Growing wood ear mushroom in bags is a newer method that appeared about 10 years later than growing on logs. However, it does have some benefits. Growing it this way requires light work, less maintenance, less space and the harvest time is faster. The growing substrate is also easy to find and requires light initial capital investment.

Let's check out some ideas now:

Step 1: Preparing the Substrate

Sawdust (1-5 months)

Sawdust is very cheap and easy to find. The best sawdust that can be used to grow wood ear mushroom is the rubber tree sawdust. You can also use mixed sawdust from trees that don't contain essential oils.

Fresh sawdust may not be as good as those that have been allowed some time to break down (incubation period), which makes nutrients easier to digest for the mycelium.

As sawdust itself doesn't contain lots of nutrients, you can supplement some during the incubation period. This can be horse manure, cow manure, chicken/duck manure at a 4-5% or ammonium sulfate at 1%. Alternatively, you can add 1% agriculture gypsum for calcium.

To incubate the sawdust, you can dry the sawdust and screen out the more fine parts. Then, spray water on it for moisture and pile them up into a mound.

You can mix in some of the nutrients we've seen above into the sawdust. Then incubate the pile for about half a month. If you're doing it outside, cover it with greenhouse or plastic cover. After that, turn the pile inside out and up and down thoroughly.

At the time of turning, for softwood sawdust you can add about 0.5% lime powder for faster break down. Then pile it up again and incubate for another fortnight. Then it is ready to use.

For hardwood sawdust, it may take up to dozens of times incubating & mixing before it's good to use. Usually it takes 4-5 months before the nutrients in the hardwood sawdust become easily digestible for the mycelium.

Before bagging that substrate, you can add in some extra nutrients such as:

  • Rice bran: 3-5%
  • Corn kernels or cobs
  • Powdered corn stalk: 3-6%
  • Lime powder: 0.5%
  • Phosphorous: 0.5%
  • Urea/carbamide: 0.1%

After all is done, you can pour the sawdust into thick (about 0.12mm) heat-tolerant bags. It will go through the sterilization process at high temp for several hours.

Alternatively, if you don't use sawdust you can also use straw:

Straw (~14 days)

Good straw for growing is new one and has been dried. You can chop the straw shorter and soak it in water to make it softer. Then, let the water drip out.

Like sawdust, straw is a good substrate for growing wood ear mushroom; however, straw itself doesn't contain a lot of nutrients for the shroom. You can thus add in ingredients like lime powder (1%), cow/poultry manure (5%), phosphorous (1%) or epsom salt (0.1%).

Then pile the straw up, compress it down and begin incubation. You can use a tarp to cover the pile. After about 3 days, turn and mix the straw then pile and cover it up. Every few days, turn the straw again. After doing this for 3-4 times (about 2 weeks), the straw will be ready to use as our substrate.

After incubating, to make it more nutritious, we can mix in 5-10% rice bran, powdered corn kernels, corn cobs or other parts of the corn. Then, we can bag the substrate.

Compared to sawdust being a substrate, straw has a few benefits. It is similarly cheap and easy to find. The incubation time for straw is faster. On straw, mycelium grows fast and full, hence giving high yields. Shroom grown on straw also has a nice scent which customers like.

Step 2: Bagging the Substrate

The bag for sawdust can be about 15x30cm (width x height). The bag for straw can be a bit bigger. Before putting the substrate in the bag, fold the bottom of the bag so it stands upright and doesn't fall over. This makes it easier to pour substrate in.

For each bag, we can pour in about 1 KG substrate (fluffy, not clumping together) and compress it down. Then, slide a paper or plastic neck through and tie it. Then use a BBQ stick or chopstick and poke all the way from the mouth to the bottom, creating a pathway for mycelium to easily spread and colonize the growing material. Finally, use a piece of cotton to plug the mouth and we're done.

These bags are then placed into a pressure cooker to pasteurize at a high temp for 3-4 hours. You can use a drum or big pot to pasteurize the bags.

Step 3: Inoculating the Substrate

The pasteurized bags are then let to cool down before inoculation. The process should be done in a clean area.

Use a spoon to scoop out some spawn in the original spawn then close the cotton lid. If the original spawn is grown on sawdust, then about 1 KG of spawn can inoculate 200 substrate bags. The spawn amount put in can be eyeballed more or less, or depending on feel or experienced familiarity and not always an exact measurement.

The inoculated bags are then moved into a dark room, at 25-30C (77-86F) for 3 weeks. After this time, the room doors can be more open. Because at this time, the mycelium have run through all the substrate. The whole bag is fully white now.

Then, we can get ready to harvest the mushroom...

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