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Mushroom Farming 101

Mushrooms are a perfect home project because they are grown indoors and outdoors. This means that seasons and weather conditions do not have bearing on your production.

They are a wonderful addition to your home cooked meals and a hobby or business a prepper should find exciting.

Mushrooms are part of a biological family called fungus and while mushrooms are considered plants, there characteristics say otherwise.

It is interesting to note they have no roots or leaves and therefore do not produce food of their own food. They however live of feeding of other plants and animals. They have special cells that digest almost anything.

Do I need Seeds?

Mushroom is grown from what is known as spawn. You can pick up spawn from any

Nursery  or agro dealer. You can also buy it online from sites like https://www.amazon.com/Shiitake-Mushroom-Spawn-Edible-Mycelium/dp/B012H9Z1SW.

worm farming

In case you are not ready to begin your project, worry not as spawn can be stored in the refrigerator for almost a month at a temperature of 37 to 41F.

WHAT TYPE OF MUSHROOM SHOULD I GROW?

The main types of mushrooms one may choose to grow are

  • Oyster mushrooms- (Plertotus ostrestus) use Straw
  • White Button Mushroom- (Agricus Bisporus)- use composted manure and straw
  • Shiitake Mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) – Grown on wood and sawdust

The techniques of growing oyster and White button mushroom is the same while, normally in plastic bags and kept indoors. Shiitake mushrooms require logs and are kept outdoors.

Availability of a growing medium i.e. straw, wood or compost manure another important factor that should be taken into consideration.  In this article, we’ll focus on Shiitake mushroom and oyster mushrooms.

oyster mushroom

Photo above: oyster mushrooms

 

white button mushrooms

Photo above: white button mushrooms

 

shiitake mushrooms

Photo above: shiitake mushrooms

 

Where Should I grow my Mushrooms?

Oyster and White button Mushrooms need to be grown in a place where elements like light humidity and temperature can be controlled. A room in your house, a cabinet or closet will suffice. A perfect place to grow your mushrooms is the basement.

Shiitake mushrooms on the other hand are grown by inserting spawn into logs and are kept outdoors under a shade. Logs are trees that have been cut into smaller pieces and are normally used as fire wood and for fencing.

How to Grow Oyster and White Button Mushrooms

The main ingredients used to grow Mushroom are known as a substrate or medium. A good source for straw is wheat straw or rye and the average cost for this is about $10-12 from your local garden or feed supplier. The ease at which mushroom cells break down straw makes it an excellent medium.

It takes time and practice to be able to grow your own mushrooms over time, you will be able to tweak your growing methods and skills and adapt them to your needs and environment. Let’s talk about the steps for growing indoor mushroom are…

Pasteurize your Straw

Straw is essentially dried stalks of grain left over after the main crop has been harvested.

Do not be alarmed by the fancy looking word “pasteurize”! You should have come across this word on your fresh milk carton. Pasteurizing is essentially the reduction of the amount of organisms that would otherwise compete with your mushrooms for substrate and in effect this will aide in faster growth.

Pasteurizing straw requires you to have the following tools:

  • Lawn mower
  • 55 Gallon Drum
  • Large laundry bag or basket
  • Thermometer

The process is quite simple, by simply heat water to 160F and soaking your straw in it for an hour all the unwanted bacteria should die. Ensure that you do not exceed this time limit, as you will kill the good bacterial that your mushroom needs to grow.

  1. Cut the straw into small pieces about 2- 3 inches in length taking great care of those precious fingers as you use the lawn mower blade to cut the straw. Holding the straw with a hedge cutter will ensure your hands are kept safe. Take extra care not to get the hedge cutter to close to the blades.
  2. Make sure that have steady heat source underneath your drum and test that the water is between 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit. You can dry logs or coal for this.
  3. Test your ability to keep the temperature with your drum filled with water; this will help you keeping the water temperature while carrying out the pasteurizing process.
  4. Put your straw into a laundry basket and keep it submerged for an hour. Use your thermometer to make sure the temperature stays constant.
  5. Remove the straw from the basket and lay on a cool clean surface. Ensure that the straw has cooled to less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit before you decide to add spawn to it. Using the straw while still too hot will kill the mycelium required for your mushroom to grown. Below is a link of the process below:

The Inoculation Process

Inoculation is another fancy word that mushroom growers like to throw around!  For preppers who like to keep things straight to the point it is simply the mixing of your pasteurized straw with the spawn. For this step, you will need;

  1. Food grade plastic bags,
  2. 8 inch Carpenters nail
  3. Pack the straw in with the spawn in adding generous amounts evenly as you fill you plastic bag. Ensure you compress it well but not too tight.
  4. Next, poke holes into you plastic bag. The holes are where the mushroom will grow out.

