The Easiest Ways to Grow Mushrooms at Home
Are you interested in growing mushrooms at home, but don't want to invest in too much equipment or complicated processes? You've come to the right place! Here we will explore some of the simplest, easiest, low-tek and natural ways of growing mushrooms at home, without the need for any expensive or high-tek equipment. These include pre-made mushroom grow kits, making mushroom logs and outdoor mushroom patches.
There are many different ways to grow mushrooms, ranging from the ultra-simple to some fairly sci-fi
type highly automated indoor setups. While some people get much enjoyment from setting up a full sterile laboratory and crafting the perfect mushroom growing environment with all kinds of sensors and digital controllers, many others are keen to simply diversify their repertoire of home-grown produce without too much fuss. And, indeed, mushrooms make a wonderful addition to home cultivation, considering that they are packed full of nutrition, protein and, in many cases, medicinal compounds as well.
All mushroom cultivation is based on utilising knowledge of mushroom biology and life cycle, and tipping the balance in favour of the species that we want to grow for food or medicine. The ultimately simplified version of this process is that we need:
The proper substrate (growing medium / food for the fungus) which is free of competing wild fungi, this is done by either pasteurising or sterilising the substrate, or in the case of mushroom logs or outdoor beds, simply using fresh material that has not yet been colonised by other fungi.
We need this substrate to become colonised with mycelium of the species of mushroom that we are aiming to grow.
We need to provide the right environmental conditions for the mushroom organism to thrive, and produce fruitbodies (mushrooms) that we will enjoy as food.
Hi-tek cultivation takes this process to an extremely optimised level, where crops can be produced quickly and consistently and with high yields, however the trade-off for this is a more involved process of preparation and maintenance of the growing materials and fruiting environments. Luckily, there are a few options for growing mushrooms that are much simpler and can be done with a few basic materials, and, the key ingredient, a bit of patience! The three simplest ways of growing mushrooms at home are fruiting ready-made mushroom grow kits, making mushroom logs and creating outdoor mushroom patches.
MUSHROOM GROW KITS
While this isn't a 'from scratch' method, grow kits deserve mention in terms of easy ways to grow mushrooms at home because it is indeed a very easy way to grow mushrooms, and will give you a few crops in a much shorter time-frame than the other two methods discussed below. A grow kit is essentially identical to a 'production block' that would be used in a commercial scale mushroom farm. It consists of a specialised mushroom growing bag, which is filled with sterilised substrate (usually a mix of sawdust and seed hulls), which has been colonised with mushroom mycelium (white strands or fuzz).
To grow mushrooms from a grow kit, all you need to do is open it up when you get it, and follow the instructions that come with it - this will usually include cutting one or several slits in the bag (where the mushrooms will naturally grow from) and keeping the kit in a well ventilated but humid environment, usually spritzing the area each day with some plain water. The mushrooms will grow over the course of a few days to a few weeks (depending on the species of mushrooms and the temperatures at the time), then you can harvest and use your mushrooms, and await another crop. Well maintained grow kits can easily produce two or three crops of mushrooms before they are 'spent'.
Here at MycoLogic we sell grow kits in a variety of species, with Native Oyster mushrooms, Pekepeke-kiore (NZ Lions' mane) and Turkey tail being our core range with other species being on offer on a seasonal basis. You can read a more in-depth guide about mushroom grow kits here.
MAKING MUSHROOM LOGS
One very easy way to grow mushrooms at home is by making mushroom logs. This is a very simple and direct emulation of how wood-loving species of mushrooms grow in nature, which would commonly be found growing on fallen wood or dead trees in damp parts of the forest. When we're making a grow log, it's virtually the exact same process, except we're intentionally inoculating the log with the culture of the species that we want to grow, whereas in nature, whichever wild mushroom spores happened to drift onto the dead wood and become established will be the ones that grow.
The process of making and looking after a mushroom log is fairly straightforward. It can be summarised by the following simple steps:
Source the log(s). Fresh cut logs are best, deciduous trees are commonly used. Check out our species compatibility chart and other more in-depth information about growing mushrooms on logs in our grow guide.
Get your culture dowels. Mushroom logs are inoculated with 'dowel spawn', which is small wooden pegs which have been colonised with mushroom mycelium. They are tapped into holes drilled in the log, thereby introducing the mycelium into the wood where it can spread and establish.
