Growing your own mushrooms at home is something that any gardener should try out at some point. Mushrooms are low in fat and calories, high in fiber and contain high quantities of selenium and potassium, making them a very healthy addition to your diet.
Although the idea of growing mushrooms might be intimidating, it’s actually not and learning how to do it is more straightforward that you may think. While many people are leaning into growing their own vegetables, it’s quite rare to see or hear of anyone growing their own mushrooms.
If you’re interested in starting your own mushroom farm, but haven’t got any prior experience with it, don’t worry because that’s what we’re here for! In this article, we’re going to show you everything you need to know to grow your own mushrooms outdoors. If you want to know how to grow them indoors, we’ve got an article for that too! Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll see that it’s just like growing any other vegetable or fruit.
Types of Mushrooms to Grow
Mushrooms are a great way of diversifying the crops grow at home and since they’re so versatile, they can be grown practically anywhere, regardless of the environment or the space you’ve got.
There are thousands of mushroom types available which gives you so many different options when it comes to growing them, The good thing is that by growing them at home, you can be sure you’re not harvesting poisonous mushrooms. However, make sure you get your mushroom spawn from a trustworthy source or you’ll never know what you’ll end up with. Here are the most common types of edible mushrooms you can grow.
1. Oyster Mushrooms
Oyster mushrooms are the easiest type of mushroom to grow and a highly popular choice among beginners. While they’re commonly used for daily cooking in Asian countries, they aren’t consumed quite as often in comparison to Western countries.
Oyster mushrooms look a little strange in comparison to most other types of mushrooms. This is due to their flat, large cap with either very little or no stem at all. The reason for this odd appearance is because they naturally grow on the sides of trees.
2. Button/Portobello/Crimini Mushrooms
Button, Crimini and Portobello mushrooms are all from the same species of mushroom. The only difference between them is how long they’re given to grow before they’re harvested. The youngest of the three is the button mushroom which gets harvested as soon as it appears from the mycelium (the vegetative part of a fungus). As they throw a bit more and develop a brownish color, they are known as crimini.
When these mushrooms grow to their full size, they’re called Portobello mushrooms. These are big and brown with dark gills underneath them. They’re delicious grilled whole or they can even be sliced up. Their texture is tougher than button or crimini mushrooms and far more meaty.
3. Shiitake Mushrooms
Shiitake mushrooms are similar to portobello mushrooms in texture and the smoky, earthy flavour. They taste awesome and have several health benefits including certain compounds which have the ability to lower one’s cholesterol levels.
Fresh shiitake mushrooms are delicious, but they’re usually sold dried and you can find them grown outdoors on logs.
If you’ve ever seen very small mushrooms with long stems in your store and wondered what they are, you’ve been looking at enoki mushrooms. These grow together in tight clusters and if you take off all their little caps, they’ll look like spaghetti!
Since enoki mushrooms are so compact, they’re easy to grow in small spaces. You can even grow them in jars.
Here’s another delicious and nutritional variety of mushroom which has a confusing name meaning ‘hen of the woods’. This mushroom got its name from its resemblance to the ruffled feathers of a hen and has nothing whatsoever to do with the taste. Maiitake mushrooms have a strong, earthy flavor so we’d recommend trying it first to see if you like it before you go ahead and start growing it at home.
How to Grow Mushrooms
We recommend starting off with oyster mushrooms or Shiitake mushrooms since these are the easiest to grow. Once you’ve gained a bit of experience with them, you can move on to other types of mushrooms. Now, let’s go ahead and begin!
What You Need:
- Mushroom plugs
- Soy wax
- 5/16th steel drill bit
- Freshly cut stump or logs about 3-4 ft in length – if you’re using cut logs, let them sit for 2-3 weeks so that the wood will have adequate time to age but remember, you can’t wait too long. If the logs or stumps are older than 6 months, they will probably have fungus and lichen inhabiting them and then you won’t be able to use them.
- Small foam paintbrush
- Rubber mallet
If you’ve got all these, then let’s get started.
What to Do:
Step One: Drill The Holes
For a newly cut stump: use the drill with the bit to drill holes all around the sides and the top of the stump. The key here is to make sure there’s enough space for each mushroom plug to fit snugly. A stump can typically hold up to 50 plugs.
For logs: drill the holes along the length of the logs in rows and remember to keep them about an inch apart.
Step Two: Start Plugging!
Also known as ‘inoculation’ this process is the most fun part. It’s time to grab your bag of plugs and open them up. If the plugs look a little fuzzy, don’t worry, it’s only because the mycelium is growing and colonizing the little wooden dowels.
Take your mallet, place the tip of a mushroom plug in one of the hole you drilled and tap it in. It’s important to make sure that you get the whole plug in the hole. Squishy dowels are fine, but just make sure you get the plug spawn into the hole and it will work. Do this with all the rest of your plugs and then move on to the next step.
Step Three: Seal the Holes
Now cover up all the plugged holes with soy wax to keep the mycelium safe and clean.
To use, heat up a little bit of soy wax in a double boiler on the stove or you can put it in the microwave. Then, use the paintbrush to cover each of the holes with the hot wax and seal them up.
Step Four: Stack Up Your Logs
Stack up your logs or prop them against something to ensure they get adequate ventilation. They should also have enough opportunity to absorb the moisture which is all they need. Don’t place them in a spot that gets too much sun or they will dry out too quickly.
Step Five: Watering Time!
Moisture is vital for happy mushrooms to grow well so you must water your stump or logs a lot for the first few weeks. Keep doing this until you can see that the wood is absorbing enough moisture. If you live in an arid area, water them every week so they stay nice and moist. All you have to do from this point on is water and wait for them to grow.
How Long Does It Take for Mushrooms to Grow?
Unfortunately, mushrooms tend to grow very slowly so if you’re not a patient person this is going to be the worst part for you. It usually takes longer to grow them outdoors than indoors since you need to replicate a natural growing environment for the spawn.
The growing time of mushrooms depends on the type of mushroom you want to grow. It can take a minimum of six months or as long as two years to see some evidence of growth. Although they are slow growers, mushroom colonies can last for several years if they’re healthy and thriving which means you have a supply of yummy mushrooms instantly available whenever you want! How cool is that!
What Other Growing Mediums Can I Use?
Growing mushrooms in stumps and logs is one way of doing it but there are other options. You can have fun experimenting with different types of mushrooms and growing mediums. However, it’s important to remember that certain mushrooms grow well on certain types of wood. Therefore, do a little research before you choose your wood to find out which type suits your choice of mushroom best.
Some other growing mediums you can use include the following:
- Hardwood chips
- Hardwood sawdust
- Burlap bags or plastic bags with holes in them (this is an excellent method for commercial cultivation)
So that’s it! That’s all the information you need to know to start growing your own mushrooms right now. A little extra tip: remember to purchase your mushroom plugs from a trusted, reputable vendor who can give you the right information and the materials that you’d need. You also want to buy your plugs from a vendor who knows what they’re doing or you just might end up with something that’s inedible or won’t grow.
We hoped this article was useful in helping you start your own mushroom farm. Good luck with your gardening and have fun!