Kevin Hoover wrote:
This is a synopsis of my mushroom growing experience. I’m hoping others can benefit from both what I’ve learned and from my mistakes.
My first experiment with mushroom growing was oyster mushrooms in quart canning jars filled with birdseed, followed by wheat, and a couple with coffee grounds. I also experimented with several strains of oyster mushrooms.
Coffee grounds were a complete failure with me. I suspect they needed drained more, and I simply had them too wet. Coffee grounds are extremely rich in nutrients and prone to infection.
The grain, both birdseed and wheat, were soaked overnight, changing the water several times after stirring, so that you get rid of the things that float to the top. The grain and water mix was brought to a boil for several minutes to increase the water content of the grain. Then the grain was drained and spread out to allow the extra water to evaporate. I put beach towels down on the kitchen table then landscaping fabric over it to do this.
The canning jars were then filled with grain, and sealed with a modified lid and ring. The modified lid had a hole drilled in it and synthetic pillow stuffing pulled partway through. I then placed foil over each jar and rubber bands around it to hold the foil in place.
I cooked the jars to sterilize the substrate for 45 minutes in the pressure cooker at 15 pounds PSI. After the jars had cooled completely, I removed the foil. I only had plug spawn on hand, so one at a time I opened each jar, dropped in five plugs and closed the lid back up. I then shook the jars to distribute the plugs.
I realize I breached the sterilized environment this way. I properly should have used sterilized needles to inject a liquid spore solution, or added the plugs under a laminar flow hood. And used either sawdust spawn or grain spawn.
But oysters are aggressive and I had infection in about one in ten jars. Infection rate seemed higher on wheat, which makes sense as it is a richer in nutrients.
I feel that from a substrate to yield ratio that jars are one of the most efficient ways to grow mushrooms.
I was very happy with the yields I got, although some varieties performed better then others. Although they are beautiful, I will not grow golden oysters again for two reasons. The caps were very thin resulting in a reduced yield over all the other varieties. And they are escaping into the wild and becoming an invasive fungus, as they are not native. I’ve since settled on the blue oyster variety for all my oyster growing. It’s a good all weather strain, yields well and tastes great.
I had several problems develop. I grew these in the basement in winter to start, as it warmed up, I moved them outside, then to the garage. In the basement, I started having a problem with fungal gnats. The didn’t impact production but were a bother. Once I moved them outside, the red squirrels discovered that the jars contained grain, and started digging it out of the jars to eat. So I moved them into the garage. The problem continued until I observed how the red squirrels were entering and exiting the garage and plugged those holes.
Then I tried using oat straw in buckets. Take a five gallon bucket, drill several drain holes in the bottom. Using a quarter inch bit, drill holes all over the bucket, keeping them about 4 inches apart. Don’t drill in the top and bottom 2 inches.
I soaked straw overnight, then spread it out on a tarp to let excess water drain. I then put about two inches of straw in the bucket and compressed it. I sprinkled a handful of spawn on it, then repeated the layers of straw and spawn, ending with a layer of straw at the top. Then I put the lid on the buckets and stacked them three high. A half bale of straw and a bag of spawn fills from 6 to 8 buckets.
Once the oysters started to pin, I sprayed them directly at least twice a day with tap water(I think spraying them more often promotes quicker growth). Results were amazing, with a heavy first flush, often within six weeks. A slightly weaker second flush followed, and some provided a weak third flush.
Note that I didn’t sterilize the straw at all, nor did I chop it up. If I was using wheat straw, it would have to be chopped into smaller pieces. The oat straw is shorter.
The bucket method has become my favorite method for growing oyster mushrooms. It is easy and quick to do, provides high yields and does it in a much shorter time than any of the other methods I’ve use to grow oysters. I can grow more oysters in a much shorter time than other methods. For instance, I did eight buckets the day after Thanksgiving. So far I’ve harvested 8.8 pounds of oyster mushrooms and the buckets are still producing.
I have since tried growing oysters in straw bales and straw beds, as I’ve seen videos of. I had absolutely no luck with the three beds or six bales I tried. On the straw bales, Monotropa uniflora, (the ghost plant, ghost pipe, Indian pipe) fed upon any mycelium that grew and animals devoured most of the grain spawn (I should have used sawdust spawn). The straw beds just set there, doing nothing, despite regular watering.
My most recent attempt at growing mushrooms was using grow bags and masters mix (50 percent hardwood sawdust and 50 percent ground soy hulls, hydrated to approximately 60 percent). That works out to one pound each hardwood sawdust and soy hulls, and three pounds of water in each bag.
The bags were then folded closed, rubber banded so they would stay that way. I was then able to put two at a time in a pressure cooker, where I cooked them for 2 hours at 15 psi. After they cooled, I inoculated them with spawn, and sealed them. Again, this would be better to do in a laminar flow hood.
So far, I have tried this method with oyster, lions mane, chestnut and hen of the woods. The hen of the woods colonized the bags well, but I could never get it to fruit. The oysters did well, but took several months to produce. Both the chestnut and lions mane did great.
But while the chestnuts could be sprayed directly, like the oysters, the lions mane discolors off sprayed directly. So it needed a shotgun fruiting chamber. Take a large clear plastic tote. Drill small holes all over it and a couple drain holes in the bottom. Pour two inches of perlite in the bottom. Now spray the sides and the perlite, put in the grow bags, and spray the sides several times a day. Remove the lid and wave it over the tote, to give the mushrooms fresh air. But the totes only hold 3 or 4 grow bags. And I start 8 at a time normally.
Note that lions mane gets deformed if it doesn’t get enough fresh air. Instead of the teeth growing straight and downward, it grows upwards and branches. It still tastes the same.
This year I have an automated system that controls humidity and fresh air. And it holds 12 bags at a time. It worked well on chestnut mushrooms and I recently started lions mane bags, which should do well also.
I tried wine caps on a bed of straw and got nothing. Then I dumped several buckets of sawdust and another layer of straw and inoculated it again. Now I definitely have wine caps established there, and have harvested one nice flush.
I have started both oyster and shiitake logs. The shiitakes fruited nicely last fall, but the oysters have not fruited yet.