WV School Garden Toolkit

written for and by west virginia school gardeners

Wild in the Greenhouse: Hunting for Mushrooms

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By Emily Landseidel, AmeriCorps Farm to School Coordinator, Greenbrier County, WV

That’s the title of a new lesson, hot off the presses; seems there is something wild growing in the greenhouse.

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I shouldn’t be surprised really; from what I have read, the growing conditions in this greenhouse are excellent for Mycelia germination and fruiting (because the mushroom is actually the fruit of the fungi). The greenhouse is almost always between 70-77F (ideal temperatures for this mushroom), damp, and compressed soil. (It looks as though I had some overzealous soil packers during transplanting. Some of the soil in these containers looks heavily compressed, leading to a lack of air and water flow; the Mycelia Mushroom delights in poorly aerated soils.)

Today’s original plan was a Hydroponics Lesson. Instead, I will take a cue from Nature. With a bit of quick research on my part, I think I have the basics of Mushrooms down. I now know for certain I will never be an expert but I am hoping with a little coaching my students will be able to keep these mushrooms at bay in the greenhouse. We do not want mushrooms crowding out our tomatoes, cilantro, sage, and parsley!

After a few basics on mushrooms, I will let my students loose to harvest wild mushrooms in the greenhouse. I learned that picking does not kill the underground spores but will help prevent reproduction and thus spreading. Thus today, they will be hunting mushrooms, not to eat but to pick fruits in order to prevent them from spreading their spores.

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Additionally, I am going to ask the students what they think we should do to curb mushroom growth in our greenhouse. There are a few methods we can try but would like the students to actively participate in this decision process. We can try: aerating the soil (for better water absorption), applying a nitrogen fertilizer (which will speed decomposition of the organic matter which feeds fungus), or reducing irrigation (creating a drier soil and a less ideal condition for Mycelia growth and fruiting).

**Post lesson update: One student suggested peat moss to help aerate the soil and absorb some of the moisture. We may try that next week, they all agreed that the moss may help us fight the fungus and are eager to get their hands dirty again.

Any other thoughts for curbing mushroom growth?

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