When the snow finally melted off the garden this spring, we could see our raised beds with heaped piles of mulch on top. We set out to get the beds ready to plant, distributing the big pile of straw and manure and composted plant parts from the previous year that we’d thrown on the potato bed. We did some tilling but mostly loosened the soil with a pitchfork, partly because we are weird sort-of permaculturists who believe in building soil structure with compost and mushrooms, partly because there were a billion earthworms, and partly because the tiller broke. We kept finding these deposits of mycelium-laced straw and would bury them back into the soil. Obviously they had done well over the winter.
King Stropharia (Stropharia rugosa-annulata)
Last week we found our first king stropharia popping up next to the Honeygold apple tree. It was a little dry there so it was a tiny little guy, barely identifiable. I put the sprinkler on him but it was just too hot, and he and his 4 tiny friends withered away into nothing. Still, it was proof that the mycelium had survived and might produce in other places in the garden! We checked under the raspberries to see if anything had popped up. It’s dense in there. Nothing, but it reminded me I need to move my poor tarragon plant before it disappears into the thorny jungle.
Yesterday, June 10th, three days after a heavy watering, Toby went to stare at the peach tree. We have a hearty little Reliance with exactly four small green fuzzy peachlets. We like to check on them every once in a while and will them to get bigger. He yelled ‘Come look at the peach tree!‘ which wasn’t remarkable, because we are constantly overexcited by things in the garden. I ran over to see if the green peachlets had ripened overnight (hey, I’ve never grown peaches before!). He had already moved on to staring at the crabapple tree in disbelief. Coming out of the mulch layer was a ton of beautiful red-brown caps!
The ones next to the peach tree were practically escaping out of the cage! We found a smaller cluster next to the Gravenstein apple. This was a new tree planted where we had lost a peach tree over the winter. I guess we hadn’t disturbed the site too much. Toby peeled back the fencing while I gingerly pulled mushroom after mushroom out of the straw. We ended up with over 2 lbs.
So it had worked after all.
The combination of heavy watering and cool temperatures must have caused the kings to flush. Hopefully we’ll get several more flushes before the hot weather settles in!
The stem butts of the mushrooms are covered with ropey mycelium, which can be transplanted into a new spot. We cut off the bottoms and gave them new homes in the blueberries, honeyberries, and gooseberries. It’s easy to keep them watered when there is already a drip line in place! Now I just need to get out and check the raspberry bed…
See how the mushrooms did during summer 2016!