One of the cool things about being an agriculture agent is that we are encouraged and expected to pursue training opportunities to help us be the best resource possible for our communities. A few weeks ago, I was able to attend a mushroom production training at the UGarden in Athens, and I thought I’d share some of that information this week.

            Some of the most commonly farmed mushrooms include shiitake, oyster, and lion’s mane, though there are a number of others that can be propagated. The type of mushroom you choose to grow will depend on its purpose- most mushrooms are used for consumption but other types are used in homeopathic remedies or wellness products.  Mushrooms can be foraged in the wild (but be sure to have accurate identification of species to reduce risk) or farmed in an outdoor or indoor environment. Indoor environments allow for year-round mushroom production and provide control conditions like weather, temperature, humidity, and cross-contamination of unwanted species. On the flip side, mushrooms can be farmed in an outdoor setting, called forest cultivation, which is more subject to environmental conditions but requires less infrastructure to get started.

            The workshop I attended focused primarily on producing shiitake mushrooms in a forest cultivation setting. Shiitake mushrooms can be sold for anywhere between $8-10 per pound, and a single log will produce roughly 1-2lbs of mushrooms in a season, so while you probably won’t get rich producing them, they might supplement your income or just provide a cool activity or hobby for you to partake in.

            Producing shiitake in a forest cultivation setting is fairly simple. First, you need to source log, or bolts, roughly 4’ long and 6” in diameter, which will serve as your growing medium. The best logs to use are freshly cut in the winter, as this reduces the presence of decay and undesired fungi species from producing and ensures the highest amount of stored carbohydrates in the wood- which is what your mushrooms will use to grow. Different log species can influence the growth of your mushrooms and the number of times you can harvest, but typically, you’ll use a log for 2-3 years.  In our region, oak and sweetgum are the best options, but most hardwoods can work.

            Once you have your bolts, you then need to inoculate them- we used sawdust spawn, which contains mycelium of the desired fungi species in a sawdust carrier.  In our workshop, we drilled lines of offset holes roughly 1” deep around the circumference of the entire log at roughly 4-6” intervals. Then, you use a specific piece of equipment called an inoculator to pack the sawdust spawn into each hole of the wood. Finally, you use food-grade wax to seal each hole you made, the end of the logs, and any area that might provide an entrance point for decay.

            After inoculation, you’ll set your bolts in a shady, damp area, and leave them for roughly 6 months.  The most important thing you’ll need to do in this time is maintain enough moisture in the log for the fungi to thrive – here in Georgia, we’re really looking at July and August as our critical months. The mycelium of the fungi will grow and spread under the bark of the tree throughout that time period. In the fall, colder temperatures will “shock” the mushrooms and cause them to start fruiting or producing. Shiitakes are ready for harvest 7-10 days after they start growing; and it’s best to harvest them by cutting them off the stem at the base. It’s important not to wash your mushrooms in water, so keeping them clean during growth and harvest is important.

            If you have questions on mushroom production, please let us know at or 706-359-3233.

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