Mushrooms can be a divisive food–those who hate them won’t ever touch them, but you can rarely get enough for those who love them! If you fall into the latter category, you’ve likely wondered if it would be economical to grow mushrooms at home.
We’re here to help clear the air and show you just how easy it can be! Read on to learn all there is to know about how to grow mushrooms at home…from steps to take, to alternate growing methods, and more.
Growing Mushrooms At Home – An Indoor or Outdoor Pursuit?
Chances are, if you spend any amount of time outdoors, you have seen all types of wild mushrooms growing in all sorts of environments. This can lead to the assumption that you can grow them wherever.
However, the key for how to grow mushrooms is actually a controlled environment. Mushrooms need the right balance of light and temperature in order to truly thrive. Thus, the easiest and best practice method for how to grow mushrooms at home is to grow them indoors.
How to Grow Mushrooms At Home – A Step-by-Step Guide
1. Select the Type of Mushroom You Want to Grow
The first step for how to grow mushrooms is to select the type you want to grow! This ultimately comes down to your personal tastes. However, be aware that the type of mushroom you select will affect certain aspects of how to grow mushrooms.
Among the most popular mushrooms to grow at home are oyster, Shiitake, Morel, and button mushrooms. These can be easy launching points for learning how to grow mushrooms at home; however, you should ultimately choose whichever variety you are most likely to eat!
2. Purchase A Mushroom Spawn Containing Your Preferred Type
The key for how to grow mushrooms at home is to purchase mushroom spawn, which is a type of sawdust that is full of what’s called “mushroom mycelia”. This is the equivalent to a root structure in most seedlings, and it’s what helps your mushrooms grow.
Another option for how to grow mushrooms at home is from a spore base. These are akin to plant seeds rather than seedlings (which means they have no established root system in place yet).
While a spore base is a fine method for how to grow mushrooms if you are a more seasoned mushroom grower, it can be more tricky and time consuming. To reduce trial and error, it’s best to first learn how to grow mushrooms from spawn.
3. Determine Your Growing Substrate
“Substrate” is a fun term you will need to know when learning how to grow mushrooms. The “substrate” is simply the surface on which something is growing. In this case, the substrate is the organic matter you will place your mushroom spawn into.
Choosing the necessary type of substrate for how to grow mushrooms will depend on which type of mushroom you are growing.
For example, Shiitake mushrooms are best grown in a substrate of hardwood sawdust. On the other hand, Button mushrooms thrive in composted manure, like many garden plants; meanwhile, oyster mushrooms love a rich coffee compost or a bed of straw.
The key for how to grow mushrooms in the proper substrate is to research your individual mushroom variety. You will have a much easier time learning how to grow mushrooms from home if you ensure you are growing the right type in the right substrate base.
4. Prepare the Substrate
Not all mushroom substrates require preparation ahead of time. However, certain types of material, such as sawdust or straw, are more prone to naturally occurring fungi of their own. This also makes them likely to grow microorganisms that could compete with the mushroom mycelia for dominion over the substrate.
With this in mind, you will need to sterilize these substrates before using them. This is an important step for how to grow mushrooms without losing part of your spawn to competition in the substrate.
You can do this easily via a microwave. Place the straw or sawdust in batches in a microwave safe bowl, add in just enough water to dampen the substrate material, and then microwave it on high for two minutes, or until all of the water in the bowl has boiled off.
You can also use an instant pot, pressure cooker, or even boiling water on the stove top to achieve the same desired effect.
5. Heat the Substrate and Spawn
This might seem like a redundant step to the previous one on how to grow mushrooms, but bear with us! This type of heating is necessary regardless of which type of substrate you use, because of that crucial temperature balance which is such a key component for how to grow mushrooms.
Heating your substrate will help the mycelia spread, allowing your mushroom spawn to disperse throughout the substrate and begin to grow mushrooms. Think of this as similar to transferring seedlings to your garden and getting the root system to adhere to the soil in their new home.
To accomplish this step for how to grow mushrooms, you will need to warm your substrate in a baking pan, a few handfuls at a time. Make sure you use a shallow pan that has a broad surface area, as this is the best environment for your mushrooms to grow!
Using a sterilized utensil, mix together the mushroom spawn and the substrate in the pan. Then, heat the baking pan to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be achieved with a heating pad, or by placing the baking pan in a warm area in your home.
Once the commingled spawn and substrate are warmed, please place them in a dark environment, such as in the back of a cabinet, for roughly three weeks. This will give the mushroom mycelia ample time to spread throughout, and bond with, the substrate.
6. Move to Their Growing Environment
After a couple of weeks, you should find your substrate coated in what looks like white fuzz. This is a key milestone in how to grow mushrooms; this means the mycelia has fully permeated and colonized the substrate!
