Myco Manchester workshop
I had the pleasure of attending a mushroom intercropping workshop at The Greenhouse Project in Whitton Park https://www.lancswt.org.uk/greenhouse-project delivered by Myco Manchester https://www.mycomanchester.com/ and hosted by Andy Mather from Lancashire Wildlife Trust. The session was all about fungi, mushrooms and how to grow them in an existing and established bed.
A bit about terminology
I may be preaching to the converted here but let’s start with explanations of a few terms.
Spawn: The genetic material used to grow mushrooms. Think seeds.
Mycelium: The underground network that develops from the spawn and from which the mushrooms form.
Mushroom: The fruiting body including the stem that we can eat.
Fungi: The term used to refer to mushrooms and mycelium.
Intercropping/companion planting: Growing more than one variety of plant in the same space.
How we did it:
We used the cucumber beds in the greenhouse and the Wine cap variety of mushroom (stropharia mushrooms).
This is the method:
- Soak sheets of cardboard in water. Cover the bed with this, working around the existing plants.
- Place woodchip on top of the cardboard.
- Take the spawn from the bag and place in compact clumps onto the cardboard.
- Place the straw on top.
- Repeat the process- we did 4 layers. Think of how you would make a lasagne!
It was important to ensure each layer is fully hydrated and going forwards it’s important that the bed remains moist through regular watering.
Why use fungi for inter-cropping?
The practice of inter-cropping has numerous benefits including; increased yields, reduced need for fertilizers and is effective pest control and the process of growing the mushrooms with existing plants is truly complimentary.
The mycelium develops in the straw and woodchip and therefore doesn’t take any nutrients from the soil or the other plants. It actually puts nutrients into the soil improving it for the other plants. There’s no competition here, just a symbiotic relationship which means that everyone is winner.
An important point to note! Not all mushrooms are the same. There are fungi which will actually take up nutrients from the soil (parasitical fungi) which will reduce the nutrients available to other nearby plants. It’s important therefore to research which variety you are going to use before intercropping.
For the purpose of this lesson, we used the cucumber bed. Obviously, the cucumbers will have already died back but the mycelium will hopefully still be growing and come spring we are hoping to see mushrooms.
In the meantime, its ok to plant around the area either once everything has rotted down or use a gardening knife to cut around and plant your other plants.
Harvesting the mushrooms
Wine caps are best harvested before the caps have flattened out, while they still have round, curled rims. To harvest, simply twist and gently pull the mushrooms at the base. Check for any insects before eating – especially in between the gills. Myco suggest brushing or wiping any dirt off rather than washing them under a tap to prevent them going soggy once cooked.
Thanks to Solvi and SB for the wonderful lesson which gave us all much food for thought.
Myco recommend and we used the following company for the spawn: King Stropharia Sawdust Spawn » Gourmet Woodland Mushrooms % (gourmetmushrooms.co.uk)