A Good and Easy Way to Grow Mushrooms With Cow Manure

Written by mitchell d. terpstra
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A Good and Easy Way to Grow Mushrooms With Cow Manure
Button mushrooms as mature, ready-to-eat fungi (button mushrooms image by steveinnz from Fotolia.com)

Perhaps it is fungi's dubious nature--their lack of aesthetic appeal and their potential to be poisonous--that makes them the most underrated food source in the world. Nonetheless, cultivating mushrooms at home is a great way to make use of shady areas in your yard or your garage (mushrooms require little to no sunlight to grow). Although there are over 200 varieties of edible mushrooms, growers favour only a handful of the more reliable varieties, such as the shiitake mushroom, oyster mushroom, and button mushroom. These varieties grow well in a wide range of environmental conditions, making them ideal for first-time growers. This is the cultivation process for one of the easiest varieties to grow at home, the button mushroom, which is also known as the common or field mushroom.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Button mushroom spore
  • Matured cow or horse manure
  • Straw or sawdust from untreated wood
  • Plastic milk carton bottoms or waxed cardboard containers
  • Nonchlorinated water
  • Soil

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  1. 1

    Punch a few holes in the side of the milk or waxed cardboard containers. You can use as many containers as you like, provided you have enough of a growing medium to fill the bottom 6 inches of each container and enough spore to moderately sprinkle over that growing medium. The holes allow air to pass through the sides of the containers, keeping your eventual growing medium healthy.

  2. 2

    Fill your containers with a mixture of 80 per cent mature cow or horse manure and 20 per cent straw or sawdust from untreated wood. This growing medium should be at least 6 inches deep.

  3. 3

    Sprinkle the mushroom spore evenly over the growing medium in your containers. Then press the spore deeply into the growing medium.

  4. 4

    Dampen the soil with nonchlorinated water. Keep the growing medium's temperature between 15.6 and 21.1 degrees Celsius. Until the first harvest, check to make sure the growing medium is always slightly damp.

  5. 5

    After two weeks, cover the growing medium with an inch of black potting soil.

  6. 6

    About 20 to 30 days after you have introduced the spore to the growing medium, you should begin to see the fungi emerging. When the mushrooms caps reach "button" size, you can harvest by simply twisting them off, though you may certainly wait until the caps reach "silver dollar" size.

  7. 7

    After the first harvest, water the growing medium less frequently. Because the mushrooms will continue to bloom, you should be able to harvest repeatedly in eight to 10-day intervals.

Tips and warnings

  • Mushroom spore distributors can easily be found via the Internet.
  • Avoid using chlorinated water (most tap water) or sawdust from treated wood. These substances will introduce chemicals to your growing medium which will prevent your mushrooms from growing.
  • If insects become a problem, you can loosely cover your mushroom containers with plastic and spray cooking oil around the plastic to trap the insects.

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