6 Things to Look at When You Grow Mushrooms at Home

When I first started growing mushrooms, it wasn’t with aspirations of starting a business but just out of curiosity and fun. This is the best way to start out as it puts less pressure on your self as well as your wallet.

Mushrooms can be grown at home provided the you pay close attention to hygiene, temperature and humidity. Gone are the days when Mushrooms were considered a rare exotic delicacy only found in the wilds. Cultivation, which was once very difficult, required specialized equipment and detailed care, is now so simple that anyone no matter their background can do as long as they have basic knowledge.

It is possible to grow almost all types of commercially cultivated mushrooms at home. To start off, you can use cheap and simple materials found around the house or at the local hardware store can be used. For example, coffee grounds, cardboard, waste paper, straw and sugarcane bagasse, are all great substrate (food) for mushroom cultivation.

Here are 5 basic steps which you can follow to grow your mushrooms at home

  • Choosing the variety:
    • There are many varieties of edible mushrooms which are each suited for different climatic conditions. It is important to choose the mushroom species most suited to the local climate and the time of year where you live. To grow mushrooms that require a climatic condition that is different from what is available would require the additional expense of humidity and temperature control systems. As a hobby or experiment, spending the money to set there systems up would be highly inadvisable even if you plan to go start a full time mushroom business in the future. There are several mushrooms that like either the heat or the cold which should grow with whatever room temperature you have. When starting out, it is best to stick with what requires the least financial investment.
  • Protected space:
    • Mushrooms attract insects, rodents and diseases. Because of this, you need to protect the space you intend to grow your mushrooms in from the exposed environment where contaminants and pests might enter. It is best to insulate the mushrooms from the rest of the house with a small make shift tent. Keep all ventilation points covered with nets and maintain the highest standard of hygiene. The additional areas for storing the colonizing substrate and fruiting the mushrooms need to be prepared and protected similarly. It best to not keep these areas in too close proximity of each other it might lead to spread of contamination from one area to the other.
  • Sterilization/ Pasteurization:
    • It is necessary to sterilize or pasteurize the substrate¬† before adding the spawn (Mushroom Seeds) and you can do this using a pressure cooker or a hot water bath, which ever is most convenient. While both have its advantages and disadvantages, pasteurization usually has less occurrence of contamination as it only inactivates any germs that might be in the the substrate. Sterilization kills all contaminants but makes it easier for new contaminants to infect the substrate later on. This is one of the important stages which can make or break your mushroom cultivation experiment. Great care must be taken to prevent any mistakes that can lead to contamination.
  • Cultivation:
    • Mushroom Spawn can be obtained from either specialized institutions or from commercial spawn producers. Another possibility is the use of ready to grow mushroom kits that might be available online. As far as containers for the seeded substrate (substrate mixed with spawn) is concerned you can use everything from plastic bags to buckets or baskets. You should take great pains to maintain hygiene at this step as it is the most common point where contamination with other bacteria and fungi might occur. Try wearing gloves, disinfect the area before and after use and wash all materials well, these measures can protect both current and future crops.
  • Humidity:
    • Mushrooms have high water content and Humidity plays a crucial role for efficient mushroom growth. In a small growing room like one you might make in your house, it is possible to control this manually by sprinkling water at regular intervals.
  • Harvesting:
    • When harvesting the mushrooms, leave pieces of the mushroom in the substrate. If present, they can attract insects or begin to rot and lead to contamination. It is best that you harvest with your own hands, twisting the mushroom at the base. If you plan to store or sell the mushrooms, remove and any substrate or debris from the mushrooms with a brush.¬† Do not under any circumstances was with water as they tend to absorb it which reduces their shelf life.

Keep these steps in mind and look forward to a bountiful yield of mushrooms. Have any additional points you think ought to be included. Let me know in the comments below.

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