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Thread: Review of my new gardening method

  1. #1
    Boolit Buddy
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    Review of my new gardening method

    Last year around the begining of growing season i tried a completely different method or our garden, so now thats its been little over a year i thought i could do a review. I did a post on it before just discussing the idea but i can do more of a review now with pictures.

    So im in PA we had a normal garden 20somethin by 30somethin feet, and we rototilled, fertilized, added some sand or mushroom compost, and got a blanket of weeds as fast as your could get rid of em. So last year i watched a podcast with a mushroom expert and got the idea of having my garden be a mushroom bed and garden at the same time.

    Basically i had the garden as bare dirt, covered it all in a layer of leaves and material from the forest floor, on top of that a layer of a few inches of straw, minus 3 strips across the garden. in those 3 strips i soaked 3 bales of straw in 55 gallon barrels for 3 days. Each soaked bale gets layered in one of the strips with 5.5lb of wine cap mushroom spawn, 5.5lb blocks of winecap spawn are 24$ on field and forest products, so it was about 90$ shipped. Then the final layer is a few inches of small wood chips, most people could get free chips from various sources, in my town i can get 1/4 to 1/2" mixed hardwood chips free. So total cost was around 140$ for mushroom and straw. Mushrooms can spread themselves from those strips and through the wood.

    So why might one want to do this? The idea is that you have an actively composting layer on top of your garden and the mushrooms speed that process and are choice edibles themselves increasing food supply per area. So the mushroom roots turn the layers into compost which runs down to the plant roots fertilizing them, then plants grow taller which provides shade for the mushrooms. Then the plant dies of old age and the woodier material can be left on top as more mushroom food, which they will turn back into plant food, and you can see the cycle of life. The softer greener material waste can be composted seperately and used for planting next years seeds back in.

    As for benefits,

    theres no need to rototill, you actually cant anymore cause mixing wood in dirt would mess up soil nitrogen.

    Close to zero weeds grow, other than the edge where some stuff will grow its way in. But if your straw has some grass seed in it youll have to pick grass at first but it does stop after you pull it, this year almost none grew, others might have access to cleaner straw to begin with, my local straw isnt very good.

    The mushrooms do most of the fertilizing for you, i still used a bit because the wood breakdown isnt immediate but will pay off long term. Also worms really like the mushroom roots so you get more fertility that way aswell.

    The mulch layer keeps the soil layer from drying, but the top is usually dry which is much nicer to walk on and no dirt stuck to your shoes.

    Hardly any maintenance, just add a bit more wood chips yearly as the top shows breakdown, and let the fungus run the place for you, just as they do everyplace else.

    Cons,

    The initial cost and a day of labor to setup,

    Payoff isnt immediate like adding fertilizer or compost would be,

    Planting takes longer since the dirt is hidden and you cant really plant in wood, i make a hole or trench down into the dirt layer and add seed or seedlings with some potting soil or compost, then sprinkle some of the top layer back over. Slower than normal planting but thats the only work required so its much less work overall.

    Ill put some pictures now so you dont fall asleep yet

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Heres some lettuce and kale, mushrooms are sun baked as is most of the bed right now, but that has no effect on soil building cause the roots do all the work. Better edible mushrooms could be picked on cloudy days, under plants (once you have tall plants) or befeore the sun cooks them for days. They gradually fade from maroon to light tan then crack with more sun so you can tell.

    The kale and to the right couple rows i planted first and lazily just pushed material away to the soil, set seed on the soil and pushed some wet straw and some chips on top and germination rates were poor, which is why i reccomended some soil or compost with the seeds to help roots start then there strong enough to go from there, which is what i did from the lettuce down which is working way better. But i did note on the lazy side the plants that are there are all right on top of mushrooms as you can see with that kale, idk if thats coincidence or mushrooms actually help that fast but anyway next photo

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    Heres some peas on the edge with fresher mushrooms. This particular batch of seeds only half germinated, other kinds of peas had good success but didnt have mushrooms for a photo. Also something is chewing on them erghh!

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is the opposite side from the lettuce and such, here im doin mostly corn with some bush beans to help with nitrogen for the corn. We had way too much rain right at the begining of corn date and 2/3rds rotted seeds, which i guess was a major problem for lots of people and farmers. I re-planted the ones that didnt pop up but im doin staggered planting in 6 day intervals so there wasnt much to lose or get in a photo yet anyway. But the chips more show their 13 month age here with varied colors, its due for another layer but i wanna wait till everything is popped up so i dont burry anything.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    This is the side without peas i have vine type plants by the fence like this zucchini. They were indoor started and planted in a handfull of potting soil. They also went in right before the crazy rain and some were stunted from it but are picking back up now. You see the leaf on the right edge, thats what the one center photo looked like a few days ago so i guess its getting happy with the weather now.

    Im working on making my own compost i have a few yards of material about a month in. So ill be able to use that to plant in instead of potting soil, and being the chips are free my gardening cost should pretty much be only the seeds i cant save. So im pretty happy.

    A bit more on the mushroom species itself, it survives winter well and can produce up to 90f not sure how high till it dies, but that should work in most of the country. Its water requirements arent that high especially when freshly planted it can drown if it rains the next several days, after thats its quite hardy. I noticed in little patches it has off and on cycles, but in my big garden theres new mushrooms everyday then somedays like 5 pounds or more pop up if cycle and weather line up. Some experts say this species is good at killing e-coli not sure how but apparently thats a thing. And winecap seems to be particularly suited for gardening like this i couldnt find another that would work well. And note if you plant some learn to identify there couple features cause other types can float in and grow too, but it is labeled as 'beginner' mushroom.

