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How can I grow mushrooms?

While there is an endless array of specific cultivation techniques for magic mushrooms, they basically all boil down to one simple process: expanding mycelium on various mediums until it eventually produces a fruiting body or what we know as a mushroom. Basically any cultivation technique follows the method outlined in this article to some extent. 

How do I start to cultivate mushrooms?

Step one is growing mushroom culture out on a petri dish. The word “culture” specifically refers to the mycelium of a species of mushroom that has been chosen for its advantageous genetics. There are some commercially available strains that have certain characteristics like producing a bigger fruiting body (mushroom) or maybe they just grow abundantly (lots of mushrooms) or maybe they’re selected for colour or size. When you buy a mushroom strain online, you’re typically buying a proven commercial strain or a culture. 

Of course, there are a lot of different ways that mushroom mycelium or culture can end up on a petri dish. One way is just you take a clone, which means you take a fruiting body of mushroom and then cut out a little piece of tissue and in a sterile manner, put it on top of agar in a petri dish and it will start to grow out and form a mycelial culture. Another way is to use a spore swab. It is possible to swab some spores on a petri dish and then eventually they will sporulate or mycelium and you will have a bunch of different strains on agar. 

What should I keep in mind when starting to grow mushrooms?

Keep in mind if you start with a commercial strain, you’re starting with proven genetics with a proven culture so it’s more likely that the results are going to be awesome. If you’re starting from spores, like a spore swab, you might get a bunch of different genetics. It might be awesome, or it might not be so great. 

When you’re working with agar and growing mushroom cultures you need to be really sterile and that’s why this stuff is usually done in a laboratory where you can have super clean conditions. Otherwise any other kind of moulds or fungi or anything else that might land on your petri dish is very likely going to out-compete your mushrooms. 

What should I do after cultivating a mushroom culture?

The second step in the mushroom growing process is taking a little bit of the cultivated mycelium and transferring it to sterilized grain. This is known as making grain spawn. Again, the grain needs to be sterile before you add your mushroom culture otherwise whatever happens to grow in the grain will definitely out-compete your mushrooms. Once the Mycelium is on the grain it will start to grow throughout the grain and eventually you will end up with fully colonized grain spawn. 

What’s the point of making grain spawn? 

First of all, mushroom mycelium just absolutely loves grain. In grains there are little pockets of super nutritious medium that mushroom mycelium can easily get nutrients from so it can grow. The grain is just kind of naturally isolated into little units. Eventually when you transfer the screen to a bulk substrate you will have a number of inoculation points so it’s easy to spread out that mycelium and that nutrition throughout another substrate. Grain spawn basically makes it a lot easier for the mushrooms to colonize a bulk substrate which is eventually the goal when you’re trying to grow mushrooms. 

How do I use grain spawn to grow mushrooms?

The next step is to exponentially expand the grain to make more and more grain spawn. Typically, this isn’t done by just using a bunch of jars. What growers will often do is start with a little piece of mushroom mycelium in one grain jar, and then use one grain jar to make a bunch of grain spawn bags. That’s only two transfers and then the grain spawn bags will be what is used to transfer the culture to a bulk substrate and eventually grow mushrooms.

Grain spawn can be added to sawdust as well to make what is known as sawdust spawn. This might be useful if you’re trying to continue to grow the same type of mushrooms in a new batch, because you don’t need to use grain spawn in the further generations and sawdust spawn can be something that is really useful for spawning outdoor garden beds for example. 

What should I do after I make a grain spawn?

The fourth step is spawning the grain to a bulk substrate. Once you have a satisfactory amount of spawn, you can break it up and inoculate a bulk substrate where eventually your mushrooms will grow. Typical substrates will depend on this species of mushrooms but can vary from straw to hardwood sawdust to logs to compost. The substrate will need to be either pasteurized or sterilized depending on the amount of nutrition that’s in the substrate.

When you’re adding your spawn to your bulk substrate, you also need to decide what type of fruiting container or cropping container you’re going to use. The container you use can also vary wildly depending on what species of mushrooms you’re growing and the kind of technique that you want to use. You can grow mushrooms on fruiting blocks, in five gallon buckets, in garden beds, and many other places. Different containers are better for different types of mushrooms so make sure you do your research!

How do I colonize mushrooms?

The next step is colonization. Once a spawn has been added to the bulk substrate, the mycelium will hit another stage of growth where it voraciously grows through substrate, absorbing nutrients and trying to get as much as it can from whatever substrate you happen to put it in. The mycelium will just continue to grow and grow and grow until it hits the edge of the usable substrate. It will just continue to grow until it’s fully colonized or fully consolidated. In this stage the mycelium is powering up and absorbing all the nutrients from the substrates and getting ready to grow mushrooms and this is the process of colonization. 

If you take a substrate after it’s been fully colonized, and you break it up and add it into more substrate, it will just continue to use the nutrients of whatever substrate you put it in. It doesn’t fruit until either the environmental conditions change. 

How can I induce pinning when growing shrooms?

Once the substrate is fully colonized and the mycelium has forced its way into every area that it can, it’s time to induce pinning, which is the sixth step. Pinning can happen naturally or it can be kind of forced to happen by changing the environmental conditions. Usually when mushrooms are grown outside with the seasons, temperatures cool down or maybe you get a rainy season and the mushrooms will naturally feel that it’s time to fruit. When mushrooms are grown indoors this process is done artificially by putting the mushrooms in a fruiting chamber or by putting the mushrooms in the grow room which are typically cooler and super high humidity which is going to force those mushrooms to want to produce fruits. Now pinning is not a technical word but it means that the mycelium will start to form tiny knots which will eventually form a fruiting body and finally you will have mushrooms!

The last step is allowing the mushrooms to grow and harvesting the fruits of your labour. Once the mushrooms are growing, the environmental conditions are still important but they’re not as important as they were when trying to induce pinning. Mushrooms in general still like to have high humidity and generally cooler temperatures. Most species also want a reasonable amount of light and a fair amount of fresh air. 

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