Will Mushrooms Grow in Winter? The facts!

Growing mushrooms bears a resemblance to caring for winter vegetables; as long as you take some precautionary steps and protection measures, your favorite mushrooms will prosper amidst the harsh winter conditions. Actually, the winter season can be beneficial to the growth process of some varieties of mushrooms, as it forms part of 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.

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 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 starting to decompose and break down the plant matter. The mycelium weakens as the temperature keeps dropping outdoors, and the growth rate decreases.  

Picture of mushrooms in snow

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 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 triggers 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 that 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, regardless of 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 mushrooms. All you have to do is create the required growing environment. Suppose you are confused about which edible mushrooms have a high chance 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 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.

A long list of materials can be used as a substrate for mushrooms; the common ones are straw, hardwood dust, coco coir, and manure. Straw is one of the most accessible materials; 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 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 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 ensure you inoculate the log within three months of harvest. Storing the wood in a shaded spot is best 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 longer for the mycelium colonization if it is too long. If harvesting wood logs from the wild instead of buying premade mushroom logs, you must drill several 1-2 inches deep holes.

Overwintering Mushrooms

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 spring.

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; 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 prevent 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.

Oyster Mushrooms

You need to try the Oyster Mushrooms if you are a mushroom lover. 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.

Shiitake Mushrooms

These are other common varieties that get through the cold climate and have a rich meaty, 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 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 are 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, and 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How cold is too cold for indoor or outdoor mushrooms in winter?

If the temperature falls below 55 degrees F (12 degrees C), your mushrooms will grow slowly or stop. Therefore, it’s essential to know the lowest winter temperature in your region to avoid little mushrooms due to frost or cold temperatures.

Can you grow mushrooms outdoors in the winter season?

Growing mushrooms outdoors in harsh winter weather is not recommended. However, in climates with mild winters, you can grow them in an outdoor greenhouse where the light and temperature are monitored.

What are the light levels needed for mushrooms in winter?

The light requirements vary from one variety to another; therefore, locate the sun pathways in winter for your region. Some mushrooms, like Shiitake Mushrooms, need full shade, while others might need some light, so positioning according to light is essential for growing mushrooms in winter.

Why is green mold growing on the mycelium in the overwintered mushroom bags?

Green mold happens because the mycelium is exposed to air. As a result, it has dried out, and mold started growing can be avoided by simply taping the open slits in the bags.

How to store mushroom logs in winter?

Store mushroom logs in an unheated, shaded area such as a garage or garden shed. Your log should be protected from winter winds and drying out.

Are mushrooms dead in winter?

The mushrooms aren’t dead in winter. The fungus below the soil is alive but dormant because the winter weather slows growth.

Conclusion

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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