    Alright im tired of typing so thanks for reading, leave questions or comments

  2. #2
    Boolit Buddy
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    Review of my new gardening method

    A lot of work, unless you’re growing morel mushrooms and marijuana—them’s cash crops.
    Put me in for a pound of each, my good man!
    Last edited by dangitgriff; 06-14-2019 at 07:08 PM.

  3. #3
    Boolit Grand Master



    jonp's Avatar
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    I like it. We went from ground plantings to boxes this year but I think we will try this out next year
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  4. #4
    Boolit Master
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    Do you have any problems with critters eating anything?. Here in Louisiana if you plant it,it will grow. If the critters don't get it first. Have a roll of screening so maybe tomorrow I'll weed out the half eaten ones and replant. My garden used to be about 10'x30' but when it came to harvest no one around. At 72 gardening is the tub from an old wheelbarrow and a large pot. The tub is all plastic so should be ok. Frank

  5. #5
    Boolit Buddy
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    Review of my new gardening method

    A few Death Cap mushrooms here and there would dis-incentivize any garden thieves...permanently.


  6. #6
    Boolit Master
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    Sounds very similar to the Ruth Stout no-till, no-dig gardening method.

  7. #7
    Boolit Master
    FISH4BUGS's Avatar
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    Interesting variation.....but I am the old in-the-dirt straight line gardener.
    I do a 25x35 garden and grow most everything. My SO is chemically sensitive so we grow most of own veggies and freeze them in 2 6' freezers.
    I compost all the yard waste and make really yummy compost.
    The garden is surrounded by chicken wire....the Ho Chi Minh trail for deer runs along side our stone wall so there would be nothing left if i didn't.
    Never thought about mushrooms.....certainly something to consider.....I like the idea.
    Collector and shooter of guns with selector switches and threaded barrels. Collector of suppressors, SBR's, AOW's and SBS's. Lead and brass scrounger. Never too much brass, lead or components in inventory! Always looking to win beauty contests with my reloads.

  8. #8
    Boolit Grand Master
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    Going to try some boxes off the ground in AZ.

  9. #9
    Boolit Buddy
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    I was just trying to copy nature, fungus is a whole kingdom of life, some eat them but very few use fungus for its actual purpose.

    speaking of nature has anyone else been getting way to much rain, we hit monthly average already and its just the 18th. most people gardens are under water. my secondary garden I cant get any corn to pop up, I had to start a bunch indoors. and again im from PA

  10. #10
    Boolit Master

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    Looks good. Keep us posted.

    this year I tried straw bale gardening. Go to youtube, there are dozens of videos. Basically, you add fertilizer to the top surface of a straw bale to break it down. I took a month to get my two bales just right. I just grab a handful of straw to make a small hole, fill it with dirt and plant. My two straw bales are staked up against a fence. I have two patio tomatos, a zucchini, a cucumber, two jalapenos and a couple of vinca flowers planted in the two bales. Minimum of watering, weekly fertilizer and no weeds or critter eating on them. Next year will be at least 6 bales. I forgot to mention, good height for old backs to work at.Click image for larger version. 

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  11. #11
    Boolit Buddy
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    Quote Originally Posted by jaysouth View Post
    Basically, you add fertilizer to the top surface of a straw bale to break it down. I took a month to get my two bales just right
    have you found what makes it break down the fastest? cause in my compost area I have a bunch of old hay that I don't have enough stuff to mix it with or space in my compost bins. so you might have useful information for me. also oyster mushrooms can grow in moist bales well and there a ferocious beast as far as speed goes and most likely breakdown aswell. that might have a useful implication for either of us.

  12. #12
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by bmortell View Post
    have you found what makes it break down the fastest? cause in my compost area I have a bunch of old hay that I don't have enough stuff to mix it with or space in my compost bins. so you might have useful information for me. also oyster mushrooms can grow in moist bales well and there a ferocious beast as far as speed goes and most likely breakdown aswell. that might have a useful implication for either of us.
    I water each day. I apply a cup of 10-10-10 every other day, and a cup of nitrogen lawn fertilizer every other day. Instead of 12 days on the youtube video, it took mine a month. Now I fertilize every week with a water soluble 6-5-5.

  13. #13
    Boolit Master

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    Interesting! I have deep mulched with woodchips for years. I started with red clay, but now have deep black soil that barely needs any fertilizer or water. Still plenty of work, but better than pulling weeds!
    To Thomas Jefferson: It's America! We can have our plows AND our guns!

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  14. #14
    Boolit Master WRideout's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bmortell View Post
    I was just trying to copy nature, fungus is a whole kingdom of life, some eat them but very few use fungus for its actual purpose.

    speaking of nature has anyone else been getting way to much rain, we hit monthly average already and its just the 18th. most people gardens are under water. my secondary garden I cant get any corn to pop up, I had to start a bunch indoors. and again im from PA
    Beans and tomatoes are doing okay, but the lettuce, Swiss chard, and okra seeds just rotted in the ground. Back yard is a swimming pool.
    Wayne
    What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - or else it gives you a bad rash.
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  15. #15
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    MaryB's Avatar
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    Got hit with hail this afternoon... what garden? It is shredded...

  16. #16
    Boolit Master

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    Quote Originally Posted by dangitgriff View Post
    A lot of work, unless you’re growing morel mushrooms and marijuana—them’s cash crops.
    Put me in for a pound of each, my good man!
    You figure out a way to get Morels to grow and you will be rich very quickly.
    We get those here when the conditions are right - the make for an incredible cream of mushroom soup

    My only regret was attempting to dry two five gallon pails of morels in a dehydrator in my workshop. The smell was overpowering and I have not been able to eat a morel since. That was over 20 years ago.
    Go now and pour yourself a hot one...

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