If you’re a mushroom fanatic, chances are you’re paying a hefty price to pick up the precious fungi at your local grocery. Since hunting wild mushrooms can be risky business (as Frodo can tell you), many mushroom lovers are now opting to grow their own at home. It’s not too tough to do, and with a little patience, you’ll have all the mushrooms you can possibly eat.
Choosing Your Mushrooms
Your mushroom growing expedition begins with picking the types of mushrooms you want to grow. You can experiment with one type, or be brave and try a variety. Some popular and easy-to-grow varieties include white button mushrooms, Shiitakes, and oyster mushrooms.
Most home gardeners start out with one variety, as the different fungi require different growing habitats. White button mushrooms grow on composted manure, while oyster mushrooms thrive in straw, and Shiitakes typically do best on hardwood or sawdust.
If your space is limited, start with one variety and grow in batches; however, if you have plenty of space, feel free to go wild and try them all at once! In this article, however, we’ll discuss growing button mushrooms, as these are the most popular amongst home gardeners.
Starting Your Spawn
Mushrooms grow from spores or spawn that can be purchased at a good garden center. If your local garden center doesn’t carry mushroom spawn, there are plenty of retailers online who carry an excellent variety.
Set up a growing tray that is at least 6 inches deep, and fill it with a good mushroom compost. This can be a mix of well-rotted items like straw, hay, chicken litter and cottonseed meal. Most mushroom composts include sphagnum moss peat for consistency. While you can make your own, it might be easiest to buy some pre-mixed.
Wet down your compost so that it’s very moist (but not soggy), then mix in your mushroom spawn. Make sure it’s fully incorporated into the compost, then tamp it all down well with a tray or board.
Let Your Mushrooms Grow
Your trays should be kept at a steady temperature of 65-70 degrees for the next couple weeks. Keep the mixture damp by spraying it down daily with water.
Soon enough, you’ll see a white webbing begin to appear across the manure. That means your mushrooms are sprouting! Cover the surface with a layer of damp peat moss and top it off with moist newspapers. Continue to keep the whole thing damp, and at a steady temperature of 55 degrees.
Sprout, Harvest, and Repeat
After another ten days, you’ll begin to see tiny white mushroom sprouts appearing. Over the next few days, the sprouts will grow into full-sized mushrooms. Once they’re at the size you want, you can start harvesting and using them.
But don’t throw out your mix just yet. Keep it all damp and cool, and another crop will sprout within two weeks. This will keep going for as long as six months as long as you maintain the right temperature and keep the trays well-watered.
Once your mushroom trays are fully spent, you can start again from scratch, or move on to a new type of mushroom! While growing mushrooms at home takes a little work and a lot of patience, you’ll find that your home-grown mushrooms taste far better than any you could find at a grocery store.