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Freshly-picked mushrooms can bring so much flavor to your usual dishes. Besides being an excellent ingredient, mushrooms are also a fantastic protein, fiber, and minerals source. They are also relatively easy to grow, depending on the variety you choose.
To grow mushrooms at home, you need a cool, dark, and damp place where you can easily control temperature and humidity. Generally, mushrooms thrive in locations like basements, closets, and cabinets. You can use mushroom growing kits for efficiency.
Usually, mushrooms are grown indoors rather than in the garden because the ideal growing conditions can be easily met indoors. Other than this, there are quite a few things that one needs to consider while propagating mushrooms. For instance, mushrooms grow from spores and not seeds. This article will show you how to grow mushrooms at home.
How Do Mushrooms Grow?
To grow mushrooms, you need spores. Spores are so tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. As mushrooms do not grow from seeds, they also do not rely on soil for development. Instead, they depend on elements like sawdust, grain, wood chips, or compost with corncobs, cocoa seed hulls, straw for growth and nourishment. The combination of spores and all these nutrient sources is known as spawn.
Mushroom spawn serves as the starter when applied to a growing medium or substrate. Although spawn can grow mushrooms on its own, one should consider using a growing medium for a better harvest.
Spawn promotes the propagation and growth of mushrooms. It is also responsible for developing the small, white, thread-like bodies of mushrooms known as mycelium. Mycelium is the very first structure that emerges through the soil. Although this might look like a fungus-like bacterial colony, mycelium pushes through before one can witness anything that resembles a mushroom.
Where to Grow Mushrooms in your Home?
Now that we know the basics of mushrooms’ growth phase let us discuss the growing environments mushrooms prefer. As mentioned earlier, mushrooms prefer cool, dark, and humid environments. So, places like basements, closets, cabinets, cupboards, or even under the sink could be great spots for growing mushrooms.
To pick the right growing spot, start by checking the temperature. Most varieties of mushrooms prefer temperatures between 12°C and 15°C. Enoki mushrooms would need even cooler settings as they thrive at around 8°C temperature. Moreover, you should pick a spot that does not get direct light and remains cool.
Although mushrooms can tolerate a fair amount of light, they must ensure low and indirect light while the spot mostly remains dark. While mushrooms can be grown outside, one must prepare the ground or logs to meet all the requirements.
Growing mushrooms outside can take longer as compared to growing them in controlled environments inside.
Types of Mushrooms to Grow
Several mushrooms grow around in the wild. And most of those can also be grown at home. Growing your mushrooms comes with its perks. You get to enjoy the most organic and fresh mushrooms. Moreover, you can be sure that all the mushrooms are safe and edible.
Some of the most common mushrooms grown at home are – enoki, cremini maitake, oyster, portobello, shiitake, and white button mushrooms.
Oyster mushrooms are one of the easiest to grow and great for beginners. They grow quickly and easily thrive in substrates made of common elements such as coffee grounds and straw. Thus, they are also relatively low maintenance.
How to Grow Mushrooms at Home
There are several ways to grow mushrooms at home, such as on wood logs, with spawns, or simply by using growing kits. Here is a video that will help you grow mushrooms on logs quickly.
The type of mushroom you pick decides what kind of material you need as the growing medium (substrate). White button mushrooms prefer to be grown on composted manure while shiitakes like wood or hardwood sawdust. Here are the steps that one needs to follow for growing mushrooms at home:
Step 1: Composting
Compost provides nutrients needed for mushrooms to grow. Compost can influence the quality of your harvest. Thus, it is essential to get this step right if you plan to build a healthy mushroom garden.
One of the most popular choices is wheat straw-bedded horse manure, as it is also the least expensive of all other alternatives. Compost also requires nitrogen supplements and a conditioning agent such as gypsum.
Once you have prepared the compost, spread it on the trays where you wish the mushrooms to grow. Usually, 14×16-inch trays are used that are about six inches deep.
