MUSHROOM GARDEN KIT GROWING INSTRUCTIONS
Mushrooms… how to grow them? Have no fear. Here is a comprehensive mushroom guide on how to grow elm oyster mushrooms using our Mushroom Garden Kit. Be sure to scroll down the entire page to to view all of the mushroom growing instructions as well as our mushroom growing video tutorials. Yep, there sure is a lot of information on this page and we don’t want you to miss anything!
- KEEP KIT INTACT until you are ready to start.
- WE NEED TO REST! If shaken or jostled too much, mycelium (mushroom roots) will go temporarily dormant. Therefore, your kit will produce best if you let your kit sit undisturbed in the dark for a few days to a week.
- GROWING MUSHROOMS, LIKE GROWING ANYTHING IN NATURE, IS NOT ENTIRELY PREDICTABLE. As with a seed, flower bulb, vegetable garden, or fruit tree, countless variables can affect the outcome of production. Following the instructions precisely will greatly enhance your chance of success.
There are three easy ways that you can create a mushroom garden at home using the spawn from your Mushroom Garden Kit:
OPTION 1: Grow mushrooms on your chosen substrate in a container
OPTION 2: Grow mushrooms on straw or woodchips in a garden bed
OPTION 3: Grow mushrooms on hardwood totem logs
GROW MUSHROOMS ON YOUR CHOSEN SUBSTRATE IN A CONTAINER
- Mushroom spawn (included)
- 5 gallons of substrate (organic material to grow mushrooms on), see below for options
- Stovetop pot (to boil water and substrate in)
- Meat or compost thermometer (to gauge temperature of water)
- Heat source such as a portable burner, camp stove, hot plate, or stove
- Old pillowcase or burlap bag, optional (to hold the substrate while heating in a pot)
- Container (to grow mushrooms in), see below for options
- Mister or watering can
- Clear plastic bag, such as a clear large trash bag (to use as humidity tent)
Step 1: Choose your substrate
Substrate is the dried organic material that your mushroom spawn will grow and feed on. Although elm oyster mushrooms will grow on many different substrates, some work better than others. For the quickest production and best chance of success, we highly suggest using straw or dried grasses. If you choose a denser substrate, such as coffee grounds or sawdust, we suggest using several smaller growing containers (1-2 gallons each) instead one larger one (such as a 5 gallon bucket) to ensure adequate air circulation throughout the substrate. Keep in mind to use only substrates that have not been treated with pesticides, herbicides, or harmful chemicals.
- Artichoke waste
- Banana leaves
- Banana pseudostems
- Barley straw
- Bean pods
- Bean straw
- Buckwheat straw
- Cactus: agave, yucca
- Cardamom pulp
- Cinnamon leaves
- Citrus fruit peels
- Coconut fiber pith and coir
- Coconut husks
- Coffee parchment
- Coffee pulp
- Coffee sawdust
- Corn stipes
- Corn stover
- Corn stalks
- Corn waste: corncobs, corn leaves, corn fiber
- Cottonseed hulls
- Cotton straw silage
- Cotton waste: cotton mill droppings, cotton ball locules, cotton husks, gin waste, cottonseed hulls
- Elephant grass
- Grasses: wild grasses, lawn clippings, roadside, Alang-alang
- Fern high
- Fern low
- Fern kukot
- Flax straw
- French bean-haulms
- Groundnut shells
- Lemon grass leaves
- Legume straws
- Maize straw
- Manioc stipes and leaves
- Melilotus haulms
- Mentha stalks
- Mustard, yellow mustard straw
- Newspaper, shredded
- Oat straw
- Paper pulp by-product
- Paper waste: shredded paper
- Papyrus plants
- Pea haulms
- Pea straw
- Pepper leaves
- Populus wood logs
- Potato foliage
- Quinoa plant
- Ragi straw
- Rice straw
- Salix wood logs
- Sesame stems
- Sorghum stover
- Soybean stems
- Spent substrate
- Spent Volvariella compost
- Subtropical forest dead leaves
- Sugarcane bagasse: sugarcane rubbish, cane trash
- Sunflower husks
- Sunflower stipes and heads
- Tea leaves: unused or used
- Tequila bagasse
- Uncrumpled rice straw
- Vegetable biomass
- Water hyacinth
- Water spinach
- Wheat straw
- Wood logs
- Wood shavings
- Wood wastes
*These are the most commonly used substrates
Step 2: Select your growing container
There are many creative options for growing containers. Because one Mushroom Garden Kit will inoculate 5 gallons of substrate, you can choose a single 5-gallon container (such as a standard 5-gallon bucket) or a combination of smaller containers that have a total volume of approximately 5 gallons. If using smaller containers, each container should hold at least 1 gallon of substrate. Some possibilities for containers include cooking pots, pans, strainers, hanging pots, vases, laundry baskets, burlap bags, buckets, or window boxes.
