How to Grow Mushrooms

Overview

Learning how to grow mushrooms can be a fun indoor activity for children or an exploration of a potentially financially rewarding home-based business. For home use, small-scale mushroom farms provide you with a steady supply of tasty additions to a wide array of meals. Since you can grow mushrooms in a small space, in a backyard or also in a greenhouse, you are likely to find a suitable space to grow them.

Step 1

Prepare the substrate. Substrate is to mushrooms what potting soil is to plants. Adapt your choice of substrate to fit the fungus you wish to cultivate. For example, shiitake mushrooms require hardwood logs; for best results, choose cottonwood, beech or willow logs with the bark intact. Oyster mushrooms need pasteurized straw and button mushrooms grow on manure that is only about half decomposed.

Step 2

Drill holes into the substrate and insert mushroom spores or spawns. If this is your first time growing mushrooms, you may find that using spawns---comparable to green plant seedlings---is easiest to handle. Spores are similar to plant seeds and take a bit more care and time to grow into spawns. As the spawns take to the substrate, you will notice whitish threads growing on and within it; this is the mycelium that is comparable to a plant's root system.

Step 3

Place your inoculated substrate into a pan and find a protected growing area. This spot should be protected from heat, direct sunlight and conducive to humidity. Indoors, you may choose a basement, guest bathroom or spare room; outdoors, you could opt for a shaded spot beneath trees or inside a greenhouse.

Step 4

Spritz or soak the growing mushrooms. Water your shiitake logs twice a week until they are well soaked. The mycelium prefers a moisture content of 50 percent for optimum growth. Mist mushrooms grown on different substrate by misting them with lukewarm water.

Step 5

Monitor the temperature of the substrate with a thermometer. Overall mushroom growing temperatures should stay between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit once the mycelium establishes itself; until then, keep the temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 6

Harvest the fruiting bodies with a sharp knife. Depending on the kinds of mushrooms you grow, you will be able to harvest more than once every couple of months after the mycelia are well established. For example, oyster mushrooms are ready for harvest between the middle of spring and early summer; a second harvest is possible in fall. Shiitakes take a few months to grow but fruit once every six to eight weeks after a heavy soak of the logs. Using a sharp knife when harvesting decreases the damage to the mycelium.

Things You'll Need

  • Substrate
  • Drill
  • Mushroom spores or spawns
  • Growing locale
  • Tub
  • Spray bottle
  • Watering can
  • Water
  • Sharp knife

References

  • Mycowest.org: Lawrence Weingarten on Straw Substrate
  • Attra.org: Mushroom Cultivation and Marketing

Who Can Help

  • Gardening Know How: Learn How To Grow Mushrooms
  • Mother Earth News: Grow Your Own Mushrooms
  • Google.com: "Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms," Paul Stamets, p.40 ff.
Keywords: mushrooms, substrate, mycelium

About this Author

Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.