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How To Grow Your Own Mushrooms From Home
Mushrooms grow in a very different environment from plants and gardens, requiring a complete, or almost complete absence of light, an absence of light that would quickly kill most plants.
If you are a gardener in the sense of a person who cares for growing things, then you will find it very easy to care for mushrooms; primarily because they are basically a wild organism that has been harnessed by humans for food. Another nice thing about mushrooms is that they are fungi, not plants, and this means that they can be a far greater source of protein than plants.
Another good reason for growing mushrooms if you’re a health conscious individual is the fact that if you grow the mushrooms yourself you can be sure that they were grown without all the excess additions of pesticide and fertilizers that are so common in most industrially grown food these days.
When you try your hand at mushroom growing yourself you know that they are both organic and that they will benefit the health of your family. In this day and age when so much of our lives seem controlled by the mechanized and the artificial, home grown mushrooms can provide a wonderful source of health building nutrients for your family. Best of all, this wonderful food is easy, and indeed almost effortless to grow.
How Do You Grow Mushrooms at Home?
Is mushroom growing as easy as it’s made out to be? The answer is yes. This is because mushrooms are actually fairly simple organisms that require a very specific set of environmental conditions in which to grow. If they don’t have this set of conditions, they don’t grow.
On the other hand, the good news is that if they do have that set of conditions, they grow almost without any maintenance at all. Another bit of good news is that these conditions are easy to provide. All you really need to grow mushrooms is dark and humidity.
You can provide dark by simply having an enclosed space, and humidity can be provided for by spraying the growing medium in which the mushrooms are planted with a water spray twice a day. Mushrooms are very productive, and you’ll have a new harvest of mushrooms starting to grow even as you take out the grown ones.
They’re very nutritious, and well worth the little effort it takes to grow them. If you’re growing them just to provide the occasional mushroom meal for your family, you needn’t bother to take too much trouble or effort over them.
The Basics of Growing Edible Mushrooms at Home
The one thing these edible fungi cannot stand is too much light. They can tolerate a little light. Perhaps I should modify that statement though and say that they can tolerate a VERY little light.
Better than even a little light is no light at all. They also like a stable temperature range, so make sure that stays within the range of between fifty and sixty degrees Fahrenheit – anything more than that will cause problems for your fungi. You also need to be careful to keep out any drafts.
The air needs to be moist, because that’s how they like it. If you’ve looked at any mushrooms growing in the woods, you’ll have noticed that they don’t exactly grow in the soil. Similarly, when you grow them in your house, or even in a garden shed, you’re going to have to arrange (or buy) a special growing medium for them.
There are two ways of going about mushroom growing, and the method that you choose will depend upon just how many of these fungi you plan to grow. If you’re starting out on the very smallest scale, a log of wood should do just fine for a growing medium. Haven’t you seen them growing around tree stumps in the woods? All you need is a good log of some reasonably hard type of wood – oak is a good choice.
Take that log and drill a few holes in it, and fill each of them with some mushroom spawn. Then let nature take its course. If, on the other hand, you intend to grow mushrooms on a larger scale, you’re going to need to bed them down in trays filled with a special mushroom growing medium.
The medium is basically some compost mixed up with straw or a mixture of straw and horse manure. Then this is what you would plant the mushroom spawn in. If you want to grow more mushrooms, you’ll just set out more trays and set aside more space for your fungus.
So How Do You Grow Mushrooms At Home?
Mushrooms are not really plants, but fungi, and this changes all the rules for a gardener. You can’t use soil to grow them in, for one thing. The usual fertilizers and pesticides won’t work – not that you’ll want to use them if you’re set on growing organic mushrooms for consumption anyway.
In reality, the point that I want to make is that there are a lot of new things to learn, and the sooner you can get started learning them, the better you’ll ultimately be at either providing your family with a home grown mushroom diet, or at growing them commercially for sale.
Now, the first factor to consider when you’re growing anything (not just mushrooms), is space. If you’re just growing enough for the occasional mushroom meal for your family, then you could grow the mushrooms indoors, inside your house even. But if you want to grow them on a larger scale, you’re going to want to use a garden shed, at the very least. A greenhouse or a small barn might be even better.
One nice thing about growing mushrooms is that you can use your space very efficiently. Simply fill the available space with shelving, with the shelves about a foot apart, and with space for you to move around (or in-between) the shelves. After this, it’s a simple matter of acquiring flat trays (each about three to four inches deep) and placing them on the shelves.
You may wonder how it’s possible to grow mushrooms this way, and I’ll remind you that these fungi don’t need the presence of light in which to grow, and so can be grown in this way most efficiently. Then you need to buy some commercial mushroom growing medium, or you can make your own (it’s not difficult) and fill the trays with it.
Plant the mushroom ‘seed’ – the correct term to use here is spores or spawn – and you’ll have your mushrooms growing in no time at all.
Tips and Tricks That Can Help You Towards Successful Mushroom Growing
How you go about growing your mushrooms can directly impact how successful (or not) you are at growing them. If you go into this without sufficient information, you may end up with a lot of wasted effort. Because the simple fact of the matter is that it’s extremely easy to grow mushrooms. You just have to do things right. To start with, it’s best not to use mushroom spores directly.
