First, let's cover what we mean by different "types" of Wine Cap Spawn. Wine Cap mycelium can be grown out onto several different carriers, each with their own advantages!
Sawdust spawn (figure 1) is the most economical form of spawn. It has millions of particles that are myceliated with fungal threads that jump off the sawdust particle into wood chips or straw substrates. Sawdust spawn is susceptible to rapid drying which may kill the spawn so care must be taken that the spawn is entirely raked into the bed and lightly watered for the first few weeks to establish.
Grain (millet) spawn (figure 2) is ideal for small beds. The spawn is more flowable than sawdust and is just the right amount for raised beds. Also, the grain base will not present any extra nitrogen demand that might otherwise affect a small plot with higher levels of added sawdust.
Peg spawn (figure 3) is a very portable and divisible form of spawn. Colonization of the fungus in the bed is slow but sure and is at the lowest risk for drying out. It is a great spawn to divide up and give several pegs to family and friends to start their own tiny patch.
Wine Cap Timing Study
Back to our study plots. The beds were all approximately 16 sq ft and constructed in the following manner. We started by laying down two inches of wood chips, then spread out the unit of spawn we were using for that plot, and then capped it with another two to three inches of wood chips.
Plot 1: 5 lbs Sawdust Spawn
Plot 2: 2.5lbs Sawdust Spawn
Plot 3: 2 Bottles of Millet Spawn
Plot 4: 1 Bottle of Millet Spawn
Plot 5: 30 Wine Cap Pegs
Plot 6: 15 Wine Cap Pegs
Plot 7: Wine Cap Mycelium Transfer
If you're wondering about plot seven- another frequently asked question is "will my bed keep growing if I just keep adding new material?". While in theory, the answer to this is "yes" we did want to measure how much longer it took for weathered mycelium to colonize a bed and begin fruiting in comparison to fresh, healthy spawn.
We planted all plots on September 19, 2022. With fall plantings of Wine Cap we do not expect to see mushrooms until sometime the following spring. In the north, Wine cap will slow its growth to a crawl in the winter months, delaying fruiting until the temperature warms in the spring of the year. One thing to note with this study is that we had an unusual spring here in Wisconsin. We had a snow storm on May 1st, followed by an extremely dry spell - neither of which are good for mushroom growth.
In early June of 2023 we started seeing fruiting in two of our seven plots with robust fruitings in plot 1 (the plot with 5 lbs of Wine Cap sawdust spawn) and plot 3 (the plot with 2 bottles of Wine Cap millet spawn). There was no activity in any of the other plots on the surface, but once we dug into the bed it was easy to see the wine cap's heavy white mycelium, indicating that the bed was healthy, but just not quite ready to start producing mushrooms.
By the end of June we started to see mushrooms in plot 2 and plot 4. So by the end of June plots one through four had produced mushrooms, while plots 5, 6, and 7 had yet to fruit. This wasn't particularly surprising as Wine Cap sawdust and millet spawn has many more points of inoculation (particles from which Wine Cap mycelium can spread) in comparison to Wine Cap pegs. Another way to think about it is that there are hundreds of grains of millet from which the mycelium can grow out, but with Wine Cap pegs, there were only 30 or 15 depending on the bed. However that rule did not apply to the mycelium transfer plot. While with the transfer plot there were many particles, older spawn is just not as fast and vigorous as fresh mycelium.
Keep in mind...:
Every environment is different. If you've found a rate that works for your micro-climate, keep with it!
Wine Cap Sawdust Spawn
Wine Cap Millet Spawn
Wine Cap Peg Spawn
Wine Cap mushrooms
By mid-July plot 5, the plot with 30 Wine Cap pegs, started producing. And by mid August we had a robust fruiting in our bed with 15 Wine Cap pegs. At this same time we also saw our first mushroom in our mycelium transfer plot. But while the Wine Cap peg bed had somewhere around 40 mushrooms growing, the mycelium transfer plot had a singular mushroom. The transfer plot will almost certainly produce more mushrooms, it's just taking a little bit longer!
You may be wondering what this means for overall yield. Surprisingly, the overall yields were not too different across plots. And now that all 7 plots are colonized they will likely produce mushrooms simultaneously in response to temperature and humidity changes.
A few other notes. If you are using questionable wood chips or are planting in a less than ideal environment we recommend using 5 lbs. of sawdust spawn for a 25 sq. ft. bed. This will give you the greatest chance for success in unfavorable conditions!
To simplify the findings: if you want mushrooms faster, use more spawn!