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Growing mushrooms is no different from growing vegetables in winter; your favorite mushrooms will fruit through the harsh winter weather with some precautions and protection techniques. The winter can encourage mushroom growth for specific varieties in their natural life cycle.
You can grow common edible mushroom varieties indoors with controlled growing conditions using grow kits, mushroom logs or spawn. The mushrooms can also be overwintered in the cold months to have an early crop as the weather gets warm.
- What Happens to Mushrooms in Winter?
- Different Ways to Grow Mushrooms in Winter
- Overwintering Mushrooms
- Which Varieties of Mushroom Thrive in Winter?
- FAQ’s about Growing Mushrooms in Winter
This article discusses essential instructions about winter gardening of mushrooms because, with the proper care, you can extend the mushroom season through winter. Let’s get started; after all, what’s better than freshly homegrown mushrooms on the cold winter days.
What Happens to Mushrooms in Winter?
Everything might seem to halt as winter arrives, but some of the mycelium undergrounds are just getting started to decompose and break down the plant matter. As the temperature keeps dropping outdoors, the mycelium gets weak, and the growth rate decreases.
If you look out for mushrooms in the wild during cold weather, you will notice the mushrooms growing close to tree trunks survive through winter is because they get the required nutrients from the tree. You have to remember that mushrooms will never grow from the hard or frozen ground in winter, and Mid-winter defrosts and rain usually trigger mushroom growth.
The first step is to understand what’s different about growing mushrooms in winter compared to any other season of the year. Cultivating them in winter is challenging because lack of sunlight and warmth means you do not have the ideal growing conditions. But you can control their environment with indoor gardening.
Limited space is a concern for indoor gardening of winter crops; however, this does not apply to mushrooms. You can grow them in a bucket in your basement or kitchen.
Another reason you should consider growing mushrooms in winter is because some varieties prefer the dark and cold winter environment. Unlike other vegetables and fruits, we know that mushrooms do not depend on sunlight for nutrients; therefore, they can survive in a dark area. Although darkness is not a requirement, it will help conserve the moisture needed for the spores to multiply. The only drawback of growing mushrooms in winter is that they will grow slowly.
Mushrooms are low in calories but nutrient-rich, making them a must for your winter diet.
Different Ways to Grow Mushrooms in Winter
Mushroom Growing Kit
If you are a first-time mushroom grower, mushroom growing kits should be your go-to option no matter the season. They are perfect for growing a mushroom crop in winter because you do not have to start from scratch.
Mushroom Kits take less space and are the easiest method for winter gardening of mushrooms. All you have to do is create the required growing environment. Suppose you are confused about which edible mushrooms have high chances of success with grow kits. In that case, I have a detailed article describing six common varieties that can be easily cultivated using mushroom growing kits.
Getting an organic mushroom kit is a plus point.
The indoor mushroom kits will need a light source to start pinning. You can use natural light or install artificial grow lights. Cover the mushrooms with the tent that comes with the kit and spray the substrate every other day to keep it moist.
How many mushrooms can you grow indoors? The answer is as many as you like. But the trick is to go vertical if you want to maximize your productivity. Instead of laying horizontally, hang the fruiting bags, and you can use hooks to attach the bags to the roof.
Mushroom Spawn or Substrate
If you are an experienced mushroom grower, you can opt for this second option which involves getting the spawn for the variety you want to try growing in winter. Spawn is just a substrate that includes colonized mycelium. You should use the spawn within one month; else, refrigerate it to keep it dormant until you are ready to start your mushroom crop. Refrigerating it will slow down mycelium growth.
After your spawn is ready, you need another growing medium and container for the fruiting of mushrooms. Make sure you research and choose the suitable variety and substrate for the winter garden.
There is a long list of materials that can be used as a substrate for mushrooms; the common ones are straw, hardwood dust, coco coir, manure. Straw is one of the most accessible materials, and several varieties grow well on straw. The pasteurizing and sterilizing methods will vary depending on the mushroom variety.
The last step is to incubate and let the mycelium do its magic.
Growing mushroom from scratch is fun and economical if done right. I would recommend opting for a variety that needs growing conditions closer to your climate, so you have to spend less time caring for the mushroom in winter.
Inoculated Mushroom Logs
You can inoculate on tree logs, and you might have a mushroom crop for not just one winter but several years. But growing mushrooms on logs requires patience.
