Everything, however, will depend upon the manure itself, and to a slight extent upon the weather. When ready for making into beds the material should be hot, moist, but not sufficiently odorous to be objectionable.
The first time one endeavours to stack hay to make a rick one is amazed at the amount of skill required to obtain perfect evenness and level distribution; it looks so easy as one watches the accomplished countryman at work, but proves to be tantalisingly difficult to the lay worker. And so it is when making up a mushroom bed for the first time. The manure seems all at sixes and sevens, and a loose, untidy ridge is invariably the result.
By far the most straightforward plan is to mark out the site of the bed by means of a garden line stretched upon pegs set up at the corners. Having plainly outlined the boundary, start heaping the manure in place. An ordinarymanure fork, such as is sold by an ironmonger for 3s. 6d., is the best tool, and the manure should be spread evenly over the whole surface of the bed to a depth of, say, eight inches. This should then be trodden down firmly, and another eight inches of manure added, when the treading process should be repeated.
In this way the ridge-shaped bed should be built up, the outside edges being gradually drawn towards one another, the manure firmly packed, the edges themselves made even by means of a rake, with which loose matter can be removed as the work progresses.
A yard wide and a yard high is a fair measurement for a mushroom bed, though its length will naturally depend upon the space at one's disposal. The writer has seen beds a quarter of a mile in length. From north to south is the best aspect for an outdoor bed.
In the case of flat beds, such as those made up in a greenhouse or in a low structure where ridges are not practicable, a similar method of procedure must be followed. Such beds are often formed with a slight slope for the purpose of convenience, but it is immaterial whether they are perfectly horizontal or sloping. All that matters is that the manure is tightly and firmly packed when in good condition, and that it is of a thickness of from ten to fifteen inches. In a warm house, one would naturally not require such a depth of manure as would be required in a structure that was desperately cold.
In this, as in all other gardening matters, to follow rigidly the rule of three is not possible. The actual amount and thickness of manure required will depend upon circumstances, but the grower must remember that the colder the building the greater the quantity of manure required. A house facing south, for instance, would require a thinner layer of manure than one in a bleak situation.
Gathering mushrooms on the famous farm of Mr. Mizen at Mitcham. Here mushrooms are grown by the acre all the year round. The beds are ridge-shaped, about a yard wide and a yard high before spawning, and run from north to south
Photos, Clarke & Hyde
With the indoor beds, just as with those in the open, only short manure should be employed, the long straw being carefully raked or forked out, and used later as a dressing or covering. In either case, a suitable gangway must be arranged for so that there is ample room for the person who gathers the produce and her baskets. When dealing with long ridges out of doors, at least a yard should be left between each ridge, and many growers leave even more than this.
To be continued.
Photo, H. N. King