December 26, 2012
Some images from our winter landscape
With mushrooms, and particularly shiitake, moisture is key. I am far from a mushroom expert, but what I have gathered is that optimal temperature and moisture conditions for fruiting do need to be acheived to ensure optimal fruiting, if not to ensure fruiting period.
In our mediterranean climate, the arid summers can prove fatal to fungi if they are fully exposed and dry out. Clearly, the native species in our forest which reappear annually and/or seasonally have mechanisms for protecting mycelium from drying out during the dry summer months: living under a thick protective layer of forest floor and deep into the soil. Once there is enough soil moisture and air humidity, and the temperatures are appropriate, the fruiting bodies begin to appear.
My point here is that we too could potentially cover the shiitake mycelium (e.g. cover the shiitake castle) with a protective layer that would help to maintain moisture within the logs through the dry summer months. Wrapping the castle in plastic would help to trap the existing moisture from the previous wet-season, creating a more stable environment for the mycelium, and reducing the need to water during the summer. To ensure optimal fruiting, additional water still may be necessary, but less water would be needful if we were able to trap the moisture more effectively.
Then there is the notion of flushing: soaking the log in water for a period of time to create the conditions necessary for fruiting. While this is a more managament intensive route, it would theoretically use less water than just watering the surface of the logs. Flushing and covering the shiitake castle in a protective layer are not mutually exclusive either. I could see flushing done at the end of the summer to kickstart the fall fruiting season.