Mushrooms, Micorrhizae, and garden trees

Michael_Rudmin
By Michael_Rudmin on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 - 6:59pm

I can't quite say this is a how-to: I am trying to develop my processes.

I am getting ready to try to put in some trees, and I read that symbiotic (mycorrhyzae) mushrooms can really boost the growth and yield. Now, If I understand correctly, one common mycorhyzzal mushroom is the amanita. I really don't want to encourage amanitas. Someone sees a death-cap, and thinks it a straw mushroom, and that would be very bad.

So... what I'm intending to do is this:
1) buy dried morels, Porcini, Chanterelles, and -- if I can get it, truffles. I hear there's a pecan truffle available, or there are European truffles. Likewise, there are known-edible boletes that I could get, if I can find the dried varieties.

2) buy organic compost, hardwood mulch, sawdust, and 1/8" sections of oak 2x4. Heat it in a crock pot, then cool it, mix it with powdered baby oatmeal, and then sprinkle various mushroom powder over it.

3) put the mixes in peat pots, doubled to make them dark, and label them.

4) when mycellium cover the oak chips, use them to shove little chunks in under the newly sprouted trees.

I will attempt various combinations of mushrooms with each type of tree, label it, and then watch the performance.

----

Now, that said, my current plans are no more specific than that. Proportions of each item, I intend to record... but the details are open, because really, I know nothing.

If anyone has any suggestions, I'd lik. to hear them.

14 Comments

Michael_Rudmin's picture
Michael_Rudmin
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mychorrizhal starter mix

My first attempt at mychorrizhal starter mix is going to be as follows:

2 cans water, 1 can hardwood mulch, 2 cans organic compost.

I put all that in my crock pot, and put it on high. On top of that, I pile a can and a half of oak 1/8" chips (sliced 2x4).

I'm going to leave that overnight. In the morning, I will drain the water, and mix it with enough powdered oatmeal to make a thiin dough. I will take the oak chips off and break them in two, mix the dough with the rest of the compost, and then place in labeled peat pots. Then one by one, I embed a few oak chips, sprinkle on a mushroom, close the peat pot with a can lid, and then wash my hands, ready for the next pot.

I have morel, chanterelle, porcini, and -- though it is only saprophytic, I will also have maitaki because I like it, and didn't like what grew from the kit I bought.

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kmaher
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I've been taking the life in

I've been taking the life in the soil classes with Dr. Elaine Ingham and she talks about innoculating the wood chips used in the composting process to achieve maximum fungal diversity.  Her suggestions are very simple.  Find as mature a patch of woods as you can, perhaps where you can feel the spongy texture of the soil as you walk, take a small sample of soil and place one foot deep into wood chips that you are planning on composting.  Repeat if possible from other areas with a good fungal presence.  Anytime you find good thick mycelium holding organic matter together you should be dealing with beneficial fungi.  The composting process will allow the diversity of fungi to multiply but if you didn't want to build a thermal compost pile and have to monitor the temperature and turn the piles, placing the wood chips around the new trees or in the hole when you see the mycelium growing should work as well.  Good luck let us know how it goes.  I'm planning on doing quite a bit of this myself this year.

Kevin

ps. fungi perfecti also sells an innoculum which i'm sure is great but you'd probably get more diversity, more suited to your location using local strains.

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mlindsey
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Soil Bacteria and Mychorrihzae Fungi

I am taking a course in soil restoration, one that was offered through Jack Spirko of The Survival Podcast and PermaEthos. I started this last October, just in time to get a good compost pile made before winter set in. I purchased a microscope which has a built in video camera so I can test my soils and compost to be sure what biology is present. If you can't do this yourself, you are just guessing as to whether you are doing any good or not. I had a friend attempt to brew a tea from his compost pile, he brought me a sample last week and I checked it on my microscope. He was dismayed to find he had zero life in it. Compost and compost tea's that you are trying to grow soil organisms in must be done properly.  Starting with good healthy compost is critical. I used to think of compost as a natural fertilizer, it can be used like that and you can get good results in your garden or around your trees, but that doesn't mean you are building life in the soil.

There are a variety of ways you can inoculate the compost / tea with local soil bacteria. You can make compost tea by simply going out into the forest in your area and digging up soil from around the base of the trees. That is what my friend did, he brought me another sample from a new batch of tea and this time he had lots of life present. We did see a few strands of fungal hyphae present too. You can take the same soil and add it to a properly prepared compost pile.

