Grow mushrooms yourself – how it works

If you grow mushrooms yourself, you can enjoy the delicacies fresh and free of harmful substances. Fungus cultures are also very easy to care for and possible all year round.

Those who like to eat mushrooms can easily grow them at home. In this way, you can enjoy fresh mushrooms all year round – and that without harmful substances. Because wild mushrooms often store heavy metals such as cadmium or mercury. Many fungi, especially in southern Germany, are still contaminated with the radioactive isotope cesium 137. Although the consumption of small amounts of radiation-contaminated mushrooms is comparatively harmless, the independent association “Umweltinstitut München” advises especially risk groups such as children, pregnant women and nursing mothers not to eat wild mushrooms. To be on the safe side, it is therefore worthwhile to simply grow your own mushrooms in a culture.

Fungi are not plants in the traditional sense, because they cannot perform photosynthesis due to the lack of chlorophyll. They live on dying organic substances and are therefore called saprophytes. Many mushroom groups also live in symbiosis, a kind of community, with trees. A constant give and take determines this way of life and is called mycorrhiza. The porcini mushroom belongs to this group, for example.

Mushrooms have long been considered a delicacy by collectors, and even a remedy in China and Japan. The Shiitake (Lentinus edodes), for example, has the so-called ergosterol (a vitamin D), which is often found in meat, but rarely in plants. Therefore, the shiitake is an important vitamin D supplier – especially for vegetarians. Other health-promoting properties that Shiitake is said to have: It is said to lower cholesterol and prevent flu. Common to all types of mushrooms is the richness in vitamins, trace elements and essential fatty acids.

Mushroom cultivation: How to grow mushrooms yourself

You can easily grow many types of mushrooms at home. In principle, own mushroom cultures on straw, wood or pre-made mushroom substrates are possible. But in the beginning there is the mushroom brood – mushroom spores or the living mushroom culture, which is located on a carrier material. Mushroom broods come in various forms. In brood kernels, the mycelium, i.e. the mushroom network, has spun its threads around and into cereal or millet grains. The organic nutrients of the grains serve as a food basis for the mycelium. Grain brood can be mixed very well with substrate and simply packaged in cans or bags in this form. Körner-Brut is very popular for the professional mushroom culture and the vaccination of strains.

Fermented, mixed straw flour, chopped straw or even sawdust serve as the basis for the substrate brood. This brood is ideal for spitting straw bales or soaked straw pellets. The mass is simply broken into pieces the size of a nut. Chopsticks or dowel brood are traditional beech wood dowels from the hardware store, which are, however, completely permeated by the mushroom mycelium. The chopstick brood is ideal, for example, for spiking trunks or straw bales.

A mushroom brood can be stored at temperatures between two and twelve degrees Celsius for up to twelve months before it has to be processed. The lower the temperature, the longer the shelf life. Before contact with the mushroom brood, you should either wash your hands thoroughly or wear sterile disposable gloves so that no bacteria or mold spores stick to your hands. If one infects the brood with the adhering pests, the whole culture can die.

After successful vaccination of the carrier material, a white fluff is initially visible on the surface. This is the sign that the mycelium has already completely grown through the earth or the trunk. In the next stage, small white nodules appear, so-called primordia – mushrooms in the absolute mini format. But within a few days the primordia ripen into real mushrooms. This process is known as fructification (fruit formation): the visible mushrooms that can later be eaten are actually only the fruiting bodies of the mushroom network. They carry the spores over which the mushrooms sow themselves.

Grow mushrooms with coffee grounds

A special substrate based on straw, bark mulch or cereals is usually used as a breeding ground for mushroom cultivation. Herb mushrooms, lime mushrooms or pioppino can also be grown on coffee grounds that you have collected yourself. The mushroom brood is first crumbled into millimeter-sized pieces and mixed with dried coffee powder. Then you put everything in the growing pot, cover it and keep the mushroom substrate moist. After two to four weeks, when the white-gray mushroom threads (mycelium) have completely grown through the substrate, the cover is removed. The mushrooms appear in several batches. After about six harvest waves, the nutrients contained in the coffee grounds are used up. Tip: As soon as the temperature rises above ten degrees Celsius, you can take the mushroom culture out of the pot and sink it into the ground in a shady place in the garden.

