My Mushroom Garden in rain country!
My wife and I recently got married June 21st 2015, and bought a house on an open gravel pad in Ketchikan, Alaska. It’s a 3 bedroom 1.5 bath fixer upper but has great potential–something my wife (Amanda) saw when we first took a look at the place. I saw a lot of work! Replacement of windows, siding and remodeling the kitchen was just a start. We took on the challenge and we are loving the place as we see it change from day to day.
The garden or lack thereof was a small raised bed full of weeds, but it was the only real soil on the whole property and I wanted a fruit forest! There was a rhubarb, a cherry tree, and some Weigela and that was it! So I basically had a blank slate. Very exciting but gardening in Ketchikan is like nothing I have ever encountered in all my gardening years (grew up in Portland, OR). Wet, soggy, peaty soil when you could find an actual soil profile. The relatively recent glacial period scoured the land. Since we are on an island, finding sand and topsoil is a hard thing to do unless you want to pay a lot of money. I prefer to grab what I can from the local beaches i.e. sand, mud, seaweed, and shells. Composting is another way I can bring a suitable planting medium into my garden. First, I wanted to make some fungally dominated compost for my trees, and other plants I plan to grow in the future. I call it poor man’s mycorrhizae as opposed to store bought mycorrhizae which is expensive and I would not know if the fungi would actually take to my rainy environment. What is mycorrhizae? It is basically a mushroom or more technically the relationship between the roots of plants and the fungi living in the ground. The fungi tap into the roots of the plants and it basically increasing the root area for which plants can take up more nutrients and water.
I chipped small alder branches and chicken manure for a good carbon to nitrogen ratio and after it heated up for a couple of weeks or so I then inoculated the compost with hyphenated mushroom spore’s I found in the forest floor, mostly under old growth trees. I let it sit until fall about 6 months and when it was done the whole pile was filled with white fungi! It was beautiful looking. Mushroom hyphae look like white roots from a tree spreading like a spider’s web in the soil. I mulched my cherry tree with it, and planted a Stanley Plum tree that I have been dragging around for several years in a pot. This year I have twice as many cherries on the tree and my first crop of plums getting bigger by the day. I was astonished and thrilled that the results were so good! I highly recommend a poor man’s mycorrhizae. The coolest part of this process is that now I have Shaggy Mane mushrooms all around my trees!! This spring my second garden season here at our property started with bare root planting. Six different varieties of raspberry, 15 dwarf fruit trees, 5 types of gooseberries and 100 strawberries. All were planted in containers and mulched with the same mulch dominated with fungal spores. They are all doing very well, and the strawberries are the best crop I have ever seen in Ketchikan. I am amazed at the strawberry crop especially because they are in square, one gallon pots and all I feed them is compost tea and comfrey tea.
I find that as my garden gets bigger i.e. 9 4’x12’ raised beds, 50’ row of raspberries, 8 different types of currants and gooseberries, that it gets increasingly harder and harder to find time to weed. So I tried just mulching again but with no digging into the soil. I just placed about 3 inches of compost over each bed and planted directly into the bed, no digging. Since most of my weed problem is annual seeds i.e. chickweed. Chickweed seeds wont germinate unless the sunlight gets to them, so in effect it’s like putting down a weed fabric but it also feeds the soil. All my raspberries are mulched as well with the compost and they are loving it.
I have found out the power of mulching and the power of Fungi! You should be careful about inoculating poisonous fungi spores into a garden! Please research the subject and make educated decisions, or ask a mushroom hunter.
Gardening on your own piece of land is something that I have longed for some time, and now that I have a chance to make my fruit forest I realize that gardening is one of the most dynamic things one can do! You can never get bored, there is always something to do, and there is always a better or easier way to do things. There is always a problem, but luckily there is usually a solution. I learn something new every day with gardening, something that keeps you thrilled and thinking will never be dull.