Ever fancied growing your own exotic mushrooms, but don’t have the space around the house? Did you know that you can grow mushrooms outside on old tree logs and even in the kitchen in unused paperback novels? Yes, I did write “novels”! Read on.

How to grow mushrooms on logs

Logs should be cut during the tree’s dormant season, between leaf fall in autumn and early spring. It is recommended that the dowels are pushed into logs no longer than 6 weeks after the it has been cut from the tree. Mushroom kit wooden dowels are impregnated with mycelium. They are ready to ‘plant’ into a hardwood log as soon as you get them:

  1. Drill holes for each impregnated dowel
  2. Insert the dowels into the log
  3. Seal the dowels with a layer of wax
  4. Position logs in a shady wooded area or wrapped in black polythene and buried underground

Where to put the Logs

The mushroom mycelium may take between 6 and 18 months to colonise a log. So be patient. Once logs are fully colonised, they can be moved to a warm, sheltered, moist area. It is recommended you place them in dappled-shade where they can begin to fruit away from harsh sunlight.

Each species differs and they will only fruit when environmental conditions are right for them. Small, white nodes will appear from the log and these will develop into mushrooms within a week. Maintain humidity and moisture levels during this time and do not move the logs.

Harvesting Mushrooms

To harvest them, grasp the mushrooms at the base of the stem and twist them away from the log. Logs will continue to fruit for up to 4 weeks. When growing mushrooms allow several months recuperation time for the mycelium to regenerate before producing another crop.

Growing Mushrooms in books

Old, paperback novels make a fun home for your mushroom crop. They won’t crop as well as they would in a log or prepared compost, but they will make for a convenient and interesting addition to your store room. You can either drills holes in a thick novel (“War and Peace” might do it), or, you could try buying your mushroom spawn in granular form and sprinkle them in between the pages.

  1. Sterilise your book by placing it in a bowl and pouring boiling water on it
  2. Let it cool down until it is cold to touch
  3. Carefully open the book and sprinkle the mushroom spawn throughout the pages
  4. Gently compress the book
  5. Place it in an air-tight food bag
  6. Incubate the impregnated mushroom book for about 4 weeks (70-75 degrees in a shaded room)

Dowel products to try

Why not try something a little bit different, and grow your own mushrooms? Kits provided with detailed instructions and require no specialist equipment.

Shiitake dowels

Shitake mushrooms (lentinula edodes) – Have been cultivated and nurtured in Japan for more than a thousand years, and are now a sought after ingredient for many Oriental dishes. A good accompaniment to meats, stir-fries and heavy sauces. Kits also contain Wax, Wax Applicator and Instructions.

Oyster Straw dowels

Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) – have a thick, soft texture with a subtle flavour and can be eaten cooked or raw. They often used in Oriental cooking. An easy to use kit.

Gourmet Collection dowels

Dowel kit contains Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus), Shitake mushrooms (lentinula edodes) and Lions’ Mane (Hericium erinaceus).

Lion’s Mane dowels

Lions’ Mane (Hericium erinaceus) – Have been used traditionally in China and Japan for hundreds of years, and are renowned for their medicinal benefits. This unusual variety has a taste likened to lobster when cooked with butter, but can be eaten boiled, grilled or as an ingredient to many other dishes. Kits also contain Wax, Wax Applicator and Instructions.


Some people are allergic to mushrooms or mushroom spores and others may become sensitised by high concentrations of spores.

James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

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