Now that we’ve been mushroom farmers for a whole three months I thought I would do a post about bags for growing oyster mushrooms and what we’ve learned so far.
When we started we bought a whole stack of filter patch bags thinking they would be just the right thing since the mycellium would be able to breathe through the patch without becoming contaminated. What we found was that the mycellium grew really well by the patch but the rest of the bag never quite got colonised. You have to poke holes in the bag to get decent colonisation which seemed to kind of defeat the purpose of the patch since contaminants would just enter through the holes… We saw people using these bags for colonisation then pulling them off for fruiting but for us here is SA it is just way too dry for that to be an option. All the primordia just dried up when we tried that.
Next up were pre-punched clear bags – good for beginners because you can see if there’s contamination but plenty of air for oyster mushroom primordia to know where to fruit from. These were definitely an improvement but the thing with oyster mushrooms is that they like the light. So primordia will form where there is access to light even if there’s no hole. With these bags we got stacks of primordia forming inside the bag which were generally a bit mutant by the time we’d cut open a hole for them to grow from. Plus the bunches which did form were quite small – maybe because there were so many primordia forming because of the light factor.
A black pre-punched bag was the next trial. When these ones fruited we started to think we might actually be getting the hang of things. We got much bigger bunches, more even distribution and more clusters coming on at the same time. We also got better flushing. Even though we were still beginners and we couldn’t see if there was mould inside we figured we could make a spy bag (a la Tradd Cotter) to check for contamination rather than doing the whole lot in clear plastic.
Finally, inspired by photos in Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation and a (cheesy) video we watched about Mepkin Abbey (of all places) we decided to try the giant sausage (or dune worm) bag. It’s the same thing as the short pre-punched black bag except you buy it in a roll and punch the holes yourself. The long bag is cheaper and faster than the other types of bags we tried and we can maximise the vertical space we use in the grow room. We’ve been punching a hole in the bottom to make sure excess water can drain away (we had one where it got a bit boggy inside and everything went mouldy…). So far the only downside is that you need two people to manhandle the bag into the grow room and tie it up. But it’s a small down side given how much more substrate we can fit in there compared to smaller bags.
There will be more adaptations I’m sure. But so far this is the best one so we’ll work with that for the next little while.