The world is a much more intriguing place than many people give it credit for. One of the interesting and mysterious creations that lend to the allure of our planet is the mushroom.
Mushrooms have a different growth pattern that we are not accustomed to seeing in any sort of plant or most other fungi, along with potential properties to heal or destroy, and a crazy hallucinogenic history. Yet they are still a simple, everyday addition to our home and meal preparation.
Being able to grow your own mushrooms is just as interesting a process as the fungi is itself. Here, we take a look at what kinds of common mushrooms are the best fit for you to try your hand at. A step-by-step guide on growing and information on the reasons to give this fun-guy a try!
Mushroom, Mushroom, How Does Your Garden Grow?
To get started with anything, it is best to have a good idea of what you are trying to do. Understanding the life cycle of a mushroom will help you during the process of growing your own.
A mushrooms life cycle is completely different from that of a perennial or a vegetable that may more typically be grown in your garden.
The initial look of oyster mushrooms as they begin to pin.
The mushroom itself is, in fact, only the evidence that appears that the entire system is working around it, helping it grow. There is an entire network surrounding the mushroom made up of cells called “mycelium”.
Mycelium is to mushrooms as roots are to a flower. Or at least that is what it physically appears to be. Mycelium is actually more like the plant itself and the mushrooms are the fruit that it bears.
The mushrooms are produced for reproduction since they have spores that are kept safe within the cap of the mushroom, normally set on top of the stem. The mycelium is actually the part of the process that needs to be kept fed and happy.
The spores are grown within the cap of the mushroom. They are very small and act like the seeds of the fungi. When developed they will fall from these slits in the mushroom cap.
The process starts with the mycelium getting the chance to grow. It can be made up of one single organism, or encompass several organisms that will work together as a colony.
Once they have had a chance to develop themselves, tiny bumps will start to form on the top of the mycelium. These are the first evidence of the successful growth of mushrooms.
Following this stage, they will enter into the next stage called “primordia” and will begin to appear as baby mushrooms. These will continue to grow and develop into they have grown their own spores.
Once they have matured, they will drop these spores, more mycelium is born and the cycle begins again.
Big Decisions: Which Cultivar Is Right for You?
Know that you have an idea what you are going to be looking out for, it is time to start your own mushroom garden. The first step in this process is to decide which type, or cultivar, of mushroom is best for you.
Multiple different kinds of mushrooms in their developed state and after being harvested.
The most common kinds of mushrooms that people will typically grow at home include:
Each of these mushrooms have different growth requirements as well as being used in different kinds of recipes. Try to match the mushroom you want to grow with the mushroom that you intend on using the most.
There’s no use in growing a mushroom that will just get composted, or thrown to the worms, in the end again anyway!
I prefer cooking with portobello or white button mushrooms, so these are the types that I prefer to grow with. Each of these require slightly different environments and inputs to grow successfully. My recommendation is to start with one type of mushrooms and once you have found success, branch out to other kinds.
In this article, we are going to look at how to grow oyster mushrooms, specifically Pearl Oyster mushrooms, or Pleurotus ostreatus. These mushrooms are the easiest to grow and easy to use. They can also be grown all year round since it is easy to do indoors.
As a beginner, it is always a good idea to start with an easy variety. Otherwise, several failures can be discouraging enough to quit trying.
- Oyster mushroom spawn
- These can easily be ordered online. It is easiest to order them instead of trying to inoculate other already developed mushrooms the first several times you try growing them.
- Substrate of choice
- This is essentially the home the mycelium will grow in. It can be straw, sawdust, cardboard or other agricultural byproducts. Choose the one that is easiest for you to get access to.
- Grow bags or container
- These could be just large plastic bags or filter patch bags. Holes will need to be poked into it later.
- Hot water
Step 1: Pasteurization
You will begin the whole process with preparation. Now that you have obtained all of the necessary material, it is time to make sure it is clean. This is important so that you can be sure there is nothing that will infect the new mycelium.
If you are using straw, maybe from another straw gardening project, wood pellets or something similar, then you will need to pasteurize them. To do this, soak them in hot water for 1-2 hours. The water should be about 65-80 degrees Celsius, or 149-176 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tip: Everybody Loves Coffee
Coffee grounds can actually be used as a substrate for mushrooms. This is a great way to recycle the grounds and give your mycelium a very nutritious home.
The most important thing to consider for using coffee grounds is how fresh they are. To make sure that they have been pasteurized and are still nutritious, it needs to have been spent within 24 hours of loading the mycelium into it.
