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How to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms: Grow Guide

Shiitake mushrooms are super popular today due to their benefits and flavorful taste. They are also on the expensive side at stores or markets, so many people are turning to growing their own backyard shiitake mushrooms. Regardless of your experience in growing mushrooms, it is not that hard to grow shiitake mushrooms.

The easiest way to start growing shiitake mushrooms it to use plug spawn instead of sawdust spawn, which is more finicky. Among other things, you will need:

  • Hardwood logs to inoculate
  • Shiitake mushroom spawn plugs
  • Drill and drill bit
  • Food safe wax

All in all, the majority of the work needed to grow shiitake mushrooms can be completed in an afternoon or two. The most important thing is to make sure you have everything prepared in advance so that the process is as productive as possible.

What Materials Are Needed to Grow Shiitake Mushrooms?

While there are a few different ways to grow shiitake mushrooms, such as using sawdust spawn or pellets, the focus of this grow guide is to explain how to grow shiitake mushrooms using plug spawn. There are really only a few things that you need to grow shiitake mushrooms.

Hardwood Logs are Needed

The first things you need to procure are a few hardwood log sections. The bark should be left on the sections. Oak is probably the most popular choice of wood, but poplar, beech, maple, or birch are suitable.

Each section should be around 4 to 8 inches thick and 3 to 4 feet long. Longer log sections will be much heavier and more difficult to move. It is important to use fresh-cut hardwood. It is best to allow the logs to dry out for 1 to 3 weeks in a shady, dry place that is off the ground.

Leaving the logs out to dry for a few weeks helps to make it harder for fungi other than shiitake mushrooms to grow on the log. Plan to inoculate the logs within three weeks after they are cut.

You Will Need Shiitake Mushroom Spawn Plugs

Naturally, you will actually need some shiitake mushroom spawn to begin the growing process. Spawn plugs are the easiest for beginners to work with. You can purchase shiitake mushroom spawn plugs from a number of suppliers.

Many sellers offer the plugs online, but you may be able to find local suppliers as well, depending on your area. Start with 100 shiitake plugs, which will work for 2 or 3 logs. Keep this ratio in mind if you want to grow more.

Make Sure You Have a Drill and Drill Accessories

Shiitake mushroom spawn plugs require you to drill holes in the log sections, so you will need a drill, preferably cordless. You will need to have a 5/16” drill bit to create holes that are the proper size for most spawn plugs.

Depending on your experience with drills, you may want to use a drill bit stop collar as well. This helps to ensure that all your drill holes are the same depth.

Here’s a helpful video showing the process with steps and more info below:

Gather a Few Other Supplies

Some people opt to go for a kit that includes everything that you need for growing shiitake mushrooms. If this is your case, then all these materials will already be included or prepared for you.

Otherwise, you will have to gather just a few other supplies:

  • Food safe wax: Cheese wax or beeswax will work.
  • Rubber mallet: Used to tap the plugs into the wood
  • Container and heat source for melting wax: An old can and a stove will work.
  • Paint brush or dauber: Used to apply the wax to the log

For most first-timers, buying a shiitake grow kit may be the best option since it means you don’t need to purchase larger amounts of what you need or have a long shopping list.

How Do I Actually Grow Shiitake Mushrooms?

Once you have all of your materials ready to go, you can start the process of actually growing the shiitake mushrooms. The beginning set-up process usually will not take more than a few hours, especially if you have help.

Drill Holes in the Hardwood Log Sections

The first thing to do is to drill holes in the log sections. Remember that the logs should have been cut within 1 to 3 weeks prior to you actually adding the mushroom plugs. You will use the drill with a 5/16” drill bit.

You need to drill holes around 1 to 1 1/4” deep. You can use a drill bit stop collar to have the same depth, or just eyeball it if you feel more experienced. The holes should be in a diamond-like pattern. (source)

Drill the holes in parallel rows that are offset with about 2 inches of space between rows. The holes in each row should be between 4 and 8 inches apart. Aim for around 50 holes per 3- or 4-foot log.

Place the Shiitake Mushroom Spawn Plugs into the Logs

Next, place the shiitake mushroom spawn plugs into the log holes. The plugs are shaped like dowels, so they should fit right inside the holes you have just drilled.

Place the plug in a hole, using a rubber mallet to gently push the plug into place. Don’t pound the plug in, simply use the mallet to push it (a few gentle persuasive taps are ok). Make sure that you insert each plug all the way into the hole so that it is either flush with or just below the surface of the hole.

If you have any extra holes in the logs, do not leave them empty. Other fungi will grow in the holes, which can compromise the growth of your shiitake mushrooms.

If you don’t want to use logs, watch this video where they used 5 gallon buckets instead:

Seal the Logs with Wax

Once all the shiitake mushroom plugs are inoculated into the logs, you need to melt the food safe wax. Using a paint brush or dauber, seal the cut ends of the logs and each hole with the wax.

The log should then be completely sealed on all of the cut ends and areas where you drilled holes.

Incubate and Initiate the Logs

Once you have inoculated the logs with the shiitake mushroom spawn plugs, it is time to let them incubate. Place the logs in a location that is shaded and off the ground but still close enough to a water source. (source)

It is best to keep the logs off the ground on bricks or a palette, especially since you will have to water the logs on a regular basis. The frequency will depend on how wet your climate is. In moist climates, you will likely only need to water for 10 minutes during a dry week.

In more arid climates, you might have to water for 10 minutes multiple times a week. After 6 to 10 months, you should be able to initiatethe logs, which means forcing them to fruit, thus producing mushrooms.

Logs will appear dark on the ends when they are ready to be initiated. To initiate the logs:

  • Submerge the logs in water for 24 hours, or
  • Hit the ends of the logs with a baseball bat or heavy pipe.
  • Soaked logs should be leaned vertically after they are removed from water.

Hitting the logs helps to stimulate the fruiting process and is helpful if you do not have a large enough container to soak the logs in. Regardless of which method you use, make sure to keep the logs moist by providing enough water.

It usually takes between 8 and 16 months following inoculation for the shiitake mushrooms to produce. This will depend on your specific climate.

Enjoy Your Mushrooms

Once the logs start producing the shiitake mushrooms, they will keep doing so for several years. You can sell the mushrooms at farmers markets if you have the proper permits, or you can simply keep them and cook with them yourself!

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