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Connecticut Garden Journal
Connecticut Garden Journal is a weekly program hosted by horticulturalist Charlie Nardozzi. Each week, Charlie focuses on a topic relevant to both new and experienced gardeners, including pruning lilac bushes, growing blight-free tomatoes, groundcovers, sunflowers, bulbs, pests, and more.

Connecticut Garden Journal: Shiitake Mushrooms

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Shiitake mushrooms are all the rage in kitchen, teas, and medicinal preparations. It seems not only are they good for you, they're tasty too. But one drawback of shiitake mushrooms is they can be expensive. So, grow your own. It's not as hard as you think.

Shiitake mushrooms grow on hardwood logs. Probably the easiest way to learn how to inoculate logs is to check for local mushroom growing classes in your area. You'll often get some logs to take home as part of the class. If you want to just try it yourself, here’s some tips.

You’ll need to harvest 3- to 6-inch diameter fresh deciduous logs and cut them about 40 inches long. Oak, sugar maple, and hornbeam are best. Cut them now after the leaves have dropped. Then you’ll need mushroom spawn or plugs. Check online or locally for sources of mushroom plugs.

Within three weeks of cutting your logs, lay them on a sawhorse and drill 5/16th diameter holes into the logs, 1-inch-deep, spaced 6 inches apart. Gently tap the mushroom plugs into the holes with a rubber mallet so the plug isn’t sticking out. After inserting the plugs, seal them with a light coat of bees wax to keep the plugs moist and insects out. Stack the logs in a shady area off the ground to avoid contamination from soil fungus. Then just leave them.

Come spring, water the logs a few times a week or immerse them in water for 8 hours every two weeks to keep them moist. Hopefully by next fall, you’ll have shiitake mushrooms sprouting.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.

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