Are you interested in growing your own crops? Then start growing mushrooms at home. By doing that, you will have easy access to mushrooms that serve as incredible additions to healthy dishes since they are rich in fiber, selenium, and potassium while being low in fat and calories.
Mushrooms refer to those fleshy fungus species derived from their spores. You can find several types and varieties of mushrooms. Most of them are edible mushrooms that are useful in a wide range of dishes, including mushroom risotto, mushroom pizza, and oyster mushroom sauté.
A native plant to Papua New Guinea, the mushroom is considered a low-maintenance and bushy plant. It features oval-shaped leaves with a mild flavor. Also, mushrooms grow to around 60 cm tall.
Their oval-shaped leaves are also thick and glossy, and come in dark-green colors. It grows the entire year and tends to bloom blue flowers during the spring. It is important to note that the specific parts of this plant that people eat are the reproductive or fruiting bodies of fungi.
With that said, the process of growing mushrooms is definitely different from the actual growing process and care for other plants. Mushrooms are also incapable of photosynthesis. They can’t produce their own food.
With that, they depend greatly on the material or substrate where they grow, like straw, logs, and other sources of cellulose. While the mushroom decomposes, it tends to absorb nutrients from the substrate you are using. It is also more favorable to let mushrooms grow indoors as it can guarantee predictable and continuous fruiting.
Different Mushroom Types and Varieties
There are several types and varieties of mushrooms that can be grown indoors. Most of them are edible, so you will surely be able to gain rewards from making them a part of your garden.
The most common mushroom-growing varieties include the following:
Appearing in shades of white to light brown, oyster mushrooms are among the most commonly grown mushrooms in households. This type of mushroom is shaped like a fan and boasts of its sweet and mild flavor. This makes it ideal for soups and stir-fries in Chinese cuisines.
Lion’s Mane Mushrooms
This type of mushroom belongs to the tooth fungus group. It produces fruits with bulbous shapes at first. Once they mature, expect them to look like a large beard or lion’s mane.
A shiitake mushroom boasts of its smoky and full flavor as well as its dense texture that tends to hold well when used for cooking. You can grow one on your own and enjoy the rewards of harvesting home-grown mushrooms.
Make sure to choose the best substrate as it is necessary for growing and cultivating mushrooms under this species or variety. If you grow it on hardwood logs, expect to produce edible shiitake mushrooms for three to five years. This is once you inoculate the wood chips with the required mushroom spawn.
White Button Mushrooms
This is actually a spongy and simple type of mushroom, the one you can often see sliced and served on pizza. You can grow your own white button mushrooms at home and use them in your recipes, too.
Otherwise called hen-of-the-woods, the maitake mushroom is a type of plant that you can grow and cultivate at home. You can also easily find this mushroom variety in the wild. It boasts of its earthy aroma plus it was known to be a native plant in Japan and the Northwestern part of the US.
You can also decide to grow portobello mushrooms recognized for their hearty and dense nature. You can often find this type being used in Italian dishes. You can also use this mushroom as a substitute for meat just like what you see in burgers that mainly use portobello mushrooms.
How to Grow Mushrooms – The Basics
The first thing that you should do when planning to grow mushrooms using the most basic of methods is to, of course, choose the variety or type you intend to grow. In this case, your most common choices are the white button, Shiitake, and oyster.
While the overall growing method for every mushroom is the same, it differs in terms of the growing substrate you can use. If you intend to grow oyster mushrooms, use coffee grounds or straw. Meanwhile, shiitakes tend to thrive well when grown on hardwood sawdust.
If you prefer growing the white button, use composted manure for its substrate. The different substrates that you can use for every species reflect their unique nutritional requirements and needs.
Once you have picked the mushroom type or variety you intend to grow based on your preferences, you can work on growing mushrooms with these steps:
Buy mushroom spawn
If you are still unfamiliar with mushroom spawn, then take note that it refers to the sawdust with the mushroom mycelium, the fungus’ root structure, permeating it. You can use it similar to the seedlings of plants when it comes to facilitating growth.
High-quality spawns are available from various retailers online. You can also purchase them at a few specialty organic stores and gardening supply stores. Just ensure that what you are buying are spawns instead of mushroom spores.
Note that there are retailers who also offer spores to buyers that can be likened more to seeds instead of plant seedlings. Avoid these spores as much as possible as growing them takes longer than usual and are more suitable for seasoned and experienced growers of mushrooms.
Prepare and sterilize your chosen substrate
Note that unlike other plants, mushrooms are incapable of growing in potting soil. You need to look for the most suitable substrate or growing mediums for them. A few examples of substrate you can prepare for are:
- Wood chips and hardwood sawdust, which is ideal for shiitake
- Composted mushroom, which is perfect for white button varieties
- Coffee grounds and straw that are ideal for oyster mushrooms
Once you have chosen the substrate, put it in a container. It should have a minimum depth of six inches, which is good if you want the mushroom mycelium to spread freely.
If you plan to grow mushrooms in either sawdust or straw, sterilizing it is necessary before the inoculation with the mushroom spawn. Do this as a means of killing off all microorganisms that may only compete with mycelium.
Sterilize by putting the substrate in a bowl. Ensure that the bowl is microwave safe. After that, pour just the right amount of water to dampen the sawdust or straw. After that, put the bowl inside your microwave then heat for around a couple of minutes on a high setting.
This sterilizing activity is effective in killing off microorganisms, thereby ensuring that the substrate will be capable of receiving the needed mycelium.
