What You Need To Know About Growing Mushrooms

A short diagram on the different stages of mushroom growth.Cultivating mushrooms at home has become fairly popular in recent years because of the wide availability of the supplies needed to grow fungi variants that produce edible mushrooms.

The methods employed for growing edible mushrooms have not changed a lot these past few decades. The methods haven't changed because the whole process of growing mushrooms has always been straightforward and effective. As the old adage goes, if something isn't broken, why fix it?

Step 1: Pure Culture

Modern mushroom cultivation actually begins in the confines of your basement or home mushroom workshop. Before you can begin growing mushrooms in plastic bags, you need to obtain and multiply pure culture. Pure culture is really just the mycelium of the target species of fungi.

Mycelium is like the seed that will later produce the edible mushrooms that you're after. Mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies of fungi species. They are produced when conditions are right so as a mushroom grower, it would be your job to ensure that the right number of favorable conditions is present when you start bagging the substrate and the grain spawn.

In the first phase of the process, you need to obtain some culture of the target species. This culture will then be grown in petri dishes with agar. Agar is just the medium that will hold the mycelium. Molasses and other nutrient-rich items can be mixed with the agar to ensure maximum mycelium growth.

Step 2: Create Grain Spawn

When the mycelium has grown, it can be stored for months until you are ready to create the grain spawn. Grain spawn is needed to inoculate big batches of substrate. You can create grain spawn by adding pure culture to rye grains.

It takes about ten days for the rye grain to be ready. After this spawn run you need to use the rye grain immediately while it is still viable. Otherwise, the rye grain might end up being unusable because the mycelium will grow nonstop inside the sterile jars.

Of course, you would want to inoculate more than a few bags of substrate. You will need more than one batch of viable grain spawn. You can increase the amount of grain spawn by adding small amounts of viable grain spawn to sterilized rye grains.

One jar of viable grain spawn can give rise to ten more jars of grain spawn. If you produce ten jars of grain spawn from pure culture, you can definitely produce up to a hundred more jars of grain spawn by carefully measuring and distributing the contents of the first generation jars.

Final Step: Inoculate Substrate

The final step is inoculating your chosen substrate. The two most popular choices when it comes to growing common edible mushrooms are wood chips and wheat straw. If you have been able to obtain freshly cut wood chips you won't have to sterilize it anymore. Wheat straw is another story.

You need to sterilize it before adding the grain spawn. If you want to inoculate wood chips, you will need a rake so you can distribute the grain spawn evenly throughout each batch of substrate. If you are planning to use wheat straw, you need uniformly-sized polyethylene bags.

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The Five Most Beautiful Mushrooms

One of the reasons many are interested in how to grow mushrooms is because they are beautiful, architectural organisms. Growing them is as satisfying as growing a pot of flowers; sometimes more so if you get to eat what was grown in the end! Here is a small look into some lovelier varieties and if you can grow them for yourself!

1. Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria)

A photograph of the mushroom 'Fly Agaric'.

This breathtaking red mushroom is what many think about when they think of mushrooms, as it is featured in many childhood fairytales. The one picture above is in its starting phases, but still features the distinguishing red  hue and textured white spots. The Fly Agaric is a toxic mushroom which has psychoactive features (meaning it will cause hallucinations) and so it is a mushroom for admiring only. I would love to plant in a pot for decorative purposes; unfortunately, I have not been able to find the spawn, which I assume is because this mushroom has hallucinogenic properties.

2. Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) 

A turkey tail mushroom growing on a log.

So-called due to its resemblance to the birds back feathers, the Turkey Tail boasts a rainbow of autumn colours in a stunning disc display. Not just a pretty face, this mushroom has bioremediation potential as it able to degrade a wide variety of pollutants.  It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine as an anti-cancer medication, however scientific evidence towards its efficacy is limited. Although you are welcome to munch on this mushroom, it has a terrible taste, and so it is not generally categorized as an edible mushroom. Happily, can you can grow these at home, either in logs or in pots for decorative purposes.

3. Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus)

A photograph of the mushroom 'Lion's Mane'.

Lion’s Mane mushroom belongs to a the Hericium mushroom family, composed of other similarly-looking hairy species. These lovely mushrooms do indeed remind the onlooker of a Lion’s Mane, but for me it looks like a christmas ornament. The mushrooms are edible and delicious, with a chewy texture and a flavour reminiscent of lobster. It is widely used in Chinese cuisine to replace meat. Lion’s Mane is easily grown at home in sterilized sawdust. Post on this very soon!