Inoculate the logs. This is done by drilling holes in the log, tapping the dowels into each hole, and then sealing up each hole with melted wax. Basic equipment needed includes a drill, an 8.5 or 9mm drill bit, a hammer or mallet, some wax and something to melt it in and something to apply it to the log with.
Keep the logs in a moist, sheltered environment. It's important to not let mushroom logs dry out, so that the mycelium inside them can stay vibrant and healthy. It's a good idea to leave the logs in a sheltered spot where they'll receive rainfall, and to water them with the garden hose from time to time when the weather is dry. Once or twice a year, usually in early spring and early autumn, logs can be 'dunked' / soaked in a bin or tub full of water for 12 hours to recharge their moisture supply.
Wait for mushrooms to grow. There are a few variables that can affect how soon the first crop of mushrooms will grow, like the species of mushroom, the type and size of log, and the growing environment. Most species of mushrooms will have their first crop about a year after the log is made, but it can sometimes take longer too. Pekepeke-kiore / NZ Lions Mane can commonly take two plus years to fruit from logs! Once the log has begun fruiting, continue with the standard maintenance regime described above and you should get one to three crops of mushrooms from your log per year for several years.
You can buy mushroom dowels for a range of species in our store as well as some other supplies (wax, wax daubers, drill bits etc) in our growing supplies section. You can see some more info about growing mushroom on logs in our grow guide.
MAKING OUTDOOR MUSHROOM PATCHES
Very similarly to making mushroom logs, making outdoor mushroom beds or patches follows the same simplified approach of utilising the natural process of how the mushrooms grow to grow the kinds of mushrooms that we want, but outdoor beds are suited for mushroom that naturally grow in mulch, soil, compost or manure rather than in fallen logs.
The process of making an outdoor mushroom patch is very simple. Clear an area of weeds and any existing mulch / debris that may already be colonised with random wild fungi, and create a new layer of the right kind of fresh substrate, mixed with the spawn of the type of mushroom that you are growing.
Here at MycoLogic we offer a range of mushroom spawn which is suited to the creation of outdoor patches. Our core range includes King Stropharia / Wine Caps (Stropharia rugoso-annulata) which grow in woodchips that are on or near soil / compost (or you can mix some compost in), Shaggy Manes (Coprinus comatus) which grow in rich soil or compost including on lawn, and Black Morels (Morchella importuna) which grow in coniferous bark mulch (like pine bark or macrocarpa mulch) on top of loamy soil.
Similarly to mushroom logs, outdoor patches can take some time to produce their first crop, so patience is a key ingredient in this otherwise easy process! Wine caps and shaggy manes should generally fruit within a year of making the patch, while morels can commonly take two years. Morels are also a much more mysterious mushroom with lower chances of success than the other species which are more sure-fire if instructions are followed.
Making a mushroom patch can be summarised by the following key steps
Source your spawn and substrate (according to species)
Prepare your area by clearing away weeds and pre existing mulch / organic debris
Create the patch by mixing or layering the spawn and substrate. In general, 1kg of spawn is sufficient to inoculate 1m2 of ground area. It's important to not spread the spawn thinner than this as it will diminish it's chances of establishing successfully. Usually a layer of spawn and substrate mix should be about 5 to 10cm deep.
Water the patch from time to time when the weather is dry. Outdoor mushroom patches do not need to be kept constantly moist. The mushrooms have evolved to withstand natural dry periods during the summer. But giving the patch an occasional sprinkling can help it stay healthy and happy, especially if conditions are very hot and dry.
Wait for mushrooms to grow. Wine caps and shaggy manes can pop up at various times of year, most commonly in spring and autumn. Morels are strictly a spring fruiting mushroom and in New Zealand they will generally fruit in the months of September and October.
Top up the substrate in the off-season (winter). The substrate is the food for the mushrooms. If it runs out, then the mushrooms stop growing and die off. But outdoor mushroom patches can last for many years if the substrate is topped up once or twice per year. It's important to do this when the mushrooms are dormant so that the mycelium has time to spread into the new substrate before it's time for them to fruit again.
So, there you have it! Three easy ways to grow mushrooms at home and incorporate them into your garden and your range of home grown produce. Please feel free to contact us or check out our grow guides if you have any further questions about growing mushrooms at home