In the past I have shared about the health benefits of mushrooms. And while mushrooms are a great addition to your diet, they are also fun and easy to grow. Here are a few ways for you to grow your own mushrooms.
How to Grow Mushrooms
Shiitakes are one of the easiest mushrooms to grow. They take a year or so to fruit, but when they do, you’ll be enjoying them for years to come. You can plant the spores in sawdust or in logs. I’ll cover both methods so you can choose the one that suits you best.
Growing Shiitake Mushrooms on Logs
You will need:
- 3-4 freshly cut cherry wood logs (you can also use beech, apple, oak or pear, but cherry works the best) These should be at least 4 inches across and 3-4 feet long
- a drill bit about ½ inch wide
- shiitake mushroom spores (you can find them here)
- melted beeswax (find beeswax pastilles here)
- Drill holes about 12 inches apart on the surface of the log, keeping them in a diamond pattern. Allow for some space between the holes, as the mushrooms will spread out from there.
- Push a small amount of the spore material into the holes. There is a special tool for this, but you can also use a spoon and gloves.
- Once the entire log is “inoculated” with the spore material, cover each hole with some melted beeswax. This will help protect the spores during the growing phase.
- Place the logs in a cone shape, somewhat like a teepee. You’ll want to keep them in the shade or even a basement – they do not need light to grow. Water them well and keep them damp.
As the spores ripen, the mycelium that is the actual fungus will start to grow inside the log. Within 6-12 months, you’ll start seeing the shiitakes, the fruiting body of the mushroom. These can be used as soon as they are large enough to harvest. I keep mine going by harvesting and then drying them in slices. I can then rehydrate and use them whenever I wish.
How long will the harvest last?
Shiitakes will fruit in the spring, summer, and fall months in most areas. Depending on the size of your log, your harvest will last a few years. For each inch of log diameter, you’ll get a year of mushrooms. So for a 4-inch log, you can expect 4 years of mushroom harvest.
Growing Shiitake Mushrooms on Sawdust
You will need:
- oak or maple sawdust
- shiitake spores (purchase them here)
- Place the sawdust in a pan (like a kitty litter pan). Dampen it well with distilled water.
- Place your spores in a few spots in the sawdust. Cover with more sawdust. Dampen again.
- Cover loosely with a plastic bag or place in a plastic storage container.
- Keep misting it daily until it can retain its moisture level.
After a few months you should start seeing shiitake mushrooms. You can keep using the same sawdust, although it will break down over time and you’ll need to replace it. If you see white feathery growth on the top or sides of the sawdust, don’t panic. This is actually what you want to see. This is the mycelium starting to grow.
Tips on Growing Other Mushroom Varieties
Other mushrooms can be grown in much the same way. The substrate, or growing medium, is different for some mushrooms but the process is virtually the same.
Button mushrooms, the white globe-type mushrooms that most people are familiar with, are among the easiest to grow. They need a bed of composted manure. Oyster mushrooms grow best on straw while morel mushrooms grow best on apple wood.
Whatever you decide to use, make sure there are no contaminants and the medium is weed free. I use new apple wood chips or fresh cut cherry logs. Most mushrooms have a hard time with very fresh wood, so cut it in the fall and let it season for a few months before using it in the spring. Keep it away from moisture as you don’t want other fungi to start making a home in it.
If you prefer, you can get pre-inoculated logs. There are many places to buy them on the internet. There is a person in my area who sells cherry logs that have the spores ready to go for $12. Check around your local tailgate or farmer’s markets – you’re bound to find someone nearby who sells the spores or logs. You can also purchase them online here.
Mushrooms can be fun and easy to grow yourself. It makes a nice project for kids, although it does take patience.
Have you ever grown your own mushrooms? How did it go? Share in the comments section below!