First....do nothing. It's hard, i know, but you can do it! Just keep your log inside with you until spring, and don't fuss with it. Your mushroom is alive inside your log and is colonizing your log.
This takes time.
The mushroom spawn we inoculated your log with, is knitting itself together building a hidden mycelium mat inside the log. Once the mat is formed, your mushroom will recognize the limits of its available food source (the log) and will want to bloom in order to survive. We eat the blooms, the mushrooms.
Keep your mushroom log inside over its first winter to protect it from cold freeze while it finishes colonizing. Anywhere inside out of direct sun or drying air flow, is fine. Come spring, decide whether you want to grow your mushrooms inside or outside.
The cold freeze will not KILL your mushroom log, but it will stall colonization and delay bloom. So for FASTEST bloom, keep your log inside over its first winter. Colonization takes a different time for each log, and each mushroom type, so be patient. No one knows when YOUR log will finish colonizing.
Your mushroom will likely first bloom next year in its appropriate season, and bloom each year thereafter, approx one year for each inch of log diameter. Your can also bloom your log several times a year, depending on whether you decide to grow it inside or outside, and depending on the weather. Both ways work. Inside, it is a bit more work (soaking your log submerged in cold water overnight every 30-45 days), but not much. You can force your log to bloom more often inside, too, with the same soaking technique. Or not.
About your LOG
Your beautiful Red Alder (Alnus rubra) mushroom log arrived to you fully self-contained...you need do nothing except, come spring, give it a soak overnight, submerged in COLD water, which is called "forced flushing." Then, either put your log outside (see below) or keep it inside (see below).....and wait some more... patience is key. Your log will decide when it is finished colonizing and when it is time for it to bloom, or "flush." Come spring, you may "force flush" your log every 30-45 days, to speed it along and to get more frequent and regular flushes.
Grow your mushroom log indoors or outside.
Indoors, your log likes human room temperature (45-75 degrees F) with normal or high humidity, and normal room light. Keep your log somewhere out of direct sun, such as from a window, and away from drying air as from fans, heater outlets, wood stoves, etc., which will dry out the LOG. Your mushroom likes a natural, day-and-night cycle and indirect light. Your mushroom actually require no light to grow, so you can place your log as you would any low-light plant, anywhere in a room where it gets the benefit of a natural light and dark cycle. Avoid a cold garage or basement.
Next spring and thereafter you can decide whether you want keep your log inside during future winters (your log will not freeze nor will the mushroom inside "die" from the cold...it will just stop until spring conditions return) and/or whether to put it outside in the shade for spring, summer, and fall for natural fruiting, or grow it strictly inside, where you can "force flush" it every 45 days or so. The choice is yours, and you can change your mind as often as you like.
Inside, you can "force" it to bloom every 30-45 days or so year-round by giving it an overnight soak submerged in cold water between flushes, which fools your log into thinking it is spring again. This means you can 'force flush" your log indoors or out several times during the year! You may also mist your log or take it outside and spray it with a gentle hose, or put a soaker hose on it if you feel like the surface.or log bark is drying out. This is to keep the bark on your log from splitting and does not "water" the mushroom inside. The wax coating on either end of you log keeps it from drying out. Otherwise, outside, after its first winter to finish colonizing, you do not need to feed it or weed it or water it...just wait while nature does her thing.
Outdoors, simply place your mushroom log in a cool, shady spot (dappled light and deep shade as under a tree and out of the direct heat of the sun and strong winds, and out in the rain is GREAT! ) You can lay it down, or stand it up, you can prop it against something. The mushroom doesn't mind. If the weather is dry you can give it occasional watering sprinkling or soaking the log, There is no need to "plant' or bury your log in the soil (except your Lion's Mane log, which likes life best with its feet "touching the soil" ...not buried, just placed on the soil so you are free to move it around while you find the perfect place! Inside, just put about an 1" of mineral soil in a shallow saucer and place your Lion's Mane log on the soil.) Some people like to bury their log partially, thinking it helps keep the log moist. Be careful not to let your log rot because of excess moisture, tho. The mushroom in your log does not grow into the soil or receive any nutrients or moisture from the soil. it ONLY eats your log and turns it into soil.
We rested your freshy-harvested Alder log for several weeks before hand-drilling holes around its circumference and length. We generously inoculated the drill holes with the organic mushroom spawn of your choice....either Shiitake, Oyster, Chicken of the Woods, or Lion's Mane. ...one type of mushroom per log. After inoculation, we sealed the drill holes and the log ends with organic, edible cheese and/or non-GMO soy wax, which serves as a sort of band-aid for the inoculation spots. The wax will come off and decompose on its own, just leave it alone. Don't pick it off or get concerned when it comes off naturally. Your mushroom log is fully self-contained. There's no need to feed or fertilize it. Your mushroom lives and survives by eating the log!
Once inoculated the mushroom spawn inside your log began "incubating" or knitting itself together into a single body or mat inside your log...a process that can take 3-12 months or more, depending on your log size, mushroom type, and your environmental conditions. The incubating process was well underway by the time your log arrives. Patience is key here....just keep your log inside over the first winter and do nothing. During this incubating period, a "mycelium mat" is forming INSIDE your log. You will not see this happening, but it is! This mat inside your log is alive, and is actually the mushroom. It gets everything it needs to live, from the log.