It is also a good idea to mix the coffee grounds with a small amount of another substrate, like straw or wood pellets to give it other nutrients and a solid base to grow through.
Step 2: Inoculation
Clean is key. To begin this step, make sure your hands are clean as well as your workspace. You will need to make sure that your substrate is wet enough but not dripping all over the place. Pasteurization will generally take care of this though.
Then, take your substrate along with the mushroom spawn and mix it in some sort of container. Once they are thoroughly mixed, place them all into their growing vessels. Close the top with a rubber band or paper clip.
If you are not using a container with holes already in it, you will need to poke holes in it at random intervals about every ten centimeters around the bag for air exchange.
Step 3: Incubation
This is the sort of in-between step, the waiting period. You will need to find a warm and humid space, at about 20-24 degrees Celsius or 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit. In the perfect situation, the room would be dark to discourage early pinning, or growth, of the mushrooms.
How oyster mushrooms will appear as they begin to grow out of their grow bag.
Place your mycelium bags in your chosen location and they will come to life, eating through the nutrients in the substrate that you have provided them with.
You will know that the next step in the process can be started when the bag is completely white. This means that the mycelium will have just about run out of food.
Step 4: Fruiting
Now that the wait is over, it is time to encourage the mycelium to begin its process of fruiting.
In the wild, mycelium will begin this final life stage in response to some sort of environmental stress or from a change to their direct environment. You are going to replicate that in your home.
You can do this multiple ways or a combination of a couple. The first way is with light. Don’t move them directly to an area with direct sunlight. Place them in an area with indirect light that is a step up from the, hopefully, shaded area that they were in before.
To give them an extra boost to start pinning, provide them with more fresh air. To do this, just make a bigger slit in the side of the bag and let the oxygen flow in.
Keeping the area humid during the growth process will increase the growth of the actual mushrooms. Do this by using a spray bottle and spraying around the bag’s area a couple times a day.
Temperature is one of the most important parts of encouraging the proper mycelium growth and life cycle. The correct temperature and variations will change from cultivar to cultivar and even from strain to strain.
Whatever you do, Oyster mushrooms grow quite quickly, which is part of their popularity. Within five to eight days you should start to see the mushroom pins forming out through the holes in the bag. Within the next week, these should reach full maturity.
Step 5: Harvesting
Now it is time to reap your rewards! Regarding oyster mushrooms, you will know that they are ready to be harvested when the caps of the mushroom begin to flatten out or turn upwards.
Don’t let them develop so much that they begin to drop too many spores. This will look like a white dust falling from the mushrooms; a signal that it is time to harvest them up!
You can either twist them all off, or cut them off with a knife.
If you do not use them immediately, store them in a sealed container in the fridge.
An easy cooking idea with mushrooms of almost any kind. Fry them with olive oil and top them with salt. Many mushrooms can also be eaten raw this way.
The grow bag with the substrate and mycelium can be used again as long as it is still healthy, aka without any other mold or substance apparently growing in it.
Simply soak the substrate overnight and follow the same instructions again!
The substrate can normally be used for small crops about three times before it will begin to run out of nutrients. Then it makes for a great addition to a compost pile or mulch. It makes a great addition to a Back to Eden garden.
Common Problems and Solutions
If green or blue mold begins to grow inside your bag, it will be growing in competition with the mushroom mycelium. If there is only a little, than the mycelium may still outcompete it.
However, if you check the bag and it has overtaken most of the mycelium, there is nothing that can be done. I often take it outside and compost it. Then, after a good cleaning, start the process over again.
Mushrooms require a humid, damp space to grow in. Although they are easy to grow overall, if neglected and allowed to dry out, they will shrivel before they can reach their full potential.
To stop this from happening, simply spray them more often, or make sure that your substrate is damper the next go around. If they begin to shrivel or the stems start to go yellow or brown, you know you will need to up your spraying game.
Too Long Stems
If you notice that your mushrooms are starting to grow very long stems and not being able to hold themselves up, this will be a signal of not enough oxygen.
The length of the stems will be signifying that the CO2 levels in the room are too high. If it is an option, opening a window in the room will help keep fresh air circulating.
Here you can see many different kinds of matured and harvested mushrooms labeled and ready for sale and cooking at a local farmers market.
Whether you are a portobello kind of gal or an oyster mushroom guy, the process is simple for you to try! Claim a new hobby today and start your own mushroom farm with this easy process. It’s never too late to try something new!