Anyone who is interested in learning how to grow mushrooms will find that doing so can be a very time consuming process, and leave that person with hundreds, maybe thousands of unanswered questions, after seeing all the different techniques that there are. Learning to grow mushrooms at home can also be frustrating due to crafty sales gimmicks and inaccurate, or outdated techniques. Fortunately, growing mushrooms at home, indoors, or outside is actually relatively easy, and practical for most commercially available mushroom species.
This article will not be comprehensive, but instead serve to be a guide for the beginner who is interested in growing mushrooms to become familiar with the basic principles, and techniques of mushroom cultivation.
Growing mushrooms is achieved in several successive steps, and is much more complicated than growing plants, generally. Mushrooms form from mycelium, which is the vegetative part of the fungus, and is generally white, but color can vary with species. As a cultivator of mushrooms, you will have to learn how to cultivate mycelium cultures effectively, and there are many perils on the path to doing so successfully. The main obstacle that most people run into is contamination of their mushroom cultures by competitor fungi. The most common contaminant is mold, but there are a few others, like bacteria and yeasts.
Mycelium originates from fungal spores, and grows on an inoculated substrate, until the substrate is fully infested with the fungus that the cultivator has chosen. To reduce or mitigate the chances of contamination, which will end your attempt to cultivate mushrooms, a cultivator must make an effort to practice proper sterile (aseptic) technique.
Getting started Growing Mushrooms will require a clear game plan, and that can be hard to formulate at first, as the new cultivator is introduced to massive amounts of new information. Hopefully the information presented in this guide will help to give you some direction, if you are in need.
The techniques are broken up into two main categories which are: cakes, and bulk, which we will discuss below.
The easiest way to grow mushrooms: cake techniques
Most newbies begin growing mushrooms by using what we call “cakes.” Cakes are very easy to grow mushrooms from, and are not hard to make. You can also purchase pre-sterilized cake kits from vendors, if you don’t feel up to the task of do-it-yourself. Below we will discuss the different kinds of cakes:
Brown rice flour cakes (B.R.F.): are the most common form of cakes that are used by the novice. Brown rice flour is contains most of the nutrients that most mushrooms require, and are very easy, to make at home, in your kitchen.
Wild bird seed flour Cakes (W.B.S. cakes): are made of common wild bird seed that you can buy at most grocery, or hardware stores. These types of cakes are used less than brown rice flour cakes, but work very well for most mushrooms.
Wood Cakes: are used for wood decomposing mushrooms, such as Reishi, Shiitake, Maitake, etc., and are made of supplemented hardwood sawdust, or supplemented hardwood mulch.
The practical way to grow mushrooms: bulk techniques
While cakes are great for the beginner, most novice cultivators move on to intermediate cultivation techniques very quickly after having success with cakes. The reasons are mostly due to the fact that size and yields of the mushrooms are increased substantially, and the cost of cultivation also decreases. However, this is not generally a method used by the beginner because there are more steps to success, which increases chances of failure.
Bulk techniques are used with three different container methods:
6-12 quart clear plastic shoe boxes
60-120 quart clear plastic storage bins
Specially made mushroom growing bags which have a small filter patch glues to them that allows for necessary gas exchange. The mushrooms are simply grown inside of the clear bag.
Sterile technique: the key to success
Observing sterile technique is very important, if a cultivator wants to have success growing mushrooms. The substrates that we make must be pasteurized, or sterilized to kill off any competitor spores, or bacteria, which will provide an environment that is favorable for the species that is being cultivated to flourish. This environment must be maintained to ensure that there is no contamination, which will end your cultivation attempt immediately.
It is important to inoculate your substrates in a glove box (which is a sealed container that has gloves attached to holes in the front, like a box at NASA for inspecting moon rocks), or under the sterile air flow of a laminar flow hood. Flow hoods are very expensive, so most people who cultivate at home use a glove box, as one can be made for under $50.00.
As I said at the beginning, this article is not meant to be exhaustive, but was written to serve as a general pointer in the right direction for anyone who is looking for such information, and also a reference for my upcoming articles.