Ready-made crops for growing mushrooms in the house

Oyster mushrooms should always be grown as ready cultures according to the enclosed instructions. Usually a fully grown substrate block is delivered. Without any effort, the first harvest is often possible after just a few days. Reason: During transportation, the block was exposed to vibrations that stimulated fungal growth. Now it is time to store the substrate bale in a humid room or to bring the right humidity with a film. The block should always be kept moist. The excess water can be collected in a bowl. Don’t forget the air holes, because they also promote growth. The optimal temperature is 18 to 25 degrees Celsius.

If the mushroom culture feels good, the first fruiting bodies begin to form in the air holes. Depending on the type of mushroom, the bag is cut down to the substrate. As soon as the mushrooms have reached a size of eight to twelve centimeters, they can be carefully unscrewed or cut off with a knife. If possible, without leaving a stump, otherwise putrefactive bacteria can penetrate here. After the harvest there is a rest period of up to 20 days. After four to five harvest phases, the substrate is exhausted and can be added to organic waste or compost.

Mushrooms are supplied as ready-grown cultures as a streaky substrate. An additional bag contains the covering soil. The substrate is spread out in a growing tray and covered with the supplied soil. The vessel is then covered with a transparent plastic hood. If you do not have a growing tray, you can also line a small wooden box or any other container with foil and put the substrate and the covering soil on it. Now it is important to keep everything moist. The mushroom culture requires temperatures between 12 and 20 degrees Celsius. The wooden boxes are best covered with a film first. As soon as the primordia show up, the cover has to be removed, because now the mushrooms need fresh air to thrive. Harvesting is then carried out every two weeks until the mushroom substrate is exhausted after about five months.

Grow mushrooms outdoors

There are various cultivation methods for growing mushrooms outdoors, all of which have their advantages and disadvantages. Which one is the right one mainly depends on the particular type of mushroom.

High-pressure pressed straw bales are particularly suitable for oyster mushrooms and brown caps. In April or May, the bales are completely soaked in clear rainwater for two days in a rain barrel or an old bathtub, after which you let them drain for a day. Then a stick or grain brood is brought out: Drill holes in the straw bale with a planting wood at a distance of 20 centimeters and insert the brood into it. After the straw bale has been completely peppered, it is covered with a film. It increases the humidity and offers the mycelium optimal growth conditions. After about five to six weeks between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius, the mycelium has completely penetrated the bale. Important for the coming weeks: The straw must always be kept moist, but must not be wet. With good care, a fine web will appear after three weeks. The first mushroom harvest takes place three weeks later. Depending on the weather, this method can be used to harvest up to six kilograms of mushrooms – always in cycles every three to four weeks. Then the straw is exhausted as a source of food for the mycelium and migrates to the compost.

Instead of a straw bale, you can also use straw pellets. Oyster mushrooms, brown cap, herb mushrooms, lime mushrooms, pink mushrooms and crab mushrooms are very suitable for this type of mushroom culture. Moisten the straw pellets in the bucket with water so that they can swell. Then you have to mix in a grain or substrate brood, fill the mass in plastic bags and bind. Insert a few air holes so that the culture can breathe. The whole thing is stored in a shady place at about 15 degrees Celsius. The white mycelium appears three weeks later and the plastic film can be removed. The culture needs a bright but not full sun place for further growth.

You can also cultivate oyster mushrooms and pink Seitling in pots filled with straw pellets, for example on the terrace or on the balcony. Moisten the straw pellets in a jar with warm water and let them swell for three to four hours until the pellets fall apart. Then add water again until a porridge is formed. Spread a substrate brood evenly over the porridge and mix in. The mass is then poured into the pots, covered with foil and left to stand for about six to ten days so that the mixture can ferment (ferment). Through the holes in the flower pots, the water can easily drain into the coasters. Make sure that the latter is emptied regularly so that there is no waterlogging. After four to six weeks, the first of a total of three to four harvest cycles begins.