If you are going to use this compost directly in your garden or make compost tea for your garden, the pile must reach certain temperatures and be turned several times over the following weeks to kill off the pathogens. If you are going to use this compost around trees, pathogens from manure you might use in the compost are not as critical to get rid of.

You do not want to cook compost tea or Mychorrihzae fungi. Compost tea's should be kept at room temperature, around 75 degrees. If a person is trying to inoculate the soil around your trees, I would simply cut up the mushroom, scratch the soil and drop the mushroom parts on the ground. Then cover them with leaves, preferably ones that have been mulched so they are dense and don't blow away easily. Add some small branches, again preferable mulched ones. The pieces need to be small so they make good soil contact. Add your compost to this, layering it like you would make Lazania.  Then wet the area.

I have had good success growing Mychorrihzae fungi by using a liquid source that was recommended to me by my course instructor. This Orca premium Mychorrihzae by Plant Revolution. You can find it on Amazon. I took a plastic garden tray, 10x20 roughly. I put a layer of potting soil in the bottom, then added a sprinkle of worm castings, sprinkled a good amount of Quaker oat flakes over the tray, then mixed up a small amount of the Orca and misted it over the tray. Oats are a great food for the fungi. You need to cover this, don't leave it out in the sunlight. Less than one week later I removed the lid and found the entire tray was covered with white fungi, so thick you could barely see the potting soil. The fungi was do entwined in the soil you had to cut it with a knife. I did this to test the quality of the Orca product, I took samples and checked in under the microscope and found lots of soil life present, not just the Mychorrihzae. Definitely a good product. Expensive, but it goes a long way.

I tried to use this to make a fungal tea to spray around my fruit trees, but the tea went anaerobic and I had to toss it out. The mistake I made was the fungi brownie I had made was so dense that it would not beak down in the tea brewer. It stayed lumped together in the tea bag. Compost tea must be well aerated or it will go anaerobic. It was easy to tell it had gone bad because it stunk like crap, healthy compost tea should smell earthy and fresh, not like fresh manure. 

In the future, I will grow the fungi again like I did, but I will use it when I plant trees, or I will dig down into the soil around trees I have recently planted and drop in a few small pieces of the fungal brownie to inoculate the soil.

 

 

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Michael_Rudmin
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Thanks for the notes.

This is EXACTLY why I like this website: your notes are educational. I am broadcasting my methods, and will report how it does bit by bit.

Recently, the fungus that I seeded is heavily sprouting in each cup. Anyhow, I hope it is the fungus I seeded, though I really won't know until my results come in. But having cooked the compost to destroy all life there BEFORE seeding, it is my hope that it really will be what I had intended.

I'm really going to be interested to hear more about your own experiments, though. The more experiments with methods published, the better. Those who break through to success will then help guide the others to success too, possibly.

BTW... does anyone have pecan truffles?

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mlindsey
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An overview.

Michael,

Something to keep in mind is that the soil is full of life and all of the diversity is necessary for a healthy environment. I don't personally see any reason to cook out all other life unless you are using a material that you know is suspect to have pathogens. I am going to spin off subject a bit here to explain where I am coming from. 

I have a 160 acre ranch that my wife and I purchased 2 years ago. I took a Permaculture design course and with help from others with the same experience, we are setting up a sustainable food production system. I started 2 years ago with a D5 dozer and put in nearly 3000 feet of swales. Some are in a Zone 1 area near my house and barn, these swales are planted with fruit bearing plants such as Elderberry, Black Berry, Gogi Berry, Gooseberry, Blue berry and others. The area between the swales is about 150 feet wide, this is planted with a blend of forage crops for our chickens, rabbits and goats.

In a Zone 2 pasture we dug 3 swales that are each 800 feet long. We planted fruit trees on one of the swales in the fall of 2014 and we planted another swale this past November. I have roughly 100 trees planted here as well as more Elderberry and Blackberry.

Surrounding each of these trees we are planting a variety of support species. Autumn Olive, Black Locust, Mimosa, Sea Buchthorn. These all are nitrogen fixing. Added to that we are planting 5-6 Comfrey plants around each tree, I have over 150 Comfrey sprouted in the greenhouse now waiting for the chance of frost to pass. I also have over 100 black locust sprouted as well. I have had packages of seeds arriving for the past 3 days that will also be planted around the fruit trees.