4. Bioluminescent Mushrooms (Mycena chlorophos)

A photograph of a group of Bioluminescent mushrooms taken at night glowing.

In the sun, these mushrooms are definitely nothing special. However, turn the lights off, and these mushrooms are a real show. When these mushrooms emerge during the rainy season in Japan and Brazil, they will glow for up to 72 hours. The glow comes from the interaction of natural chemicals within the mushroom. Truly a feast for the eyes, however these mushrooms are inedible and very difficult to grow even in laboratory conditions.

5. Red Coral Fungi (Ramaria araiospora)

A small patch of red coral fungi mushrooms growing naturally in the forest.

Belonging to a species of mushrooms that look like coral you’d find under the sea, this pretty mushroom boasts a pink colour to make any girl (or guy) smile. Lucky for the admirers, this mushroom is edible, with a mild taste lending itself to a variety of flavourings. It does not seem to be easily cultivated, unfortunately, so no how to grow tutorials on this anytime soon!
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Mushroom Growing Supplies

Mushroom Growing Supplies
Are you interested in growing your very own edible mushrooms at home? Mushroom cultivation has actually been around for thousands of years and in the United States, modern mushroom cultivation has developed so much these past few decades that absolutely anyone who has a passion for growing things can try it in the comfort of their home.

Mushroom cultivation is not as difficult as it seems; it is a lot like gardening only this time, you won't be planting seeds or saplings. You will be taking care of fungal mycelium that would later sprout tasty, edible fruiting bodies known as mushrooms.

But don't be deceived - mushrooms don't just sprout from the ground after you've thrown some mycelium. If you want maximum yield, you need to prepare the substrate carefully and add the right amount of spawn to the substrate.

The spawn is really just the fungi attached to a nutrient source. Many mushroom growers use grains like rye to propagate mycelium. When mycelium has finally colonized a batch of grains, the fungi is robust enough to colonize a larger tract ñ the substrate.

Mother Nature knew that fungi can overrun whole forests if it thrived too easily, so it made sure that fungi had very specific requirements before it can produce fruiting bodies.

Fruiting bodies release millions of spores into the air, which allows the fungi to reproduce in other areas. Technically, the mushroom is the reproductive organ of fungi. Without it, reproduction would be impossible in the wild.

The first thing that you would need if you are serious about cultivating mushrooms is a batch of sturdy petri dishes. Petri dishes are used in the first phase of mushroom cultivation (culturing/cloning mycelium).

Agar and some culture are added to the petri dishes and the mycelium is allowed to thrive in the agar. A nutrient source is required. Some people use oatmeal while some like grinding dog food. Mycelium primarily requires carbohydrates so it would be a good idea to add a bit of sugar to your agar to boost the development of the mycelium.

When viable pure culture has finally been obtained, you will then require some rye grain, a large pressure cooker and some glass jars/canning jars with resalable caps. The rye grain and jars have to be "cooked" in the pressure cooker for a time to remove traces of fungi and bacteria. After the sterilization, the prepared culture can then be added to the rye grain.

After the second spawn run, you would have exactly two batches of viable grain spawn. Choose your substrate (e.g. wood chips) and use a rake to spread the contents of your jars. Even distribution is the key to successful mushroom cultivation so make sure that you add a little more spawn per batch of substrate.

After adding the substrate, add the substrate supplement. Animal manure is an excellent choice. Just make sure that you monitor the temperature of the substrate. If it gets too hot, there's a big chance that the mycelium (which is just getting ready to colonize the substrate) will die.

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Making Mushroom Spawns In 5 Steps

Making your own mushroom spawn is not difficult. You just need a few key ingredients and accessories and you’ll be on your way. We have outlined the required materials below and then detailed the step-by-step instructions.

Required Materials

  • Mushroom Piece – a small piece of the mushroom variety you’d like to spawn
  • Autoclave or Pressure Cooker – an autoclave is a high pressure device used to sterilize equipment it runs anywhere from $30 to $2000 depending on the size and quality of unit you are looking for. Pressure cookers can also be used and are widely available and cost between $50 - $100.
  • Agar Plate Petri Dishes – yes, the things you used in science class. This is a Petri dish that contains the growth medium agar. Agar is gelatin substance that is made from seaweed cells and aids in encouraging culture growth. These can be found on Amazon.com for about $30.
  • HEPA Filter Air Purifier – these can be found on Amazon.com for about $50.
  • Sterilized Grain – this can be found on Amazon.com for about $5 for
  • Jars – there can be found on Fungi.com for about $15 for 4.

