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How to Grow Mushrooms

Posted by Seth on Dec 4th 2022

How to Grow Mushrooms

So you've decided to start learning about how to grow mushrooms?! That’s amazing! We would love to embark on this journey with you and support in any way we can!

Let’s begin with a simple explanation of the growing process. To begin, you will gather genetic material (mycelium) that you will use to inoculate nutritional media (sterilized grain). After full colonization of the media, you will transfer it into an environment that promotes fruiting. After the fungi fruits, they either must be used fresh or preserved via dehydration/other methods for storage. As we expand further into the more intricate details of the growing process, our explanation will involve the following products from the High Desert Spores Store: spores, liquid culture, grains, and substrate.

Step One: Should I grow mushrooms?

Yes.

Step Two: Learning about Sterility and Setting up the Grow Room.

Germs are everywhere. This is why sterility is a critical topic to cover first, because it will determine what tools are needed and what method of growing will work best for you. Our main foes when cultivating are bacteria and other fungi. The ideal growing situation would be a room made of ceramic tiles with a hospital-like atmosphere: smooth floors, walls, and ceilings to make cleaning up and maintenance a lot easier. However, most houses have animals and/or carpets which have a near infinite amount of surface area for germs to stick to. A person looking to grow in this environment would do best with a growing tent, or using all-in-one bags (more on those below). The best practice is to sterilize every item and surface (anything within eyeshot of your working area) with a 99.99% effective solution like Dawn, Lysol, rubbing alcohol, HOCL, or similar products.

Remember, germs are everywhere. If you can see dust floating around you, treat those specks as though they have germs riding them like cowboys. You can use a hepa filter or box fan with a small furnace filter applied to cut down on free floating contaminants.

Step Three: Gathering Mushroom Supplies.

For a less-than-ideal environment and/or for a first time grower, we would recommend starting with a MAXX FLUSH all in one bag. This bag contains both sterilized grains and substrate in the same bag, so you won’t have to mix inoculated grains with substrate in an open-air, possibly dirty, environment. You can also fruit straight in the bag!

For our more experienced growers and those looking for full canopies and/or bulk growing capabilities, we would recommend one of our mushroom grow kits. You will also need a clear plastic tote, polyfil or micropore tape, water spray bottle, a trash bag liner, and an empty soup can or hole saw.

For both of these methodologies, you will also need to purchase your inoculation solution to inject into the grain bag or MAXX FLUSH all in one bag. As mentioned above, sterility is key so every grower will need gloves, a face mask, a spray bottle for sterilizer, a torch or lighter, a pair of scissors, and paper towels.

Step Four: Inoculation.

For both methods of growing, we will start off the same. Sterilize your work surface, your bags, syringes, and everything else you’ll touch. Then go take a shower, come back with fresh clothes, and resterilize everything again.

First, take the capped needle and screw it onto the syringe body. It is important to leave the cap on until you are ready to inoculate. Wipe the injection port with a paper towel soaked in sterilizing solution, remove the cap from the syringe, and apply a flame to the tip of the needle until red hot (a couple seconds is fine). Push the syringe plunger gently to release a couple drops of inoculant, which will cool down the needle Then inject 5-10cc of Liquid Culture or 2-5cc of spore solution into the injection port on the grain bag or all-in-one bag. If inoculating multiple bags from the same syringe, repeat the steps above without deviation.

Step Five: Colonizing.

All-in-one-bags: Once inoculated, this is a set-and-forget type of growing. Incubate the bags in the temperature range the species requires, and it will slowly colonize all of the grains. Once at 80-90% colonization (majority of the grains are white), shake the bag to fully mix up the grain and substrate. The result should look as evenly incorporated as possible. After full colonization, the bag is ready to fruit.

Bulk growing: Once inoculated, incubate the bag in the temperature range the species requires. Once the bag is 30-50% colonized, shake the bag until it looks evenly mixed.Continue to incubate until the mycelium has fully colonized the grains. Now they are ready to be transferred to bulk substrate. Shifting our focus onto the tote, cut a couple of 1-2 inch holes 5-6 inches above the bottom of the top. A hot soup can or hole saw can easily cut through the side of most plastic totes. Use light pressure while cutting your holes to ensure that the tote does not crack. Cover the holes with micropore tape or polyfill to allow a filtered fresh air exchange. Then sterilize and line the tote with a trash bag so that it covers about 2-3 inches up the sides of the tote The trash bag liner shrinks and grows with the substrate cake and prevents humidity loss through the sides and bottom. Fully mix the inoculated grains and sterilized substrate in the tote. It is now ready to fully colonize and fruit. Keep an eye on the overall substrate hydration and humidity in the tote. Beads of water or a fine mist should collect on the walls of the tub. If water is dripping down the sides of the tote, it is likely too wet. Set up a fan near the tote (do not point the fan at the tote) to create more vigorous fresh air exchange and decrease humidity in the growing environment. If the walls are dry, the environment is too dry. Mist to the walls and substrate to increase the humidity in the growing environment.

Step Six: Know Thy Enemy.

Contamination is a cultivator's biggest enemy. Being able to recognize and understand contamination is just as important as growing the mushrooms themselves. Understanding what types of contamination are affecting the grow can help you understand how to prevent/outcompete it in the future. Here is a link to a good resource on the topic: https://www.zamnesia.com/content/546-how-to-identify-a-contaminated-mushroom-culture.

Step Seven: Growing, Harvesting, and Storing.

Be sure that you know what your species looks like when fully mature so you don’t harvest it prematurely, or even worse, let it go too far until it goes bad.

Once you are ready to harvest, you can either use a knife/scissors to cut the stems off the substrate cake or use your hands with the push down, twist, and pull method (exactly what the name implies). With the push down, twist, and pull method the harvested fruits will need further cleaning, but this method will leave your substrate cake less likely to develop contamination from the rotting stumps left behind from cutting.

Once fully harvested, put the tote back together or close the all-in-one bag, as the substrate will continually fruit until either it succumbs to contamination or the mycelium depletes all of the nutrients.

Once harvested, the fruits will need to be used fresh or dehydrated. Fresh fruits can be stored for up to two weeks in a fridge if they are kept in paper bags or produce nets.

If you choose to dehydrate your fruits, you must dry it to a cracker-like state. You will know that it is dry enough because the dried fruit will snap before it bends. Any residual moisture can lead to molding, and it is best to store dehydrated fruits with a silica dry pack in a vacuum-sealed bag. As with anything, practice makes perfect. Any experienced mycologist has ruined more bags than they care to admit. Contamination is all around us, and it will naturally happen to you. Treat every failure as a learning opportunity, and ask questions whenever you have the chance.

Even if your first attempts end in failure, we encourage you to try, try again. Mushroom cultivation is a fun and exciting experience that everyone can have success at. If you are a first time grower, or new to HDS, submit some photos of your failures and successes! We love our community and want to encourage others to try their hand at cultivation.