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Substrates for Mushroom Cultivation

By J. Lang Wood ; Updated September 21, 2017
Growing mushrooms requires knowledge of the particular substrates used.
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Growing mushrooms is an interesting and productive hobby for gardeners both indoors and outdoors. Instead of planting seeds in the ground as with traditional gardening, growers use mycelium, a web-like material of mushroom spores, and special substrates for cultivation of particular kinds of mushrooms. Mushroom cultivation requires cool temperatures and shady conditions.

About Substrates

Substrates come in many different varieties, and it seems that mushroom growers are always discovering new types. Compost is the most traditional substrate used to grow mushrooms, but growers also use straw, logs, sawdust, paper products, garden debris, used coffee grounds and corn cobs, according to the Mushroom Shack website. Mushroom-growing experts often recommend certain types of substrate for particular kinds of mushrooms, but experimenting with substrates is part of the fun of growing your own mushrooms.

Substrates for White Button Mushrooms

The common white button mushroom, Agaricus spp., grows on a number of substrates, including wheat straw, corncobs, horse manure, chicken manure and feather meal, according to University of Hawaii botanists. Mixtures of these types of substrates also provide a good growing media for white button mushrooms.

Substrates for Shiitake Mushrooms

The shiitake mushroom, Lentinula edodes, is a wood-loving type that grows best on hardwoods like oak and ironwood. Other woods such as beech, alder, birch or sweetgum also make a good substrate for shiitake mushrooms. With shiitakes, substrates like corn cob, straw or combination substrates do not produce results as favorable as hardwood does.

Substrates for Oyster Mushrooms

Oyster mushrooms, Pleuratus spp., grow on a variety of substrates, including cereal straws, paper, corn cobs and coffee grounds. They can also grow on logs. The spawn is grown first on dowels, which are then inserted into the logs. Oyster mushrooms generally do not require sterilization of the substrate like other types of mushroom do. They will generally outgrow any contaminants in the medium, according to the Mushroom Company website. Oyster mushrooms will also grow on cocoa shell waste, cotton straw and paper substrates.

Substrates for Maitake Mushrooms

Maitake mushrooms, also called the hen of the woods or by its botanical name, Grifola frondosa, grows as a clump of overlapping mounds or interwoven mushroom leaves. Maitake prefer hardwoods as a growing medium and outdoor cultivation on logs. Indoors, hardwood sawdust or wood chips of oak, poplar, elm or alder will work for maitake mushroom cultivation.

Substrate for Wine Cap Mushrooms

Wine cap mushrooms, Stropharia rugosa-annulata, grow best on hardwood chips. Straw will also work, but it should be oat or wheat straw and not plain hay, which composts too quickly. Moisten the straw and mix it with layers of spawn in a shady outdoor bed. Mixing the straw with redwood, pine or cypress wood chips provides a good substrate for wine cap mushrooms.