I thought I had a pretty good idea what needed to be done until I started this soil restoration course last fall. This turned my world upside down. Having spent the last 5 months with the course as well as researching all the online material I can find, I can say I have a direction I am headed in. I highly recommend people listen to the interview Adam did last year with the owners of Singing Frogs Farm. This was on May 23, 2015. This was an inspirational interview for me. I had begun the soil course shortly after I listened to this interview. Then I started researching information from Elaine Ingham and in the process stumbled across a fantastic UTube channel called Living Web Farms. You will find yourself glued to the screen soaking up all the information on this site. From making Biochar (which I am doing my first char cooking this weekend) Cover cropping, Orcharding from Michael Phillips, raising black soldier flies, market gardening and many others. You want to learn about how to care for fruit trees, Michael Phillips is at the top of the list. There was also a series of video's from Ingham, but I think they have been removed for some reason. You can find plenty on her from other UTube channels.

The thing that I have taken away from all of these different experts is that we have to understand where various plants originated in nature and try and simulate those conditions in our gardens, pastures and orchards. For most garden soils, we want to create a balance of soil bacteria and fungi. Fruit trees originated at the forest edge where the fungi to to bacteria ratio is closer to 10-1. In the old growth forests, the fungi is closer to 100-1 bacteria. Knowing where plants originate will help us to create the proper environment for them. There are exceptions to your garden vegetables such as tomato's which need a higher percentage of fungi, same with Garlic. Strawberries originated on the floor of the old growth forest so if you plant strawberries in your native soil which is dominated by bacteria and has little to no fungi, they will never do well. My wife is planting 4 raised beds with strawberries this weekend, last years died or barely produced any fruit at all. I now know why! I will be dosing my strawberry beds with a compost tea that is brewed for high fungi content, as well as pouring rain water that we added the liquid fungi spoors to. Another important thing to consider is you never want to leave soil bare. I use shredded leaves to cover all my raised beds with.

I am working to build a fungal duff (Michael Phillips terminology) around each of my fruit trees. To mimic the best I can what Nature does at the forest edge. An environment that will be favorable more to fungi than to bacteria, but both are necessary.

All I have learned from my Permaculture and soil studies so far, two things stand out to me and the most important things to focus on and become proficient in. Plant propagation and soil biology. You can overcome nearly all obstacles if you know these areas.

One last thing I wanted to touch on, don't till!!! One time to break up the soil which is likely dead anyway is not going to hurt, but once you start down the path to rebuilding your soil biology, tillage is bad news. The bacteria we are trying to grow are aerobic, they need oxygen. If you disc or till the soil, you bury the soil life and smother it. Don't dig up the plants you are removing from your garden. Cut the stem off at the soil and leave the root system. The bacteria will feed on these dying roots, plus your new plants will tap into that already existing soil biology that supported the previous plants and cause the new ones to grow much faster. If you till your garden each spring, or after each planting, you are starting all over again. I have bought a no till grain drill to use with my tractor to plant my animals forage crops as well as cover crops that will build soil biology in my pastures.

I'm looking forward to participating in these conversations and learning from each others experiences and knowledge.

Mike in Oklahoma.

 

 

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Michael_Rudmin
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Okay, please address what may be a misconception of mine.

I am not just interested in improving the soil. I am also interested in getting easily confirmed, known edible species of mushroom going, especially the delicacies. To that end, my thought was that if I first kill all other sushroom spores in a sample, then seed it with the ones I want, then wait for a mycelium mat to grow, and then use that to innoculate my trees, then I will be most likely to get as a bonus, the desired mushroom.

But that method doesn't kill the life in the soil all around, just in the area where I want to plant my "starter". I then use my starter to add to the thriving mix that is already out there.

Does this seem right or wrong to you?

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mlindsey
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Right or Wrong

I see where you are coming from. One thought I have is are the particular mushroom (fungi) you are trying to grow compatible with the trees you are going to inoculate? Will those trees excrete the exudates (sugars) from their roots that those mushrooms need to thrive? I would just gather all the info you can regarding those particular species and experiment. I have never looked into growing edible mushrooms so I am lacking in this particular conversation. 

