Friendly Fungi by Apprentice Gardener Lauren

Apprentice Gardener Lauren Jennings is back with her latest blog post. This time she’s talking all about the magical world of mushrooms!

The fascinating world of fungi is still only really being discovered. It’s only in the last 40 years or so that fungi became its own family, previously they were classified as plants.

As ever more research delves into this magical kingdom, so much is being discovered, including ways that fungi can drastically help with our climate disaster.

There have been studies that show that certain fungi can help clear up oil spills through absorption, leather made from mycelium (fungi roots) is being manufactured and several companies are now growing mycelium to create compostable packaging. I could go on about many other fantastic creations that fungi can be morphed into… but instead I will share what I know about the cultivation.

I have been fascinated and absorbed in the world of fungi for around eight years now. My obsession has taken me to many weird and wonderful places and there’s always so much new research coming out.


Fungi at the Coed Taylen workshop, May 2022

In early May I went on a weekend away in the Brecon Beacons, Wales to a site named at Coed Talylen. They held a two-day mushroom workshop in different ways to grow mushrooms. They taught us low- and high-tech ways of cultivation, and how to grow mushrooms within community spaces – perfect knowledge to bring back to the Kitchen Garden.

James, our tutor, even had a mushroom lab which was fully powered by solar panels (what a dream). We learnt the best way to grow mushrooms from logs, outdoor mushrooms beds, creating tinctures and teas for medicinal use and growing certain mushrooms with veg as a type of companion planting.

James grows a multitude of many varieties of mushrooms, from shitakes and different varieties of oysters, to medicinal types such as reishi, lions mane and turkey tail and many more delicious edibles.

King Stropharia sawdust spawn

There are many ways we’d like to grow mushrooms within the Kitchen Garden, such as growing mushrooms on logs from trees we’ve cut down in the gardens, growing on straw in reused buckets and we’ve already started three mushroom beds outside. They’re in a shady area underneath some apple trees where not much else can be grown.

We created this bed with cardboard, hard wood woodchip (less then three months old), spawn (mushroom mycelium) and straw. It’s basically a lasagna of all the food that the mushroom needs to grow! The spawn inside the woodchip will hopefully break down (eat) and the mycelium will grow. Fingers crossed we should be getting mushrooms in September or October.




Mushroom beds in the Kitchen Garden


When you make a mushroom bed it should be watered every few days for the first month and then weekly thereafter. The beds will hopefully keep producing mushrooms for years, as long as it is fed new woodchip every year as this is its food source.

Adding fungi to a garden adds more to biodiversity and it can actually help with plant growth. Fungi and plants can connect through their root systems and within a symbiotic relationship with each other, providing water and nutrients to each other. This then makes for healthier plants which can reduce pests and diseases.

It’s amazing to realise that this incredible community cohesion is all happening in secret underneath our feet.