Creating Oyster Mushroom Seed Bombs

If you google fungiculture, you are most unlikely to be rewarded with this, the earthwoman guide to growing marvellous oyster mushrooms. You will more likely be bamboozled by hugely scientific case studies that involve sterilisation of straw bales, along with temperature and humidity controlled apparatus.

Having spent 3 years in advanced scientific endeavours, beavering away in a dark lab, meticulously recording my every move, I have to say I can no longer be fagged with real science. I prefer my experiments to be random and uncontrolled.

Besides, I also recently heard on Gardeners Question Time that oyster mushrooms were dead easy to grow and didn’t require precision cultivation techniques. I think the suggestion was that you could sprinkle spores on the compost heap and wait for the bounteous harvest to follow.

Mushroom seed bombsSo with this in mind I created my own recipe and mixed up the non-sterilised concoction scavenged from the compost caddy and the wormery. I tossed it all in one of Lynn’s old t-shirts and now I’m hoping for the best.

I’ve popped one on the top shelf of the wormery, the other in the leaf mould bin and the final one in the edge of the big compost heap.

If you want to follow my tried and untested approach to oyster mushroom cultivation. Here’s the recipe and how-to video.

Making oyster mushroom bombs for the compost heap. #mushroomgrowing #seedbombs #spawnbombs #compost #wormery #allotment

A video posted by Angela Wolff (@earthwomanblog) on

Good luck.

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Where there’s Muck

Years of following a haphazard compost cycling routine has resulted in two full heaps of uncomposted matter.

20140511-133055.jpgI was always supposed to fill one side of my pallet compost system, before flipping it all over into the other side and starting the process again. This disciplined rotation would result in an annual harvest of beautiful, crumbly, loamy compost but somewhere along the line I got confused (or lazy) and chucked my kitchen waste into alternate sides.

Faced with nowhere else to tip my waste I had to face my rubbish mounds head on.

There followed a morning of complex muck juggling. Trying to balance piles of manky brassica stems and steaming grass sods until I could unearth some good stuff from the bottom of pile number 1.

I was rather pleased with what I uncovered. There was indeed some real composted stuff at the bottom of the heap and it was ready to be transferred to the squash bed.

With the first forkful I released a remarkably shiny silver teaspoon but the second fork filled me with joy.

20140511-125356.jpgThe removal of the second forkful revealed my long lost Messermeister Vegetable Peeler.

You may not have heard of the Messermeister peeler. For some unfathomable reason they are unavailable in the UK. I had to acquire mine from the US. They are by far and away the worlds best peeler. I brought this one rather tentatively into my new relationship. It’s the sort of gadget you can’t risk losing and I was sorely tempted to create a pre-nuptial agreement to ensure that the peeler came with me in the unfortunate instance of a relationship catastrophe.

This particular peeler went AWOL about two years ago but now has returned and I am so happy.

20140511-125409.jpgThe handle appears a little worse for wear. The soft outer coating appears to have decomposed rather successfully but the blade is as sharp as ever. A little TLC and this peeler can reclaim its spot in the kitchen drawer ready to see us through our dotage.

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Hitting the Water Table

We made a flying visit to the plot this morning to deposit the kitchen compost and to rescue the last few Brussels.

Compost has become a bit of a cottage industry at our house. I have a production line that starts by the kettle with a little repository for tea bags, moves down to the lovely silver caddy on the kitchen floor and then out into the back garden where it can go one of 3 ways.

In the garden we have a large galvanised dustbin, two bokashi buckets and a multi-tiered wormery. I haven’t quite worked out the optimum route for all our waste but the initial plan was to send everything to the bokashi buckets for high speed Japanese fermenting and then on to the wormery for compost production.

I hoped the worms would produce enough soil for me to replace the bank that has slipped into the neighbours garden but they only seem to devour at the rate of 1 lettuce leaf per week.

That’s where the galvanised bin comes in handy and in truth I may as well be bypassing the bokashi and the wormery and ditching all our waste into it.

Anyhoo, we waddled on to the plot with bin and bokashi buckets in hand and I decided to dig trenches to tip it all in. That way I could plant my summer squash into a moisture retaining environment and hopefully grow championship worthy whoppers.

It’s hard to imagine that the soil would need assistance with water retention. I hit the water table at one spades depth and found myself stuck, steadfast in a squelchy clay puddle.

We considered ourselves lucky though as our neighbours on the opposite side of the plot have had to return their usual seed order and panic purchase rice.

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Out With The Old

We’ve dabbled a little bit on the old plot at North Sheen, pulling parsnips and leeks but have finally decided the time has come to hand it over to the next budding gardener on the list.

I went over to see Sam to hand in my notice and nearly came away blubbing. It felt very hard handing over my lovely little corner plot that turned from a bindweed monstrosity into a moderately productive little haven in the space of a season. We emptied the shed and carted the trammel and another blackberry bush over to the new plot and rapidly felt at ease again.

We are lucky to be able to start over again, making plans and building stuff, and this new plot is sooo tidy!

It’s rapidly approaching the end of February and yet this was our first visit of the year to the Norbury plot. It’s been so wet and claggy and the snow still hasn’t declared for the season so we haven’t been able to dig or sow. My allotment task list is covered in red overdue stars though so we decided time had come to brave inclement conditions, ignore gardening sense and plant the cabbages anyway.

We knocked up this cold frame top for the seed bed in a downpour and I planted greyhound cabbage, cauliflower, onions and lettuce while Lynn started on the compost bin construction. I don’t hold out much hope for the seeds but that compost heap is a thing of beauty.

