They taste great.
Whether it’s in a soup, a stir-fry, or a salad, mushrooms are a wonderful addition. You get the flavor and texture that only a mushroom can give.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could grow some in your own garden?
Maybe you’ve already tried without success?
This post will help you learn all about growing mushrooms so you can get started growing this tasty food.
What are Mushrooms?
Mushrooms are a large group of spore-bearing fungi that share similar characteristics. According to Radical Mycology, mushrooms are different from plants, animals, bacteria, and other life forms.
There are nearly 40,000 types of mushrooms. For one, mushrooms produce carbon dioxide. Some mushrooms are edible, and some are poisonous.
How do Mushrooms Grow?
There are several ways to grow mushrooms. Most mushroom cultivation is done inside. You may use a mushroom growing kit or set up a makeshift growing area in your home. Popular homegrown varieties include shiitake, oyster, and white button mushrooms.
Mushroom cultivation is a great skill. Since mushrooms can be grown inside at any point of the year, they are a great way so supplement seasonal gardening. Edible mushrooms may be cultivated for medicinal or culinary purposes.
Mushrooms are some of the most nutrient-dense living organisms on this planet. They come in a range of desirable flavors and textures.
Mushroom cultivators are even finding ways to farm rare and delicious mycelia. Your mushroom growing hobby could lead to a harvest of backyard truffles.
What Types of Mushrooms to Grow
Home growers have plenty of options when selecting mushrooms for cultivation.
Oyster mushrooms are some of the easiest and most nutritious mushroom varieties you can grow at home. Oyster mushrooms are not picky about what substrate material you use. Pasteurized straw is a popular choice.
The fruits of these hardy mushrooms are large and delicious. Most oyster mushroom colonies offer two or three harvests, with fruits available every week or two.
There are several different varieties of oyster mushrooms. Most of them are fleshy, chewy, and meaty. Because of their texture and flavor, they make a great protein substitute. They’re also high in protein, fiber, iron, zinc, and other important nutrients.
Shiitakes are yet another tasty and nutritious mushroom variety. Shiitakes thrive when they are cultivated on small fresh-cut logs.
Oak and sugar maple are the most desirable wood options. According to the University of Vermont, shiitakes are the second most grown mushroom in the world.
Some growers stay away from shiitakes because of their lengthy spawn maturity requirement. In most cases, you will need to wait nearly a year before picking your shiitakes. According to Modern Farmer, the long wait is worth it. Healthy shiitake substrates will fruit for several years.
Maitake mushrooms, or “Hen of the Woods,” are popular foraged mushrooms. However, they can also be cultivated at home. Just check out Paul Stamet’s “Hen of the Woods” grow room.
These incredible mushrooms are great for the immune system. And they taste great. Some even say they taste like chicken!
It takes about 10 days for maitake mushrooms to develop. You can harvest them a week or so after their first pins appear.
Lion’s mane is a stringy white mushroom that resembles animal fur. Many health professionals and mushroom experts state the health benefits of lion’s mane.
Lion’s mane can be grown on sawdust blocks or logs. A single lion’s mane spawn takes three weeks to mature. Lion’s mane is often found on dead and dying logs.
Reishi is a thin brown mushroom that’s cultivated for its health benefits. People claim that reishi helps them with everything from weight loss to sleep issues. Reishi is typically consumed in teas and soups. Its bitter taste doesn’t make it very palatable.
Mycologists have excellent success rates growing reishi on wood pulp or wood boxes. However, reishi may grow for an entire year before it is ready for harvesting.
Chaga is a black and gold mushroom that grows on maple and ash trees.
Chaga is often taken for immune support. However, it can also improve the look of your hair and nails. Chaga teas and tinctures are wonderful preventative products.
Chestnut mushrooms are popular Japanese fungi. They are tasty little growths that prefer to dwell on hardwood logs.
Maple and oak are the preferred wood choices of chestnut mushrooms. These brown and white mushrooms have multiple health benefits.
Where to Grow Mushrooms
It’s important to create an environment that’s conducive to mushroom cultivation. Most mushrooms prefer cool, dark, moist condition.
Most people set their mushroom growing operations in their basement. However, you may also use a kitchen cabinet or a closet.
What Growing Medium to Use
Mushroom growing mediums are called substrates. Substrates are an essential element of mushroom cultivation.
