Mushrooms are among the fastest-growing breeds of plants. They are much faster at maturing that most common fruits and vegetables. The best part about growing mushrooms is that they don’t eat up space in your garden! When done right, these fungi can look beautiful and taste amazing too. If you have never grown mushrooms before, you should start out with oyster mushrooms. These are the “beginner” mushrooms and are the easiest to care for.
Buy the Mushroom Spawn
Did you know that mushroom growth is called “spawn”? Spawn can be bought online or at your local gardening store. Spawn isn’t just the mushroom’s spores – it is also a mixture of sawdust or agar, which helps it grow. Remember that you can work with any kind of mushroom you want, although the best would be pink oyster mushrooms.
Another type of spawn that works especially well for the outdoors is “plug” spawn. This spawn grows slower than the normal kind, but can be used in more places in your garden. You could even drill holes in a log in your garden and push the “plugs” into the holes.
Make Your Own Substrate
A substrate is basically the medium in which your mushrooms will grow. If you bought your mushroom spawn as a part of an entire kit for growing them, you probably got the substrate too in the form of a bag of straw or a different medium. If all you have is the spawn, though, you will need to brew your own substrate, rather like a witch. Cardboard is best for spawn with a sawdust medium, and straw is best for a grain medium.
Add Your Mushroom Spawn
Once you have made the substrate to the right consistency and with the right materials, you’re ready for the next step. In this one, you inject the spawn into the substrate. It is a process called inoculation (yes, just like vaccinations). Remember to wash your hands before inoculation, and make sure you do it as soon as you can when the substrate is made.
For those of you who buy mushroom spawn kits with substrate already included, simply get a syringe, sterilize it in boiling water, fill it up with the spawn and then inject it through a premade hole in the bag. If the substrate is in a tray, inject the spawn at different points along the area of the tray.
The process is a little different for substrate you made yourself. If you used cardboard, stack the squares in a plastic bag, sprinkling spawn between each layer of cardboard before putting in the next layer. For straw, spread the straw on a clean table and mix the spawn into it. You can move the mixed straw into a plastic bag until it is full.
Get Your Bag Ready for Growing
Once you have filled up your bags with the spawn and substrate mixture, it is time to wrap things up. Literally. Tie the top of the bag shut and start pushing holes into the sides. Spread these out evenly with a spacing of about two inches between each hole. Make sure you add holes at the bottom of the bag to let excess water seep out. You do this so that the mushrooms have enough fresh air supply when growing. If the holes aren’t big enough, your mushrooms will not fruit. If you’re using a premade kit, your bag will already have holes punched in it.
Location Location Location
After your bags have been readied, it is time to figure out where to put them. The spawn in your bags is now about to start colonizing your substrate. It needs a certain temperature to do this. The ideal temperature is about 22 centigrade or 65 Fahrenheit. The smallest fluctuations in your room’s temperature can lead to lower yield. Because of this, you have to ensure that your bags are in a room with the ideal temperature and that the temperature is steady.
Light is another issue here. Fungi don’t like direct sunlight, which means that your mushrooms will grow better in low light conditions. Try simulating a daylight cycle if you are growing the mushrooms indoors. For those of you using straw as a substrate, remember that light can lead to the straw sprouting as well. Most strains of mushrooms will come to you with instructions on what temperature is ideal for growth.
Check the Bags and Moisture
For a few weeks after placing your bags in the room, check on the mycelium (the roots) regularly. This involves looking at the moisture level in the room by touching the substrate. If it feels dry, use a spray can to mist water in through the holes in the bags. When checking the bags, it is likely that you will see some stagnant water at the bottom. Poke some holes in the bottom to let it out.
Get Ready for Fruiting
After a few weeks have passed, you will notice that the roots are matted and thick. It is now time for the mycelium to start “fruiting”, which is what produces the mushrooms. Fruiting doesn’t happen without sunlight. Place the bags in a room with indirect light such as sunlight or a cool bulb. You also need a supply of fresh air – open the top slightly and direct a gentle breeze (from a fan) across the top.
Finally, your temperature needs to be reduced to about 15 centigrade and your humidity increased to about 90%. Do this by changing your thermostat and using a humidifier. The conditions don’t need to be perfect, but the closer they are to being ideal, the higher yield you will have.
With light watering, the mushrooms will start growing over the next couple of weeks. As they grow to full size, start picking them and storing them. Remember that different strains will grow in different lengths of time. Don’t pick mushrooms that haven’t grown to full size yet – it will just be a wasted effort on your part. Growing mushrooms isn’t a simple process, but when you do it right, it is one of the most rewarding!