Mushrooms are the fruit bodies of different kinds of fungus. There are many types of mushrooms. The button mushroom, or the Agaricus bisporus, is a mushroom commonly used as a culinary mushroom. Other mushrooms, like shiitake, oysters, maitake, lion's mane and other more exotic mushrooms, are eaten for culinary, nutritional and holistic medical reasons. Some mushrooms, like reishi and turkey tail, are usually only used for medicinal purposes. Although growing conditions vary for each variety, some general guidelines can help you understand the overall requirements of mushroom cultivation.
Mushrooms tend to do best in temperatures that are not too high and not too low. According to Kansas State University, temperatures lower than 55 degrees F are not good for mushrooms. Temperatures above 60 degrees F can also be harmful to mushrooms. For best growth, those temperatures need to be maintained both day and night. However, the temperature varies greatly depending on variety, and some mushrooms will grow best between 78 and 84 degrees F, according to the University of California. Adjust your growth temperature to suite the variety of mushrooms you are growing.
Mushrooms need humidity to grow. Most mushrooms require high humidity for growth. In most cases, between 80 percent and 100 percent relative humidity is ideal. If the humidity drops too low, the mushrooms may dry out and stop growing.
Some mushrooms grow primarily in the dark. Other mushrooms, like shitake mushrooms, need some light. Mushrooms, however, will generally not grow well in direct light, especially direct sun. Like temperature, the exact needs of a mushroom will vary greatly depending on variety.
Mushrooms grow in a variety of growth media. In many cases, mushrooms will grow best in sterile media. Some mushrooms will grow well in sterilized compost, others may grow well in peat. Shitake mushrooms grow in wood or logs.
Keep your mushroom growth medium moist. Do not allow it to dry out. However, be careful not to have the soil soaking wet. Because mushrooms generally grow in high humidity, the growing medium is less likely to dry out, but make sure you sprinkle it with water if it starts to look or feel dry.
Some mushroom spawn, the material that "seeds" mushrooms, is available pre-planted in a growth medium. However, some companies sell mushroom spawn in chunks. To use the spawn, plant golf ball sized pieces 2 inches deep and 8 to 10 inches apart.