Substrates are bulky biodegradable materials that provide mushrooms with essential nutrients. Raw materials need to be sterilized before they can serve as a suitable growing foundation.
Substrates are typically placed in a well-ventilated plastic bag. Then, they are inoculated with spore-infused grain spawn.
Straw is one of the most popular and affordable substrates. It’s one of the most popular growing mediums for oyster mushrooms. Most mushroom cultivators purchase straw by the bail. These larger blocks of straw are broken up. Then, the straw is broken into bits and pasteurized.
Many cultivators also use hardwood sawdust. Oftentimes, sawdust is mixed with larger wood chips and sterilized.
Sawdust does not have a lot of nitrogen. Therefore, this nutrient is often added during the final phases of preparation.
Sawdust is a great substrate for shiitake, reishi, and oyster mushrooms.
Manure substrate is a nutrient-dense growing base for mushrooms. Many cultivators use a combination of manure, straw, and grain pores to create a homemade substrate.
Many different types of mushrooms grow on manure substrates. Well-known manure-dwelling mycelia include psilocybin and portobello mushrooms.
Log cultivation is an economical and attractive way to grow mushrooms. Log substrates consist of small logs drilled with holes.
The holes are filled with mushroom plugs or spawn. You can grow shiitakes, oyster mushrooms, and many other mushrooms on logs.
Keep in mind that some mycelia prefer specific types of wood.
Upcycled cardboard and paper products serve as environmentally friendly substrates.
Since these materials are made from wood, they are well-suited as mushroom growing mediums.
Coffee grounds are an excellent yet unconventional substrate. Collect your coffee grounds and store them in a sterile container.
Then, put them in a plastic bag and add water. Coffee grounds are a great growing medium. They are popular with cultivators that detest sterilization.
Coco coir is a common soil amendment. It can also be used as the base for a mushroom substrate.
Coco coir is a sustainable product that is created from pulverized coconut fibers. We recommend using coco coir in the brick form.
How to Grow Mushrooms
Mushroom cultivators are some of the most resourceful and creative growers in the world. There is a seemingly endless array of fungi cultivation methods.
From upcycled fruiting containers to elaborate mushroom growing kits, there are plenty of ways to enjoy this growing hobby.
Use A Kit
Mushroom growing kits provide newbie and experienced cultivators with the tools they need to grow edible fungi from home. Mushroom kits may contain spores, spawn, and/or substrates.
Most mushroom growing kits provide consumers with two or more harvests. Mushroom cultivators often refer to mushroom crops as flushes.
Kits are excellent learning tools for fledgling mycologists. They are an exceptional way for experienced cultivars to experiment with new strains.
Such kits offer a huge convenience. They often include a carefully curated substrate and spawn. They’re usually sterilized and ready for cultivation.
The Difference Between Spores and Spawn
Mushrooms are cultivated from spores and spawn. Mushroom spores are small reproductive cells that are harvested from the bottom of a healthy mushroom cap. Meanwhile, the mushroom spawn is a substrate that is already introduced to mycelium.
Acquiring Healthy Mushroom Spores
In wild environments, mushroom spores are ejected from mushroom caps. Most mushroom caps have gills or teeth that contain spores.
When the spores are released, they are strewn about by the wind, rain, and other natural occurrences. When the spores reach a piece of fertile land or a rotting log, they lay down roots and begin to develop fruit.
Most wild mushrooms are part of a vast underground network. Researchers have recently discovered that mushroom mycelia link solitary mushrooms to their neighbors.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, Mycelia are the fine white threads that make up the vegetative portion of a mushroom.
We like to think of mushroom spores as seeds. Some cultivators collect mushroom spores from wild environments. Since many mushrooms are poisonous, you must undergo extensive training before attempting to do this.
Many cultivators use spore prints to grow and identify mushrooms. You will need several tools to collect mushroom spores. Some cultivators make spore prints on paper. Meanwhile, others utilize spore syringes. Both of these methods require sterile tools.
You can find instructions on how to make spore prints and spore syringes at Mush Planet.
Many newbie mushroom cultivators find it difficult to create a contaminant-free workspace. Fortunately, there are plenty of reputable edible mushroom sellers that can provide you with probably cultivated spores.
For example, North Spore is a highly esteemed Maine-based mushroom cultivator that sells the spores of several different edible mushrooms.
Reputable mushroom cultivators typically sell mushroom cultures that include educational material, such as growing and harvesting instructions.