Step 2: Spawning
Spawn is a term derived from the Latin, which means ‘to spread out. The compost has to be inoculated with mushroom spawn. Spawns can be bought from any gardening marketplace. It is prepared by sterilizing a rye grain mixture and water and chalk; wheat, millet, and other small grains are also used as grain mixtures.
Then some mycelium is added to the sterilized grain. It is then shaken three times at a 4-day interval over the 14 days known as the active mycelial growth duration.
After this, the mycelium colonized the grain, and the final product is known to be a ‘spawn.’ Now, you can fill the trays with the mushroom compost before sprinkling spawn on top of it.
Once the spawn spreads over the compost, the temperature should be around 24°C, while the relative humidity needs to be high to ensure that the compost surface and spawn do not dry out.
With these controlled growing conditions, the spawn will produce a thread-like network known as mycelium throughout the compost that emerges from the spawn grain. The mycelium from different grains will eventually begin to merge and make a spawned bed.
Although the time taken by the spawn to colonize the compost depends on various factors like temperature, humidity, and compost moisture, it would usually require 14 to 21 days for the entire process.
Step 3: Casing
The top-dressing applied on the spawn-mixed compost is casing where the mushrooms will finally form. Usually, elements like clay soil, a mix of peat moss, and ground limestone or spend compost are used for the casing. The main idea of this step is to ensure that moisture is retained in the compost, which is essential for the development of healthy and firm mushrooms.
Another essential thing to consider is that casing should be pasteurized to ensure no insects or pathogens in the materials used. Moreover, the casing should be spread out evenly over the compost, allowing the mushrooms to develop at the same rate.
Once the casing is done, the temperature should be around 24°C for up to 5 days. Also, the relative humidity should be high. Next, you need to lower the temperature day after day until a small mushroom begins to form.
One of the most important things to ensure after casing is that the tray must be humid. You can either spray some water or cover it with damp towels. All you need to do is ensure that the moisture level is high, as the mushrooms need to thrive.
Step 4: Pinning
The small mushroom initials start to develop in the casing, and those multiply in size. The structure is known to be a ‘pin.’ To ensure the proper development of pins, carbon dioxide content should be lowered, depending on the cultivar. Pins would then start to expand and ultimately grow to become a mushroom.
The mushroom production cycle influences the mushrooms’ potential yield and quality. One can harvest the mushrooms in around 18 to 21 days after casing.
Step 5: Cropping
Different varieties of mushrooms have different cropping cycles, which means they offer other harvest times and durations. Usually, mushrooms are harvested for 35 to 42 days, others for 60 days, and some for 150 days. When the growth stops, you can add more spawns to the trays.
During cropping, air temperature should be at around 15°C. With this temperature, you will be able to ensure the proper growth of the mushrooms.
Also, it is essential to note that there is a right time to harvest mushrooms as they can go bad quickly. One can gather them once the caps open fully and are separated from the stems. Moreover, freshly-picked mushrooms do not last for an extended period. Thus, it is ideal to use them up within two days.
If you are a beginner, you can buy a mushroom growing kit to make things easier. Usually, these growing kits come with a growing medium and even with incubated mushroom spawn. So, with kits like these, all you need to do is offer them the right growing conditions. They come with a set of directions that you need to follow.
Typically, you need to soak the kit in water then scrape back some of the mycelia before keeping it in a moist, dark, and cool place.
FAQ’s About Mushrooms
Once you have successfully set up a growing station for mushrooms at your home, you can reap its benefits for a long time. All you need to do is add new spawn to grow more and more mushrooms. While you do that, you should also keep the cloth damp and keep harvesting mushrooms as they are ready. You will then have a steady supply of mushrooms that you can use in your recipes and make your dishes a lot healthier and flavourful.
I hope that this information will come in handy to you if you are planning to grow mushrooms at your home that you can use your pizza toppings, toss in your salads, or turn into a creamy and delicious soup! So, are you ready to commence mushroom cultivating?
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