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Log Garden

Gardening can seem tricky in cities where space is limited.

This results in people choosing to create windowsill gardens and grow in potted plants to preserve space. Even then, you may be faced with insufficient amounts of sunlight. There are remedies for this, found in nutritious plants that have the ability to grow in confined spaces, and sustain life with little light exposure.  This comes in handy in places where most is shrouded in shadows cast by multi-story tower blocks. Mushrooms are a good example of this. In the wild they grow on dead trees and, as added convenience for city dwellers, they can grow on logs as well.

The method of growing edible and medicinal mushrooms on logs is called ‘log culture’. It works by simulating the process of fungi growth on dead trees.  There is no need to go out and hack up a dead tree, though, as you can usually get logs within city limits by visiting mulching companies, arborist, or city park departments. Ask them if they have any logs waiting to be mulched and, should they happen to, whether you could have one. This should not be a problem and they will likely be happy to comply.

If you can, find out what type of tree the log is coming from. The best kinds of logs to use are those from dense hardwoods. This includes but is not limited to: oaks, maple, beech, elm, ash, and alder. Ideally, logs used for mushroom gardens should be 6 to 10 inches in diameter and 1 to 6 feet in length. Larger logs take longer to colonize. Once you have your log, the real process can begin.

To start, holes must first be drilled into the log and plug spawn inserted. Plug spawn are tiny wooden dowels colonized with fungi. After insertion, they inoculate the log. You can find them at specialty shops.  Be sure logs have been cut at least two or three weeks prior to being inoculated – but no longer than three months before. After inoculation, the fungi will colonize the entire log, using the log’s mass as nutrients. Within six months to two years, mushrooms will begin to appear. You may continue to receive additional crops of mushrooms for the next several years. The amount of mushroom crops you get will depend on the size of the log and variety of hardwood it comes from.

Mushrooms are a great source of B vitamins and potassium, and can be used for medicinal purposes as well, so you’ll definately benefit from having so many on hand. Especially considering that little effort is required to care for them after the initial ‘log culturing’.

Certain types of edible mushrooms that can be grown using this method are: Oyster, Shiitake, Maitake  (sometimes called “Hen of the Woods”), Chicken of the Woods, and Lion’s Maine.

In addition, medicinal mushrooms like Reishi can be grown. When taken regularly, Reishi mushrooms can be used to restore proper organ function and fine tune the immune system.



Toolbox for Sustainable City Living, Scott Kellogg and Stacy Pettigrew, South End Press


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