Because our yurt is located in a small clearing surrounded by woods, we only get about 5.5 hours of sun even at the height of the growing season. We’re still able to grow plenty of vegetables, but without “full sun” the yields aren’t enormous.
So we got to thinking about how we could utilize the shady areas of our location, and growing mushrooms fit the bill (we’ve also recently been looking into worm farming, but that’s another story…).
How to Grow Mushrooms
There are numerous ways to grow mushrooms. The basic idea is to provide a nutrient-rich substrate (growing medium) that is free and clean of other organisms that would compete with the mushroom spawn (mycelium).
The mushroom substrate could be coffee grounds, sawdust, straw, or even cardboard. To prepare the substrate, heat is required to kill off competing organisms and make the medium friendly to the mycelium you’ll be growing there.
The easiest way for beginners to grow mushrooms, though, is with plug spawn.
Plug spawn are wooden dowels that have been inoculated with mushroom spawn. The basic idea is to hammer these dowels into a freshly cut log or tree stump and let the mycelium go on to colonize the wood.
Note that the wood has to be green (freshly cut) to ensure there aren’t competing organisms that have taken up residence and contaminated the wood. The best time to cut the tree is when it’s dormant (i.e., after leaf fall and before buds appear in spring), but you can also cut in the summer. Just avoid the time when the buds are growing and leafing out (April-ish).
If you don’t have access to green logs, or don’t have a yard or space to grow outdoors, you can even buy indoor mushroom growing kits. You basically buy a block of inoculated substrate and then let it fruit on your counter.
Where to Buy Mushroom Spawn
Mushrooms have become extremely popular to grow, so you can buy mushroom spawn from any number of buyers across any number of platforms, from companies to individuals on Amazon, Etsy, and more.
Once we decided plug spawn was the best option for us to take the first step into growing mushrooms, we did a little research around the internet.
But you can do your own digging if you like. On Amazon, the seller 2funguys has a good store and seems to be slightly cheaper than North Spore. Fungi Ally also seems to be a reputable grower (here’s the Fungi Ally website).
How to Choose Which Mushrooms to Grow
With all the interest in mushroom farming and all the folks working in labs to create particular mycelium strains, the options can seem a bit intimidating. Not only are there different strains and variations of mushroom types, but there are also strains meant for cold weather fruiting or warm weather fruiting.
For beginners, oyster mushrooms are the best choice, hands down. They colonize and fruit quickly (compared to, say, shiitake), and are very productive (and therefore satisfying).