Grow mushrooms on logs

Mushroom cultivation on wood is particularly productive because with this cultivation method you can harvest mushrooms for up to seven years after vaccination. Oyster and shiitake mushrooms are ideal for this method. They extract the necessary nutrients from the rotting wood until the wood is completely drained. The wood should have been cut from four weeks to five months before vaccination. In contrast to the Shiitake, the oyster mushroom requires earth contact via the log, which is why the lower end of the trunk is buried in a shady, preferably snail-free place about 20 centimeters deep after the inoculation. Stick or grain brood is best suited for inoculation. Before this, the trunk or branch, which is about one meter long, must be well watered in a rain barrel or a tub. It is best to weigh it down with concrete slabs so that it is completely submerged.

There are various methods for vaccinating logs. With the head vaccination, the stem is placed vertically and a disc (approximately five to ten millimeters thick) is cut off with the saw. The resulting cut surface is covered with grain brood and the previously separated slice is replaced and fixed in the center with a nail. Then the interface is sealed on the side with an adhesive strip. To prevent it from detaching even in damp conditions, it is also tied with tacks. To inoculate the cut, use the tip of the chain saw to cut several notches about five centimeters deep into the trunk at intervals of 15 to 20 centimeters. They are also filled with grain brood, pressed briefly and fixed with adhesive tape and thumbtacks as described above.

Borehole vaccination is also a very popular method. To do this, drill approximately three centimeters deep holes in wooden dowel thickness around the trunk at a distance of about 20 centimeters in a spiral arrangement. Then you push a stick brood into each borehole and seal the hole with tape or candle wax. Instead, you can simply wrap the entire trunk in plastic film. In a shady place at up to 25 degrees Celsius, mycelium permeates softwood such as poplar or birch after about six months. With hardwood, this takes about ten to twelve months. If black or brown mold appears, the vaccination has failed.

A particularly quick and easy method is the mushroom culture on plywood panels. Soak two poplar plywood panels in water and coat one panel with grain brood. Place the second plate on top and fix both at all four corners with wood screws. After a short storage in a foil bag, the plates are completely covered by the mycelium and there is nothing left to harvest soon.

Other cultivation methods and storage

If you have a small forest plot or a shady wooded area with humus-rich soil, you can also cultivate your mushrooms directly in the soil. This method is suitable for oyster mushroom, brown cap, herb mushroom, stick sponge and Tuscan mushroom. As with the culture, let straw pellets swell in warm water. Then dig a 50 x 50 cm and 15 cm deep hole at the designated place in the garden and pour half of the swollen mass into it. Spread the brood (substrate, grain or stick brood) evenly over it and pour the other half of the straw pellet pulp over it. Press the mixture gently and cover it with a layer of earth two fingers wide. The first harvestable mushrooms appear after about four to twelve weeks (depending on the season and the weather).

Oyster, lime mushroom and shiitake are available as ready cultures for the field. Growing a ready culture outdoors works similarly to indoors. The finished culture is usually delivered in a plastic bag. You simply have to place it in a shady place in the garden according to the instructions and always keep it moist. After two to four weeks, the first harvest wave follows, followed by a rest period of up to four weeks. A total of up to five batches are possible.

Store mushrooms correctly

Fresh mushrooms can easily be stored in the refrigerator for four to five days. If they have become a bit dry during this time, no problem: sprayed with a little lukewarm water, they are quickly plump and fresh again. If there is excess mushroom, you have the option of freezing or drying mushrooms. For freezing you can choose between the variant “in one piece” or “sliced”.

For drying, place the mushrooms in slices on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 50 ° C and let the mushrooms dry with the oven door open until any liquid has escaped. You can achieve the same result with a conventional drying machine. For subsequent use, the mushrooms are simply soaked in a little water until they have regained their typical consistency.

Did you like this article and do you feel like growing your own mushrooms?

Nothing is healthier than harvesting the mushrooms directly from your own garden. They know exactly how they grew there and they can do without the use of pesticides.
Of course, this article is a bit too short to explain everything you need to know about how to grow the mushrooms properly.
That is why we recommend our book on the correct cultivation of mushrooms.
With the book you become a professional and it will be much easier for you to grow and harvest the mushrooms.
We can only recommend you not to just get started, but to get our book and become a professional in mushroom cultivation!

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