Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mushroom Magic

Mushrooms are pretty essential in a lot of cooking, great with steak or stir fries, the simple mushroom omelet or a creamy pasta sauce are some of the quickest, tastiest meals one can do.
There are so many varieties now it can be a little confusing.
If you are into types other than white button there can also be the question of availability.
Mushrooms can be grown throughout the year – under cover as I do or in a cellar, cupboard, garage etc.

In the autumn/winter mushrooms can even be grown in a greenhouse, as they don't need to have light excluded.

Mushroom seed, or spawn, is fairly easy to source on ebay, particularly the more exotic types.
I picked up a pack of dry spawn for simple white button mushrooms from Dangan nursery centre in Galway.
The type is Agaricus, produced by Suttons and retails at €6.80

Finishing mushrooms can vary, i.e. some require daylight to finish off or get colour but getting any variety of them started is exactly the same across the board.

What you need to think about first is a cellulose rich substrata - or for people like me wood or wood product mixed in with manure to create a subsoil.
I used well rotted farmyard manure, then lots of wood bark and wood bits from under the log pile and straw from last years oats that had been left on top of the asparagus and strawberry plants over winter.
But any woody - papery type substance will do, shredded waste, paper toilet rolls, old books or telephone directories, old cotton clothes, hardwood sawdust or woodchips - whatever else you can think of.

Sweepings from under firewood storage gave me a good supply of materiel. A little gypsum is also good.

Mushroom yield will be highest with a carefully selected mushroom compost made from straw, horse manure. Some people have even been successful growing mushrooms on sawdust and waste paper. Mushrooms can even be grown on the compost heap, although results will be variable. A mixture of horse or poultry manure and straw is preferred by mushroom growers, although most types of manure are suitable.

Anyway, I used some fish boxes to mark out the area I plan to turn into a mushroom patch. It is under an old hedge in some shade so a lot of old woody bits slowly breaking down there already.

Once the area had been marked out for each area I dug in straw, as much wood bark and bits as I could and half a wheelbarrow of well rotted farmyard manure to a depth of about 10"/25cm.

I dug in about half the spawn from a single envelope, my hope is this will give a different cropping time as mushrooms come in flushes.

I compacted the manure as best I could just whacking it down with the back of a spade.

The rest of mushroom spawn was sprinkled over the developed area and pressed in with a rake to a depth of about 3"/5cm.

Then a few sheets of news paper are laid over the area and damped down.
A fishbox is then put over the top to exclude light. These will be painted black to improve light exclusion and increase heat absorption.
A few days after spawning thin white threads - Mycelia - will appear.
After 10-14 days remove the newspaper and put in a 'casing' layer.

That is simply about 3cm or 1.5" of clean moist garden soil or bagged compost over the top.
This is called the casing layer

When the casing layer is established keep it moist but not overly wet.
Mushrooms grow in flushes. To pick gently twist the cap and pull away from the bed gently to avoid damage to developing mushrooms.

Pick regularly, removing old or diseased mushrooms immediately.
Mushrooms can keep producing 3-6 months after spawning.

Ideal temperature is about 15 degrees C, avoid temps if possible below 10 or above 20

Free Stats Hit Counter Web 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Winters end, Springing into action

Well, just got home and turned over one of the beds, some nice surprise parsnips.
A bit skinny, but a fair few of them so that was nice. It really goes to show with a bit of planning you really can have food from the veg patch all year round.

The Russian kales, while small, have survived 8 weeks of neglect and are coming along. Nice little winter cabbage in the garden that was used up in champ yesterday.
The dwarf curley blue kale is a virtual perennial, still producing abundant and good quality leaves.
Sea kale did not make it through the winter, so need to start that again.
Fruit trees coming into bud - just came back to Connemara via Cork, down there a few fruit trees were already in bloom!

Cordoon is coming on very well, and that was the one perennial I was worried about!

Now Spring is here. Saw a couple of wild bee's yesterday :-)
Just preparing beds, a little later than usual but better late than never.
Manure was dug in last December in most beds.
First job, as with the last 2 years is to use the superb Irish made product, SuperNemo's, and apply that.
It is a broad spectrum, pest specific and super effective way of dealing with garden parasites.
I use Nemaslug as well for slugs, but when it comes to things like caterpillars, thrip, wireworm and leatherjackets Supernemo saves a lot of money and time in comparison with the nemasys programs that require pest specific doses, and Supernemo are an Irish developed company.
In actual fact, Supernemo this year wereshortlisted for the Irish Times innovation awards - I think they should have won the damn thing.

Leek nursary looking good, transplanting small leeks tomorrow.
Ready to put potato's in the ground, latest I have ever planted them.
Bed for turnips ready, this year again concentrating on Tipperary Turnips from Irish Seed Savers as the main crop.
Cabbage seedlings ready to go in as soon as the ground is turned.

Put in a new herb bank with potted plants from Dangan Garden Centre and will be cleaning that bank up using ground cover to supress weeds. Main thing is to get the herbs themselves established, apart from the bay tree they are all ground hugging types, so the idea is to get them to spread out and take over the area.

Nothing fancy this year as yet, making paper pots for some seeds to go in the ground later in the year, e.g. squash etc.
Folks, if you use this blog for recipes, best advice I can give you is grow a few bits and pieces for the year, even an ornamental kale, it is really rewarding.

Free Stats Hit Counter Web 

Monday, March 12, 2012

That time of the year again!!

Well, just on the way back from East Africa, so will be tearing into the garden during a flying visit.

I'm told the garden will feature on Garrai Glas on TG4 this year so keep an eye out for that if your interested.

Order Super Nemos to start the anti pest program for organic gardens.

Sow most kinds of vegetable seeds, as soon as conditions allow, outdoors, or sow in cell trays if a greenhouse is available.
Space out crops like lettuce so as not to get a glut.

Plan out things like leek and parsnip, get radish as a marker crop for slower growing varieties.

Weed around established herb plants to ensure they are weed-free as new growth begins.

Be sure that the ground is adequately fertile for vegetables - apply some general fertiliser at about 100 grams per square metre.

Or apply plenty of compost to part of the ground each year - but not for the carrots and and parsnip bed

Onion sets and shallots can be put in now too.

Potatoes should be planted as soon as possible, earlies and main.

Apply something like potash to fruit trees or a fruit fertilizer to improve growth and yield - but not rich compost or manure as I'm told this promotes soft growth and diseases.

Pruning of apple and pear trees and blackcurrant bushes should be completed this week because the buds will be already opening.

Free Blog Counter