Wine Cap OUTDOOR detailed instructions

  Firstly, thank you for your purchase! It’s appreciated. You have in your hands a healthy live Wine Cap a.k.a. Garden Giant (Stropharia rugosannulata) mushroom culture. Here is a mini-guide to help you along your mushroom growing adventure. Many of the questions you have will be answered here along with some fun facts and results of my experimentation in developing this strain of Wine Caps in for growing in Alberta.


  Firstly, it’s been a wonderful experience gardening and growing with these mushrooms- for the overall health of the garden, the speed and yield increase of many vegetables, and also for the choice edible mushrooms. One of the most relevant discoveries from experimentation was planting garlic in June and upon harvest in October, seeing big and full garlic bulbs with the roots completely enveloped in Wine Cap mycelium. Usually late planted garlic does not stand a chance to grow bulbs of significant size in our climate, but with Wine Cap culture, the Garlic still grew plump along with potent flavor. Amazing. You have purchased the exact same culture. I’ve seen similar results in Hops, Kale and Arugula as well. Also, of interest, some Hungarian corn farmers grow Wine Caps in large straw bales, then plow those cultures into the soil during fallow years. This process rebuilds the soil naturally from the impact of the corn crop, and a bonus harvest of mushrooms is available for food or sale the following season. Once established, these mushrooms grow year after year.

  There have been studies of Wine Caps and the relationship they form with vegetables with identical results as my own testing. A few saprotrophic mushroom species (Wine Caps included) have been shown to dramatically increase growth rates (up to 30% in the case of Brussel Sprouts) of plants growing nearby. More research is begging to be done, but in the meantime, we can enjoy delicious mushrooms, healthy soil, and a strong garden as a result.

  The Wine Cap natural habitat is south of the Great Lakes, but with sufficient mulch and creating a humid micro-environment in Alberta, they can overwinter quite well indeed. The garden is the perfect micro-environment.  


  For your mushroom growing adventure, you may either companion “plant” your culture in about 6-8” of mulch placed between garden vegetable rows or build a mushroom patch up to approximately 6 sq. ft.



After placing your culture within straw or hardwood chips and a naturalization period with heavy watering, the culture’s growth will explode. It will send out luxurious white mycelium tendrils along the soil-substrate interface, similar to roots, creating satellite colonies around your garden or mushroom patch. Once these underground colonies have reached a significant size, wine red mushroom caps will begin to appear after rains. After appearing, they will take 3-8 days to become harvestable size. With a delightful firm texture, beautiful colour and slightly nutty taste, Wine Caps are a fantastic culinary mushroom. They are best harvested at a 2-3” diameter, but can be grown out to the size of dinner plates if you wish. Note that harvesting early will prevent the insects from getting to them first. When not producing mushrooms, the culture will be quite active beneath the surface, breaking down organic matter, moving nutrients to plants, and making a significant contribution to the health of the soil. This culture is of great benefit to the garden, even when mushrooms are not being produced.


Cultures may be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 months prior to use.


**Cultures may be “planted” as soon as the ground thaws**



  Bags of fresh hardwood mulch chips or fresh yellow straw. Also, arborists can be an excellent resource for chopped hardwood chips. Chopped straw can often be found at livestock feed stores. This straw or hardwood will be the mushroom growing substrate, holding water and providing food for the life of the culture. Softwood mulch is NOT suitable for starting Wine Caps at more than about 20% of your substrate until established. Once established, Wine Caps will eventually break down softwood mulch, however cedar chips will not work. Fir woodchips (not bark) also works well.



         2a. Simply put, adding mulch between vegetable garden rows creates an ideal habitat for mushroom cultures. The reduction in weeding is wonderful as well. This is an ideal spot for Wine Caps.


After planting your garden (seeding/plug starts), pile your wood chips or straw between rows approximately 4-8” high. Roughly break up the spawn and place it below the straw on the ground in a few of the wettest areas. Note that breaking the spawn into tiny little pieces will slow it down with Wine Caps. That’s it!  The next and most important thing is to keep a high moisture level for your culture to naturalize quickly and grow lots of mushrooms. After a couple of weeks, the Wine Caps will explode in growth and shoot out ropey white mycelium throughout the garden. Watering often will speed up this process. Once established, the mushrooms will require less water, just remember your yields will be determined by how wet the culture stays. For the savvy gardener, placing the culture near a downspout is an easy and reliable way to get lots of water to the mushrooms. For a mushroom patch, clear plastic may be used overtop to save water, just ensure there are very big holes to allow the culture to breathe. As long as the area is being watered often, plastic is unnecessary.


         2b. BUILDING A MUSHROOM PATCH (up to 12 sq. ft.)

  Rake and clear an area right down to the dirt approximately 2’ x 3’ in a shady location. Under trees or shrubs works wonderfully just ensure there is a source of water, especially under confers as they take up a lot of water. Under a downspout works wonderfully. If the area is particularly weedy, placing cardboard down before your straw/woodchips will stop the weeds from growing and eventually become food for your mushrooms.   