One of my own experiments... I have 5 apple trees I planted 3 years ago that have not done anything, I can't say for sure they have even grown. They are not dead is all I can say for sure. Before I started learning about soil biology I thought the soil PH was off, or there was not enough nutrient in the soil so I bought fruit tree spikes. No change. They were planted in the native red clay soil and watered. There are thriving thickets of black berries all around this area, the field grasses to wonderful in this particular area. Now I know these native soils are full of bacteria, but no fungi. This winter we dug around the 5 trees and added biochar and worm castings. I will pour compost tea on the soil and spray the leaves as soon as they bud out. I will work towards getting the fungi level up and see if the trees respond. I am also planting a variety of dynamic accumulators/ tap root plants, I already mentioned Comfrey. I am adding dandelion, Daikon radish, Marshmallow. These will bring up deep earth minerals and make them available to the trees. You might look into planting Red Crimson Clover around your trees this fall, Red Clover has a symbiotic relationship with Mycorrhizal Fungi. I would think these kinds of things would also be of benefit to the edible mushrooms as well.

I would cover the ground around the trees with the shredded leaves and top with remeal wood chips. You don't want to use chips from branches larger than 2". It effects the carbon/nitrogen ratio in the soil. You can also add some healthy compost to this mix as well. Do all you can to mimic nature's environment.

 

 

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Michael_Rudmin
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Apples like the yellow Morel

I wonder if your apple trees might have collar rot.

http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/apples/apple-collar-rot.htm

Powdery mildew can also stunt trees. Both are fungal.

The way I tell what tree suits a mychorrizal mushroom, is look up the mushroom, and find what trees it associates with. The yellow Morel loves apples. If I were dealing with those trees, I might try inoculating the collar region with yellow morels, and the roots too.

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Michael_Rudmin
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Current status-- mushroom culture

I went to water my mushrooms in their compostable cups, and some were exploding outward in bright orange mycellia. So I looked at the name on the cup: chanterelle. I then looked up the color of chanterelle mushrooms, and it's the same orange as a common color chanterelle.

Yay!

Now I have to look up what trees it likes, plus try it out with our mulberriy, black cherry, apple.

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mlindsey
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Mushroom Culture

That cool Michael! Have you considered inoculating charcoal with your fungi and spreading it around under your trees? I had been focusing on various plant support species for my fruit tree orchard, but had not given any thought to growing Mushrooms around them too. I am always looking for another food source on my farm. Do you think that Mushrooms would tolerate the dry conditions we have here in Oklahoma? Even with supplemental drip irrigation?

I just ran my first batch of char last weekend, I plan to inoculate it with my compost tea and use in the garden beds and around the trees. I am using scrap hardwood from a local furniture builder as my char material source. I would be glad to supply you some untreated charcoal if you would like to give it a try.

I'll post some pictures of the char making process if there is any interest, and I can figure out how to add photos to the text.

Mike

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Michael_Rudmin
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Mike, let me ask you

Do you see mushrooms pop out at a certain time each year? If so, then yes, I think mushrooms might do you well. I also suspect that there is more water available underground where the mushrooms are.

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mlindsey
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Available water

Yes we do have mushrooms that will pop up in the yard after a good rain. In fact I have square hay bails stacked around my bee hives to protect them from the cold winds and we have small mushrooms growing up from the hay right now. The fruit trees are sitting atop swales as well as having drip irrigation around each tree for the summer months when the rains stop and we often have a 4-5 month stretch with very little to no rain and high 90 temps. As I build the soil around these trees, the moisture absorption will increase.

I also have 3 ponds on the property, one of which is a long narrow pond that is wooded on both sides. I could pick a number of spots there that would have predominately morning or afternoon sunlight depending on what was necessary. All I have to do is watch out for the rattle snakes in that area. 

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Michael_Rudmin
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okay, mushrooms should be fine.

One temptation might be to grow straw mushrooms... tthough I wouldn't because they are so easily confused with deadly amanitas.

I'd try to stimk to identifiable mushrooms that are exactly where you planted them.

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Agent700
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Char

Mike, would love to see any biochar making photos and hear about your process.
We are researching ways to enhance 50 acres of soil with a annual cover crop. Will be planting hazelnuts after that. Zone 5-6, but in the southern hemisphere.

Great discussion here, going to join this group!

You guys should check out Paul Stamets. Go to www.permaculturevoices.com
He is the TRUE mushroom guru in the world.

Pete

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