The Wine Cap mushroom is one of the easiest to grow at home! It can be grown in almost any garden, and requires no special tools or equipment at all.
The most important thing to remember is to maintain moisture levels. All mushrooms require moisture and humidity to thrive.
Through proper placement and planning, you can make a Wine Cap bed which produces seasonally with minimal maintenance!
Let’s break it down…
Table of Contents
Choose your Substrate
Wine Caps grow happily on both Straw and Wood Chips. You can use one or the other, but a combination is best!
Straw breaks down quickly and easily, providing nutrition early on and helping the Wine Cap mycelium to get established. Beds made with just straw will produce mushrooms more quickly, but will have a shorter overall life and lower overall yield.
Wood chips take longer to break down, and will provide long-term nutrition. Beds established with wood chips can produce seasonally for several years!
For best results, use a combination of both straw and wood chips! (More on this below.)
Preparing your Substrate
If using hardwood chips such as Oak, Maple, Beech etc., leave the chips outside to age for several months before building your bed. This step is not crucial, but will help to soften the wood chips making it easier for your Wine Cap culture to get established. Softwood chips (such as Pine or Fir) should be avoided.
If unable to age your wood chips, give them a good 24 hour soak either in a large container of water, or a thorough soaking with a hose.
Straw contains cellulose and lignin, two building blocks found in wood, in a very easily digestible format for fungi.
Soak your straw if possible, for 24 hours. If unable to submerge soak, give your straw a thorough soaking with a hose. Drain before building your bed – just a brief drip-dry will do.
Choose a Location
Before we can get to building your bed, you need to decide where it’s going to go!
The key thing to bear in mind when selecting your bed location is moisture! An ideal location would have at least partial shade. Areas that are already mulched, under trees, in shady corners etc. are perfect.
Wine Caps are a hardy species though, and unlike many species Wine Cap beds can withstand direct sunlight. Direct light will dry out the bed more quickly however, so you’ll need to give more maintenance, in the form of occasional watering.
Whether building your bed in an established spot, or using a raised bed, it should have a mulched or soil floor.
Building your Bed
Now you know where it’s going to go, and you’ve got your materials ready – it’s time to get it done!
For best results, spawn your bed in Spring, after the last frost. You’ll see your first harvest in late Summer or Autumn.
Otherwise, be sure to spawn at least 6 weeks before the first frost, to give the mycelium time to establish the bed.
Beds are built up in layers, sandwiching your Wine Cap spawn between layers of substrate.
You’ll need roughly 1kg of Wine Cap spawn per square metre of bed.
First, if using an existing border or bed you may want to dig out your bed area.
A straw-only bed will dry out more easily, so a deeper bed is recommended – around 5-10″.
A wood chip or mixed bed will better retain moisture, so you can go shallower at around 3-6″ (though a deeper bed with more substrate will give larger yields and have a longer life!)
- Begin with a layer of substrate, and sprinkle over a layer of broken-up spawn
- If using wood chips and straw (recommended), alternate layers of wood chips, straw, spawn, wood chips, straw, spawn etc. More layers are better!
- Your top layer should be a thick layer of substrate (1″ or thicker). This will help protect the spawn beneath from drying out.
Maintaining your Bed
We’ll say it again, Moisture!
It’s best to check your bed regularly at first until established. Dig down a couple of inches with your fingers; it should feel damp (not wet!)
Expect to water periodically – as a rule of thumb your bed will need 1″ of water per week.
How much water you need to add, and how often, depends on a few factors:
- The substrate you’ve used – Wood chips retain water better than straw alone.
- Location – If exposed to wind or direct sunlight your bed will dry faster and require more regular watering.
- Bed Depth – A deeper bed will retain more moisture than a shallow one.
That’s all the maintenance you’ll need to do! If well made and located, your bed may need little to no maintenance at all.
You can feed the bed annually by adding another layer of wood chips in Autumn or Spring. This will extend the life of the bed, up to several years! Straw-only beds will usually only fruit for one year.
Here’s the good bit!
Wine Caps will be ready to fruit typically 2-12 months after establishing your bed.
If you started your bed in Spring, expect to see your first flush of mushrooms in late Summer or Autumn.
Just after rainfall or a drop in temperature is when to keep your eyes peeled!
You can pick them young, or wait a day or two for their caps to open. Just pick them by hand with a twist.
Store in the fridge until you’re ready to eat (a brown paper bag is ideal).
Or even better, eat them straight away!
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