compost piles. Do not consume with alcohol, and cook well before eating.

Freckled Dapperling - LOVES potting mix and deep mulch in a garden, and grows wonderfully anywhere there is a little woody debris in a sandy soil. A heavy bearer, helps the plants grow better. Do NOT consume with alcohol, and cook well before eating.

Shaggy Parasol - Grows well under landscaping, loves woody compost with some light ground cover. Cook well before eating.

Shaggy Mane - This is an Inky Cap mushroom, which MUST BE EATEN within a few hours of picking. If the bottom of the cap is already turning black it is already breaking down - it turns into inky goo as it ages. Pick when firm and white, and use immediately. Works well in compost areas, in lawns with clippings left on them, and in gardens with mulch.

Portobello, Criminis, and White Buttons - Agaricus Bisporus, Agaricus Brunnescens, Agaricus Bitorquis, Agaricus Arvensis, Agaricus Campestris, and other Agaricus species which produce white or brown buttons. These grow in lawns, under trees and landscaping, in the garden in mulch (in shady areas or under large plants), in compost piles, and other areas. They are all easy to grow outdoors - simply sow them in, and then maintain an area with a lot of organic matter, and regular watering. They will pop up and bear after rainy periods. All may be used the same way as white buttons or Portobellos.

MANY other gourmet mushrooms can be sown into your yard and garden, to produce tasty mushrooms throughout the year. Some bear in the spring, some summer, some fall, and a few in the winter.

Be sure you know what the mushroom looks like, and how to identify it (this is generally not difficult for the species listed), and don't pick any other odd looking ones. Your mushrooms will grow where you sowed them in - look for them there, and don't pick anything that does not look right. Growing mushrooms out of doors is perfectly safe, and the chance that a look-alike that was not healthy would grow where you planted your mushrooms is not something that is likely to occur for a number of reasons. If you know your mushroom, you can ensure that you get only the mushrooms you intended.

The wonderful thing about mushrooms in the garden is that you can add them into your garden, to grow amongst your current crops, without any additional space, and your garden will produce more in the same space! And they are an important part of permaculture and polyculture farming.

Look for gro-kits, or go to our Mushroom Store to find spawn that can be sown out of doors.

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