When the mycelium has fully colonized your log, you might see white on your log ends...or not. Either way, the biological imperative to procreate arises, and your mushroom will bloom. These mushroom blooms or flowers are the part we eat. This blooming or flowering is called 'flushing." You can anticipate that beautiful, delicious edible mushrooms will burst forth from your log when the time is right. Just pluck off your mushrooms by hand, cook, and eat..
Once you've plucked off all the mushrooms, you can rest your log for several weeks or longer (take a vacation?) or soak it again right away, overnight submerged in cold water, to "force" your mushroom to flush again. After a forced flushing, your mushrooms will bloom again in 30-45 days. This allows you to "time" your harvests. All this happens outside naturally when nature provides cold, wet weather, sometimes several times a year. Your log will continue to flush many times over many years until it has consumed your log, and turned the log into mineral soil, which you can add to your garden.
Your log can be grown sitting flat on its side, free-standing upright, leaned against a tree or fence or building. You can even grow it hanging (by hand screwing a small cuphook into the waxed log top.) You can use your log as a decorated centerpiece inside your home. Use your imagination and move your log around as much as you like, until you find a "perfect place." It is sure to provoke interesting conversations.
Some people who live in arid and hot conditions keep their log inside year round in the kitchen standing upright on a nice tray in a corner of their counter as a sort of decorative feng shui piece for people to admire; others keep their log hanging from a shelf in their pantry. Some people keep their log in their spa or laundry room. Several families keep their mushroom log inside their unused fireplace space during summers...and it makes a beautiful show and use of the cool dark air movement up the chimney.....so, use your imagination! Its up to you to find the perfect environment for your log inside.
Your log will grow best in nature, where mother nature does all the work for you. Keep your log where you will keep an eye on it, tho....because flush happens suddenly, and mushroom blooms grow FAST. and you won't want to miss a single flush.
When spring arrives, your log is probably fully colonized, and either you (or nature) begins providing the cool wet weather conditions your mushroom wants, and it will begin to fruit, or "flush." Different mushroom types flush in different seasons. Some in spring, some in summer, some in fall. Your log will know when it is the perfect time in its new home. Be patient. If you want to learn more about your specific mushroom type, see our other blogs here.
Flushing temperatures are generally between 50-80 degrees, depending. Your log likes high relative humidity, like after a nice, chilly spring rain. Outside, this will happen naturally. Inside or outside, you can "force" your log to flush earlier (and in rapid succession every 45 days or so after the first flush, by simply replicating the cold wet of spring by soaking your log submerged overnight in cold water.) After the soak, simply return your log to ts place....and wait some more. Many people also refrigerate their log overnight after the flush soak...just so it knows for sure that spring has arrived! Some people "smack" or strike their shiitake log after soaking. There are many growing techniques, all easily accessed via a basic internet search.
If you keep your log outside, say, in summer, and things have been dry for a few weeks, simply gently hose down or soak your log. If your inside space is dry, feel free to mist your log whenever you feel like it is time. Your log does NOT need to be kept in damp or wet conditions, and when you soak or mist your log, you are soaking the log, not the mushroom inside.
When it is time for your mushroom log to flower, you will have mushrooms within a few weeks after the overnight soak...and it happens FAST...the mushrooms often emerge and become fully grown within a week.
There is no way to rush the process, or to know exactly WHEN your first flush will happen.... but when it does, you will see small pimples or "pins" emerging on the bark all over your log, like in the video and growth cycle graphics, below. Within days, these small protuberances will become full, luscious mushrooms, and it will be time to harvest! This happens quickly. ..within days....so keep your eye on it.
Harvest your mushrooms by plucking them off the log by hand before they get too big....once you see them, they are ready to eat! Some mushrooms can get VERY large, and the larger they get, the tougher some tend to get, it depends. Try some young ones, try some older ones until you find the size you like best, then harvest them all.
Simply pluck all the mushrooms off your log and enjoy them in your favorite recipes (ALWAYS cook mushrooms before consuming!) You can store excess mushroom in an open brown paper bag in the 'fridge for about a week, depending. Excess mushrooms can also be easily dried, frozen, or canned. There are plenty of mushroom preservation and storage resources online. Choose the ones that work for YOU.
Your log contains everything your mushroom mycelium needs, no need to feed or fertilize it, and no need to weed it either! Your log might grow lichen or moss on the bark, depending on your environment. Just leave them alone, they will have no impact on your mushroom production..or, if they bother you, pluck them off.
Your log will produce for approximately one year for each inch of log diameter. A 4" diameter log will likely flush for about four years. The larger your log the longer it takes for the mycelium mat to form, but the longer it lives, and the more mushrooms it will produce.
Near the end of its life, when the food supply inside your log is diminished, you will find that your log starts produces fewer, less vigorous mushrooms. To keep your mycelium alive simply make a hardwood chip bed out in the garden, chop your log in half lengthwise, and lay the halves face down in and covered by a layer of fresh HARDWOOD chips or sawdust (not evergreen wood ..hardwood only!) Prepare your woodchip bed in a cool, shady location out of the wind and direct sun, with water nearby. Your mushroom will colonize the fresh woodchip bed and grow more mushrooms right on the ground, so you can keep your mushroom alive FOREVER by giving your mushroom bed some fresh hardwood chips or sawdust every year or so.
Good luck...have patience....and let us know how it's going for you!
--the FUNky cuts crew at tahoma'shroomery in Ashford, WA.