If your container is more than 8 inches deep (vertical depth), you will need to drill or puncture holes (1/4 – 1/2 inch in diameter) into the side of the container every 4 inches, alternating in a pattern, to ensure sufficient oxygen exchange. If the bottom of your container does not allow excess water to drain, drill a few small holes in the bottom of the container as well. (fig. 1)
A simple, effective way to eliminate the microbial contaminants from your substrate is to heat your substrate in hot water (essentially pasteurizing it); this also allows the substrate to absorb adequate amounts of water. Choose one of the following options to heat your substrate in water:
Option 1: Place your substrate in an old pillowcase and put it in a large pot. Fill the pot with water until the substrate is covered with 1-2 inches of water. You may need to place a heavy object, such as a brick, on your substrate to keep it submerged. If you do not have a pot large enough to heat the entire volume of your substrate all at once, you can divide your substrate into smaller portions and heat successive batches one portion at a time. A series of smaller pots heated simultaneously could also be used. (Note that it is not necessary to use an old pillowcase to hold your substrate while you heat it, but it does provide an easy way to keep your substrate together. If you prefer not to use a pillowcase, you will need to use a strainer to strain the substrate instead.) Heat the water to 170°F and allow the substrate (in the pillowcase) to sit submerged in the covered pot(s) for 1 hour. Remove the pillowcase from the water and allow it to drain for 15 minutes, then twist the pillowcase tightly and wring excess water from the substrate. (fig. 4) The wetness of the substrate should be similar to that of a damp sponge. A tightly squeezed handful of substrate should not produce water droplets. If you are not using a pillowcase, then pour your substrate into a strainer and let it sit for 15 minutes to completely drain the excess water.
Option 2: Place the substrate-filled pillowcase in a larger heat-tolerant container, such as a large metal bucket, and carefully pour 170°F water over the substrate until it is submerged. (fig. 3) Let it sit for 1 hour. Remove the pillowcase from the water and allow it to drain for 15 minutes, then twist the pillowcase tightly and wring excess water from the substrate. (fig. 4) The wetness of the substrate should be similar to that of a damp sponge. A tightly squeezed handful of substrate should not produce water droplets.
Step 4: Inoculate Your Substrate
Inoculation is the process of mixing the mushroom spawn into the substrate. As soon as the substrate is cool enough to handle, spread it out on a well-cleaned surface, such as a table or counter, to allow it to cool to room temperature. (fig. 5) With thoroughly washed hands, gently flip and re-spread the pile every 30–60 seconds to assure all substrate has cooled to room temperature. High temperatures can kill the mycelium!
>NOTE: To limit any other contaminants, clean everything with which the pasteurized substrate will come into contact (hands, growing container, cooling table, etc.) with soap and warm water. Although not necessary, you can also hedge your chances by wiping all these surfaces with a clean paper towel drenched with isopropyl rubbing alcohol.
While you are waiting for the substrate to cool, open the bag of mushroom spawn from your Mushroom Garden Kit and break it up into fine particles in a separate, well-cleaned container, such as a large bowl, bucket, or pot. Immediately after the substrate has cooled to room temperature, place a 1-2 inch layer of substrate into the growing container, then sprinkle a 1/4 – 1/2 inch layer of broken-up spawn on top of the substrate. Mix the spawn and substrate thoroughly. Follow with another 1-2 inch layer of substrate, then 1/4 – 1/2 inch layer of spawn. Again, mix thoroughly. (fig. 6) Continue this pattern of mixing alternate layers of substrate and spawn until both have been used up. End your layering with a 1/2-inch covering of spawn only.
