If you’re looking for an engaging, hands-on hobby that reduces your carbon footprint while producing delicious food, growing mushrooms could be the venture for you. Mycology is an exciting and rewarding field! You’ll learn more about the science behind how mushrooms grow, and you’ll get familiar with creating fungi instead of plants.
As with any new hobby, though, growing your own mushrooms can feel overwhelming at first. Where do you even start? What materials do you need?
Whether you’re used to producing plants in a garden or you’re a total novice, we have some tips for you. We offer everything you need to start! Here’s a handy beginner’s guide to growing mushrooms at home to start off. Let’s demystify the process and help make it easier.
Understanding the Process
Fungi are fundamentally different from plants; they belong to their own taxonomic kingdom and have evolved in a completely separate way. Growing mushrooms isn’t like producing plants at all!
While plants thrive on sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water to create their own food, mushrooms cannot perform photosynthesis. Therefore, fungi must feed off a living host or a bed of decomposing matter. And while plants reproduce through pollination and spreading of seeds, mushrooms have no such seeds. Instead, they have spores.
At-home mushroom growers often use the bag method to grow their beloved fungi, as it’s much easier and cleaner than, say, drilling holes in a log and sealing the spawn inside with wax. Think of spawn like the “seeds” of mushrooms. It holds the strain of mycelium you want (the kind of mushrooms you want to grow) in stasis until you’re ready to grow.
Many varieties of spawn bags are available from Midwest Grow Kits, so you can pick what you please. When you’re ready to grow, you’ll spread that spawn over a substrate (the “dirt” of mushroom growing). Within a few weeks to months, those mushrooms—the fruiting bodies of the fungus—will be visible and ready for harvest.
Gathering Your Materials
We’ve touched on a couple of materials you’ll need to start growing your own mushrooms. Let’s look at them more in-depth.
Spawn is your raw genetic material. It’s a carrier substance used to keep that precious mycelium intact until you’re ready to grow. Mushroom farmers think of spawn much like seeds, but unlike seeds, that mycelium is precisely cloned for genetic consistency. No surprises here—just pure oyster mushrooms. Or shiitake. Or portobello. Or whatever variety you want to grow!
So what do you do with your spawn bag? Throw it over some dirt? Think again. Mushroom growing requires a material called a substrate. The substrate is rich in nutrients and decomposing material that fungi love. It’s often composed of things like hay, cottonseed meal, animal manure, and cocoa bean hulls. The mushroom cultivation kits offered by Midwest Grow Kits include jars of premium substrate to get you started.
If you want your at-home mushroom farm to flourish, you have to give it the perfect conditions. The substrate should be moist at all times—not soaking wet, but not dry to the touch. Spray your growing area with a pump mister once a day or as needed. If you’re passionate about creating mushrooms, you can also use a humidifier to keep the whole farm growing.
Encourage the process with an incubator, even if it’s just a heat mat. For the first couple of weeks, while you wait for your mushrooms to grow, keep them in an environment warmer than room temperature.
Also, invest in a flow hood to keep the air around your beloved mushrooms clean. It’s a fancy name for a fan with a filter on it; it prevents air from becoming stagnant or contaminated.
Sterilization is key when producing mushrooms! This includes all equipment you use during the growing process—and your hands. Keep antibacterial soap by your sink, and consider investing in an autoclave or similar machine to fully sterilize your equipment and prevent contamination.
Knowing Your Timeline
You can grow mushrooms in your home all year long; it’s a cyclical process. When you use proper techniques, you can start on a new batch shortly after harvesting your previous one and sterilizing the area.
Once you open up your mushroom grow kit and prepare your area, wash your hands, snap on some gloves if you like, and get out your spawn bag and substrate. The inoculation phase begins when you introduce your desired spawn to the substrate—kind of like “planting” it in a bag. A filter patch or sleeve on the bag will allow your mushrooms to get fresh air without picking up contaminants.
Next, it’s time to incubate. Keep your bag and growing area in a warm, dark place. Think of the places that fungi love to grow—moist conditions without much light will help them flourish. The incubation phase can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. Monitor your mushrooms’ growth regularly and keep misting the substrate to keep it nice and damp. Soon, you’ll see what looks like a white netting or web over the top of the substrate. That’s your mycelium!
Once you see a solid white web on top of your substrate, move your mushrooms to the fruiting phase. Lower the temperature in their environment just a bit, and introduce some more light. A few hours of gentle light per day is enough. Within a few weeks, you’ll see those fruiting bodies—the mushroom caps—begin to burst through.
When the mushrooms are fully grown, you can harvest them regularly for up to six months. Use a knife to gently cut them at the stem instead of pulling the whole thing out. The mushrooms you’ve grown will release their own spores and continue the growing process. Harvest your beloved mushrooms every three to five days, and you’ll have a regular supply for a good few months.
While the idea of creating a mushroom farm at home can seem daunting at first, you’ll reap the benefits for years to come. The cultivation kits and equipment offered at Midwest Grow Kits are an investment up front. However, once you’ve got the operation set up, you can grow delicious mushrooms in perpetuity.
With the right spawn, substrate, and equipment to keep the environment in peak growing condition, you’ll be an accomplished mushroom farmer in no time. Get some hands-on mycology experience with this beginner’s guide to growing mushrooms at home.