If you'd like to grow your own mushrooms, there are several items you will need. You can purchase these items together in a ready-to-fruit mushroom kit, or collect and prepare them separately. The art of growing mushrooms is a several step process, each with variations you can make to produce the type and quantity of mushrooms you prefer. The process varies from fairly simple to complex, depending upon the methods you choose and the mushroom varieties you wish to grow.
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The spawn material is the "seed" or "cutting " in the mushroom growing process. You can use either mushroom spores or mycelium cultures to grow your mushrooms. Spores are similar to seeds produced and dispersed by mushrooms for reproductive purposes. If you know how, you can collect your own spores or purchase spore prints or spore syringes. For beginners, spore syringes are the easiest to use because they require no extra preparation. Cultures, on the other hand, are pieces of mushroom mycelium tissue, used for reproduction much like a cutting of a plant. Mycelium cultures are often easier to work with than spores and produce a more predictable result. Both, however, are commonly used for cultivating mushrooms. Of course, spoors and mycelium come in a nearly endless array of mushroom varieties including button mushrooms, shiitake, portobella, oyster and lion's mane.
The substrate is the wood, compost, sawdust or other material used as the medium to grow your mushrooms in or on. You must sterilise your substrate material of all competing organisms before it can be inoculated with your mushroom spawn. The substrate material you choose will depend upon the type of mushrooms you wish to grow. Some varieties, such as white button, portobella and crimini prefer compost or straw substrates while others, such as shiitake, oyster and lion's mane prefer sawdust, wood chips or hardwood logs. You can choose to prepare, sterilise and inoculate your own substrates or purchase substrates already sterilised or spawned. If you choose to sterilise your own substrates, you will need a pressure cooker or other sterilising equipment.
Casing is a soil or compost-like covering used with compost substrates. Rather than providing nutrients, casing is used to store moisture storage and as a place for rhizomorphs, important root-like structures, to form. The Pennsylvania State University Extension Service suggests using clay-loam, a peat moss and limestone mixture or spent compost as casing materials.
Environmental conditions must be controlled for your mushrooms to incubate, fruit and dry. You can purchase ready-made grow boxes or incubators online or from speciality catalogues. You can also create the desired conditions yourself a using an enclosed space such as an aquarium, cupboard or closet. To do so, you need a heat source, a thermostat and a moist environment.
For an already assembled system, there are plenty of ready-to-fruit mushroom kits available complete with sterilised, spawned substrates and detailed instructions. These kits are easy to use and great for beginners but not as economical or high-yielding as systems you prepare yourself.
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