Got Mushrooms?

Got Mushrooms?
• The thermophilic compost area at Frog Hollow is slowly doubling in size. Many local Brentwood landscapers and arborists are regularly bringing their tree prunings to be composted at Frog Hollow. Frog Hollow workers are chipping the tree debris as fast as possible and compost windrows are also constructed as possible. However, during the winter months the materials that are used in the construction of the windrows are less diverse and not as abundant. There is less fruit being discarded and green material (such as leaves and young branches) is older and not as rich in nitrogen. This means that the biomass in the wood debris is locked away from the soil foodweb and is unavailable to bacteria, fungi, protozoa, insects, earthworms, most of which decompose the cellular structure of the wood, freeing the nutrients. In order to stimulate decomposition and speed up subsequent composting (especially during the winter months), I will inoculate the chipped wood piles with fungi that feed on dead wood. This approach will imitate what happens in an old growth forest. As Paul Stamets explains (Mycelium running), in forests, fungal mycelia follow trails of fallen wood. Mycelia literally reach up from the ground into the newly available wood. I will inoculate small piles of wood with oyster mushroom spawns (fungal spores germinate into mycelium; when this mycelium is used to inoculate wood, it is called spawn). I will also use small amounts of spent mushroom compost from an organic mushroom farm to inoculate piles. I have tried this at Frog Hollow a couple of years ago and it worked well. The chipped wood debris (variably sized fragments; no fine dust) will essentially be pre-composted by fungi in long beds (a foot to two feet deep) before being mixed with other materials. This approach should speed up the composting, reduce the size of the decomposing wood chips and at the same time the final compost will remain dominated by fungi.

• Part of a thermophilic windrow that dates back to the month of July has been used not only as compost in the orchard but as a weed suppressing mulch in the new Winter garden where vegetables are being grown. The compost/mulch was applied between the vegetable beds. A windrow that was started in August is still hot and it will be used in the orchard as soon as it cools down to 110 F or less. Most of the remaining windrows were started in October and as per regulations are being turned every 5 times in 15 days or more as soon as the temperature reaches 130 F or more. This approach insures that all parts of a windrow get exposed to a temperature of 130 F or more (two temperature readings are taken and recorded at 25 foot intervals along each windrow)

• The biological analysis of the new vermicompost pile (reported in the last blog) that is ready for spreading is ongoing.

• As described previously, vermicompost and thermophilic compost was applied in the Winter garden vegetable beds. A subsequent laboratory test, showed that the soil from these beds was too bacterial (the soil should be dominated by bacteria for vegetable growth but the levels of active fungi should be higher). I applied a commercial fungal product to half of the beds in the Winter garden that should slightly decrease the bacterial to fungal ratio. The advantage of applying this product is that does not require much preparation.
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