An instruction video on this process can be found below:

The Growth Process

Hang your bags in a cool dark room. Ensure that that the temperature is constantly between 65 to 75 F.

It is very important not to disturb the bags during the growth process and to monitor the bags to ensure that they remain moist. If you observe your bags are getting dry use a spray bottle to moisten them through the small holes you made using the nail.

After two weeks, the spawn should have taken over the straw and by the 8th week, you should have some mushrooms to pick.

A Word of Caution

Ensure that your bag does not get to dry and this will kill your spawn. Too much moisture could also cause mould to form.

If you notice color spots in your bag in the form of blue and red colors then this bag is contaminate and should be thrown away immediately.

Mixing hydrated cow manure at a ratio of 3:1 with your spawn will allow for optimum results.

Seasons

Since Oyster and white button, mushrooms are grown indoors, the outside weather conditions do not really matter. While this is true, it has been found that you can grow different species easier in different times of the year.  The table below is a general guide of the optimum times to grow particular species

SPRING EARLY  SUMMER SUMMER & FALL WINTER
Oyster Shiitake Chanterelles Shaggy mane
Morel Elm Button Enokitake
Turkey Tails Garden Giant Maitake
Reishi Pioppino

Yield

A 10Lb bag of mushroom of straw and spawn should you 1.5-2lb of fresh mushroom.

While plastic bags are the common used materials in the growing of mushrooms, one should bear in mind that other vessels can be used like buckets, washing baskets as well as glass jars.

Growing Mushrooms from Logs

It is critical to use the right type of logs if you want to use logs to grow your mushrooms. Some type of wood like pine, cedar and fir should be avoided as they have inherent fungicide that will interfere with your mushroom growth. You should grown Shiitake Mushroom using this method.

Tips on Gathering Logs

  1. Advertise in local papers for logs, farmers and other people that would have excess logs should respond and be willing to deliver.
  2. Contact tree service companies. They should have tones of free logs they are willing to give away on their next job.
  3. When gathering logs, ensure whom you know who the land is as they may have been left behind for ecological purposes.
  4. Hauling logs will have legal implication across different states, find out what local traffic and laws are on gathering logs.
  5. Be careful while picking up logs as they may be home to a snake or two.

Select healthy logs that are about 3 or 7 inches in diameter and about 40 to 50 inches long. Caution should be taken in handling, as the bark should not be damaged. Your logs should have a medium thickness of bark.

Scraping your logs with a wire brush is also a method that will get rid of unwanted dirt on the log but ensure that no damage is done to the log itself.

The best species of logs to use are:

  • Oak
  • Hornbeam
  • Sweet gum
  • Hard maple
  • Iron wood

A general rule to remember that the harder the type of log the longer the life span and, softer logs will have shorter harvest times and life span.

  1. Before inoculating, ensure that the logs are moist. If they are dry, soak them in clean water for 2 days and ensure that the bark is dry before inoculation.
  2. Use a power drill to drill holes into the logs. You will want to drill to about an inch deep with a 5/6 drill bit.
  3. The space between the holes should be about 6 inches apart and in a grid pattern.
  4. After drilling holes, ensure that you add spawn into the holes immediately. Pack your sawdust spawn into the holes with gentle pressure so that your holes completely filled.
  5. Coat all your holes with melted hot cheese wax using a brush. Make sure the wax is not too hot preventing your spawn from burning.
  6. Your logs should be carefully stacked in a greenhouse, open shed or under the shade provided by trees. You may also want to cover these logs with shade cloth to keep animals away. Sprinkle water over your logs while you stack them to ensure you have good moisture content.

