There are several ways to cultivate your own mushrooms, which at present, is unfortunately a desperately tricky business and one that requires determination and a certain element of luck and good fortune.
One of the simplest methods to grow good quality button or whitecap mushrooms is to purchase a self-growing kit from your local garden centre or plant stockist. This will often be a self contained kit, complete with compost, spores and a growing container. You will need to follow the instructions, spreading the spores throughout the compost, keep the material damp and in a darkened and shaded but warm spot (we are attempting to replicate the woods here!) and then allow the spores to develop into the desired fungi.
Aside from this, if you are planning growing direct into an area of your garden - or without purchasing the kits, your main problem in the UK will be maintaining a suitable temperature and climate for the developing mushrooms. There has been extensive success from growing spores in electric propagators either inside the house or in greenhouses. The primary concern to the gardener or amateur grower is to maintain a steady temperature, with very little fluctuation. It will need no light source or wind flow, however, will benefit extensively from receiving limited negligible temperature changes. In the summer it must be kept cool and in the winter, kept warm. A garden shed, closed and covered cold frame or even a garage will be suitable to cultivate the spores and develop a good crop. Completely darkened areas are ideal, as they will produce the whitest mushrooms.
You may choose either to grow mushrooms on the surface of the compost, simulating the forest floor and thus producing a mini-field of the fungi, or if you have them available, you may use old logs, recently felled trees or tree stumps to cultivate log growing mushrooms instead – inserting the spores into pre-drilled holes in the material in order to grow them in/on the log itself.
One of the primary causes of failure in gardeners struggling with their bed-raised crops is due to the incorrect incorporation of horse manure, which may not be properly rotted. In the process of rotting, heat is generated, and, as such, this can cause a bed that inadvertently warms itself above the desired temperature needed for mushroom development. A bed approximately 10 inches deep of manure, compacted down, should be sufficient. Use a thermometer to check the temperature of the ground. It should rise to approximately 100degrees, before beginning to decline. It is during this decline, that the spores must be added, 3 inches deep and covered with the same material as the bed. Leave for approximately 9 days.
After this time, cover the bed with 2 inches of fresh loam, to provide a suitable base for the mushrooms to grow on. This should also be gently compacted. Watering will generally be unnecessary; as the bed should already be being kept darkened and only gently heated. If needed water sparingly at a temperature of approximately 80 degrees after the first crop has been harvested.
Article by Kevin T Thorns
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