Planting a morel habitat: High heels recommended

January 19, 2010 | By | Comments (6)

Just another day at the Sunset headquarters.  We took a quick break from our jobs to plant morel spawn in our garden.  Paying homage to the small delicacies we hope will grow here, we opted to wear nice shoes and clothes to dig and turn the soil (or perhaps the attire was an accident). 

IMG_2270

 Katie Tamony, Editor-in-Chief, and me turning the soil.

The directions included with our spawn weren’t very clear, but apparently we can expect varying results—different sizes and shapes of morels. And we’re not quite sure when they’ll bloom.  

Here is my best attempt at simplifying the process for growing morels.The earliest we can expect them is later this spring, but there is a very good chance that we may not see them for a couple of years.  We will let you know when/if we find them.  If we don’t have any within the next two years, I would recommend disregarding our method (the uncertainty of mushroom growing drives me nuts).   

Quiz: Do you have a potential morel habitat?

  • Do you have a 4 to 16 square-foot area of soil?
  • Is the space well shaded, with less than three hours of direct sunlight per day?
  • Is the area out of the way of foot traffic?
  • Is the soil moist, and free of heavy clay and rocks?
  • Do you collect compost?
  • Is there a water source nearby?

If you answered “yes” to all, you are a potential morel farmer. 


 How to plant your morel habitat (how we did it, anyway):

  • Step 1:  Purchase morel spawn (www.gmushrooms.com)
  • Step 2:  Refrigerate spawn until ready to plant (up to 6 months)
  • Step 3:  Put on your fancy shoes and coats (optional)
  • Step 4:  Scout an area in your garden with lots of shade and good soil that is near a water source
  • Step 5:  Clear a 4-to-16-square-foot space of branches and leaves
  • Step 6:  Turn the soil 6 to 12 inches deep
  • Step 7:  Crumble your morel spawn evenly over the area and turn it into the soil
  • Step 8:  Turn in fresh compostable produce and burned wood and ashes 

IMG_2279

Margo True, Food Editor; Katie Tamony, Editor-in-Chief;
and Elaine Johnson, Associate Food Editor, scattering morel spawn.

How we will maintain our morel habitat

 

  • Weekly: turn in compostable materials
    8 cups of biodegradable materials for a 16 square foot space (less if the weather is warm)
  • Add remnants of burned wood to create a more natural habitat for morels since they commonly spring up in areas where forest fires have occurred 
  • Stop adding biodegradable materials 30-40 days before estimated “morel spring” (see below for “morel spring” seasons)
    Allow weeds and grasses to grow and fallen leaves to stay will provide protection for the young morels
  •  Lightly water the area if the ground feels dry
  • Fend off tourists that may find our morel patch

 Other information you should know

  • When should you plant? If you live in an area with a mild climate, you may plant any time of year; Otherwise, it is optimal to plant when the daytime highs are in the 60s and 70s
  • When will you find morels?
    –If you live in a mild climate “morel spring” may occur January through April.
    –If you live in an area with brutal winters, “morel spring” is likely to occur in May or June
  • A couple of weeks after a heavy rain, inspect your habitat for toothpick-like sticks: morels!  The morels will take a couple more weeks to fully mature

For more photos, visit Sunset’s Facebook page

COMMENTS

  1. Delores Underwood

    Im trying this soon..how’s it going..I used to hunt these as a child and a teen..im 49 now. We always knew the name morels but they s re actually called woodfish. I love them. Email me updates deloresu50@yahoo.com. im on a budget. Live in VA. Hope to have luck..look forward mostly to es ting them and introducing them to my grandkids.

    January 6, 2014 at 8:07 pm
  2. Diane Miessler

    Love your post/wit! Some comments, as one who’s lately been obsessing about morels. I found a website by a guy who has researched morels in a methodical way (rare, I’m finding), and sells elm trees with morel spawn growning symbiotically. He discovered that they’re both “mycorhizzal” (meaning they grow with plant roots) and “saprophytic” (meaning they grow on dead wood). I think the burn thing is a myth, somewhat – they “fruit” from the mycelium (mushroom roots, basically) when the relationship with the live plant is disrupted. So, the mycelium lives happily among the live elm tree’s roots, but when it dies (or is burned), the mycelium makes mushrooms to form spores and perpetuate itself. Kind of like flowers that bloom when stressed, somewhat, to perpetuate the species with seed. Thanks for this great site, and good luck with your morels! I’m spreading spawn in various places, now – by hardwood and apple trees, next to rock walls, and by the water meter where I found a morel in my very own yard. Woo hoo!

    April 20, 2010 at 4:11 pm
  3. buy r4 dsi

    Hello
    This is very informative post.You have described very well about morel habitat..Its very easy to understand step by step.Thank you very much for giving such good information..

    January 29, 2010 at 12:22 pm
  4. tina k (friend of nugget)

    Interesting about the chimney bricks producing morels. Morels love to grow where there has been a fire (in campground bbq pits and after a forest fire) as well as disturbed areas like slash cutting after a fire or clearing of trees.

    January 21, 2010 at 7:36 pm
  5. KathyG

    How I got my morels: a friend in the Willamette Valley delivered a pickup truckload of used bricks from a house he was renovating. I used them to build paths and edging in my vegetable garden in the Central Oregon desert. Within a year, I had morels sprouting in my garden — quite a shock until I figured out the spawn must have been brought in on the used bricks.

    Alas, it was a onetime phenomenon, probably due to our presumably unsuitable climate. Not only that, the bricks were the wrong kind — they had come from inside a chimney, and began crumbling within 6 months so I had to take them all out again. But still, it was pretty cool to see those wrinkled little gnomelike guys popping up.

    January 21, 2010 at 5:49 pm
  6. Jess @OpenlyBalanced

    How fascinating! I had no idea you could actually build your own morel habitat.

    I think step 3 is crucial – after all, won’t the morels be more inclined to grow if they think you got all dressed up just for them? :D

    January 19, 2010 at 10:12 pm

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