Keeping your logs hydrated is the main task that a mushroom farmer has for the 9 months month long growing phase.

There are two methods of keeping your logs moist

  1. Using a sprinkler to wet the logs for about 3 hours twice a week or
  2. Soaking them in water for about 10-12 hours once every two weeks.

Remember that keeping your logs moist is critical, as dry logs account for most failed attempts. Assessing the moisture content of your logs is essential and it is key to maintain this at 50-60%. Ensure that you allow bark to dry between your moisturizing processes.

Keeping the logs of the ground and dirt will also ensure that you have better results.  Use bricks or unwanted logs as the base of your stack.

You should expect to harvest in fall or early spring of the following year.

One can force fruits before fall by soaking the logs in cool water for 24 hours. You should then have mature mushroom 7 days after.

By stacking your logs into several stacks, preferably 6 levels high, you can have an all-year harvest. Soaking each stack for 24 hours every 6-8 weeks will allow you to have continual harvest all year round.

You can see how to grow mushroom from logs in the video below

Yield

You should expect an average sized log to produce ¼ lb per fruiting and 3/4lbs over its full lifetime.

Mushroom Growing Kits

A simpler method of growing mushrooms is simply using pre mixed mushroom kits. These contain bags of spawn already inoculated with straw. They require minimal effort.

Mushroom growth kits can be bought online or at your nearest agro store.

You will generally get two kinds of grow kits.

Mushroom that normally arrives as a block is normally Shiitake mushrooms as it would have been inoculated the same way you would manually inoculate a log.

Here are a few tips to get you fresh mushrooms in a few weeks:

  • Unwrap the mushroom block and freeze for two days. This simulates fall conditions when temperatures drop. This process is is similar to forced fruiting discussed in the “growing from logs section.
  • Open the plastic and place the kit in a dish with water using a weight to keep it submerged.
  • Remove the kit from the water after 24 hours and place on a tray
  • Cover the kit with the humanity tent provided with the kit and poke holes in it
  • Moisten the kit with water from a spray bottle a few times a day.

For the block to continue producing fruit, after harvest take of the humidity tent of for two weeks and repeat the above process.

Ensure that your kit is out of direct sunlight. You should be ready to harvest your first mushrooms in just over 7 days.

You have the following advantages by growing with a kit

  1. Time

Since the mushrooms are already inoculated, it requires less time to make ready to grow. All you really need to do it

The time it takes to grow is often shorter as you should have mushrooms within 4 to 5 weeks time.

  1. Variety

You will probably be able to enjoy more variety from mushroom kits than you would trying to find spawn from your local agro store.

  1. Price

Since spawn is normally for advanced growers and mushroom farmers it is generally expensive considering the fact that growth kits are already inoculated.

  1. Longevity

Grow kits will produce mushrooms every few weeks for a couple of months. This gives a nice steady supply of mushrooms.

Mushroom Growing Mistakes

For anyone growing mushrooms for the first time you are bound to make some mistakes. Try to look out for some of the following common mistakes that are made.

  1. Not maintaining the right moisture

Keeping your mushrooms either too wet or dry is one of the biggest mistakes that is often made.  Attention should be paid that the growing mushrooms are kept moist but not soaking wet conditions. Piercing a whole on the bottom of the container will solve the problem of sogginess.

  1. Using bad spawn

Bad or poor quality spawn will lead to failure or severely reduced yield. Ensure that the spawn is bought from a credible source link the link provided earlier in the article.

  1. Curiosity

Yes, curiosity still kills the cat. Tempering with your vessel while trying to check for changes could easily spoil the mushrooms.

  1. Dirty working area

Ensure that the environment around which you grow your mushrooms is clean. Poor and unsanitary conditions will lead to foreign organisms invading your project and this will cause certain failure.

While there are many more varieties, you will certainly harvest great tasting mushrooms from the methods that are explained above.

Final Word

DIY projects like mushroom growing make for excellent family oriented projects and hobbies. We would love to hear how your mushroom growing goes and if you have any tips and suggestions that will certainly be helpful to our community.

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