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Inoculating compost pile?

Dave Miller

Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 392
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
I recently depleted nearly all of my compost and am in the process of "cooking" a new batch. Right now it is a little heavy on the "browns" but things are moving along. I turn the pile once a week or so.

I just bought a couple of ounces of "MycoGrow™ Soluble" to play with, and I was thinking of sprinkling some on my compost pile, with the hope that it would become sort of a giant pile of inoculant that I can use all over my yard.

However the MycoGrow came with no instructions, so I have the following questions:

1. When would be a good time to put it on my compost pile? The weather is getting fairly cool now (a little below freezing), and also my pile is more wood chips than compost at the moment. I am worried that if I put it on now, the freezing may kill off the bacteria & fungi in the MycoGrow. Or, because the pile is still cooking (inside), the heat may kill them?

2. Will the chlorine in my tapwater kill the bacteria & fungi when I mix them with water? Should I let the water "outgas" for a couple of hours before I use it?

3. How should I store the MycoGrow? What temperature?

I don't know much about fungi but I am reading "Mycelium Running".

Saybian Morgan

Joined: Apr 22, 2011
Posts: 580
Location: Lower Mainland British Columbia Canada Zone 8a/ Manchester Jamaica
A packet of mycogrow won't do what you imagine to that compost pile in the time your likely willing to wait. Composting woodchips you hope to turn to soil by the spring isn't impossible but it takes allot of intensive composting if your not working with a few cubic meters, and even then the outside will still be chips.
You would have to grow out the microgrow with fungal food and get the population up to an amount that could then potentialy be an element of your pile but it won't chew it down so soon. Woodchip compost piles could literaly take it's weight in urine over multiple applications and I don't know if you have that much urine.
But that's already two upper hands on your heap than a few sentences ago. I wouldn't worry about fungus and heat, when id go into piles the roaring hot core would be white. One thing I did find that made a huge difference is to put haybales onto the wood and inoculate the surface between them. The heat insulation, distance from the heat core, and the moisture retention of the hay all make for great fungal growing conditions. I'd put the mycro grow in water, soak cardboard, then lay that on your heap and cover it. They'll grow way faster via the cardboard and then start to work from the surface to the core, rather than sprinkling the powder into the heap and hoping for a trex effect. The better you protect it from rain unless the heap needs water, and IT NEEDS WATER if it's big, the better your fungi will grow all winter.

Are you hoping to use the low grade compost in the garden or to grow tree's? unless you continue composting it a second and maybe 3rd time your going to have a real hard time getting bacteria based plants to take off in it. If you do well they'll grow, but no Trex effect.
I would look at a lacto b/molasess innoculant, you can wet the pile down with trillions of bacteria, and again cover to reduce dilution of population and heat.

I've gotten woodchip piles that where 1/3rd full of frozen vegetables to heat up to 160f in the middle of january in canada, but I used allot of urine and smoking hot woodchips. I started with about a 40x20 foot pile 6 feet high covered in straw, i then would build 10x10 piles 3 feet high with hot chips and frozen veg and frozen manure, I did about 14 piles last winter, the remainder i build mudchip banks where things got boggy. This year mushrooms of all types bloom out of everything all the time, there not for eating but as long as there blooming I know the chips are really soil now.
M.K. Dorje

Joined: Feb 23, 2011
Posts: 152
Location: Orgyen
In my opinion, I think it would be best to store the Mycogrow in a cool, dry place over the winter, then use it to innoculate vegetables and fruit trees when you plant them in your garden and orchard during spring planting season. Mycorrhizal species are not the best choice for innoculating a wood chip compost pile. (Instead, I would use a species like King Stropharia to break down the pile into compost suitable for your fruit and vegetable crops.) Mycogrow would be good for innoculating bare root fruit bushes and trees by putting the spores into a large bucket, adding warm, non-chlorinated water (I use rainwater), adding a bit of molasses and salt, then mixing up the spore slurry/emulsion. Give the spores several hours to germinate, then dip the roots of the fruit trees/bushes in the bucket before planting. This same spore slurry can be used to water vegetable starts in the greenhouse or you can sprinkle it on your raised beds when direct seeding stuff in the garden or orchard. For more techniques and info, be sure to check out the website "". Mike Amaranthus lives in Oregon and is an expert on mycorrhizae. He also has a how-to video on his website entitled "How to Re-establish Mycorrhizal Fungi". This same video is also on youtube.
Dave Miller