5 Steps To Make Mushroom Spawn

Step 1:
Set up your workspace. You need a closed in area. A small shed or closet works well. Be sure you can enclose the space with either a door or a tarp. Once your space has been selected, you need to disinfect the entire area. This is accomplished by wiping it down with 10% bleach to water solution. Every surface must be sterilized. Then clean the air with the HEPA Filter Air Purifier.

Step 2:
Sterilize all your equipment that will be used for the spawn production. You can either buy materials already sterilized or you must sterilize yourself. You can sterilize equipment with an autoclave or pressure cooker. Remember not to bring anything into your work area that is not sterilized. Be sure to use the sterilization equipment as recommended by the product instructions. In general, sterilization generally takes place at over 200-degrees Fahrenheit with about 15 PSI of pressure for about 45 minutes.

Step 3:
Place the small piece of mushroom on an agar plate Petri dish. Cover and let it sit undisturbed in your workspace. Keep it moist. And be sure to monitor the temperature in the room as each variety of mushrooms has different ideal temperatures. This step usually takes about 2 weeks.

Step 4:
Once the Petri dish is filled with long, healthy strands it is time to transfer. At this phase the material is called mycelium. Do not let the mycelium grow too long in the small dishes. Transfer to the sterilized grain in jars. Allow it to colonize for about 2 – 4 weeks under the correct temperature for the mushroom variety.

Step 5:
Keep an eye on your jars. You are looking for white filaments. This is your grain spawn and will now produce mushrooms.

Mushroom Growing Kits

Another way to go is to just buy a kit. They are packed with all the materials you need and are reasonably priced. Check out this Mushroom Growing Kit. For under $100, you have all the equipment as well as the grain.
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How To Grow Wine Caps Mushrooms

You may have never heard of Wine Cap Mushrooms, also known by their scientific name Stropharia rugosoannulata, and their awesome name, Godzilla Mushroom. Whatever you call them, Wine Cap Mushrooms are tasty and lovely-looking mushrooms. They have a rich brown colour, a nutty flavour and contain a lot more moisture than your typical mushroom when cooked. Wine Cap Mushrooms are exquisite when prepared in soups and sauces, cooked with lemon juice, nutmeg or fennel as flavourings.

How To Grow Wine Caps Mushrooms
Because they are not widely-harvested, wine caps are very expensive, organic varieties going from $18/pound. Once again, learning how to grow mushrooms an is easy, inexpensive and a great way to sample something new in the mushroom world.

Wine Cap mushrooms thrive when planted both outdoors, but sadly they don’t easily take to growing indoors, so you’ll need to plant these on the ground or in a pot. Wine Cap Mushrooms can tolerate a huge range of temperatures, from 4-32 degrees Celsius (40-90 degrees Fahrenheit), so planting spring is your best option.


  1. Wine Cap Mushroom Spawn. My favourite location to get spawn is eBay. I have yet to buy spawn from this particular seller, so I cannot vouch for the quality of their spawn. However, their reviews are good and I’ve always found eBay reviews to be dependable.
  2. Wood Chips. Any type of tree variety will do, excluding pine. Also avoid wood chips with large amounts of leafy matter. You can buy these at garden stores and centres, but often times these are given away for free by tree and shrub services.
  3. Compost.


  1. Find a shady spot in your garden, such as around a tree. Loosen the soil where you are going to be putting down your Wine Cap Mushroom spawn.
  2. Remove some soil to create a small depression in the ground, around 8 inches if you can manage it. Fill depression with a mix of wood chips and compost, adding in more wood chips than compost.
  3. Take your Wine Cap Mushroom spawn and sprinkle it over.
  4. Cover your spawn with an approximately 2 inch layer of compost.
  5. Water the whole thing once a day (more during dry, hot days) to keep it well hydrated.


As I mentioned above, Wine Cap mushrooms can get huge.

Nonetheless, Wine Cap Mushrooms are at their best when eaten smaller, when the mushroom heads are around a palm’s size or just as the skin on the head of the mushroom (the dark brown veil) starts tearing near the edges.

Leave a few behind to mature completely if you’d like your Wine Cap Mushrooms to regrow somewhere else in your garden — no guarantees of where though! Wine Cap Mushrooms reproduce by releasing spores into the air, so they may land anywhere.

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How To Grow White Button Mushrooms

White button mushrooms are a favourite amongst North Americans today. When searching on how to grow mushrooms, this is likely the first variety to be learned. Attractive and delicious, white button mushrooms are easy to incorporate in a wide variety of dishes, including pizzas, pastas, curries and salads.
Growing White Button Mushrooms is an easy and inexpensive process. Follow the step-by-step guide below to grow your own white button mushrooms for your next stir-fry night.

