Basic information about growing mushrooms

Posted by on February 16, 2011
What you need to grow mushrooms from home
It may seem overwhelming at first when you see so many different things like substrates, and mushroom kits, pressure cookers and mycology supplies. It is a lot of stuff to manage.
This article should help put it all in perspective allowing you to get exactly what you need to start growing. If you have not already done so please quickly read “The Mushroom Life Cycle” so you have an understanding of how mushrooms reproduce. If you already know about spores, germination, and mycelium colonizing them you are good to go.
To grow mushrooms you need 3 basic things:  1) Mushroom spores / liquid culture, 2) Substrate / growing mediuim, and 3) an environment or chamber to control the light, temperature and humidity.
1) Mushroom spore / Liquid Culture.
First you need the spores or culture of the mushroom you want to grow. Most common is a mixture of spores and water in a syringe, this method is reliable and works well but can take some time.  A live culture, or liquid culture syringe will work much faster but is more complicated to create and manage.  Learn more about spore syringes – learn more about liquid and live cultures.
2) Substrates and Growing Mediums.
The next component for growing mushrooms is a substrate or actual growing medium.  This is like the soil for plants, it helps feed the mushroom mycelium and gives the mushrooms a main base to launch there growth from.  There is a wide variety of substrates to choose from in different formats such as jars or bags, the most common is rye grain as it works well with many different mushrooms.
Learn more about using substrates.
3) The Growing Chamber
The final and most important component is your actual growing environment.  This can range from a simple plastic tub to a fully automated system controlling humidity, light, and temperature settings.  As long as you can maintain the temp and humidity you are good to grow.
Learn more about building a grow chamber.
Bringing it all together – Inoculation
Now you need to bring them all together.  The first step is to produce mycelium from the spores or culture.  To do this you need to inject your spores or liquid culture syringe into the substrate and incubate it until the spores germinate and fully colonize the substrate to form a chunk of mycelium. For incubation you want to keep your substrate in a warm, dark place while keeping the correct incubation temp specific to your mushroom species. This incubation and colonization process can take anywere from 2-8 weeks depending on the species, strain and growing chamber used. 
Casing the mycelium, or fruit directly
After you have a fully colonized jar or bag of mycelium you can decide if you want to fruit direct, or break it up into casing.
Fruiting from Jars
With jars you would need to get the block of mycelium out of the glass / plastic jar and then place it in your grow chamber to begin fruiting. You can stack up the blocks of myclium to form a pyramid or just have the blocks placed inside your chamber. 
Fruiting a Grow Bag
With a grow bag you can actually fruit it directly inside the bag. All you need to do is add light and keep the FAE (fresh air exchange) flowing and mushrooms will grow filling up the bag.  Checkout our Monster Mushroom Compost Bags for more info and pictures.
Break it up into a Casing Layer
Another technique seperate from fruiting directly is to break the mycelium up and use in a casing. This method combines another step and layer of substrate to allow the mycelium to gather more strength and surface area thus creating much more mushrooms larger in size.  More about Casing.  And also you should consider the Mushbox Casing Kit for getting started in mushroom growing.
With either method you choose once you have a fully colonized substrate as a jar, grow bag, or even a casing layer you can begin the pinning process by exposing the mycelium to light and maintaining fruiting temperatures.  Within a couple weeks, sometimes much sooner depending on the strain of mushroom, you should start to see pinheads forming along the surface of the mycelium.  After seeing your first pinheads the mushrooms will be growing very fast and you should be ready to harvest your first flush very soon.  You will know when they are ready to pick when the caps are fully open and the veil is just about to break or has already broken.

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