Joined: Jun 08, 2009
Posts: 392
Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
Thanks Saybian & Peachlovingman.

Note that I am not trying to speed up the decomposition of my pile, it is already proceeding at a good pace, and I turn it weekly to keep things moving along. In the past I did a "rapid composting" experiment in which I turned the pile every day. I had heard that if you have the right mixture and you turn it every day, it will turn to compost in 14 days. Indeed, after 14 days, 95% of the mixture had turned to compost. So when I am in a hurry I try to have a good mix and also turn it often, which is what I am doing with this pile. There are a lot of fungi in the pile already, many of which I think are picked up from the remnants of previous piles in the nooks & crannies of my bin. I have been composting in the same bin for 21 years so I would imagine I have picked up quite a menagerie of microbes & fungi. Indeed when I transplant a plant from one of my pots, the soil is full of mycelium.

Here are some photos of my bin, taken a while back:

My current pile is about 4 times this size, spilling over the sides and about 3.5 feet high.

I grow a lot of plants in pots, both from seedlings and dug from a friends property. I don't have a lot of topsoil in my yard, so when I transplant to a larger pot or into the ground, I use a lot of compost and just a little topsoil. I would like this compost to be full of "good things", thus my thought was to somehow inoculate my compost with MycoGrow. I could of course inoculate the plants with MycoGrow when I transplant them as peachlovingman suggests, but I think it would be easier to just inoculate the compost if that makes sense (which would also add life to my pile). But I'm starting to think that would just be a waste of MycoGrow...?

I have recently gotten in the habit of gathering a few handfuls of soil every time I am at some wild place in the neighborhood (or region) that has a lot of native plant diversity and has not been disturbed for decades. The thought being that I am bringing more microbes to my yard. I have been putting these in the corners of my compost bin, but maybe that is not the best idea?

As you can tell I have a lot to learn about microscopic soil life.
M.K. Dorje

Joined: Feb 23, 2011
Posts: 152
Location: Orgyen
In general, mycorrhizal mushrooms such as Rhizopogon (false truffles) and Pisolithus tinctorius ("dead man's foot"/ dyemaker's false puffball), which are two of the most popular species in mycorrhizal spore inoculant products such as Mycogrow, are symbiotic, meaning they derive their nutrients from a relationship with the roots of living vascular plants. In general, they are not the thermophilic ("heat-loving") fungi that love hot compost piles. Thermophilic species of fungi include various species of Coprinus (inky caps), as well as Actinomyces (firefang) species. So, it might be wasteful to apply the Mycogrow to a hot, steamy pile. Personally, I like to collect my own mycorrhizal mushroom spores and mycelium and then try to inoculate the appropriate plant partners with them. For example, I sometimes put the mycelium of the Oregon white truffle in pots with Douglas-fir seedlings a few months before transplanting the trees onto my property. I also make a spore slurry with old common morels (Morchella esculenta) and water my apple trees with this. I also collect the spores of non-edibles such as Pisolithus and use them as general root inoculants for all kinds of vegies and fruit bushes. (I also let earthworms turn my compost piles for me, since I'm real lazy!) For more about using mycorrhizal mushrooms in permaculture, check out the book by Sepp Holzer called Permaculture or Mycelium Running by Paul Stammets. Paul Stammets also has another book called The Mushroom Cultivator, which has lots of info on composting.
subject: Inoculating compost pile?
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