Place approximately 2” of you straw or hardwood mulch on top of the cleared soil (or cardboard). Break up your culture into approximately 1” chunks and spread them evenly on top of your substrate. These chunks will form new colonies from where mushrooms will grow. Breaking up spawn into little-bitty pieces for Wine Caps is not recommended if you wish to see mushrooms in your first year. Next, add 6-10” of your chosen substrate on top. Water heavily and as often as possible over the next 3-4 weeks, ensuring the patch doesn’t dry out at the level of the mushroom culture. If you have a water timer, setting it to water daily is ideal and the patch will be nearly maintenance free. Once established, the patch is more resistant to moisture swings and can handle less water. In subsequent years, you may break up/move the colonies with a shovel to expand your patch further. Another option is cutting 3” triangle holes in clear plastic and placing it over the patch to reduce watering and still provide air flow in shady areas. Placing black plastic or plastic without holes will cook your mushroom culture.

Fall inoculations of the culture will not produce until the following growing season, however yields will be substantial when the mushrooms begin to grow the following year.



  Though Wine Caps can grow to an enormous size (5+ lbs!), the quality of the texture and flavor diminishes greatly as they reach this size. The ideal harvest time is around the time the veil breaks beneath the mushroom cap and the brown gills start to become visible, or even before this to prevent insects getting a hold on them.

  Wine Caps are a summer fruiting mushroom, and often after a rain will appear as wine-red “stones” poking up through the substrate or near the base of a garden plant. After 3-5 days of growing, the mushroom cap will begin to unfurl and this is when to (ideally) harvest the mushroom. Wine Caps have an excellent shelf life in the fridge, and should be stored as any other mushroom in paper or a breathable container to prevent sliminess.

  All mushrooms should be cooked prior to consumption.



  There are three main factors that will determine how well your culture will overwinter; food, shelter and water. The culture can freeze without issue. Overwintering is very similar to mulching plants for the winters in Alberta. Simply add some extra substrate on top of where the mushrooms came up. Afterwards, it’s recommended to snow onto the area, keeping the culture either frozen or moist throughout the winter for best results and bigger harvests the following year.




- In my experimentation, the healthiest and largest mushroom colonies after overwintering were the colonies closest to the downspout from the eavestroughs. These colonies stayed either wet or frozen all winter, depending on the weather.

- There’s no need to worry about disturbing the culture during the growing season. The cultures are quite tough and pokes with a shovel or rake here and there will not affect the growth.

- If you wish to move a culture in subsequent years after planting, you may dig up one of the underground “colonies” from where mushrooms grew once the ground has unthawed and move it and place it in a new area as per the instructions.

- If you wish to rototill your garden as well as keep your cultures alive, you can dig up and remove the main colonies (the areas where the mushrooms grew from), till the garden, then replant as per the instructions or place cultures in the corners of the garden. Keeping the large colony(s) relatively intact will produce more mushrooms.

- Fertilizer had no positive or negative effect on Wine Caps.

- In about three years, with sufficient moisture, Wine Caps break can break down a large bed of hardwood chips and leave a rich humus-like soil, which plants LOVE.   

- Wine Caps are a generalist mushroom and can grow on many different substrates. They love cardboard, twigs, dry grass, compost, shredded paper, even some dried leaves once established. Un-composted food waster or green lawn clippings are not recommended. They can be grown on aged softwoods but prefer hardwoods. Birch, Poplar, Manitoba Maple, Ash, oak, and pretty well any deciduous trees make good food for the Wine Caps.

- If straw or hardwood chips aren’t available, inexpensive hardwood fuel pellets may be used to grow Wine Caps effectively in a mushroom patch. It must, however be mixed with sticks, leaves, perlite or the like to provide aeration- otherwise compaction will inhibit the growth and spreading of the mycelium and competitor mushrooms may try to crash the party. Straight hardwood pellets did not work in my testing.

- Growing mushrooms in polluted areas is not recommended as the pollutants will be concentrated within the mushroom bodies.

- All edible species of mushrooms tested by the FDA (USA) produced significant amounts of Vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s UV rays for a very short while (less than 1 minute). Mushrooms are one of the very few foods in nature that give us Vitamin D. Not only do they keep us healthy, they also keep us happy J

- Three distinguishing methods to differentiate Wine Caps from other species of mushrooms are the wine-red caps of young mushrooms, a cogwheel pattern that is visible under the cap where it meets the stem on newly formed mushrooms (before the cap opens up), and a purple-brown spore print from mature mushrooms. If in doubt, check it out. Wine Caps will turn brown quickly in full sun.


Also, of note in the trials with this strain of wine caps, I found there were always a constant stream of bees moving to and from the Wine Cap mycelium every morning. I had noticed that some of the bees looked ill, and were lethargic so I began to speak with other cultivators as well as research the phenomenon. As it turned out, certain excretions from this mushroom’s mycelium is often used by bees to fight off infection and disease. So not only will this mushroom culture help bees, it will attract them (and other pollinators) to your garden. Amazing! Furthermore, the excretions from mushrooms are now being used by some beekeepers to prevent colony collapse disorder and fen off varroa mites. Mushrooms are an incredible addition to the garden, welcome to the gardening revolution.


We hope you’ll enjoy growing these wonderful mushrooms as much as we do. Thanks for your purchase!


Do not reproduce without permission.