Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
Mushrooms – are fleshy and tasty. Fungus is something that almost every one of us has tried now and then. But have you ever wondered how mushrooms are produced? Growing mushrooms is an experience like no other because mushrooms do not grow from seeds and do not even require soil. So, how do mushrooms grow?
There are several methods to grow mushrooms. They can be grown from Spawn, on Logs, in plastic bags with Straws, Spores or simply through ready-to-use mushroom growing kits.
Each of these methods is different from another. Right from the material needed to the effort put in, each technique has its requirements. If you do not know which way will be the best for you, the following information might help you pick a method that will suit you.
Spawning is one of the most preferred methods to grow mushrooms, as it is quicker and comparatively more manageable than all the other methods.
Spawn is an inoculum or a starter culture used to cultivate mushrooms. Such spawns are readily available at your local nursery or gardening supply store.
First, sterilize the medium you use to grow mushrooms to start the procedure. Meanwhile, check on other vital conditions in growing mushrooms using this spawn.
Parameters such as temperature, humidity, CO2, and lighting play an essential role.
If you use sawdust to cultivate mushrooms, take it in a container with some water. Heat this mixture in the microwave for about two minutes to avoid contamination. Coffee grounds are also utilized in growing mushrooms.
Once it cools down, spread the mushroom spawn evenly on the medium. Place this tray on the heating pad at approximately 21°C (70F) as it is the optimal temperature to accelerate the growth.
Keep them in the dark place, like cupboards or a part of your house where sunlight is limited for three weeks.
Wood Logs Cultivation
If you are starting and want to experiment with mushroom cultivation, you can also opt for growing mushrooms using freshly cut logs. As mushrooms often grow on tree trunks in the wild, cultivating them using wood logs can be wise to cut down the hassle.
You can use this method for cultivating shiitake mushrooms or oyster mushrooms. To get the best results, use freshly cut oak logs about 3 feet long and up to 8 inches in diameter for this method.
Using a drill machine, start drilling equidistant holes on this log. Now you can either opt for spawn or wooden dowels with a mycelium coating. You can get such coated dowels at any gardening store or online stores that sell such supplies.
Once you have these wooden dowels, cut them into multiple parts depending on the log’s number of holes. Make sure that the length of these dowels is approximately 1 inch and is ¼ inch in diameter.
Push these logs in the holes drilled on the wood log and seal the other end of the wood log with hot wax to avoid the loss of moisture and contamination.
It can take six to 18 months for the logs to colonize fully. This process requires a lot of patience, effort, and time, so invest all of it because the wait will be worth it. Once it starts fruiting, these wood logs can still grow mushrooms for over four years.
Growing mushrooms on logs are pretty straightforward and exciting. Here is a video where I show you how to grow mushrooms on logs. You can watch the video by clicking on it:
Plastic Bag and Straws Cultivation
Plastic bags are one of the most convenient ways to grow mushrooms at home. This method is suitable for people who want to grow oyster mushrooms in their homes, and it is also a known technique for growing mushrooms “indoors.”
For this method, you must get straws and chop them into smaller pieces, which helps remove the waterproof coating.
Now take these pieces into a container, add some boiling water and let it sit for 30-45 mins. Once done, drain the water and let it cool down to room temperature.
Meanwhile, get commercial spawn; its weight should be 1/10th of the strawweight. Mix it with the straws and fill it in clear plastic bags. Seal these bags using tape so that the moisture is not lost. Now poke holes in these plastic bags at equidistance utilizing a nail or any other sharp tool. Store this plastic bag in a dark place until you see straw colonizing.
The colonization of the straw can take up to 10-12 days. Keep this plastic bag in the refrigerator for a day to kickstart the fruiting process. This process is also called cold shock. Mushrooms will start fruiting and ensure their proper growth; mist this plastic bag several times daily. And voila, you will have your homegrown mushrooms in some days.
If you are a mushroom lover and know a little about mycology, you might know that a mature mushroom has approximately 16 billion spores. These spores are the seeds that can help you grow your mushrooms. As they are microscopic, one cannot see them with the naked eye but using spores, and you can cultivate your mushrooms.
