Mushroom Compost post

It is the time of year when I look around in my world to find suitable materials with which to fortify, cover, amend and protect the garden beds and plants. Something about the appearance of crocus blooms triggers this search…

crocus blooms

The available resources vary.

This year, for example, I discovered a mushroom farm hidden in the rural hills of my neighborhood. I have also discovered some pretty heated opinions online regarding the use of mushroom compost. What is it? Well, it is not composted mushrooms. Rather it is the stuff the mushrooms were grown in until it became depleted of adequate mushroom nutrients and was then made available to gardeners. At about $5 a yard, it was worth experimenting with.  I got five yards.

oyster mushroom used compost

I have learned that different sorts of mushrooms require different recipes of compost. What I have here in Mr O’s trailer grew oyster mushrooms and was made from a mix of hardwood sawdust and barley.

It will also contain some mushroom mycelium, which is actually the roots that make up the plant– the mushrooms we eat are just the above-ground fruit that this underground plant produces.  I am rather interested in whether this mycelium would still grow some mushrooms in my basement. (Will I be able to resist experimenting?)

This mushroom compost has been outside in the rain since fall. It has a distinctive not unpleasant smell that sort of reminds me of corn silage only nicer.

Here is a closer picture.

mushroom compost, hardwood and barley

I have been reading like mad about this stuff. People write online about mushroom compost having all kinds of poisons added to it and being “spent” material, and being “dead” (having been sterilized with heat) and over-salted with manures and etc.

The compost we bought comes from a certified organic mushroom operation so I am not concerned about bad additives. I also hear it becomes “alive” again very quickly and is good for improving clay and for use as part of a mulch recipe.  I’ve read to avoid using it with roses and berries. I’ve also read it is great for roses and berries.

Well all things in moderation.

This is definitely not raw hardwood sawdust, but it is not utterly composted either. I will be mixing it with lawn clippings and last year’s leaves and other compost materials in the coming months, and using it as a mulch on some beds (not rhododendrons or azaleas–everyone seems to agree about this) and digging it into other places to help break up the clay soil.  We are also getting some composted cow manure and it will go into the mix too. Really what I need is a cement mixer truck to accomplish all this stirring, but I will have to make do with my own power tools…


In other vastly unrelated news, my grandchild will be making her appearance any day now. She is predicted for March 20, which I have learned is the date of the vernal equinox this year.

Here is mom 4 days ago (phone camera). Will the baby wait for Spring?

baby waiting


About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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25 Responses to Mushroom Compost post

  1. Roberta says:

    Hmmm…..mushroom compost. I read somewhere, in passing, that it was horse manure and just left it at that. I never gave it too much thought. I didn’t know that it was so controversial or that there were different types. I suppose if you are using to to improve the tilth of your soil it doesn’t much matter if it is spent. I always think to myself that adding organic matter can only be a good thing. I am surprised at how quickly my own soil has improved (it’s been a year now) since adding the first few wheelbarrows of rice hulls and chicken manure. I also did a cover crop of winter rye. It’ s coming along. Yours will too, no doubt.

    • linniew says:

      Every year I think I’m going to plant a winter cover crop of red clover. I even bought the seeds once but a gang of mice got in and ate them. (Had to be a gang–it was not a small bag.)

  2. Lyn says:

    That’s some cheap mushroom compost! The kind we can get here is based on horse manure and straw, and it’s good for adding organic matter, but it does break down and disappear very quickly. And it’s quite expensive compared to yours. It can be a bit alkaline, which is not good for our conditions, so I’ve stopped using it. We found that mushrooms did come up from it if it was kept damp, so I’d give it a try if you want some!

    • linniew says:

      Hi Lyn~
      We have generally acid soil (I need to really measure ph). I will hope I’m ok with this. And you make me hopeful for mushrooms, yay!

  3. I’ve bought some regular park compost for digging into my own clay soil, and there’s a ton of it (literally) sitting in a big bag in the drive. It will be interesting to see how much of an impact it will make on the quality of my soil. (And what impact it will have on my poor back, my tools being much the same as yours.)

    I think your “all things in moderation” ethos is probably the key to success when trying out new stuff. I can’t imagine it can be harmful, certainly, and your soil should enjoy some organic matter.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Søren
      Well that was my thinking pretty exactly. I’ve seen the clay soil improved by adding almost any organic material, but it must be done repeatedly to make a change. Always there are last year’s leaves and my own compost, but they are never enough volume.

      I wonder at a ton of anything in a bag! Perhaps you can construct a greenhouse cover from the bag later if it happens to be transparent plastic…In any case we must be moderate with our shoveling–a kind of on-going exercise program.

      • It’s one of those bags made out of an incredibly strong woven fibre-mesh material. (This sort of thing: It can’t really be reused in any way that I can think of off the top of my head, but you never know…

        And I think a normal garden produces enough compost to maintain a decent soil, but when you’re starting out with compacted clay that used to be a lawn, you really need vast amounts of organic material.