Heat your chosen substrate
This is necessary for making the mycelium spread, which is a vital step before the production of mushrooms. There will be a better chance for the mushroom to grow well if the temperature is warm.
Your mushroom spawns also need to be warm during the beginning of their growing process. Homegrown mushrooms actually do great when exposed to temperatures that are around 55 to 60 degrees F but it is possible to hasten the growth process if you keep the temperature at around 70 degrees during the first few days.
In this case, you can seek the help of a heating pad, which you can put beneath the growing container. This should help in providing more warmth.
Maintain the crop’s moisture
However, you should prevent it from becoming overly wet. Keep in mind that mushrooms are fond of moisture but that does not mean that they should end up becoming too wet.
What you should do is use a spray bottle to mist your mushroom periodically. Ensure that the growing medium does not become soggy. Use loose-fitting plastic bags or damp cloth to cover your mushroom as they grow since it aids in trapping moisture.
Harvest the mushrooms
You can safely harvest the mushrooms after several weeks or until you notice that they have grown completely. This also undergoes the stage called fruiting, which is also otherwise referred to as sprouting. This usually happens at around three to four weeks, specifically after the successful planting of the mushroom spawn.
Here, you will notice your plants starting to show small mushrooms then growing fast. Once there are small growths or sprouts, ensure that the environment remains dark, cool, and moist. This should promote their rapid growth.
Check the mushrooms often so you can check right away if they are already ripe. One sign of ripeness is if you notice their caps becoming completely open. There is also a possibility for the caps to get detached from the stem.
You are also allowed to add fresh mushroom spawns into the substrate or growing medium. This should help in continuing the cycle. Harvest the ripe mushrooms by plucking them out using your fingers or by cutting the stem’s base using a sharp knife.
How to Use Mushroom Growing Kits?
You can also take advantage of mushroom grow kits that are now available for gardeners in different parts of the world. These kits are good options if you intend to grow mushrooms indoors.
The good thing about most mushroom grow kits is that they contain the growing medium inoculated with the spawn already. This is much better if you are a beginner because it already has everything.
The only thing that you have to do, in this case, is to open up the box. Cut the bag so there will be a hole. Spray or mist the mushroom kit with water daily. It would take around a week for you to begin seeing the emergence of small or tiny mushrooms.
Expect these tiny growths to become completely grown after around a couple of weeks. When that happens, it is safe to harvest them and enjoy your grown mushrooms.
Mushroom Plant Care
As you grow your mushrooms, you need to give them proper care and attention to guarantee their successful growth. In that case, you have to consider the following:
One thing to note about mushrooms is that they do not need a lot of direct sunlight. In fact, they like dark environments better. In other words, there is no need for you to expose them directly to sunlight.
Mushrooms thrive and survive when planted in humid and damp environments. However, you should still remind yourself that they do not need plenty of water. This means that it is often enough to spritz or mist your mushrooms with water two times a day.
Avoid making them overly dry but never drown them in water, too. Also, upon noticing that the mushrooms are already beginning to form, just mist around the plants instead of directly spraying them.
You can also grow mushrooms successfully if you give them a humid environment, especially at the time when they are already in the final fruiting phase. Maintain the humid environment without resulting in it becoming soaking wet.
Additional Growing and Caring Tips
One thing to remember about mushroom plants is that they like to be in moist but not waterlogged potting soil. In general, these plants are disease-free and pest-free. However, there are also instances when their leaves will start changing colors.
In some cases, the colors will have shades of yellow and pink before they drop off. There may also be leaves with yellow lines. You can find them along the veins and they tend to appear because of being exposed to a lot of sun.
Prevent those from happening by topping up with compost once the spring season comes. This should help stimulate or promote growth. You also need to give your mushroom plants fertilizer during the warmer months.
Other tips that you can apply when growing mushrooms at home are the following:
- Maintain the ideal growing temperature for mushrooms, specifically at around 65 to 75 degrees F when growing mushrooms indoors.
- Avoid overwatering as the plants may absorb too much water, hampering their growth.
- Remove peat moss or dust from the mushrooms – You can just use a damp towel or your fingers when it comes to brushing them off.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is growing your own mushrooms worth it?
Yes. If you are successful in growing your own mushrooms in the garden, you will enjoy a bountiful harvest. It gives you easy access to one of the most commonly used ingredients in various dishes while having peace of mind knowing that what you are getting are fresh mushrooms that are also highly nutritious.
What is needed to grow mushrooms at home?
The most important things you need to grow mushrooms at home are the spawns and the mushroom grow kit. You also need to choose the right substrate depending on the mushroom species you decided to grow.
Where is the best place to grow mushrooms?
This depends on the variety you intend to grow. If you are planning to grow oyster mushrooms, then you can expect them to survive better in coffee grounds or straw. Button mushrooms are perfect for composted manure while shiitake can achieve better growth on hardwood dust.
How long does it take for mushrooms to grow?
The usual time it takes for mushrooms to grow fully is about three weeks to six weeks. This is the average growth speed for the most commonly grown mushrooms at home. This may vary depending on the mushroom variety you decided to grow.
It is not actually that hard to grow mushrooms in the comforts of your own home. Growing mushrooms will give you a treat as it ensures that you can enjoy freshly harvested ones all the time. Just make sure that you eat and consume mushrooms you just harvested in a couple of days; otherwise, they will go bad.
You can eat the mushrooms right after you harvest them or lengthen their lifespan by freezing them. Note, though, that you can also find a use for mushrooms that have gone bad. You can also turn them into mushroom compost, which is useful in case you need something to feed your next set of mushroom spawns or spores.