Growing mushrooms at home is a different ball game than the usual fruits and vegetables. For starters, mushrooms are fungi, so they have different growing requirements and methods. They do not grow from seeds but spores that turn into mycelia — networks or clusters of white root-like threads. You can watch some varieties grow right before your eyes within weeks instead of months.
Whether you are looking for an exciting experiment or like eating this nutritious fungi, explore these seven tips to help cultivate mushrooms at home.
Start With a Mushroom Growing Kit
A mushroom-growing kit is a great place to start, especially if you are a beginner. The helpful kit comes with a substrate, aka the growing medium, and already has mushroom mycelia growing in it. Choose a kit with the type of mushroom you want to grow. Depending on the variety, the kit can have straw, logs, or even coffee grounds as the substrate.
To encourage the fungi to grow, provide optimal growing conditions, such as plenty of moisture and a dark or heavily shaded spot. The kit comes with instructions on how to get started and take care of your mushrooms until they are ready for harvest.
Purchase the Spawn
You can also buy the spawn (a commercial term for a substrate already containing mycelia) instead of using a growing kit. Making mushroom spawn at home is challenging and requires expertise. Purchasing it from a trustworthy online supplier or a local store is far simpler. If your source is not reliable, there is a chance that your resulting mushrooms may not be edible.
Grow Them on Logs
You can grow mushrooms outdoors on freshly cut, healthy logs. Since wild mushrooms occasionally grow on tree bark, this method resembles the natural growing environment.
You can use softwood, but it requires additional nutrients, such as bran and sugar, to support mushroom growth. An ideal woody substrate is oak. Use an oak log 3 feet long and 3 to 8 inches in diameter. Drill the holes about 6 inches apart and a few inches deep. Spray water in the holes and insert a wooden dowel coated in mycelium in each hole. The dowels should be 1 inch in length and ¼ inch in diameter. Dowels covered with mushroom spawn are available to purchase.
Use a hammer to push the dowels below the bark’s surface and seal the holes with hot wax to prevent moisture loss and protect mycelium from bacteria. Put the log in a shaded part of your garden and hose it once or twice weekly to keep it moist. This method is a great way to grow shiitake and oyster mushrooms.
Plant Them in Garden Beds
Another way to grow mushrooms outside is to make a garden bed. Place your garden bed in a shaded area and fill it with about 6 inches of finely ground wood chips. Mix mushroom spawn with your substrate and pack the surface to remove air pockets.
Water lightly and cover the wood chips with a 1- to 2-inch layer of straw or leaves to help retain moisture. Water daily in the first week, on alternate days in the second, and then just enough to keep the wood chips moist until mushrooms are ready for harvest in a few weeks. Use the method to grow wine caps!
Use Coffee Grounds
You can use your leftover coffee grounds to grow mushrooms instead of chucking them!
Mix your coffee grounds with the purchased mushroom spawn and sterilize straw or sawdust. Keep the mixture in a bag in a warm, dark place with a temperature between 68 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. You will notice white mycelia growing in the mixture after a couple of weeks.
Then, relocate the bag to a spot with indirect sunlight and mist your mixture daily through a small hole cut into the bag. Your mushroom will be ready for harvest in about five to seven days.
Bag of Straw
You can also grow oyster mushrooms in a plastic bag filled with straw as the growing medium. Prepare the straw by chopping and pasteurizing it to remove any bacteria. Stuff them in a 5-gallon container and pour boiling water until the straws are submerged. Let the straw sit for 45 minutes, drain the water, and let the straws cool to room temperature.
Now, spread the spawn and mix it well until evenly distributed throughout the substrate. Pack the mixture in clear plastic bags, seal them with packing tape, and punch holes spaced 6 inches apart.
Place the plastic bags in a dark place, at a temperature of between 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, until the straw turns white as the mycelia grow within a couple of weeks. The exact time it takes for the mycelia to spread across the bag depends on the size of your bag. Refrigerate the bags for one day to cold shock the mycelium into fruiting or producing mushrooms.
You will soon see mushrooms emerging from the punched holes, ready for harvest within a few weeks.
Provide Optimal Conditions
There isn’t a single set of instructions for growing mushrooms — each variety prefers slightly different conditions, so it’s essential to research what your specific type needs.
That said, most mushrooms prefer a cool, dark environment away from direct sunlight and drafty wind. They also appreciate high humidity in their surroundings (above 70 percent), as mushrooms are fungi that thrive in moist conditions.
Mushrooms by the Dozen!
Growing mushrooms at home is a fun experience with satisfying results. These fast-growing fungi have a delicious, earthy, meaty flavor, perfect as side dishes or the star of the show. Start with a variety you want to grow, choose your substrate, and start growing! Or better yet, pick a growing kit and enjoy your mushrooms within weeks!
Would you opt for the kit or start from scratch? Share below in the comments!