Growing mushrooms: can you really do it at home? Yes, you can, and it’s easier than you think. We’ll show you which types of mushroom to choose, and share the most effective methods to help you start growing your own mushrooms asap.
Home Grown Mushrooms: Why It’s a Good Idea
Mushrooms are the perfect addition to any healthy diet: they are low in calories but still pack a serious nutritional punch. Mushrooms are rich in vitamins and minerals, and many mushrooms are also a good source of protein.
But why grow your own mushrooms? Collecting wild mushrooms is fun, but can be risky: without the proper amount of experience and expertise, it is dangerously easy to mistake a poisonous mushroom for an edible one. Buying mushrooms at the supermarket is safe, but can get expensive. Home grown mushrooms are the perfect solution: once you’ve learned how to grow mushrooms, you can harvest them all year long for free, with zero chance of ending your meal with a call to poison control.
Mushrooms need very little attention, and can be grown in a few different ways. The most important thing to remember is that they need shade, and high relative humidity: too much sunlight or too little moisture in the air will cause the spores to dry out before they have a chance to propagate. Some species of mushrooms can grow without any sunlight at all. That means, you can even grow your own mushrooms in your basement – no gardening required.
How to Grow Mushrooms: Here’s What You’ll Need
To start growing your own mushrooms, you need two things: a liquid mushroom culture of your choice, and a substrate.
When you’re just starting out as a hobbyist mushroom grower, it is best to buy the liquid culture already prepared and in syringes. Developing your own culture is difficult, and it requires special equipment. You can buy mushroom cultures in specialty online shops, or sometimes at your local nursery or garden shop.
The type of substrate you choose will depend on what kind of mushrooms you are trying to grow. Read the packaging on your liquid mushroom culture to find out which substrate that particular type prefers. Some common substrates include:
- Coffee grounds
- Wood (untreated and without paint)
Be sure that the substrate you choose is as sterile as possible. Growing mushrooms requires a high amount of air moisture, and that moisture will cause any microorganisms present to multiply, including unwanted ones. If you’re not sure how sterile your material is, you can purify it with steam.
There is an even simpler way to grow mushrooms: It is possible to buy a mushroom-growing set that already includes everything that you’ll need. The big advantage of buying a set is that the substrate is usually already inoculated with mycelium. Mycelium is the underground network that fungus forms in order to gather nutrients, similar to the roots of a plant (substrate inoculated with mycelium is also called mushroom spawn). Since the substrate comes with the nutrient delivery system already formed, the fruiting body (the part that we eat), will start to grow very quickly.
The following are some examples of substrate preferences for common mushrooms, to help you decide how to grow your own mushrooms:
- Champignons prefer a very specific mixture of substrate material. If you want to grow champignons, it is best to buy a ready-made set, with the inoculated substrate included.
- Oyster Mushrooms are less picky. They can be grown in straw or in any kind of wood from deciduous trees.
- Shiitake Mushrooms mushrooms prefer harder woods like beech or oak, and unlike other types, can grow in air with relative humidity as low as 60 percent.
- Trumpet Mushrooms grow only in straw or very nutrient-rich substrates.
Grow Your Own Mushrooms: Method
Once you have your mushroom culture and your substrate, you’re ready to go. Growing mushrooms is possible both indoors and outdoors. If you live in a place with cold winters, the advantage of growing your own mushrooms inside is that you can grow them all year long. But with the right choice of species and substrate, growing them outdoors may still be possible even in cold weather.
Here’s how to grow your mushrooms:
- Before you use the syringe to inject the mushroom culture, water the substrate well and allow any excess water to drip off. The substrate should be moist, but not soaking wet.
- Choose a high humidity environment: ideally the air should have 80-95% relative humidity. Cellars, bathrooms or kitchens are probably best suited for this. If you do not have a room with high humidity, or you are growing mushrooms outside, you can support the growth of your mushrooms with a mushroom cultivation bag or propagator.
- Pay attention to temperature: mushrooms like a warm and humid climate. Check the packaging of your mushroom culture to find what temperature window your chosen species likes best.
- Inject or mix the mushroom culture into your substrate and store the substrate in a container. The layer should be at least around two inches thick.
- Now, it’s time to wait. Keeping the substrate moist is vital: check every day to make sure that it is not too dry and add water as needed using a spray bottle.
- If you are working with a substrate that has not already been inoculated, it will take several weeks for the mycelium to develop. Only after the mycelium is fully formed will the mushrooms begin to appear.
- When the mushrooms have reached their proper size, harvest them with a sharp, clean knife.
- Usually, it is possible to get about three or four mushroom harvests, with a few days between each harvest.
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