Growing your own mushrooms is a fun and unique gardening project for all ages. Two of the most common varieties of mushrooms used by home growers are shiitake and white button. Both varieties require the same basic growing procedures, but they require different substrates, or growth medium. Shiitake mushrooms are grown in sterilized sawdust and white button mushrooms are grown in sterilized compost. You can make your own mushroom kits.
White Button Mushroom Kit
Fill a 5 gallon bucket three-quarters full with organic compost. Seal with the lid. Place the bucket on a heating pad set to low. This will help the compost maintain a high enough temperature to neutralize detrimental microbes.
Cool the compost. Compost is ready to be cooled when it contains white actinomycetes (looks like white filaments throughout the compost). Add 1 cup of gypsum and mix thoroughly into the compost.
Mix 2 cups of sawdust with 3 cups of cooled compost. Put the sawdust and compost mixture into a small bucket for use after the spores have rooted. Spread the white button mushroom spores over the compost.
Shiitake Mushroom Kit
Locate a hardwood log 1 foot in diameter and 2 feet in length. Use a recently felled tree.
Place the log into a 5-gallon bucket. Fill the bucket with boiling water to sterilize the log.
Drill holes, using a 1/2-inch drill bit, into the log once it has dried. The holes should be 2 inches deep. Place the holes every 6 inches around the entire log, including the top and bottom. You should be able to drill at least 50 holes.
Fill the holes with shiitake mushroom spores. The spores will arrive on small dowel rods. Insert the rods into the holes. Place the log into the 5-gallon bucket and allow the log to lean to one side of the bucket.
Place the bucket into a dark room, unused cabinet or a closet. Cover with a damp cloth. Heat the space to 70 degrees F with a space heater.
Once spores have rooted (about three weeks) decrease the room temperature to 60 degrees F. Cover white button mushrooms with the sawdust and compost mixture. Cover the shiitake mushroom spawn with a damp cloth. Lightly spray the sawdust and compost mixture to keep it moist.
Harvest the mushrooms when the caps have opened completely and split from the stem. This takes about three to four weeks.