Acquiring Healthy Mushroom Spawn
The mushroom spawn consists of a growing medium that has been inoculated with mycelium. Mycelia are those stringy white tendrils that make up the vegetative portion of fungi.
There are many different kinds of substrates, including straw, logs, sawdust, and cardboard. Most mushroom cultivators choose their substrate based on the type of mushroom they’re attempting to cultivate.
While some mushrooms aren’t picky about their growing mediums, others will only grow on a single substrate.
Most cultivators have more success with mushroom spawn than mushroom spores. These lively mushroom networks are an ideal option for beginner mushroom cultivators.
Make a Pasteurized Substrate
Whether you are a home-based or commercial mushroom cultivator, you need to understand the importance of pasteurizing your substrate. Pasteurization kills off potentially competitive or harmful organisms before inoculation.
We like to think of pasteurization as mushroom medium weeding. However, unlike run-of-the-mill garden weeding, mushroom pasteurization can only be done once before inoculation.
Select a Suitable Substrate
Choose a mycelium substrate for that’s a good fit for your mushroom spawn. Consult with a professional mycologist to find a promising substrate recipe.
The substrate serves as both a home and a food source for growing mushrooms. Some mushrooms can be rather picky about their food and shelter.
Process the Substrate
Substrates made of whole straw and other bulky plant products need to be broken down before they can be used.
A pair of scissors or kitchen knife may be used to break down small amounts of bulky substrate materials. However, a commercial blender is needed for larger quantities.
Pasteurize and Package the Substrate
Once the substrate is processed, it needs to be pasteurized. A water bath is a popular home pasteurization technique.
If you wish to use the water bath technique, fill a large metal pot with water. Then, add your substrate. Heat the pot to a temperature between 150 and 180 degrees.
While you’re doing this, use a cooking thermometer to ensure that the temperature of the bath does not rise above 180 degrees. Keep the heat going for an hour.
Another way to pasteurize your substrate is the steam injection method. This form of pasteurization is achieved by introducing substrates to steam. If you’re interested in steam injection, check out this homemade mushroom substrate sterilizer.
There are also a variety of chemical-based substrate sterilization processes. Cultivators use lime, peroxide, and even bleach baths to pasteurize mushroom substrates.
You can read more about chemical pasteurization at the North American Mythological Association’swebpage.
Cold pasteurization is yet another substrate pasteurization technique. Paul Stamets is the accidental inventor of this technique.
After discovering that common competitors are killed off during substrate cooldowns, this famous mycologist realized he could passively pasteurize his substrates.
Cold pasteurization is only suitable for mycelium that thrives in cool temperatures. However, it is a low-maintenance and environmentally friendly method that works for several different edible mushrooms.
How to Add Spawn to Your Substrate
There are several different ways you can inoculate your substrate with mushroom spawn. Many people put some substrate into a cultivation bag then top it off with spawn. After this, they layer on more substrate while making sure to cover the spawn.
It’s important to inoculate your substrate using a sterile technique. One option is to perform the inoculation inside a sterile glove box.
A glove box is an isolated, sterile working environment that looks like it belongs in a science laboratory. Visit Instructables Workshop for instructions on how to make your own glove box.
If you do not have a bulky spawn, use a sterilized syringe to inject your substrate with mushroom spores.
You will need to put your substrate into a fruiting container before adding the spawn. You may wish to use reusable or disposable containers.
Many newbie mushroom cultivators are tricked into thinking that they need an expensive laboratory-like setting to grow mushrooms. You must always work with pasteurized substrates and sterilize your inoculation equipment. However, you do not need to invest in high-tech equipment.
The most experienced and revered mycologists in the country prefer to work with low-tech setups. Low-tech mushroom growing setups are greener.
Poke Holes in the Bag
While mushrooms should not be disturbed, they do need a good amount of air and humidity. Just like humans and animals, mushrooms consume oxygen and emit carbon dioxide.
Ensure that your fruiting containers and grow bags have several ventilation holes. Not only will these holes serve as ventilation, but they will also serve as space for far-reaching mycelia. There’s nothing like a fruiting bag with caps poking out at all angles!
Choose a Suitable Growing Spot
Unfinished basements are ideal spaces for mushroom gardens. That’s because they are cool, dark, and moist.