If you check your substrate and notice a lack of white fuzz, fret not–just return the baking pan to its dark environment and let it sit a bit longer. By about four weeks, you should definitely witness this colonization, which means it’s now time for the next step in how to grow mushrooms from home.
(You may also find some brown or dark green spots among the white fuzz. These are simply an undesirable type of mold. You can pluck them from your substrate and toss them out.)
It’s now time to find an equally dark, but relatively cool, environment in which your mushrooms can thrive. Right around 55 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal, though they should thrive in anything below 70 degrees. This can usually be achieved in a basement, though if you don’t have one, a cabinet or drawer in an unheated room can work well in the winter.
7. Keep Mushroom Care in Mind
You must cover the substrate with some potting soil and dampen the mixture with water. If you want to achieve an especially moist environment, which certain mushroom types thoroughly enjoy, consider also placing a damp towel over the baking pan.
While your mushrooms will mostly take care of themselves, keeping them moist and cool is vital for how to grow mushrooms that thrive. Be sure to check in on them and moisten with a spray bottle as necessary.
You can also consider setting a low heat lamp near your baking pan, if possible. This can help the mushrooms orient to an upward growth position, which will make them easier to harvest in the long run.
8. Let Them Grow
This is the fun part of how to grow mushrooms at home. With these ideal environments achieved, and regular check-ins for care, you should find your mushrooms growing rapidly. Within just a few weeks, small mushrooms should appear in your mix.
You can tell a mushroom is ready for harvest once the cap fully separates from the mushroom stem. At this point, you can pluck or cut the mushrooms from the stem. Be sure to rinse them thoroughly before eating, and either cook them immediately or store them in a paper back in the fridge for a week at most.
Other Methods for How to Grow Mushrooms At Home
In Coffee Grounds
Another method for how to grow mushrooms from home is to grow them in coffee grounds. These steps follow much the same standard mushroom growing at home, except that you will need a slightly different container. A great option is an ice cream container with four holes poked in the side, filled with coffee grounds.
Follow the same steps for mixing the mycelia with the grounds and storing in a warm, dark environment until they colonize the grounds. Then, you can place this container in a bright area, but not in direct sunlight, to grow your mushrooms.
From a Kit
Many lawn and garden centers, both in person and online, will also sell mushroom kits–such as online retailer Park Seed. These typically come with everything you need for how to grow mushrooms–sometimes they even contain a growing bag you can use in place of a pan.
However, it is important to read carefully before purchasing any mushroom kits, as many of these contain spores rather than spawns.
In a Log
Another fascinating method for how to grow mushrooms from home is something called wood cultivation. This involves growing mushrooms in a log, which is done via inoculation and “plugs”. These plugs are already colonized with mushroom spores, and are inserted into a wild log to kickstart mushroom growth.
You can often choose a log right from your own yard. You just need to ensure the log is roughly 3 to 4 feet in length, no more than 14 inches in diameter, and cut from a non-aromatic hardwood tree, such as an elm, oak, poplar, or maple tree.
No less than two weeks after the log is cut, you can begin plugging it. This two week time passage is crucial to allow the die off of the tree’s inherent anti-fungal properties, which is what keeps healthy trees from being overcome by fungi while they’re alive.
The best method to prepare a log for colonization is to use a log plugging kit and prepared mushroom log plugs. This plugging kit comes with everything you need to prepare for wood cultivated mushrooms, including the drill bit and wax requires for the plugs. The log plugs themselves come fully cultivated and ready to be inserted.
Drill holes in the log about two inches deep and four inches apart, using the drill bit in the kit. Then, insert the mushroom plugs, tapping gently with a hammer to fully seat them. Finally, cover them with the wax from the kit.
Once the plugs fully colonize the log, you will see mushrooms start to sprout through the cracks. While this growing method can take up to a year to produce mushrooms, they are also likely to return annually.
Wrapping Up How to Grow Mushrooms At Home
Excited to continue learning how to grow mushrooms at home and put all of that knowledge to use? Be sure to check out our Mushrooms page for even more resources! This will help you choose a variety, grow it well, and enjoy delicious mushrooms in no time at all.
- About the Author
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Renee Dugan is a lifelong writer, professional editor, and lover of all things nature, gardening and the big outdoors.
A Midwest girl who’s been in the garden since she could first hold a hand trowel, Renee’s love of growing things has bloomed into a passion for healthy living, holistic lifestyle, and knowing where our food comes from.
Now a mother and maturing gardener herself, Renee is passionate about channeling everything she knows and continues to learn about gardening into lessons for her son and others. Her excitement for sharing this knowledge is only superseded by her excitement about being able to finally grow her own citrus plants in pots.
Renee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org