Step 5: Maintain moisture
During the next 3-8 weeks, the mycelium from the spawn will grow onto (colonize) the substrate, its food source. This period is called incubation. To maintain adequate moisture during incubation, put the container in a trash bag (either clear or dark). Leave the top of the trash bag untied and open, and loosely draped to the side. Do not tie or seal the trash bag; air exchange is necessary. To ensure that air can move freely around all of the substrate surfaces, keep the trash bag from touching the substrate or the container by propping the trash bag with 1 or 2 sticks laid on top of the container. (fig. 7)
Step 6: Place container in the dark
During the incubation period (the next 3-8 weeks after inoculation), place your container in a dark location that has a consistent temperature range of 65°F to 85°F. Closets or cabinets work well. If your closet or cabinet space is limited, use a dark trash bag for step 5 and keep your container in a dark corner (the darker the environment, the faster the mushrooms will begin to grow). Although rare, contaminants might become visible on the substrate as green or dark-colored mold. If detected soon enough, the mold can be lifted away from the substrate by inserting a clean knife under the discolored area and lifting the section away from the healthy substrate. However, if contaminants become too pervasive and removal is not effective, the kit must be thrown out or composted.
>NOTE: Many oyster mushrooms produce yellowish-orange droplets. These are perfectly normal and a good sign of healthy mycelium.
Step 7: Fruit your mushrooms
After 2½ weeks, begin inspecting the container daily for the formation of small mushrooms, called primordia. When primordia are first detected, move your container to a location that has optimal fruiting conditions (light, temperature, humidity, and airflow) for maximum fruit body production. Determine the best location for your container based on the following criteria:
- Light- Oyster mushrooms DO need light to grow, so choose a location that has at least enough light to read by but is not in direct sunlight. Incandescent, florescent, and indirect natural light work well. Your mushrooms need approximately 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark daily.
- Temperature– A consistent temperature range of 60°F – 80°F is needed for productive fruiting. Significant time spent out of this temperature range will hamper or stop growth.
- Humidity– During fruit body production, a high level of humidity (75%-95%) surrounding your growing mushrooms will greatly enhance their size and weight. A simple way to achieve this high level of humidity is to fluff a clear trash bag and place it over the top of your container, effectively creating a humidity dome, similar to a terrarium. Using your spray bottle, mist clean water onto the interior surface of the trash bag 1-3 times daily (or more or less, dependent on your ambient humidity) so condensation droplets are continuously visible on the inside of the bag.
- Airflow– Cut 10-12 holes (½-inch diameter) in the trash bag to allow air exchange. If need be, sticks, wire, pipes, etc. can be used as support to keep the plastic humidity dome from collapsing onto the container and substrate. Be sure to maintain space between the trash bag and the container to ensure the passive airflow. Also, keep the trash bag propped at least 8 inches away from any surface where mushrooms might grow.
Step 8: Harvest your mushrooms
Generally, 3-5 days after primordia first form, your mushrooms will be ready to harvest. The growth rate is amazing; during this phase, the mushrooms usually double or triple in size daily! Oyster mushrooms grow in clusters. The largest mushroom of the cluster is your indicator of when to harvest that entire cluster. As the mushrooms mature, the shape of their caps will change from a downward-curved concave shape to a flatter shape. When the cap of the largest mushroom in the cluster has flattened, the entire cluster is ready to be harvested. To pick, grip the cluster as close to the container as possible and gently twist while pulling slightly outward. Or, use a sharp knife and cut the cluster as close to the container as you can. Oyster mushrooms can be stored in a paper bag in a refrigerator for approximately 1 week or dehydrated for long-term storage.
For more information on when to harvest (or to see photo), click here: WHEN TO HARVEST.
BONUS: Attempt to grow even more mushrooms from your spent mushroom garden!
If successful, which is the case with the vast majority of our customers, you can now attempt to repeat the process using the newly colonized substrate you just created to inoculate a subsequent batch of substrate. A ratio of 1:5 works well. For example, your 5-gallon bucket of colonized coffee grounds can be used to inoculate 5 other buckets of pasteurized substrate.
