Learning how to grow mushrooms is a pretty easy and straightforward process. Whether you want to grow mushrooms to earn a living, to provide food to your local area or as a passion project, the process is pretty much similar to growing mushrooms on a large, commercial scale.
I started growing mushrooms back in 2005 as a hobby and to sustain my own living. I’ve grown nearly all types of mushrooms that are commonly consumed and I have absolutely enjoyed it!
This blog will serve as an ultimate guide for beginners who wish to grow mushrooms at home so they can become professional mushroom growers in no time!
Let’s get started.
Getting Started with Mushroom Growing
Mushrooms are a high-value crop and can grow relatively quickly and easily in a small space. If you are looking to earn some money on the side, growing mushrooms is a great way to get started since it does not require a lot of time or investment. You can easily grow around 10 kilograms of oyster mushrooms with only 12 hours of work in a small, 10 meter-square space.
In this section, I will discuss some things that beginners to the process must know before they grow mushrooms at home.
5 Things You Must Know Before You Begin
#1: Producing a Mushroom Spawn Can Take a Lot of Time
Producing a mushroom spawn is an exciting process but can take a lot of time, effort and money. You need to possess some microbiological skills to be able to produce spawn in ideal and sterile laboratory-like conditions. The process involves the use of pressure cookers, autoclaves and petri dishes that might actually cost you more than if you purchased the spawn in bulk. The best way to avoid all this workload is to buy mushroom spawn from a supplier to inoculate your own substrate. I suggest that you buy your spawn in large quantities and refrigerate it for 2 to 3 months to cut down your costs.
#2: Growing and Harvesting Is a Labor-Intensive Process
Growing and harvesting any type of food is very time-consuming and requires an army to get the job done. Large, commercial scale mushroom growers make use of modern equipment to complete the work faster. However, when growing mushrooms at home, you probably don’t have a team of people or machines to do the work for you. You will most likely be performing all tasks by hand, so you must start on a small scale. Don’t be too ambitious in the beginning or you will find yourself frantically running all over the place. I recommend growing a maximum of 5 to 10 kilograms per week, which will take around 10 to 12 hours.
#3: Growing At the Right Scale is Critical
If you are growing mushrooms to sell them, growing them at the right scale is very important. More mushrooms do bring more income, but they will also require more time and space and incur higher labor costs. Growing mushrooms is a process that involves a lot of different steps. This can cause the production to spin out of control very easily. Before you scale up, only grow as much as you can manage. You can always increase your production later when you have access to more resources to fulfill the demand of customers lining up!
#4: You Should Not Try to Do Everything Yourself
There are so many complex levels in the mushroom growing process— from sourcing supplies and inoculating substrate to harvesting and composting spent substrate. You should not try to do each step yourself. Doing all these tasks on your own can take up a lot of your time. Sometimes, you’ll have to make some important decisions during the process that you might not have any idea about. I suggest you find a partner who will share not only the same passion but also the workload. Having a partner to work with can also make the process much more fun!
#5: Mushrooms Do Not Require an Expensive, Sterile Environment
You can easily grow oyster and shiitake mushrooms without setting up an expensive and sterile environment at home. These types of mushrooms grow well in low-tech conditions that do not need large pressure cookers and air flow hoods. All you need are pasteurized sawdust pellets, straw stacks or coffee grounds to grow mushrooms using simple farming techniques. I will share the simple process with you in later sections of this blog.
Types of Mushrooms to Grow
The best thing about growing mushrooms yourself is that you can be sure that you are not producing poisonous, inedible mushrooms if you source your spawn from a credible vendor like Fungi Perfecti. There are so many different types of edible and gourmet mushrooms you can grow at home. Some popular ones include:
- Oyster Mushrooms: Oyster mushrooms are easy-to-grow, widely-consumed gourmet mushrooms. They are consumed more in Asian countries than in the Wes,t where they are used in everyday cooking. The shape of oyster mushrooms is much different than button mushrooms consumed popularly in the West. These mushrooms grow on the sides of trees so they do not have a prominent stem but a large, flat cap. You should grow oyster mushrooms if you are a beginner.
- Maitake Mushrooms: The shape of maitake gourmet mushrooms resembles the feathers of a hen. Like shiitake, they have a strong earthy flavor. Maitake mushrooms are commonly used in meals in Japan and China to treat hypertension and diabetes. They mostly grow on the bases of trees, dying oaks, and stumps.
