How To: Plant, Grow & Harvest Mushrooms

Growing your Mushrooms at home has become a much more prominent part of gardening these days. Every day it seems the prices of items like Mushrooms are rising due to covid gouging or organic price inflation. If this trend continues, you'll find that this hobby will get even more popular among price-conscious gardeners. You can grow Mushrooms for a fraction of the price you now pay in the store.


The simplest type of mushrooms to grow would be Button Mushrooms. Not only do they require no sunlight, but there are simple kits that are very affordable to help produce them. You can even grow Mushrooms for extra cash if you have excess space in your crawl space or basement.


Unlike some Mushrooms, the Button variety is easy to find spores for, and they're the most versatile mushroom in the kitchen. You can use them in stir fry, soups, casseroles, and my favourite as a delicious garnish for a big, thick, juicy steak! The best part is you'll enjoy and appreciate them more when you grow them yourself. So let's get started!


How Mushrooms Grow

Let's go over some basics before we get too deep into the process of growing Mushrooms. Mushrooms almost grow like magic! They don't grow from seeds but microscopic Spores instead. These Spores are so tiny you can't see them with the naked eye unless they're en masse. 


It's also important to remember that unlike plants, Mushrooms are fungi. Mushrooms don't require chlorophyll to start germinating but need a different substance like wood chips, manure, or straw to get the necessary nourishment to grow. This blend of Spores and Nutrients combined are called Spawn.


The Spawn is the base that supports the Mycelium, which is the thread-like roots of the Mushrooms. The Mycelium must grow before the Mushrooms start to appear as this will be the medium the Mushrooms grow on. 


Growing Requirement

Button Mushrooms are easy to grow for several reasons but mainly because they don't require any sunlight. For most of us, this works great because window space is usually a premium. Not to mention the fact that they can be grown year-round, with minimal space requirements.


Growing Button Mushrooms is easy to do with a simple kit and following the instructions that come with it. If you're like me and are a bit frugal and like doing things the hard way, this guide will show you how to grow your Mushrooms without buying the kit.


Choosing Your Spot

Mushrooms require Cool and Dark areas, shielded from Light and any form of Disturbances. Ideally, you would find a space that would maintain a constant temperature between 18-24 c. Most of us use either our attics or crawl spaces to grow our Mushrooms, but if you're in an apartment, a dark closet works as well.


Find Your Spawn

Remember, Mushrooms don't grow from Seeds but Spawn. Check out your local nursery or look online for ready-made Spores. Some places sell Spores that have already pre-mixed with a substrate like dirt, straw, or sawdust. I recommend getting your Spores from a local nursery or an experienced cultivator online as you'll have a much higher chance of success.


What You'll Need

Growing Mushrooms is very different than growing regular plants, and you may need some supplies you don't keep readily available. Here is your Shop or Scavenge List;


Box: Any box works well for producing your Mushrooms. Try to keep the dimensions at least 15 cm tall and 50 cm by 50 cm across. I recommend plastic because it stands up to the moisture a bit better than cardboard and is lighter than metal. 


Garbage Bag: If you've decided to use cardboard, you'll need to use a garbage bag or another form of plastic barrier to create a moisture barrier.


Substrate: Composted Manure is the perfect growing medium for Button Mushrooms as it offers a food source as well. Nitrogen-rich manure, such as horse or cow manure, is ideal, but a 50/50 mix of compost and manure works as well.


Whatever you end up using for substrate, be sure to heat it to sterilize it. Doing this will kill Spores and Bacteria that could harm the Mushroom Spawn.


Newspaper: Use this to keep the Mycelium damp as it spreads across the substrate.


Vermiculite: Use Vermiculite to keep the soil moist and offer aeration. Mix a liberal amount in with your substrate.


Innoculation

Follow these steps to get your Mushrooms growing, and they'll be thriving in no time.


  1. If you're using cardboard, line your box with the garbage bag. If you're using plastic or metal, this isn't necessary.
  2. Add a 50/50 mixture of manure and vermiculite no more than 7cm deep. Every 10 g of Spawn requires about 1 kg of the substrate to innoculate properly.
  3. Add some water to the substrate without waterlogging it.
  4. Sprinkle your Spawn onto the top of the substrate and mix it into the first 5 cm of soil.
  5. Use five layers of newspaper that you've moistened to lay on top of the scattered Spawn.
  6. Cover the box with a plastic bag or the lid with a few holes for airflow and moisture.


Caring For Your Mushrooms


Temperature: Mushrooms require a warmer medium to Spawn but shouldn't be heated above 21 c as it will kill the spores. If necessary, use a heating pad to keep the soil around 20-21 c until you see the Mycelium Web.


Moisture: It's imperative to keep the newspaper moist, so be sure to check on it daily. When you find the newspaper has dried out, use a misting bottle to dampen it again. NEVER POUR WATER ONTO THE NEWSPAPER as this will destroy the Mycelium Web.


Substrate: In three weeks or less, you should see your Mycelium Web spreading across your substrate. Once you see the Mycelium, remove the heating pad and add 2 or 3 cm more substrate to encourage the Mushrooms to grow. Dampen and cover again.


Producing:  Check on your Mushrooms daily and add moisture as necessary. Within 3-5 more weeks, your Mushrooms should start to grow. Once they being to sprout, keep the soil moist. 


Harvesting

When your Mushrooms are ready to be harvested, the cap will pop open. Then all you have to do is cut or twist the Mushrooms out of the soil. Remember, consistently remove the stem as leaving it can causing Fogging, which is softening of the mushrooms. Replace any holes with some new substrate and enjoy the fruits of your labours for 3-6 months.


Diseases/Troubleshooting


Verticillium Spots: Small spots and deformed Mushrooms are a sure sign of Verticillium Spots. An infection that can eventually lead to your mushrooms becoming covered with a gray fuzz. Putting salt in a cup near the growths will usually clear the issue up. There are fungicides to treat the condition, but they may kill your mushrooms as well.


Green Mold: If your Mycelium turns to a dense green layer, you've likely got Green Mold. Your mushrooms will be brown and cracked or distorted. Luckily, if you followed our instructions and sanitized your compost, you'll never run into this issue. If you end up with Green Mold, you can remove the Infected Area, try a Bleach Mist, or Set it Outside and hope for the best.


Dactylium Disease: Webbed, cottony growth on your Mushrooms is a sign of Dactylium Disease. Over time it may turn pink or grey, and the mushroom will turn soft and watery. The cure is good sanitization of casing, tools, and equipment.


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