How to Use Your Old Christmas Tree to Grow Edible Mushrooms

The word "Plug Spawn" sounds gross, but it's actually really cool!

Each year, approximately 25 to 30 million Americans purchase real Christmas trees from nurseries, tree farms, and (let’s face it) Home Depots across the country. But what happens to all of these prematurely-martyred trees once Christmas is over?

If you’re like my family, you probably keep the Christmas tree around through the New Year (and maybe even a few weeks into January!) to keep the holiday #vibes going and to make the tree’s sacrifice worth it– but most people just check their tree to the curb as soon as December 26 rolls around.

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Interested in recycling your old tree and turning it into food? Us, too.

“Plug spawn” is a word that, when first heard, doesn’t exactly sound appetizing, but they are huge in the mushroom-growing community.

Plug spawn are wooden dowels that get hammered into fresh cut logs and then are stacked or buried in your garden or outdoor space, where they eventually turn into tiny mushroom gardens. This is a couple day project will fruit for years to come if done properly.

Smugtown mushrooms offers a special variety of Phoenix Oyster mushroom that typically grows on hardwoods, but is naturalized for conifer trees like hemlock, pine, fir, and spruce. (Aka, your Christmas tree.)

To use this Phoenix Oyster Plug Spawn, simply chop all the branches off of your Christmas tree so that what remains is just the trunk. Predrill the logs and hammer the plug spawn into the holes so that they are flush, they seal them up with melted cheese wax.

If it’s winter, wrap the log in a trash bag and keep it in the garage or another cool environment until the Spring, when the log can be transplanted into a shady part of your garden or other secluded, shady part of the yard. Then, forget about the log and let nature run it’s course. By next year or so, you’ll have a fruiting bloom of mushrooms that reminisces of a chia pet, and the mushrooms will return yearly to create a lasting permaculture mushroom garden.

(If you live in a woodsy area, be sure to keep your mushroom log away from places where wild mushrooms might be growing. If you’re not good at identifying the difference, you don’t want to mix the two up, as consuming unidentifiable wild mushrooms can be dangerous.)

How cool is that?

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