7 Tips for Beginner Mushroom Growers
New to growing mushrooms?
If so, you may just be a little mystified – which is totally understandable. There is a ton of information to try and digest and make sense of. Terms like inoculation, agar transfers, laminar flow- what does all of this mean? And what of all this do I really need to know?
I just want to grow some mushrooms!
Don’t fret- because if you really dive into the hobby of mushroom cultivation, it will all make sense before you know it. In the mean time, check out some of these great tips to you get started.
1. Start With a Mushroom Grow Kit
By far the easiest way to start growing mushrooms is to use a kit. This will introduce you to the process, and let you get a feel for what mushrooms need in order to grow. You will also get familiar with what healthy growth looks like, what mycelium looks like, and give you a reasonably good overview of the mushroom life cycle.
There are a number of kits available online, which are usually oyster mushrooms. I have used this one before with pretty good results! Check out the review of it here. There are also kits available for other species, such as Lions Mane or Reishi, but an Oyster mushroom kit is probably your best bet when starting out.
2. Get a Good Book on Cultivation
Maybe this is a little old school, but it’s still hard to beat the value of a well written and comprehensive book. Learn from the trials and tribulations of the cultivation experts, and save yourself from pursuing growing methods and experiments that just won’t work.
Paul Stamets “Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms” is still the most comprehensive guide to growing mushrooms, with a focus on larger scale commercial cultivation. That being said, the knowledge in this book can easily be transferred to techniques for growing at home. Learn more about the book here.
If you are looking for something a little more approachable and easier to digest, I would suggest checking out “The Essential Guide to Cultivating Mushrooms” by Stephen Russel. This book is well suited to new growers looking to pick up some skills for home cultivation. It has many step-by-step guides and is loaded with helpful pictures.
Check out an overview of some of the best books here.
3. Join a Mushroom Growing Community
You are not alone! There are thousands of people learning to grow mushrooms at home- so why not try and connect with them? Check out some of the online groups, such as the Mushrooms Growers sub over at Reddit.
There are tons of helpful folks over there- from novice growers to experts- who are all willing to share. Post pictures of your grows, ask questions, and share your experiences. I guarantee it, connecting with others with really accelerate your learning.
Another option is to look up your local mycological society. There are thousands of these groups all around the world, and very likely one in your area. Connecting with real people in your community can be a great way to really get into the hobby!
You should also consider joining hundreds of other growers and signing up for the FreshCap mailing list. We don’t bug you too much- but will send out an email when we have new articles, exciting news, or anything else that we feel the community might be interested in. We also do giveaways from time to time, so don’t miss out.
4. Get the Right Equipment
Having the right tool for the job can make a huge difference. Growing mushrooms requires some very specific techniques and tools which often just can’t be replaced with makeshift alternatives.
Once you learn to grow and get to know what works, you can start to explore and find your own way of doing things. When you are just starting out though- you are best to go with what is known to work.
I tried it all when I first started growing. Maybe I don’t really need a pressure cooker, and can just sterilize in a regular stockpot? (didn’t work) Maybe I can make my own agar dishes with aluminum tart shells and pectin? (also didn’t work) The list goes on.
Getting the right equipment (and using a known technique) will save you time, money, and a lot of frustration.
5. Start with a Goal in Mind
What do you want to grow? There are a lot of different roads you can take to becoming a mushroom grower. You can learn to grow outside so that you have fresh mushrooms a few times a year, or you can go full out and have a working lab and large grow room for more fresh mushrooms than you know what to do with.
Do you want to just grow for fun, or is it something you want to do for a business?
Having a goal in mind sets you up for success. It helps you decide what techniques you should learn and where you should spend your time and money.
If you have no idea, then I would suggest learning a complete technique with one species of mushroom.
For example, learning to grow oyster mushrooms on straw starting from grain spawn will teach you a number of skills that you can translate into other growing methods. Learning to grow shiitake on sawdust is a little more difficult, but you will pick up a few more skills in the process.
Start with a goal in mind and get at it!
6. Get Outside!
Observing the way mushrooms grow in the wild can be hugely helpful for both novice growers and experts alike!
Most of the vetted cultivation techniques have come from mimicking the natural mushroom life cycle, and attempting to optimize for certain conditions.
Mycology is a fascinating subject- and the forest is the best way to see it first hand. So get outside and take a look at what is going on around you. Once you really start to pay attention, you will be amazed at just how prominent mushrooms are in the forest!
7. Just Start!
I guess the most important tip for beginners is to just start.
Get a kit, or jump in wherever you feel it is appropriate for your level of growing expertise. Feel free to head over to our page “start here”, where we have tried to organize the blog content so that it is a little easier to digest for new growers. Pick a technique and start growing mushrooms today!
The best part about learning to grow mushrooms is the journey. I still learn more and more every day, and don’t think that is ever going to change!