I have never grown or even tasted Winecap Mushrooms before, but I recently met a new friend, Teresa Marrone, the author of a just-published book: Mushrooms of the Upper Midwest: a Simple Guide to Common Mushrooms, and she encouraged me to try them because they can be grown easily right in your garden. They are supposed to be are similar to portobello mushrooms in taste.
I decided to create a small mushroom bed at the end of the stoop of the Unbearably Cute Garden Shed. I used some vintage wood logs that we found in the barn to create the border. The spawn did not come with any instructions and I found several different approaches in my online search, so I tried a blend of a few suggested planting techniques. First, I laid down wet cardboard.
Then, I mixed half wood chips with half semi composted compost. Getting the compost was the hardest part because i had to carry it by shovelfuls from the compost pile through the extremely muddy cow yard to my wheelbarrow. The wheelbarrow never could have made it through the deep mud. For wood chips I am using purchased pine bedding for chickens. I figure it is unlikely to be contaminated with spores from other mushrooms. I suspect the little blue mushrooms that always pop up on the compost pile might show up, but they will be easy to tell apart from the winecaps.
The compost-woodchip mixture is layered about 6 inches deep over the cardboard.
I added another thin layer of wood chips because the pine bedding is so fine, I was worried it might decompose too fast. Then I spread the mushroom spawn over the bed and covered everything with a layer of compost. I watered lightly because we are supposed to get rain this afternoon, but the bed should be kept well-watered.
The reading gnome and a toad have taken up residence in a corner of the mushroom patch, waiting for the mushrooms to emerge. If all goes well, we will have mushrooms for our wood-fire pizza in just a few weeks.