You can cut and grow on logs any time of the year but make sure you inoculate the log within three months of harvest. It’s best to store the wood in a shaded spot to avoid drying up. Oak and Maple trees are great for mushrooms, and they last longer.
Cut a moderate log size because it will take more time for the mycelium colonization if the log is too long. If you are harvesting wood logs from the wild instead of buying premade mushroom logs, you will have to drill several 1-2 inches deep holes.
You can let the mushroom bags freeze in winter, so they are ready to grow as the weather warms up. The white mycelium will freeze, thaw and fruit just like it does in nature. The mycelium is activated with light and temperature, usually in the spring season.
Overwintering your mushrooms in the cold weather gives you a head start in the coming active growth season, so it’s one of the ways to increase your mushroom production. Overwintering is an excellent technique for mushrooms that can tolerate cold.
You can store the mushroom bags in a cold area without sunlight. Keeping the mushrooms away from a light source is essential because light exposure will force the mushrooms to start fruiting. The same goes for temperature, and if the mushrooms receive warm temperatures, they might break the overwintering cycle.
The mushrooms can also be overwintered in an outdoor area such as a greenhouse. However, you will have to make sure no amount of light reaches these outdoor mushrooms. If you are new to greenhouses, you can go through the article about heating greenhouses in winter, where I have shared three ways to keep the greenhouse warm.
What makes mushrooms mysterious is that you never know how many flushes of fruit you will have. If you already had the first harvest in late fall or early winter, you can seal the openings or slits with tape to avoid the mycelium from drying in extreme winter weather.
- Seal the bags properly to avoid contamination from insects like flies.
- The mycelium should not be exposed else it will dry out.
- You should plan your crop ahead of time to have a healthy harvest in the growing season.
- Create slits in the frozen mushroom bags in the spring season to allow for growth.
Overwintering allows you to start the mushroom season early, and you can control the mushroom production because the mycelium will stay dormant unless you provide a warm temperature and light.
Which Varieties of Mushroom Thrive in Winter?
No matter how harsh the weather might be, some mushroom varieties have mastered the art of surviving winter. Few edible mushroom varieties will struggle in harsh winter, and one of them is Morel Mushrooms, as they will have stunted growth in extremely cold or freezing weather.
If you are a mushroom lover, you need to try the Oyster Mushrooms. They are tasty, easy to grow, multiply fast, and you can enjoy them in winter. Oyster Mushrooms will thrive in November, December, January, and February with the right growing conditions.
These mushrooms can be fruit at any time of the year, but you can have 2-3 flushes of fruit from the same bag or log in winter. Try the cold-tolerant species like the Tree Oysters.
These are another common variety and get through the cold climate have a rich meaty and buttery flavor. The umbrella-shaped caps are usually brown with a cream-colored stem.
Velvet Shank Mushrooms
This variety is another perfect pick for your winter garden simply because it can handle the natural cycle of freezing and thawing. Its yellowish-brown caps can also brighten up the dull winter landscape. This mushroom variety will grow throughout the year, but November, December, and January are the three preceding months.
Wood Ears Mushrooms
Wood Ears is an interesting-looking variety with a jelly-like texture. As the mushroom matures, it hardens. It has a reddish-brown color and looks like an ear. January or late winter is the prime time for this variety.
Winter Chanterelle Mushrooms
These delicate mushrooms look like leaves and blend in with the nature around them, making them challenging to hunt in the wild. The funnel-shaped mushrooms come in shades of brown.
They have a fruity aroma, more like an apricot, are a favorite winter pick because it fruits from mid-November to late January.
Herald of Winter Mushrooms
The fruiting on this interesting variety begins after the first frost in winter. It belongs to the wood wax family. This mushroom has a dark brown cap and a cream-colored stem.
Snowy Waxcap Mushrooms
These mushrooms look like snow against the forest background with the snow-white color. This variety will fruit in both autumn and winter.
Scarlet Elf Cup Mushrooms
This beautiful cup-shaped mushroom in the shades of scarlet and pink usually serves as a garnish because there’s a debate about its edibility. It fruits from late January to March.
FAQ’s about Growing Mushrooms in Winter
If you are a true gardener, you cannot simply sit around and wait for spring to start growing your favorite crops. Luckily mushrooms are one of the options you can try growing indoors in the cold weather. We hope the information in this article encourages you to grow your mushrooms in winter.
Suppose you are interested in diversifying your winter garden. In that case, you can read the article what winter vegetables can I grow to check out the list of winter vegetables and some tips on planning your winter garden.
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