- Enoki Mushrooms: Enoki are long-stemmed, tiny mushrooms that grow in clumps.
- Shiitake Mushrooms: Shiitake mushrooms are well-liked gourmet mushrooms and very much in demand all year long, so you don’t have to worry about marketing and selling them. They have an excellent smoky and earthy flavor and are grown on outdoor logs. However, they are a little difficult to grow since their mycelium, the vegetative thread-like network of filaments is not as aggressive, and requires a longer incubation time. I would not recommend growing shiitake mushrooms if you are just starting out.
- Button/Portobello Mushrooms: These mushrooms have a more meaty texture and are enjoyed sliced up. They are the most commonly consumed mushrooms. They start off as button mushrooms and develop into brown-colored Portobello mushrooms when fully grown. (source)
The Mushroom Growing Process
Growing mushrooms is a 5-step process. Let’s have a look at each of these steps so you can get started at home:
Step 1: Obtaining Mushroom Spawn
Mushroom spawn is a substance that has mycelium growing on it. It is used to speed up the mushroom growing process. The best way to source mycelium for your little farm is to purchase it from a vendor. However, you can also grow spawn at home in ideal laboratory conditions. The spawn is used to create a mushroom substrate, which is a substance that allows mycelium to grow. (source)
Step 2: Inoculating Mushroom Substrate
The step where you introduce your spawn to the substrate or the growing medium is known as inoculation. Different species of mushrooms grow on different substrates. Oyster mushrooms, for example, grow best on coffee grounds, while others, like shiitake, require wood for energy. Add spawn to the growing medium. Keep your environment as sterilized as you can to avoid mold or fungi from developing with the mushrooms you are trying to grow.
Step 3: Incubation
After you inoculate your substrate, you must put it in a warm and dark place for a few weeks or maybe even months. This process is known as incubation, during which the mycelium seizes the substrate. The end result is a solid white mat of mycelium outside the substrate.
Step 4: Fruiting Process
You must place the substrate in ideal fruiting conditions after the incubation period to allow your mushrooms to grow. An airy and moist corner in your garden will serve as an ideal location. Keep spraying the place with water to keep the substrate moist. Soon you will see a mushroom pinhead that will grow into a full-sized mushroom.
Step 5: Harvesting Mushrooms
The harvest time of the mushrooms you are growing will depend on the species. Button mushrooms can take around 2 to 4 weeks to develop, whereas Portobello mushrooms take about a week or 10 days more after developing into button mushrooms. To harvest, simply pull the mushroom caps from the substrate or twist them.
The substrate will not stop producing mushrooms after one harvest. You will see new waves of mushrooms, called flushes, developing till the substrate is fully exhausted. Once your mycelium starts to get weak, you will need new spawn to start the entire process again. (source)
If you want more information on growing mushrooms, check out this YouTube video that helped me:
Frequently Asked Questions about Growing Mushrooms
Q1. How Do You Make Money Growing Mushrooms?
A growing area of about 200 square-feet can produce up to 5000 pounds of shrooms each year. Selling them can help you earn as much 30 to 40 thousand US dollars per year! Mushroom farming is one of the most profitable agricultural businesses that you can start with little investment in a small space. You can sell your produce to local grocery vendors, processed food companies and even restaurants to earn some big bucks.
Q2. What Is the Most Profitable Mushroom to Grow?
Grow oyster mushrooms if you are looking to earn high profits. They are not only high in demand but are easy to grow and do not incur high costs. You can grow a bunch of oyster shrooms in just 6 weeks of obtaining spawns, allowing you to make a big profit fairly fast.
Q3. Do You Need a License to Sell Mushrooms?
No license is needed to sell freshly cultivated mushrooms at farmers’ markets, grocery stores, restaurants or other sale venues. There are relatively few regulations for selling conventionally grown mushrooms. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Safety Rule lays down the requirements for selling cultivated mushrooms. Producers making ready-to-eat, processed or packaged mushroom products must meet these food processing requirements. (source)
Final Thoughts on Getting Started Growing Mushrooms
Each type of mushroom has its own specific growing need. As long as you follow all the steps mentioned in this blog, you will be able to call yourself a mushroom mogul in no time! Remember to:
- Purchase spawn from a vendor.
- Grow at the right scale.
- Find a partner for help and expertise.
- Create the right environment for growth.
I hope you enjoyed this blog. Make sure to keep these tips in mind before setting out on your mushroom journey. I hope it goes well! Let me know in the comment section below if you have any questions.
Until next time!