Once a gardener has mastered vegetables, herbs and fruit, she may want to move on to something a bit more unique and challenging, like mushrooms. Mushrooms are not grown like other plants, by putting a seed in the ground, but are instead grown in a substrate like straw or sawdust that has been inoculated with mushroom spawn. Oyster mushrooms are among the easiest mushrooms to grow, and a good choice for beginners. Buy a mushroom growing kit for quick and easy results, or assemble your own indoor mushroom patch for large scale production.
Purchase an oyster mushroom kit from a garden supply catalog, specialty gift store or online. The kit will provide everything you need to grow oyster mushrooms, and all you'll need to do is find a warm, humid location for the kit and possibly give it some water. The oyster mushroom growing kit should come with specific instructions for its care. If you prefer to do things from scratch, proceed to step two.
Pasteurize shredded straw by immersing it in hot (160 degrees F) water for 45 minutes. Small quantities of straw may be pasteurized in a 5-gallon stock pot on the stove top, while larger quantities can be processed in a large metal drum over a fire or other heat source outside. Drain the straw and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Prepare your plastic bags by poking several holes in them with a nail (sterilize the nail by wiping it down with rubbing alcohol first). There should be a hole every 6 inches or so.
Inoculate the straw by mixing it with oyster mushroom spawn, available online from mushroom growing supply stores. The package of spawn should provide specific directions as to how much straw the spawn will require.
Stuff the inoculated straw into the plastic bags. The straw should be fairly tightly packed, but should still allow some room for the spawn to breath and grow. Seal the top of the bag.
Place the plastic bag in a warm, moist location with low, indirect light. A bathroom is usually ideal. Temperatures should be between 65 and 80 degrees F.
Wait for the bag to become colonized by the mycelia. You should see white threads or masses forming within the straw. This will take about 10 days.
Cold shock the mycelia by placing the plastic bag in the refrigerator for one day, then return the bag to a warm, moist location. Oyster mushroom should start to sprout from the holes in the bag within a day or two after cold shocking.
Spray the outside of the plastic bag with a mist bottle if necessary to keep humidity levels high. Brown mushroom growth indicates low moisture levels.
Harvest the mushrooms when they are about 2 inches across by slicing through the stem with a sharp knife. You may get one or two smaller fruitings of mushrooms after the larger initial harvest. Later you can empty the bag of straw into your garden outside in a shady, moist spot, and the mycelia may colonize the soil and provide you with yearly fruitings of oyster mushrooms.