Growing mushrooms should be kept out of direct sunlight. However, they shouldn’t be left in the dark either. Ideal temperatures vary depending on the strain of mushroom. An appropriate and consistent temperature will keep mushrooms from drying out or dying.
Remember when we said that most mushroom cultivation is done indoors? Well, outdoor logs are also a great way to grow mushroom colonies. If you’re planning on growing edible mushrooms outside, stack your logs in a shady area.
Monitor Moisture Levels
Mushroom substrates need to be soaked in water before they can be introduced to spawn.
Mushroom substrates should stay moist throughout the entire growing process. Place your mushroom substrate in a cool, dark space. This will prevent it from drying out.
Move the Spawn to a Fruiting Environment
When your mushroom starts sprouting fruit, it’s time to move them to a fruiting environment.
Well-ventilated yet covered plastic containers and grow tents are great options. If you can, hook your fruiting mushrooms up with a humidifier, or spritz them with water.
Water Your Spawn
A substrate needs to be very moist during a mushroom’s fruiting phase. Monitor moisture levels to improve your potential for a large mushroom yield.
How to Harvest Your Mushrooms
When your mushrooms are fully mature, pluck or cut them from their substrate. Don’t toss the substrate in the trash! Mushroom spawns are usually good for two or more mushroom crops.
How to Harvest Mushrooms
Growers reap the benefits of their mushroom gardens during harvest time. Mushroom harvesting times vary depending on varieties and conditions.
However, most mycologists recommend harvesting mushrooms when the caps go from being convex to concave.
When to Harvest
Keep a close eye on your mushroom garden. You should be able to harvest your mushrooms just a few days after the mushrooms caps appear.
When you notice the caps turning down or flattening, it’s time to do some plucking.
You’ll notice your oyster mushrooms are ready when the caps turn down or the mushrooms stop growing.
To harvest, twist the stem of the mushroom to separate it from the mycelium. Store them in your refrigerator crisper for a couple weeks.
You’ll know that your shiitakes are ready to be harvested when their caps turn down. Check the gills to ensure that your shiitakes are ready. The gills should be prominent and well-developed.
Twist or cut the mushrooms from the mycelium. When you’re finished harvesting your mushrooms, use a dry towel to wipe away any dirt. Place them in a refrigerator, freezer, or dehydrator.
Lion’s mane mushrooms are ready to harvest when they are large, white, and stringy. According to North Spore, these mushrooms are ready just a few days after their first pins appear.
Reishi mushrooms should be harvested just before they release spores. Use a knife to severe the brown mushrooms from their growing medium.
Reishi mushrooms are very fibrous and tough. When you are finished harvesting your reishi mushrooms, put them in a dehydrator to dry them.
Chaga must be severed from its growing base. We recommend using a small hatchet to separate it from a tree.
It’s important to harvest large Chaga mushrooms. The bigger ones are far more nutrient-dense. Opt for Chaga mushrooms that are the size of your fist or larger.
Chestnut mushrooms are ready to harvest just before their caps turn down. This happens just one week after the mushroom first sprouts. So, keep a close eye on your chestnut mushrooms as they mature.
How to Harvest
Homegrown mushrooms can either be cut or plucked from their growing mediums. Before you harvest your mushrooms, keep an eye out for spore droppings.
Harvest these “seeds” before gathering the fruits of your labor. A harvest of mushroom spores puts you one step closer toward a sustainable mushroom growing operation.
Most mushrooms can be twisted and lifted from their growing mediums. However, some mycologists prefer to use a sterile knife.
Some mushroom varieties will release spawn back into the substrate. When this is the case, keep the soil moist and restore gaps.
When harvesting mushrooms, always place them in a clean, plastic tray. Never clean them off with water. Instead, wipe them down with a dry rag. Most mushroom harvests will need to be refrigerated or dehydrated.
Mushrooms are delicious, nutritious, and mysterious living organisms. Most of the mushrooms in grocery stores come from expansive farms and laboratories.
While some of us are lucky enough to live by small-scale organic mushroom farms, these specialty products are hard to come by and expensive. All the while, home mushroom cultivation is an easy and worthwhile exercise. You can access a treasure trove of mycology information online or at your local library.
Like most gardening scenarios, mushroom cultivation takes trial and error. Mushroom growing kits and store-bought spawn make growing easier than ever.
By the time your first harvest of shiitakes or oyster mushrooms are sizzling in the frying pan, you’ll be hooked on this fun fungi.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.