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Is It Safe to Grow Mushrooms at Home?

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If you are a gardener, there might be some instances that made you wonder if you can grow mushrooms by yourself. And the answer is yes. Growing mushrooms can be a fantastic experience and can help you know about these exciting and delicious fungi.

As long as you meet the ideal conditions for growing mushrooms, it is safe to cultivate them in your home. Also, make sure that the mushrooms you are planting are safe and edible to eat, and keep them away from children’s and pets’ reach.

Some of the most common mushrooms grown at home are cremini, maitake, portobello, enoki, shiitake, oyster, and white button mushrooms. However, each of them has its own specific growing needs and requirements. So, it is vital to do thorough research before you get started with your mushroom farm.

In this article, we will talk about basic information about growing mushrooms at home.

Precautions to Take When Growing Mushrooms at Home

Mushrooms do release spores. But generally, these spores do not cause any harm to humans.  Nevertheless, long-term exposure and frequent inhalation of the spore can result in flu-like symptoms or even respiratory issues.

Taking all the necessary precautions becomes more critical as mushroom spores are microscopic and are not visible to the naked eye. So, it is better to wear a mask and apron while tending to them. Also, one should not forget to disinfect them and the environment they are growing in to avoid contamination.

There are also quite a few adjustments that you can make to help your mushrooms flourish. For instance, if the substrate is drying up or the pins are starting to turn brown, it is a sign that you need to increase the humidity.

Or, if the mushrooms start to grow longer stems and smaller caps, you either need to increase the light or decrease the carbon dioxide level. Moreover, if the temperature is a little too hot for the mushrooms, it can lead to bacterial growth.

Things to Consider

Other than taking all the precautions, it is also essential to maintain an ideal growing environment for your mushrooms to ensure their healthy and safe development.

Here are four major factors to consider to ensure that your mushrooms have an ideal growing condition:

  • Carbon dioxide level – below 800 ppm, depending on species
  • Humidity – above 80%
  • Lighting – enough to be able to comfortably read a book
  • Temperature – between 55 and 75 degrees C, depending on the species

Initially, it would help if you tried to adhere to these parameters as much as possible. However, if you are growing mushrooms on a tiny scale, you have some liberty. Growing mushrooms is an art, and with time, you will know what your mushrooms need for proper development. Once you have some experience, you can try and adjust the environmental conditions and see what works for you.

Know Your Mushrooms

Some mushrooms are safe to consume, some can also be dangerous and can lead to food poisoning. Thus, it becomes imperative to know what kind of mushrooms you are growing in your home. It would be best if you were sure that they are entirely safe to consume.

Moreover, some species of mushrooms are considered ‘generally safe.’ For instance, true morels (Morchella spp.) are considered generally safe to consume. However, they are only safe when they have been cooked thoroughly.

However, if one consumes raw morels, it can lead to gastric issues. Moreover, some individuals have reported that they have experienced allergies or intolerances for certain types of morels.

If you have children or pets in your house, these might not be the kind of mushrooms that you would want to grow.

Another exception is the ‘chicken of the woods, also known as a sulfur shelf, a mushroom considered safe and edible. However, its edibility depends on what kind of tree it grew on.

Certain species of mushrooms do not react well when consumed with alcohol. So, be sure that you know what kind of mushrooms you are growing. Usually, the variants picked from hardwood trees are edible, while those gathered from conifers or locusts might not be entirely safe to consume.

Recommendations for Safe Mushroom Farming at Home

Besides consumption, it is also essential to consider a few things while growing mushrooms at home. Here are some of the recommendations from experts that will help you grow mushrooms safely at home:

Sterilizing The Growing Substrate

One of the most common and most essential things that mushroom growers recommend is proper sterilization of the growing substrate. This one step can avoid contamination and help you grow mushrooms safely.

However, sterilization also needs to be done quite carefully as incorrect sterilization can also lead to contamination. You can use a pressure cooker or boil the substrate in water for heat sterilization, let it cool before squeezing out the water. You can then let it air dry and use the substrate for growing mushrooms.

Protect Case Layering

Case layering is one of the essential steps that need to be considered while growing mushrooms. A long time back, growers discovered that adding a layer of organic material over the compost can increase the overall yield and quality of the mushrooms.

This layer came to be known as case layering. Even for some variety of mushrooms, there might be no yield without the application of a casing.

This layering, however, does need some protection as it can get contaminated by spore-laden water splash, debris, or dirt that can lead to disease in mushrooms which can make them unsafe or inedible. Thus, it is essential to disinfect the casing equipment even before beginning the case layering process.

A suitable casing should hold moisture well, increase humidity for better growth of mushrooms, and be slow to contaminate.

Inspect Mushroom Beds Frequently

Mushroom beds can be prone to pests and diseases, making it is essential for the grower to regularly check the mushroom beds, especially before they water the pins or pick grown mushrooms. If the grower observes any diseases, they should be treated as it can cause secondary infections. One should not water mushroom beds if there are any pests or diseases.

If cobweb (a type of disease common in mushrooms) is present, air circulation should also be reduced or stopped. Moreover, suppose the mushrooms are infected with dry bubble disease. In that case, it is essential to check fly populations because flies can exacerbate the issue by transporting the spores all across the growing space.

Ensure Proper Hygiene

Disinfecting the environment is essential when it comes to growing mushrooms. Moreover, you need to ensure that there is no spore-laden contaminated debris in the proximity of the growing area.

Also, one should consider wearing protective gear like gloves, boots, and overalls while tending to your mushrooms. All equipment, work surfaces, containers, and protective gear must be disinfected with alcohol beforehand. Also, it is vital to keep the growing environment clean, tidy, and sterile, which will maximize your chances of success.

Be Aware of Thermogenesis

Before growing mushrooms, you should be aware of thermogenesis, which occurs when the mycelium decomposes organic matter.

It starts generating its heat, which can increase the temperature of your substrate, which can add up to the already optimized temperature of your growing environment. And excessive heat might destroy the mycelium. So, it is better to aim for a few degrees lesser than the recommended temperature so that the process of thermogenesis optimizes the overall environment.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Mushrooms at Home

Not labeling jars or mushroom growing kits

Label your jars if you are growing and experimenting with different species. Jot down the date you started growing them and assign a batch number to each jar or tray to avoid confusion.

Not knowing the early signs of contamination

While growing mushrooms, you need to know if your mushrooms are growing correctly or not. Knowing the early signs of contamination will not just save you time and money but will make the entire process a lot more hassle-free.

However, there might be instances in which you cannot save your mushrooms from the disease as it has progressed to a higher level. Here are a few things that you can do if keeping your mushrooms becomes a little too tricky:

  • Do not water the mushroom beds between the harvesting periods.
  • Reduce harvesting.
  • Implement all the hygiene practices mentioned above.
  • If nothing works, terminate the crop.

Conclusion

Growing mushrooms at home are one of the most exciting experiences one can have. I hope that this information will help more about to choose the right mushrooms to grow. One can also seek the guidance of a professional mycologist who will help you to identify mushrooms and let you know if it is edible or not.

I hope that this information will help you ensure that they grow in a safe environment so that you can enjoy fleshy and delicious mushrooms at home. Please subscribe to our newsletter, and if you have more gardening questions, feel free to search above.