Wine cap mushrooms, also known as king stratopheria, or garden giant. Whichever name you call them by, these gorgeous dark red-capped mushrooms are a gardener’s dream come true. These giant mushrooms are both fun, and easy, to add to your garden.
Whether you have mulch paths, use the “back to Eden” method, or decide to create a hugulkultur bed for them, these are an easy to include, second crop, for your garden space. These mushrooms need soil contact, and straw or wood chips to use as a growing medium. These mushrooms also act as companion plants, consuming soil nematodes, improving soil fertility, attracting worms, and generally being beneficial background garden friends.
Once added to a gardening area, wine cap mushrooms will begin producing mushrooms in 6 months, to one year.
Growing wine cap mushrooms
- wood chips, no more than 25% conifer or soft woods, and hardwoods are prefered.
- wine cap mushroom spawn (1 bag per 16 square feet of mulch-able space)
- mulched space, around trees, bushes, shrubs, or garden paths
- Cardboard or landscape fabric
Wood chips, particularly if a fresh chip drop, need to be aged for 2-3 days before the mushroom spawn is added. However, chips dry out faster than whole logs, so should only be aged a few days, not a few weeks. This is to let the wood’s natural anti-fungal properties degrade enough for the spawn to easily take hold. Wine cap mushrooms are a naturally aggressive mushroom type, and can grow on nearly anything. To help inhibit other mushroom varieties, however, chips should be placed on top of cardboard. A cardboard or landscape fabric barrier will also help reduce weed re-growth through the mulch.
You can either store chips in a pile for three weeks, and then place in the mulch zones, Or, you can place cardboard as an additional layer of weed suppresent, and layer the wood chips and mushroom spawn on top.
Inoculating new chips with mushroom spawn is best done in early spring, while there is still a lot of rain. If you do it later in the year, you will have to water the mulch, rather than relying on the local weather.
Placing Wine Cap Mushrooms and Mulch:
Use hardwood chips that are at least 2 weeks old. These can be fresh chips that have been aged two weeks, or branches that were aged two weeks or more and recently chipped.
If it’s your first year adding mushrooms to your garden, don’t worry about inoculating every single mulched area in your yard. Chose a few trees, or bushes, to add the mushrooms to first. Once those are established, it will be easy to propagate the mushrooms to the rest of your yard.
I highly recommend adding wine cap mushrooms to the root zone of walnut and butternut trees. These trees produce a natural growth inhibitor, known as jugalone, and the mushrooms will help break that down so you can plant sensitive plants closer to those trees.
Place cardboard in the areas you want the mulch to be a strong weed-control, and trim back any grass or weeds that are in the area. If working with a front yard, you may want to use landscape fabric for this. If landscape fabric is already present, you do not need to remove it or add another barrier layer before placing fresh wood chips.
- Cardboard should be the plain paper style cardboard, no glossy cardboard.
- On top of your barrier layer, place one inch of wood chips.
- Dampen down the wood chips with a mister, or spray hose.
- Sprinkle your wine cap mushroom sawdust spawn in a very thin layer over the chips.
- Add two to three inches of chips on top of the first layer and soak down again.
Water your plants normally. If using drip irrigation, hand water the mulch zone where the mushroom spawn is at least twice a week. If you are using sprinkler irrigation, your normal watering schedule should be sufficient for the mushrooms to proliferate in the mulch. It took about 60 days for the area under my butternut trees to fruit.
Mushrooms will myceliate the substrate first — in this case its the cardboard and chip mulch. Once the mycelium is completely through the substrate, the fruiting bodies begin to form. They will emerge when the temperature and humidity is right for the spore to survive. Usually that’s in spring and fall, but if your climate is cooler you may see fruiting in the middle of the summer.
Increasing Your Wine Cap Mushroom Area:
Your first mulch-zone of wine cap mushrooms should begin producing the following spring, at latest. If conditions are right you may see fruiting within 2 months of planting, as I did. Wine caps are aggressive colonizers and move through the substrate quickly. Once you start having wine caps fruiting, it is easy to spread them to other portions of your yard, wherever you have a wood-chip or straw mulched area. Winecaps don’t grow in conifer wood chips, though, so make sure the wood chips you are using are hardwood.
When you harvest fresh wine cap mushrooms, pull them out of the ground and then trim off the lower, dirt-covered end. There will be threads of mycelium on the stem end of the mushroom. After trimming all mushrooms, take the stem ends and tuck them under the mulch in the next area. The mushroom mycelium will take it from there, and next year you’ll have an extended mushroom patch. Repeat this process, with the stem ends, until all your mulch areas are also growing mushrooms!
Learn more about growing mushrooms in the garden
Sarah’s new book, Growing Mushrooms for Beginners, A Simple Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms at Home, is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. In this concise resource Sarah guides you step by step through growing mushrooms on logs, on straw, on wood chips in the garden, or even in Mason jars in your kitchen. The book includes instructions for growing seven mushrooms including shiitake, oyster, lions mane, garden giant/wine cap, and more. Learn the unique characteristics, flavors, health benefits, and specific growing requirements for each mushroom as well as space saving tips and recipes to get the most out of your mushroom harvest.
Get your copy of Growing Mushrooms for Beginners now.