Put all the mushrooms you want in a compost pile. Wild or commercial edible mushrooms may all be added to a compost pile along with other vegetables, eggshells, leaves and organic recyclables normally found in a heap. Mushrooms may be the shining star of the mix. Given their special attributes, mushrooms add several benefits to a healthy compost pile.
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Heat Compost Pile
Often, getting a compost pile to heat up properly is a challenge. A cold pile takes months to decompose. Mushroom spawn is the activator to grow mushrooms, and spawn is often used as compost activator because the microbial activity breaks down the organic material in the pile. When the material begins decomposing, the compost pile gets hotter faster. Sometimes decomposing mushrooms will make new spawn that will act as a compost activator.
Mushrooms are high in potassium, copper and phosphorus. One portabella mushroom has more potassium than a serving of orange juice. Mushrooms are the only good source of selenium from produce; most selenium comes from grains or animal sources. Add mushrooms to the pile and all of these mineral goodies become part of the completed compost. The compost then feeds your plants and garden all these essential minerals.
Mushrooms are actually a fruit of a vast mycelium network. As the network expands, it releases enzymes that break down into basic sugars and nutrients that efficiently feed plants and help them grow faster. As nutrition is returned to the soil, carbon dioxide is emitted for plants to breathe. In return, the plants give the fungi sustenance the mushrooms can't produce on their own. When mushrooms are in your finished compost, the benefits go right to the vegetables you eat.
Fungi decompose most of the organic material in compost. Mushrooms are fungi just like molds and yeasts. Putting mushrooms in a compost pile speeds up decomposition by spreading filaments and cells that break down tough organic materials. Even when conditions are not good for bacterial decomposition, the mycelium in fungi can complete the task.
- World of Fungi; The Real Nutritional Value of Fungi; Stephanie Ingram; 2002
- Biomass Authority; Mushrooms Break Down Oil and Plastic in Bioremediation; Caleb A. Gruber
- Cornell Composting; Compost Microorganisms; Nancy Trautmann and Elaina Olynciw
- Plantea; 163 Things You Can Compost; Marion Owen
- Composting in Singapore: Create Your Own Compost Bin
Rhonda Abrons is a writer/producer in Austin, Texas. For more than 25 years her journalism work has been published in many newspapers including the "Austin-American Statesman" and the "Boston Globe."