While it’s possible to buy mushroom spores, these spores are actually so tiny that they’re microscopic. This means that they can be quite difficult to handle, at least until you get used to handling them. You can also harvest spores from mature mushrooms, simply by cutting the cap off and placing it on a large sheet of paper or on a sheet of glass.
However, I would advise against using spores, not only because they are inconvenient to handle (a single breath of wind will scatter them all over the house or yard), but also because they’re vulnerable to contamination, and if they are contaminated with spores from wild, poisonous mushrooms, the consequences could be disastrous.
Preventing contamination is also the reason why it is recommended that you always grow them indoors. Indoor growing greatly reduces the chances that a few wild spores might come to rest in your mushroom beds, and grow up among your safe mushrooms.
If the mushrooms that grow from the wild spores turn out to be poisonous, it could cause serious problems for anyone who eats them. If you do decide to go that route, please be warned that you must be an expert at recognizing the strain of mushroom that you’re growing.
Another reason is that the growth medium is so rich that a lot of germs and unhealthy algae and fungi can start to grow if it’s left in an open environment. In a closed environment, things are more controlled, and this means that your mushrooms can be relied upon to not only not be poisonous, but also not carry any disease producing pathogens.
Of course, you will wash the mushrooms before cooking them, but considering the growth medium that mushrooms grow in, it’s better to be safe than sorry. These are just a few tips that you can use to help you with your mushroom growing.
So, How Long Do Mushrooms Really Take to Grow?
The mushroom growing period will vary from species to species but your mushrooms will usually take at least a week or so to put out their mycelia. After that, the growing process begins, and your mushrooms will be ready for harvesting about eight weeks later.
If you want to have mushrooms regularly, then all you need to do is plant a great many of them at staggered intervals (called succession planting), so that there are always some mushrooms ready to harvest. Since mushrooms grow in the dark they require an exceptionally small amount of space. This means that when you grow your mushrooms at home, you can plant them in trays set in rows, or even on shelves, one on top of the other.
What Kind of Containers Do You Need For Growing Mushrooms?
Once you have your growing area figured out, the next thing you’re going to have to think of are planting containers. Remember that mushrooms are not plants, so they don’t need a deep container in which to grow. Assuming you are not using a log, then instead, think large and flat containers that are more shallow pans than real pots.
Most stores that specialize in gardening supplies should be able to accommodate you. Once you’ve got everything arranged, the best thing you could do would be to experiment with one pan.
Creating Your Mushroom Growth Medium
Most people who grow mushrooms just go out and buy both the spores (or spawn) and the growth medium. They do this because it is the easiest way to grow mushrooms. But if you are thinking of growing mushrooms commercially, this can add massively to your costs.
The medium is easy to put together – you need chicken, turkey or horse manure and hay. (You may want to give your mushrooms a dose of organic liquid fertilizer as well).
The combination is 85% composted manure, 10 percent hay (make sure it is clean hay) and 5 percent composted poultry manure.
- Mix all ingredients well in a shallow tub with holes in the bottom so that water can run off. Add gypsum as you go about the mixing process (10 lbs for a bed that is 10’ x 4’. Adjust based on the size of your growing area.). Then add the ammonium nitrite fertilizer. One pound for the same 10’ x 4’ bed. Adjust accordingly.
- Moisten your mix with water. Continue moistening and mixing until your medium feels like a damp sponge. Now cover it with a sack and store it for a while. After some time, mix the pile again and cover it again. Repeat this several times. Finally, your mixture should be ready, and you can go ahead and add it to your boxes.
- Then plant the mushroom spores in the mixture and cover it with more of the mixture.
Planting The Spawn Is Only The First Step In Mushroom Growing
That’s right, planting the spawn is only the first step in mushroom growing, but it’s nevertheless necessary to get it right.
The right way to plant the spawn is to mix in spawn flakes with your growth medium. Make sure you space the flakes out sufficiently so that the young mushrooms have a place to grow. Then make sure that the growth nutrient is watered sufficiently.
However, if you’re buying your spawn commercially, you may have a choice between flakes and bricks made up of spawn. If you decide on the bricks, you just need to break them into one inch cubes and poke 2-inch holes in the nutrient mix. Place a cube in each of these holes, close up the holes, and water them.
Either kind of spawn works just as well. The moment you start watering, the spores will begin to grow, though this growth may not be apparent at first. In time, however, a fine white web will form on the surface of the nutrient formula. This white web is actually the root system of the budding mushrooms.
Keep watering, and in time the tiny mushrooms will appear. This is a time when you need to reduce the amount of water by a considerable extent, because too much water at this time will cause your new mushrooms to wither and die. The mushrooms will not need too much water from now until it’s time to harvest.
Harvesting is pretty effortless – you can just use a kitchen blade to cut right through the stems. A simple twist and pull is also an effective method of harvesting mushrooms. Once you harvest each mature mushroom, it makes room for the next mushroom growing in its place.
This is a lot to take in. I know.
If you are ready to dive right in though, then don’t think too hard about it. Go for it!
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