If you’ve ever noticed how sometimes logs will “leaf-out” after cutting, it’s because fresh wood maintains vitality that slowly diminishes as the wood cells of the log start to dry. Logs inoculated with spawn soon after felling tries to hold off the invader mushroom spawn but as the wood cells lose strength, the mycelium follows closely to start the decay process.
Wood dries at different rates depending on species, bed log diameter, heat, wind and time. Figuring out when to cut and when to inoculate is often a decision based on your climate, subsequent incubation temperatures and wood species.
Winter and Early Spring Cut
In both the North and South, age the wood for about two weeks, and inoculate as soon as possible after that. However, wood that is shaded and stacked in a protected place can often sit for up to two months prior to planting.
While it is great to have rules, the bottom line is to plan to inoculate as soon as possible after felling. We all know how “life just gets in the way” and it’s better to get spawn in the logs soon (despite antifungal agents lurking around every green cell) rather than letting the wood get too dry before you inoculate.
In the North, cut wood in the early fall and inoculate within a month of felling. You can relax and inoculate throughout the fall if you can subsequently incubate in a heated structure for winter. For a large amount of logs, incubated indoors, see our blog post, "A Peek Underneath". For just a few logs, put them in a plastic bag but make sure the end of the bag stays open to allow some ventilation. If you can’t do either, hold off on inoculation and stack logs in a protected area outdoors low to the ground on rails and plant when daytime temps exceed 40 degrees (F) come spring.
In the South, cut and age the wood about two weeks and then inoculate as soon as you can. Logs that will be aged longer should be shaded, dead stacked and protected from excessive wind and sun.
How Dry is Too Dry and Some Acceptable Fixes
You can often tell, regardless of knowing when it was cut, if wood is getting too dry to inoculate. Logs that have cracks (up to 1 mm) at the ends are starting get “too dry” and need watering. Bulk stack the logs, sprinkle periodically through the day and tarp the logs after sprinkling. (Fruiting blankets work here as a tarp, too).
Log ends that have deep cracks (more than 1-2 mm) at the ends will benefit from a 24 to 36 hour soak in water two days prior to inoculation; just make sure the bark surfaces are not wet when drilling/waxing. Log ends with deep furrows and are dark gold in color indicate the log may not be usable for inoculation without cutting 6 inches or so off each end, and even then the logs may be too dry.