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Broad Bees

A virus of some sort is doing the rounds of my body at the moment so I’m not fit for much, but it’s hard to let the weekend go by without a trip to the lotty. It’s been so windy recently that I needed to see how the uncovered broad beans were doing and water the sweet pea seedlings.

Broad Bean Bee

I dragged my aching limbs down to the plot and on arrival promptly collapsed on my shed stool. Some time later I went to check on the beans. Assorted buckets from goodness knows where were wind strewn across my plot but thankfully the beans seemed to be holding themselves together.

I was pleased to see a huge bee moving hurriedly from flower to flower as well, good job I removed the fleece or those flowers may never have set.

First Spring Sowing

The only other thing I managed to do was to fill a few rows of modules with potting compost and assorted exotic seed: sweet peppers, chilli peppers, mixed lettuce, basil and a couple of dahlia types scrounged from a Bridlington allotment.

These have been packed off to live in Shakti’s flat as well, I’m doing my best to convert her place into a nursery.

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Day of the Triffids

London woke to a pretty dreary and overcast day this morning. Not the most inspiring of days and it seemed to push me into the dumps as I arrived at the plot. I haven’t been keeping my eye on the allotment stores recently, the shed was clean out of digestives and my cup of tea just wasn’t as revitalising as usual.

Day of the Triffids

I wandered round the garden sipping tea and imagining the future, a day of the triffids style future where the weeds grow to 6 foot and throttle you as you reach hopelessly for the hoe.

If I’m sweating with dread in February just imagine when the growth really starts to kick off. You have to pull yourself together when the weeds on your plot start to give you daytime terrors. I put the cup down, stopped stressing about the future and just knuckled down to the here and now.

I like gardening, it never fails to ground you.

First strike today went to the old rocket and spicy salad leaves bed. The rocket has been a super provider but has now past its best and the spicy leaves are so overrun with nettle plants that my salads have a tendency to give far more bite than is healthy. Both were whipped out at the roots and plonked in the compost bin. First tidy patch sorted and I have space for something new now.

Cats Cradle

My early planting of broad beans have been very successful, maybe even too successful? They have been pushing at the top of my fleece cloche for a few weeks now and bending at the tips. Today I decided it was time to expose them to the elements and whipped of their toasty covering.

Most of them are flowering so hopefully they wont be traumatized by any more frosts. I spent about an hour tying myself in knots with about 100m worth of twine, fashioning a cats cradle support. There is very little wind protection in that particular spot and the beans are effectively trying to stand tall in a wind tunnel.

Chard

Carried away with the weeding, I whipped off more of the cloches and cleaned around the chard and cabbages.

Everything started to look beautiful again, I began to smile and contemplate my next cuppa and a future decidly more rosy and bountiful than it seemed when I started.

Swift Potato

I finished by planting my first row of spuds! How ridiculously early is that? The traditional date for planting potatoes is Good Friday which this year is particularly early anyway so I’m not sure what possessed to me to anticipate the great day by about a month.

I’ll do my best to keep them cosy and earthed up til summer arrives.

Oh and did I mention that my sweet peas have germinated? What a glorious and uplifting day its been.

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New Year, New Structure

There’s been stacks of progress over the New Year break and I’m sitting here at the end of the day with a labor intensive back ache. Good job I’m going back to work tomorrow, I need a rest!

I popped into a garden centre on my way back to London yesterday and I was tempted by yet another variety of potato – Kerrs Pink. This cultivar is now 100 years old and much favoured by the Scots and the Irish who ought to know a thing or two about spuds.

Climbing Bean Support

The potting bench in the shed is now laden with chitting potatoes, I’m digging like crazy to clear enough space to house them and I’m left wondering where the heck I am going to put the rest of my planned crops. Which brings me to the rather impressive structure in the photo. It’s my space saving, climbing bean/sweet pea support structure.

It seems that most plot holders here grow their beans as a fencing crop and it strikes me as a great way to squeeze in a whole family without having to set aside a specific bed. I don’t think they will cast much shade (at least not on my plot) and may even benefit the remaining crops by providing some wind protection and by discouraging the fox from running through.

Digging has proved to be painfully slow. I’m dealing with the patch in front of the shed, which the previous occupant had formed into a long ridge. There have been a couple of similar ridges across the plot, one of these comprised numerous mango pips buried in the ridge and covered with layers of newspaper. This one appears to contain nothing but couch grass roots, it’s so dense in there that not even soil has managed to find its way in. It is so tough to dig, I can get my fork in but can’t get it back out. I’m having to loosen the whole ridge and then go back over and peel it back like a decaying, detritus covered roll of axminster. No wonder my back hurts.

I had cleared quite a bit of the weed pile yesterday by bagging it up and tipping it but its mountainous again today. I had to shift it to a new location so that I can dig under it, maybe with all this turning it will rot down in to a perfect pile of compost. Not that I’d ever dare use it.

New Year Scene

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View on the Inside

Well there was no eviction notice tacked to the front of the shed so I may start to relax now. Mind you it was so windy today that any notice would have blown away, I was surprised the shed hadn’t taken off in fact.

Check out the laminate flooring!

Shed Wide View

Spartan Apple Tree

Despite the horrendous weather (Dad take note – your weather forecasting is not to be trusted), I enjoyed a little pottering on the plot. I managed to plant out the new Spartan apple tree, sort the compost and do a bit of hoeing between the onions and garlic.

Of course more time was spent inside the shed, looking out and pondering on the intricacies of life. I need a chair now and perhaps a kettle, you need to be comfortable to ensure high quality philosophising.

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