        As for being moderate… I don’t think I was this past weekend; I dug out the planned Sunny Border and then decided that a) I had to dig deeper to remove all grass roots and b) I had to make the area bigger to get the impact I wanted, so basically I quadrupled the area and doubled the depth. (Which meant I didn’t finish, so more digging for me on Saturday!!! My back, though, seems to have forgiven me for the past weekend, so perhaps I’m fitter – or have better digging technique – than I thought!)

        • linniew says:

          You are doing well to be standing up straight let alone digging MORE. You will need the weekdays to do a rushed recovery before Saturday.

          If you have a Costco store you might re-use that enormous handle-bag when shopping. Or you could put a pet Great Pyrenees dog in it and carry it around like people carry those miniature Chihuahuas in their handbags…

          • I suspect there would be room for a baby elephant in there!!!

            And my back really seems to be quite all right, especially after a day at the office, sitting on my ergonomically correct bouncing chair. I was feeling quite worn down on Saturday and Sunday after each first hour of digging, but then the soreness past away and I felt all right. I guess I just need to get used to doing some proper warm-up exercise before starting heavy-duty gardening! (I DID do plenty of stretching afterwards, though.

  4. Bridget Foy says:

    This is totally different to the mushroom compost I get. Our mushroom people grow chestnut mushrooms, they use straw and chicken manure in the bags. I let it rot down for 1 year before use. I’ve never had problems with it .

    • linniew says:

      I have never heard of chestnut mushrooms! There are so many kinds. I expect some of what I bought will be allowed to age another year, or at least till fall, before I use it.

  5. Holleygarden says:

    Congratulations on the new grandbaby! I hope all goes well with her arrival. You will certainly be busy this spring! I’ve never tried mushroom compost, but adding things to it, I think, is the way to go. And taking the time to let it age a bit, too.

  6. Grace says:

    No experience with mushroom compost here. No experience with grandbabies either. But I used to wish upon a star all the time. 🙂 I hope baby arrives safely and that the compost adds lots of goodies to your soil that keep out the weeds but allow your plants to thrive. Love your little crokie blossoms. (Yes in my lexicon, the plural of crocus is crokie. You may borrow this if you like.)

    • linniew says:

      Well of course I will borrow it! Someday we must create a whole new secret language Gracie. For now I will just admire the purple crokies outside my kitchen window.

  7. Alberto says:

    Baby babies… 🙂 I can’t believe you are having a grandchild, it seems yesterday you told everyone you were 30ish and now you are an elderly… it is amazing how time flies! 🙂
    Stop joking! Congratulations for the new arrival and let’s hope everything is going to go alright, spring or last days of winter (who cares?).

    As for the mushroom compost I also think that adding whatsoever thingys to heavy clay must be seen as a blessing (except maybe for fine sand, which makes the heavy clay like plaster). You said that this spent manure will become alive quickly though and this worries me a little bit… You are not into black magic, are you? And you are not planning to remake the Return of the Mushrooms Walking Dead, are you?

    • linniew says:

      Of course I am very young for grand-babies, but these things happen.

      I agree about the ‘whatsoever thingys’ (a professional landscaping term, for those of you who are not familiar with it) and will dig them right into the clay with great hope.

      Black magic? Me? Let me just ask my ouija board about that. But if any oyster mushrooms come to life they will be cooked lightly in olive oil and garlic.

  8. David says:

    I think that will be a fine soil amendment! Maybe you’ll get some oyster mushrooms out of the deal. We love those when we can find them in the wild.

    Our granddaughter will turn one on the 20th. It makes for a very joyous spring and everything good I’d herd about grandparenting has turned out true. Blessings to you and your family!

    Love that photo of the shovel.

    • linniew says:

      Omigosh. We could have birthdate-parallel granddaughters. This must mean something but I will wait till it happens to try to understand. I do look forward to sharing my strange world with this child, very exciting– Thanks for the encouragement Dave.

  9. bakingbarb says:

    Interesting, I’d always heard mushroom compost was good for the garden, I’d no idea it was questionable but since you mentioned organic – well it makes sense to want the organic stuff. What a great price to have gotten organic matter for the garden.

    • linniew says:

      Hi Barb
      Yes it can always just become part of the general composting around here if I don’t like using it directly. If spring ever comes that is. Cold rain and wind today.

  10. b-a-g says:

    I know absolutely nothing about mushroom compost so I can’t comment. My philosophy on fertilising is that I’ll deal with it when things stop growing in my garden. The only manure available at my diy store comes from dairy cattle and believe they’re fed with antibiotics.

    I hope everything goes well with the birth of your grandchild.

    • linniew says:

      Hi b-a-g
      Mostly I need material to add to the clay soil, so it won’t turn to stone in the heat and roots will have a chance. Still waiting on the baby!

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