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Department of Agriculture hosts mushroom cultivation lecture

On Friday Feb. 25 the University of Maine Department of Agriculture hosted a webinar titled “Spring Has Spawned: Getting Your Garden Ready for Mushroom Cultivation” on Zoom. Pamela Hargest, a horticulture professional at the UMaine Cumberland County Cooperative Extension, hosted the lecture and invited Louis Giller, the education and events coordinator for North Spore in Westbrook, as a guest speaker. 

North Spore sells premium mushroom growing supplies and kits and focuses heavily on education and outreach to the mushroom growing community. The company’s website has plenty of educational materials and blog posts about growing mushrooms.

“Spring Has Spawned” was the first webinar in a five-part spring gardening webinar series offered through April for Maine gardeners.

Giller walked audience members through the process of incorporating mushrooms into their gardens.

Mushrooms are full of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein and have medicinal properties as well. Studies have shown that mushrooms have antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Additionally, they digest things in soil like lignin and cellulose and make those properties more bioavailable. When mushrooms themselves degrade, they enrich the soil and support surrounding plants.

On top of these qualities, mushrooms grow in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. “That’s a huge aesthetic factor,” Giller said. 

After explaining the benefits of adding mushrooms to a garden, Giller gave a very in-depth introduction to basic fungal biology and growing methods.

Gardeners may already be familiar with beginning a seedling in a pot or otherwise contained area, sometimes inside, before moving the budding plant outside to flourish. Giller explained that the best way to begin growing mushrooms, through spawning is by using a log of wood in a process called log cultivation. Mushrooms can take 12-24 months to “fruit.”

Giller went over the necessary tools to spawn mushrooms and growing care for multiple mushroom species. Every species is slightly different and all need different treatment to thrive. Along with the aesthetic benefits of growing a variety of mushrooms, each mushroom also helps its ecosystem in a different way.

Tickets for this webinar, and the upcoming webinars in the spring gardening series, were sold for an optional sliding scale fee. Attendees could choose how much they could afford to pay, and some tickets were free for those who couldn’t afford them. 

The next webinar in the series is called “How Not to Kill Your Houseplants” and will be hosted by Karen Ramsey on March 4 at noon. “Propagating Trees and Shrubs in the Winter” is on March 7 at 6 p.m. House gardeners can learn about starting vegetable and flower seedlings indoors on March 25 at “Seed Starting at Home.” The last webinar in the UMaine spring gardening series will be on April 1 at noon, “Preventing Wildlife Damage to Home Gardens.”

To attend these webinars, you may register here:

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