VIEW OUR VIDEO TUTORIAL ON GROWING MUSHROOMS ON YOUR OWN SUBSTRATE IN YOUR CONTAINER:
GROW MUSHROOMS OUTDOORS IN GARDEN BEDS
- Mushroom spawn (included): 1 Mushroom Garden Kit per 6×6 ft. area of garden bed
- Straw or wood chips, 18 cubic feet (2/3 cubic yard) or 1 bail of straw
- watering can, hose, or sprinkler
- tarp or dark plastic bag, such as a large dark trash bag (to maintain moisture)
Although growing in outdoor garden beds is a highly successful way to cultivate gourmet mushrooms, keep in mind that mushroom production may take longer to occur.
Step 1: Prepare Your Garden Bed
Choose a fully shaded 6×6 ft. area of your garden bed and lay down a layer of cardboard to form a barrier against competing fungi resident in the soil. Because of the large volume of substrate used when growing in garden beds, heat pasteurization of the substrate is not the norm. Cover the cardboard with a 2-inch layer of dry straw or freshly chipped hardwood chips. Wet the layer of substrate thoroughly with a wateringcan, hose, or sprinkler.
Step 2: Inoculate Your Garden Bed
Inoculation should take place at a time of year when daytime temperatures are consistently between 50°F and 80°F. Break up the spawn from your 100th Monkey Garden Kit into small granules and evenly distribute half of it over the substrate. Place another 2-inch thick layer of straw or woodchips over the spawn, wet it again thoroughly, and evenly distribute the second half of the spawn on the substrate. Cover this with a final 2-inch thick layer of straw or woodchips, and wet it again thoroughly.
Step 3: Cover and Maintain Moisture
Cover the entire area with a tarp, cardboard, or large dark trash bags. Water your garden with a hose or watering can once a week (if there has been no rain). Be sure to uncover your garden during any rainfall. When primordial (baby mushrooms) begin to form (fig. 8), uncover the garden bed and water it 1-2 times a day until your mushrooms are ready to be harvested.
Step 4: Harvest Your Mushrooms
Refer to Step 8 in OPTION 1 or click here: WHEN TO HARVEST.
VIEW OUR VIDEO TUTORIAL ON GROWING MUSHROOMS IN GARDEN BEDS:
GROW MUSHROOMS OUTDOORS ON TOTEM LOGS
Creating a totem log garden involves spreading the spawn from the Garden Kit between sections of a log. Below is a summary of steps to follow to create a totem log garden; for complete, detailed instructions, view our video tutorial online (details below).
- Mushroom spawn (included): 1 Mushroom Garden Kit inoculates 6-8 totems
- Large hardwood log, 6-12 inches in diameter by 12-18 inches in length
- Watering can, hose, or sprinkler
- Dark plastic bag(s), such as large dark
- trash bags (to maintain moisture)
- Drill, optional
- 3-inch screws, optional
Step 1: Select a Log
Find a log that is 6-12 inches in diameter and 12-18 inches in length from a healthy, non-diseased tree, cut within the last 6 months.
Step 2: Inoculate Your Log
Using a chainsaw, cut your log into 6-inch sections (in length). Crush the spawn in the Mushroom Garden Kit into small particles and spread a layer between each section of log. Optional (but recommended): Drill holes in the side of your log at an angle to screw the sections of your log together.
Step 3: Keep Moist, Grow, and Harvest
Wet the logs with a garden hose weekly or soak in a large trough monthly. Loosely drape a trash bag or shade cloth over the logs to help maintain moisture while still allowing airflow. Your log will begin producing mushrooms within approximately 6 to 12 months. Refer to Step 8 in OPTION 1 or click here: WHEN TO HARVEST.
CAUTION! Growing mushrooms outdoors in garden beds or on logs is a fun way to cultivate your own homegrown gourmet mushrooms, but as is the case with any food harvested from a garden, care should be taken before consuming. Although following these steps will greatly increase the chance of your outdoor mushroom garden producing only the oyster mushrooms you planted, there still exists the possibility of other resident fungi growing from your substrate. Before eating any mushroom grown outdoors, always be sure that you can positively identify it and are absolutely certain it is edible.