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  Mike's Gardening Tips

Mushroom soil
(as seen in his weekly column in the Philadelphia Daily News)

This is something I've mentioned on the show many times--it's my absolute first choice pick for people who need a lot of growing medium to get a garden started fast. There are a LOT of mushroom farms in the area, and all follow pretty much the same process--they start with a wonderful rich mix of manures, ground-up plant matter, minerals like greensand and other nutrients and then use tons of this stuff to grow mushrooms. After a couple of runs, the 'shrooms start to get small, so they move that 'soil' out and start again with a fresh batch. They go through TONS of this stuff on a regular basis, and its a great bulk resource for folks in the ol Delaware/Lehigh Valley(s).

One of the BEST things about it is that it has never been used to grow GREEN plants--mushrooms are fungus (OK--fungi; what are you an English major with a minor in organic chemistry?!). And so this stuff has a tremendous amount of green plant-feeding food left untouched.

There are two basic types: Fresh (this stuff is still cooking--its actually hot to the touch and may burn tender plants. Great for cold frames, however. Left piled up it will compost down to half its size pretty quickly--smoking and steaming and perhaps even bursting into flame on the odd occasion as it goes. It eventually becomes Aged mushroom soil--a much less odoriferous, more powdery, concentrated form. They both have their uses.

I get my mushroom soil from a place called Hawk Valley. I've often called their stuff 'organic', and I should explain that it really isn't--but it is exceptionally clean. Although they don't get their 'spent' MS from an organic mushroom farm, the places they utilize use less pesticides than most--AND they pasteurize it with steam instead of soaking it in formaldehyde to kill the billions of mushrooms spores in the compost (you have to do something or the damn stuff 'd be sprouting little mushrooms forever).

I've seen the analyses of Hawk valley's mushroom soil (analyzed by Woods End laboratories--the best in the biz) and it's remarkably clean--no detectable pesticide resides or heavy metals--but a ton of nutrition. I'd call it a 2-1-3 (a combo of Wood's End and A&L lab results) on the old NPK scale--and it's a whopping 63% organic matter. Whoo!

They're in Kempton (look it up--what am I, a map?). Call em at 610-756-6259 and they (probably Jan) will give you the rundown on prices. They deliver or you can go there (with a truck, natch) yourself.

I have no financial connection to these folks--they're just my source for the stuff (yes, even I sometimes cannot make all the compost I want/need/lust after). So don't use it all up, okay? (Hey Jan--call me if you start to run low!)


The gardening information contained in this site is copyright 1999 by Mike McGrath, and is for the use of WHYY-FM/Public Radio listeners only. Such listeners can print it out for their own use and such, but under no circumstances may be it sold in any manner, used in a book or periodical, on another website or for any commercial purposes of any kind without the express written consent of Mike McGrath. To obtain such permission, e-mail Mike McGrath at garden@whyy.org. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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