While Morel cultivation remains tricky and unreliable, no one can deny the allure of the possibility of growing and harvesting morels on their own property. Because of the intricacies of the ecology of the morel mushroom, we cannot guarantee success, but we can offer two morel species and two planting methods which we find to be promising. The species are the Yellow Morel, Morchella esculentoides, (also commonly known as the White Morel) and is often associated with Poplar, Oak, Elm, Ash, and various fruit trees. The Landscape Morel (Morchella rufobrunnea) can be found growing in heavily mulched areas, often associated with landscape plantings and may have little relationship with the surrounding vegetation. You can plant both species following the cultivation approach as described below. The approach below is to simply establish the presence of the morel mycelium in your general landscape. This can be done with Morel peg spawn as well as sawdust spawn. This is a Johnny Appleseed approach, just getting the spawn in as many places as possible.
Planting Morels with Sawdust Spawn
1) Select a location
To simply establish morel genetics in your ecosystem, you may wish to plant morel spawn across a variety of locations aiming for finding the best "biome" for production. We suggest the location should be in a shaded area that receives little to no direct summer sunlight. Also, try to select an area that has access to natural rainfall. Freely experiment with the location, morels seem very undiscriminating to their neighborhood. We do suggest selecting a rich mulched area for the Landscape Morel though, and selecting an area close to a tree line of appropriate host trees (Apple, Elm, Poplar, Oak) for the Yellow Morel.
2) Planting the spawn across assorted locations
Start by loosening the soil with a shovel or broadfork. Morels prefer soils with a pH level that is near neutral so may require some amendment with compost if your soils are naturally low in soil pH. Simply break an egg sized chunk from the block of spawn. Avoid crumbling the spawn apart as much as possible as the spawn dislikes disturbance. Insert the chunk into the soil layer an inch or two below the soil surface. You will hope to maintain a soil moisture content within the range of 50-70%, which is fairly moist. Select and prepare your cover substrate - wood chips or a nutrient-poor casing: A 1-2˝ wood chip or mulch layer can be applied right after the spawn is planted. Add the mulch or chips until the area is completely covered.
Season to Plant:
Spring or fall.
Time to fruiting:
Spring or early summer, one (or more) years after planting.
Materials to grow on:
Loose soil, supplemented with compost or covered with mulch.
Plants 12-15 sq. ft.
Flavor and texture:
A prominent earthy, nutty or woodsy flavor.
3)Spring: Morel season!
Morels are a seasonal fruiter and will typically start to grow when temperatures warm to 43-50°F (fluctuating spring temperatures are helpful for growth). If possible, provide ½ -1 inches of water per week if rainfall is not forthcoming during this time. Check your assorted locations where you have planted the spawn into the landscape through-out Spring, usually when temperatures approach 70 F during the day. To harvest, cut the stem near the soil surface, properly identify, and enjoy!
NOTE: The method provided is not a guarantee that it will be successful in your landscape. We will continue to update guidelines for morel cultivation patterns that have seen success as we trial them or as they are reported.