For this method, you first need to collect the spores. Take a mushroom and remove its stem. Once you have done that, take a spore print by putting the mushroom head on top of the paper. Now cover this with glass and leave it for 24 hours.
After that, gently remove the glass and lift the mushroom. By now, you will see a print on the paper, the spore print of the mushroom that will help grow your mushrooms.
If you are going to use it right away, start with further steps for cultivation or else you can store it in a sealed bag and keep it in a dark place until you are ready to cultivate. Select a suitable substrate, such as log or sawdust, and use a spore syringe to inoculate your spores into the growing medium for cultivation.
Mix these spores with spawn so that they can aid with mycelium development. Adding spawn to the spores can help you accelerate the growth of mushrooms. Although some people use spores and a suitable substrate, you can cut down the time for fruiting by opting for the spawn.
Mushroom Growing Kits Cultivation
If you are starting and clueless about the mushroom cultivation process, the mushroom growing kits can be a savior for you. Several brands offer complete mushroom growing kits in an affordable range. Remember that these kits cannot be used as an economical substitute but can be a great way to try your hand at it.
Almost all mushroom growing kits come with a block of substrate inoculated with mushroom spores. For instance, if you opt for an oyster mushroom kit, you will get a substrate that already has oyster mushroom spores, cutting down the hassle of collecting the spores first.
This substrate box is often sealed with a plastic bag known as a spawn bag containing spawn. Everything you need to grow mushrooms is in this kit per the standard procedures. As inoculating the substrate is one of the most time-consuming processes, opting for such kits can help you save a lot of time and effort.
To assemble this kit, you must make a small cut in the spawn bag and soak it in water to face downwards. Once you have done that, please place it in a dark, cool, and dry place. You will start noticing mushrooms sprouting in a couple of weeks and will eventually get your fresh produce of mushrooms at home.
A mushroom growing kit has everything you need, so it saves your time, and the results are pretty impressive; make sure you follow the instruction manual.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can be used as a substrate for growing mushrooms?
Substrates are a medium through which mushrooms derive nutrients and energy to grow. So, it is crucial to ensure you choose a suitable substrate. Common substrates often used for growing mushrooms are straw, sawdust, logs, manure, coffee grounds, and more.
Do we need to sterilize the growing medium before growing mushrooms?
Although it is not completely necessary to sterilize the medium before you start cultivating mushrooms, sterilization helps reduce the chances of bacterial contamination or other infections caused by bacteria. However, not all mushrooms grow well in sterile media, so research before starting the procedure.
How long does it take for optimal mycelium growth?
It depends on multiple factors such as type of compost, temperature, season, and type of mushrooms. Usually, it can take 7 to 8 days for the mycelium to start growing, and then it starts growing exponentially until the compost is fully colonized. This process can take 16-19 days, and once the mycelium has developed fully, it stops growing and stays intact.
How do you tell poisonous mushrooms from not?
Mushrooms with white gills are often poisonous. So are those with a ring around the stem and those with a volva. Because the mushroom volva is often underground, it is vital to dig around the base of a mushroom to look for it. Mushrooms with red color on the cap or stem are also either poisonous or potent hallucinogenic.
How long does it take to cultivate homegrown mushrooms?
The growing process takes 1-2 months for homegrown mushrooms that grow on compost or similar substrates (oyster mushrooms, button mushrooms. Magic (Psilocybe) mushrooms also can go from spores to mature mushrooms in 1-2 months.
Growing mushrooms can be pretty tedious, but I can assure you that all the effort that goes into it makes it worth it. No matter what method you pick, by carrying out the proper steps, you can grow some delicious and fleshy mushrooms that will add flavor to your usual recipes.
Also, quite a bit of science is involved in growing mushrooms, while experts say that growing mushrooms is an art.
Maybe this is why more and more people are growing mushrooms at home. So, if you are curious, you should consider growing mushrooms yourself.