What started as a way to capture and reuse the materials produced by our mushroom and microgreen farms has evolved into an ecological project of love, respect, and ever-growing interest in the health and sustainability of plants and our planet . A few years back, we at Mushrooms Naturally began to really think about how we can best use and reuse all waste materials here at the farm. Given our urban agricultural set up, we knew we had the unique opportunity to go above and beyond most common Ag. practices of excessive use in order to get the biggest yield. We have always had a passion for consistently creating the highest quality produce for our customers as possible.
Our spent mushroom substrate is first composted in a traditional manner, and then we take it a few steps further. We start with a traditional three bin turning process that takes several months. As the substrate gets turned from one bin to another, we add Bentonite clay, alfalfa meal and oyster shell. The Bentonite clay helps in a few ways: the biggest is as a precursor for organic matter to become humis as the composting process happens. It retains valuable nutrients that will be reserved for later use in the cation exchange process with plants. The majority of our substrate is hardwood, so this is key in beginning the process of developing humis. At the end of the three-bin process the finished compost is then loaded into supersacks and aged until cooled.
-Our next step is to enrich and further age the finished mushroom-based compost. This compost comes back into the farm loaded with beneficial microbes, chitin, and all of the other amendments. To this finished compost we add aeration material like rice hull and activated bio char. Then we add finished worm castings and our mixture of dry amendments, which includes blood meal, bone meal, feather meal, kelp meal, basalt, and humic acid. This highly enriched mixture then ages for 4-6 weeks as the microbes get to work breaking down the raw materials into plant-available form.
The last step in the creation of our soil is to thin out and finish our concentrated compost. We mix our compost concentrate (the culmination of natural decomposition processes acting on the finest possible raw ingredients, with carefully-chosen and blended amendments to enhance the quality) in a ratio of one part compost to two parts peat moss by volume. This dilutes the concentration of the compost to a level that provides months of healthy, active plant growth. We also brew a compost tea which provides several additional benefits to our final Full-Cycle. Our tea is loaded with plant hormones, even more microbes, alfalfa meal, and worm castings to fortify microflora and nutrient content. This brew helps the hydrophobic peat retain water and stay coated with microbes. From start to finish, our soil is a labor of love. We very much intentionally craft every step of the process to give the grower the best product possible.