We held our first mushroom cultivation workshop fun by David Satori from Myceliate in our garden on 13 April.
The session, shown in our previous blog post, centred on growing mushrooms outdoors on wood chip beds and hardwood logs. It was a fun day of preparing the garden for King Stropharia (stropharia rugosoanulata) mushroom beds on wood chips between our vegetables, and inoculating oak logs with Reishi (ganoderma lucidum) for use as immune-boosting medicine in the future.
There are many benefits to mushroom growing, but exactly what are they?
Here, David Satori explains…
No ecosystem is complete without fungi. Fungi are the builders of soils, the healers of plants, and the mediators of nutrients across the land. Under every step you take, there are fungi to be found, and in every breath you take, dozens of fungal spores make their way in and out of your lungs. Fungi are everywhere, and far from being creatures to avoid, they are to be embraced, because working with them will offer many benefits to us, as we shall see.
First of all, what is it that fungi do? What is their ecological purpose? That’s a difficult question to answer, because fungi are as diverse, if not more so, than animals. We’ll limit our exploration of fungi to just two types: saprophytic fungi, and mycorrhizal fungi.
Saprophytic fungi are the ultimate “decomposers” in ecosystems. They account for up to 90% of all decomposition on Earth, and if it weren’t for these creatures doing their job, then the planet would be covered in metres of un-decayed wood. These are the mushrooms you tend to see growing from logs and tree stumps. They evolved to turn wood into highly nutritious mushrooms (if you pick the right ones!), and the easiest ones that we gardeners can cultivate are oyster mushrooms (pleurotus ostreatus), and shiitake (lentinula edodes).
These fungi have a completely different survival strategy. They dwell in soils, out of sight, where they team up with living plant roots, forming associations in which the plants supply the fungi with photosynthesised sugars, and the fungi give them minerals in return. This two-way co-operation is known as symbiosis, and it has been shown that almost all plants in existence form mycorrhizal associations. The benefits of these fungi are incredible. Bigger crops, higher yields, drought tolerance, heat tolerance, disease resistance, and more. It should be in every gardener’s list of priorities to nurture their soil borne fungi.
As gardeners, we aim to create the most thriving ecosystems in which all our crops grow in harmony with one another. This is why over the next few months, we will be turning Bandstand Beds into a mycological haven. Dozens of books can be written on how diversifying our gardens with fungi can benefit us, but here are a few more reasons why you should try it too.
Mushrooms are full of essential nutrients needed for optimal health. The polysaccharides that mushrooms are made of have been shown to improve the health of our gut microbes. In addition to the minerals they also provide, by drying your mushrooms in the sun, you can increase their vitamin D2 content, an essential nutrient for getting us through the winter months.
Many species of mushrooms, such as reishi (ganoderma lucidum), and Turkey Tail (trametes versicolor) have stacks of evidence to show their powerful ability to strengthen our immune systems, helping us to prevent diseases, and helping us to be more resilient under stress. With the right skills, we can grow our own medicine in our gardens.
Support Plant Growth
As we have seen, by cultivating mycorrhizal fungi and nurturing our garden soils by avoiding synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, we can strengthen the plants we grow, and ensure our gardens thrive. This is even more important nowadays, as droughts and extreme weather are on the rise, and we want our gardens to be resilient enough to survive the toughest of challenges.
There are multitudes of species that love fungi, many of which we gardeners find precious and beneficial, such as red wiggler worms and bees. These small friends of ours can smell the aromas of the fungi emanating through soil and mulch, and are attracted to our gardens, knowing that its an area of bountiful food and a place they can call home. Given the horrendous declines in insect populations over the last 40 years, we need to attract as many beneficial species into our gardens as possible, and fungi can do the trick. By cultivating fungi, we can each act as conservationists, restoring the wildlife in whatever patch of land we look after.
On Saturday 1st June 2019, David will be returning to run another mushroom cultivation workshop in our community garden, so spread the word, spread the spores, and prepare to learn the secrets of mushroom cultivation and ecological restoration.
If you would like to attend this workshop please book a ticket by clicking on this Evenbrite link.
For more information about activities in our community garden email firstname.lastname@example.org