Where to grow them
How To Grow White Button Mushrooms

As I mentioned in my review of mushroom growing, mushrooms generally enjoy growing in cool and dark areas. The area in which you are growing your White Button Mushrooms should stay between 18-24 degrees Celsius (65-75 degrees Fahrenheit) and be shielded from disturbances and light. A basement crawlspace is therefore perfect for growing your first batch of white button mushrooms. If you are an apartment dweller, a dark closet is also a great option.


  1. White Button Mushroom Spawn. Spawn is mycelium (the mushroom roots; see review of mushroom growing for more information) in its beginning stages. I got my first white button mushroom spawn from eBay with great results.
  2. A Box. Find a cardboard box that is at least 6 inches deep. A box with a large surface area is best as it gives your mushrooms more room to grow.
  3. A garbage bag. This garbage bag will be used to line the above box to keep things from getting messy and helping moisture stay put.
  4. 100% Composted Manure. This is the growing medium from your white button mushrooms and what will be their food source. You need to ensure that you get 100% manure, and not a manure mix. Cow manure is best, but you can use other types of manure (e.g. sheep) if unavailable. Most good garden stores or centres will sell cow manure.
  5. Newspaper.
  6. Vermiculite. Many beginner mushroom growers make the mistake of planting their mushrooms in full manure. However, to ensure success, you need to mix your manure with vermiculite. While the manure provides the mushroom nutrients, vermiculite ensure aeration and moisture retention. You can get it at garden centres or order off Amazon (link below):


  1. Open the garbage bag and line the box with your bag.
  2. Add a 50/50 mix of vermiculite and manure. 50 grams of white button mushroom spawn can inoculate 5 kg of growing medium – that is, the maximum amount of mushroom spawn 5 kg of medium can take is 50 grams.  Therefore, fill the box with the right amounts of growing medium. This doesn’t have to exact, but add a bit more when in doubt.
  3. Make sure that the medium is not too deep – around 3 inches after patting the whole thing down well is what you should be aiming for.
  4. Spray the medium with a bit of water if necessary to ensure that the medium is damp, but not waterlogged.
  5. Sprinkle the white button mushroom spawn onto the growing medium.
  6. Remove a 4-5 layers of newspaper and dampen with the spray button. Lay these newspapers ontop of the scattered spawn.
  7. Cover the top of the box with a plastic bag with a few holes pierced into it. This is to retain moisture.
  8. Over the next 3 weeks, check your mushrooms once a day to ensure that the newspaper is moist. After 3 weeks, you should see the white web of mycelium spreading over top surface of the manure/vermiculite.
  9. Grab some more manure/vermiculite 50/50 mix. Cover with around 1 inch of the manure/vermiculite mix. Spray with water to ensure that the whole thing is moist. Cover with plastic once again.
  10. Check once a day to ensure that your medium is still damp and spray with water if necessary.
  11. Wait another 3-5 weeks, and you should see your white button mushrooms starting to grow!
When your mushrooms are large enough harvest the mushrooms by twisting them and pulling them off. As long as you ensure that your growth medium is moist, mushrooms should regrow in around 1 week, for up to 12 weeks!

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How To Grow Portobello Mushrooms

How To Grow Portobello MushroomsAh, the famous Portobello mushroom. You’ve undoubtedly come across Portobello mushrooms in the form of a delicious vegetarian burger or sautéed with onions in an Italian restaurants. The Portobello mushroom has a strong flavour which stands out in any dish. I love slicing Portobello mushrooms up and sautéed with fresh garlic and thyme, adding a bit of balsamic vinaigrette at the end.  You and your family will eat these right up!

Instead of going to the grocery store and paying around $4/pound for lower-quality, non-organic portobellos, why not just grow them at home? Follow the instructions below for a step-by-step guide on how to grow mushrooms: Portobello edition!


You may be surprised to find out that the Portobello is actually just the mature form of the Agaricus bisporus mushroom, or the White Button Mushroom. To grow Portobello mushrooms, simply follow the instructions in my <a href="http://growingmushrooms.blogspot.com/2016/01/how-to-grow-white-button-mushrooms.html">How to Grow White Button Mushrooms post</a>. Instead of harvesting all of your white button mushrooms, leave a few behind to grow to full maturity. When these mushrooms have reached between 4-5 inches in diameter, they have become Portobello mushrooms and are ready to become your next veggie burger.
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