Mushrooms pop up in the most peculiar of places; in the middle of your lawn, for example. Mushrooms are the flowering fruit of bacterium known as mycelium, growing in the ground around the mushroom patch. In some cases, mycelium can connect to form large colonies of blooming mushrooms in the wild.
Unless you know what you’re doing, you don’t want to go out mushroom picking in the forest for your next dinner party. Many varieties of wild mushrooms are toxic, and you could end up with anything from a severe tummy ache, to a trip to the emergency room, depending on the variety.
Edible mushrooms available in stores are a staple in many people’s diets. However, some varieties can cost a pretty penny at the checkout till. Portobello’s, Shiitake, many other exotic types are so expensive that many people can’t afford to include them in their recipes very often.
What if you could grow mushrooms yourself? With some time and effort, you could have a mushroom garden that gives you as many as you need, all-year-round.
In this guide, we’ll look at everything you need to grow mushrooms yourself.
You can collect spores from many different types of mushrooms. However, if you do intend to collect spores, we recommend you pick up some fresh mushrooms from a local farmer’s market, not the grocery store.
All you need is some glass and a sheet of paper for this exercise. Remove the stem and skirt of the mushroom protecting the gills in the head.
Take a spore print by placing the head of the mushroom on the paper with the gills facing toward the paper, and then place a tumbler glass on top to push it into the paper. Leave it in this position for 24-hours.
After 24-hours, remove the glass and carefully lift the mushroom off of the paper. The spores will have fallen from the cap of the mushroom overnight, leaving a print on your paper. The print should take the appearance of the gills in the mushroom head.
You can use the spore print as the building block to start growing your mushrooms. Keep the spore print in a sealed bag in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Cultivating Your Spores
After taking your spore print, you can start growing your mushrooms. Create a spore syringe by establishing a sterile environment. Boil some distilled water twice to eliminate any remaining bacteria, and then take a syringe with a sterile needle head, and draw some sterilized distilled water into the body of the unit.
Scrape the spores from the paper using the sterile needle, placing them in a sterilized glass. Push half of the water from the syringe into the glass to rehydrate the spores, and then draw the mixture back into the syringe.
If you look into the body of the syringe, you’ll see clumps of spores floating around in the sterilized water. You can take this water and use it to inoculate the sterilized growing medium.
Germinating Your Spores
The mushroom spores need a nourishing substrate to help them germinate. Grain, wood chips, sawdust, wooden plugs, and straw are all suitable growing mediums for cultivating a mushroom crop. In most cases, the variety of mushrooms will dictate the type of substrate you’re using to grow your harvest.
To create the “spawn,” you’ll need to blend the substrate and the spores. The spawn promotes the growth of the mycelium, which is the fungus that produces the fruiting mushrooms we get at the dinner table.
When you mix the spawn with the substrate, mushroom growth is vigorous, and harvests are plentiful.
Kits for Growing Mushrooms at Home
Growing mushrooms from spores might sound somewhat intimidating, especially to the novice cultivator. However, there are plenty of ready-made mushroom growing kits available online and in stores.
You get plenty of choices when selecting your mushroom kit, allowing you to grow exotic species like shiitake and oyster mushrooms. The kit comes with everything you need to grow your mushrooms from scratch, including a set of instructions, removing the hassle of collecting spores with the traditional method.
Different Mushroom Types
It might surprise you to learn that there at over 14,000 different varieties of mushrooms. Many of them are deadly to eat, but there are plenty that makes a delicious addition to a meal.
A mushroom kit can help you grow your favorite varieties at home. Find kits for growing Shiitake, oyster, Lion’s mane, button, and Portobello.
Here are a few tips for growing the most popular types of mushrooms for use in the kitchen.
Oyster Mushroom (Pleurotus Ostreatus)
You can find oyster mushrooms in the wild growing among dead trees. These colorful mushrooms come in kits, and you’ll get a good harvest provided you keep the growing conditions moist and humid. In most cases, oyster fruit twice.
After you take the second harvest, you can use any remaining mycelium to inoculate more growing medium. Oyster mushrooms prefer growing in dead trees or on logs, and it’s possible to simulate this growing environment using hardwood logs and a dowel spawn.
Ensure the log comes from a healthy, and cut at least 6-weeks prior. Drill 10mm holes around the log in regular intervals, inserting the mycelium in the holes. Keep the growing area warm and moist. The mycelium will be ready to fruit in 6 to 12-months.
Shiitake Mushroom (Lentinula Edodes)
Shiitake is another popular variety grown for culinary purposes. Shiitake like the same growing environment as oysters, and you should receive wooden dowels with your kit, impregnated with the Shiitake mushroom mycelium.
Prepare a log using the above method and then insert the dowels into the holes. Your kit will also include a sealing wax to secure the dowels and prevent them from drying out.
You can also grow Shiitake mushrooms on blocks of sterilized sawdust. This method forces faster fruiting of the mushrooms, but the harvests are smaller, and the mushroom quality is not as high as the log method.
White Cap (Button) Mushrooms (Agaricus Bisporus)
White button mushrooms are bar far the most popular variety for novice gardeners. Button mushroom goes with so many recipes, and growing them yourself is a rewarding and tasty experience. This variety also includes the Portobello mushroom as well, and both grow in similar environments.
Kits include trays and lids, along with the pre-spawned substrate, such as compost.
Mix your substrate and pack it down firmly to allow the temperature to rise. Turn the substrate every few days to let it rot and create the nutrients necessary for the mushrooms to start the fruiting phase.
You know you have good compost when it turns dark brown and smells sweet. Put enough of the substrate into the tray to meet a depth of 3-inches, and then spray the spore syringe over the substrate to inoculate it with the spores.
Remix the substrate, and then cover it with the newspaper. You should start to notice the mycelium fruiting in 2 to 3-weeks.
After you notice the tray covering itself with the white threads, wet and cover it with the casing layer, made from a peat-free compost, and include 3-handfuls of lime. Ensure you keep the casing moist and the air warm, and your mycelium will start fruiting in 3 to 4 weeks.
Growing Mushrooms from Ends
Even though mushrooms grow readily in the wild, it can be challenging for gardeners to reproduce the same effect in a controlled environment.
In most cases, growing a batch of mushrooms is more about timing and luck, than it is to do with following instructions.
It’s possible to grow your mushrooms from the ends as well, and you can follow this process for a successful harvest.
- Start by using a substrate like straw for your bedding material. Soak the straw for 2-days, and then wring it dry, using the moist material for your bedding. However, it’s important to note that you can use other substrates like wood chips and sawdust for your bedding material as well.
- Take two healthy oyster mushrooms, and spate the tops from the bottoms. Keep the bottom parts where the fuzzy white mycelium connects to the base of the mushroom. Use paper, a cardboard box, or even plastic liners to layer the growing medium.
- Place a layer of growing medium in the bottom of your container, and then add the end pieces of the mushroom. Keep adding layers until you fill the box.
- You must ensure you keep the mycelium and the growing medium damp and dark, with temperatures between 65 to 75 F. To create a warm and humid environment, add a layer of plastic to the top of the box, and poke it with holes to promote airflow.
- Mist the substrate if it starts getting dry, and the mycelium should begin to fruit in 3 to 4-weeks. Make sure you tent the plastic over the growing medium to preserve the moisture in the container allowing the fungi to form.
- You should be harvesting your mushrooms within 3-weeks.