As an avid gardener, I love growing new plants and experimenting with different types of soils. Recently, I met a friend on a gardening community platform who told me about growing mushrooms from mushroom compost. Intrigued by the idea, and tired of bland store-bought, mushroom tins, I decided to give mushroom growing a try, and it turned out great!
Turns out, to grow a small mushroom farm in your backyard, there are certain steps that you need to follow. The first of these steps is composting. In this blog, I will discuss all you need to know about growing mushrooms at home using readily-available compost to enhance your gardening skills!
Growing Mushrooms from Mushroom Compost
Mushrooms are natural decomposers. They get their nutrients from dead plants or freshly-cut trees. They do not need a shaded corner or a freshly cut farm field to grow well. Most mushrooms develop beautifully in a bacteria and fungi-filled compost pile. Growing mushrooms from mushroom compost is gaining immense popularity because it is a cheap alternative to growing mushrooms in a traditional farming manner.
What Is Mushroom Compost and Substrate?
Mushroom compost is compost that has already been used commercially to grow mushrooms. Commercial growers use different varieties of manure and straw to grow the types of mushrooms they want. Most common commercially-produced mushrooms are oyster mushrooms. They add a certain amount of fungi to the manure mixture and spread it across farm beds until the harvest which takes around two months. After the mushrooms have been developed, they are harvested and a beautiful, nutrient-rich compost is left behind.
Another word for mushroom compost is mushroom soil. It’s basically a bag of compost that you buy to grow mushrooms. To make mushroom compost, a manufacturer will pass it through various stages. The term mushroom substrates refers to the soil that commercially produced mushrooms are grown in. One of the most popular and effective commercial mushroom substrate blend is made from wheat, gypsum, nitrogen supplements, straw and horse or chicken manure.
The Mushroom Composting Process
The production begins with large bales of straw. These bales are dunked into water and they absorb water like a large sponge. The bales are then run through a chipper machine and corroded into fine particles. Horse or chicken manure, nitrogen supplements and gypsum are then blended together, mixed with straw particles and put into compost piles that are usually 5 to 6 feet wide and 4 to 6 feet high. This entire process of composting can take as long as two weeks during which the piles are turned and watered at 2-day intervals.
The compost piles are then checked for any wheat seeds and pressed down into rows and allowed to ferment aerobically for another 2 to 3 weeks. During this time, the compost develops a rich, dark brown color as microorganisms grow and reproduce. Heat, carbon dioxide and ammonia are released as a result of aerobic fermentation. The compost blend is then checked for any bad bacteria and pests.
After the pasteurization process gets completed, a mushroom spawn is injected into the compost to grow mushrooms in large quantities for agricultural purposes. Like other plants grow from roots, mushrooms grow from thread-like cells cause mycelium. A mushroom spawn contains these cells that are essential for mushroom growth. Mushroom spores are also added to the compost. These are small, reproductive cells that allow fungus to replicate and multiply for better quality mushrooms.
What Is Mushroom Compost Used For?
Mushroom compost is a rich source of organic nutrients. It helps retain water in the soil, preventing it from turning clay-like. However, you must not use this as a replacement for soil. It must only be added to soil in moderate quantities. Mushroom compost holds a high water content and can cause your farm to become waterlogged.
At home, you can use mushroom compost that has already been used before to grow mushrooms in your garden. This compost acts as a great fertilizer and contains a high fungi content. Most commercial mushroom manufacturers announce when they will be giving away or selling mushroom compost.
Make space in your car or truck and head over to the production facility where you will be able buy bags of compost for as little as $3 a bag. In supermarkets, mushroom compost is sold as high as $20 a bag. Imagine how much you’ll save if you buy from a manufacturer or farm! Compost bags are also available at nurseries and gardening centers.
If you are looking for a less pungent and drier alternative to mushroom compost from a producer, you can buy packaged, commercial mushroom compost from supermarkets or gardening stores. Garden Time Mushroom Compost from Gro Well Brands Cp is an excellent blend for gardening enthusiasts. This brand of compost helps loosen the soil and provides the necessary nutrients for mushrooms to thrive well.
Commonly-Used Alternatives to Mushroom Compost
The compost blend of manure, straw, gypsum and nitrate supplements is not the only thing that mushrooms grow well in. If you are unable to find a local producer that provides mushroom compost or cannot afford buying expensive supermarket compost, there are many alternatives to mushroom compost:
- Coffee Grounds: Many coffee producers discard coffee grounds or give them away for free to mushroom growers. Pasteurize coffee grounds to get rid of any mold-creating bacteria and add them to the soil and there you have it – a perfectly good substrate for mushroom growing.
- Soybean Meal: Soybean meal is a natural fertilizer and a great source of nitrogen, especially for acidic and hungry plants.
- Rice/Cottonseed Hulls: Rice hulls are a dense carbon source and increase the nutrient and water holding capacity of the soil. They also improve soil aggregation. Cottonseed hulls help release potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen in the soil.
Frequently-Asked Questions about Mushroom Compost: Answered!
What Is the Best Compost For Growing Mushrooms?
The best type of compost for mushroom growing is wheat straw-bedded horse manure compost. It is also the least expensive and gives great results. Most commercial producers use this compost so it is readily available. Synthetic compost is also a type of compost but instead of horse manure, it contains hay and crushed cobs of corn.
How Do You Make Mushroom Compost?
If you do not prefer buying compost from manufacturers or the supermarket, you can also make it at home! The process is a bit time-consuming but super easy. Let’s go over it step by step:
- Mix straw, any type of manure, and mushroom fungi into the soil and create a compost pile. Let the nutrients sink the soil for up to 30 days. This time will allow the soil to heat up. Bacteria will feed on the straw and manure, releasing essential nutrients in the soil. Note that wild mushrooms can grow during this process because of the fungi. Harvest them before moving on to the next step.
- Spread the compost pile into rows and let it sit for a few weeks. Monitor the temperature during this time, The ideal temperature for the compost to pasteurize is 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Don’t forget to turn and water!
- After pasteurization, remove weeds and let your compost cool down to a temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit so your mushrooms do not overheat.
- Your compost is ready! Use it to grow mushrooms or fertilize any other plants of your choice!
Where Can I Get Spent Mushroom Compost?
Spent mushroom compost is another name for the mushroom substrate that has already been used commercially to produce mushrooms. It is mostly made of horse manure, straw/hay, gypsum and nitrogen additives. It is called “spent” because it is no longer used by producers to grow mushrooms commercially.
You can find spent mushroom easily at mushroom farms or production facilities. Many manufacturers have a side business of selling mushroom compost at throwaway prices. Spent mushroom compost is mostly sold by the bushel or bag. Some producers may sell loose compost by the weight so remember to take containers or a truck when you visit the facility in this case.
Growing mushrooms from compost can be tricky but fun at the same time! You need to provide suitable environmental conditions and monitor the compost pile for temperature, pests and bacteria and water content. Keep the following in mind before you begin the process:
- If you want to grow mushrooms at home without spending too much money, the best thing for you to do is head over to a mushroom producer for spent mushroom compost. Spent compost is rich in nutrients that mushrooms need to grow.
- If you are unable to find a mushroom producer in your area, you can make compost at home using some readily-available ingredients and following the easy steps outlined above.
- Alternatively, you can also purchase packaged mushroom compost, like the Garden Time Mushroom Compost from Gro Well Brands Cp, from supermarkets.
I hope you aspiring gardeners enjoyed the mushroom composting process outlined in this blog. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to drop them down in the comment section below.
Until next time!