Cultivating wild mushrooms is not an easy task. It is actually a very complex process and requires specific types of compost, transfer of spawn and it is a pretty serious business. But it is also hugely rewarding and people who get into growing mushrooms find it a real thrill to be able to pick their own wild mushrooms, straight from the garden.
There are basically two ways to cultivate your own private mushroom crop, either through growing your own using spawn or by using a mushroom kit. To be honest there is some snobbery attached to mushroom growing, with those who grow their own from scratch feeling slightly more skilled and sophisticated than those who rely on kits.
However, kits are a great way to start out. These allow you to dip your toe in the world of mushroom growing and it is more likely to be successful than if you start off from scratch using spawn. Perhaps the best way to go about it is to start using the kits and then when you become more confident and advanced, then you can progress to doing it all yourself.
Kits come in various formats and guises. You can grow them in a tray or you can get kits where they grow on logs, or even where you dig out abit of lawna nd then grow them on there. Contrary to popular belief the kits do not offer year round mushrooms, but they will crop for about 12 weeks or so.
One of the most popular ways of having mushrooms in a kit, is the ‘mushroom log’ which looks very good and can take up very little space. Shiitake mushrooms grow very well like this and it is possible to get more than one crop from them. You can also move round the log, in case cats are using it as a scratching post etc.
Basically, most kits will come with mushroom spawn, a compost, a growing container, often just a shallow tray and a bag of what is commonly referred to as casing. The casing will either be a mixture of peat and lime and peat and chalk. You simply mix the spawn and compost together, then add the casing, usually two weeks later. After a few weeks you should then regularly water the mixture, to emulate the rain required in the wild. About 9-12 weeks after you first mixed the spawn and the compost together you should have the first crop.
The success of the kit depends on the quality of the spawn and how it has been handled, the temperature in which you tried to grow the mushrooms, as well as the amount of water the kit gets etc. Some people find this method very easy to use and they enjoy the feeling of just being able to pop into the garden and pick mushrooms for use in meals the same day. Anyone who regularly uses expensive mushrooms such as porcini or shiitake, will also recognise the fact that there is a sound economic argument for growing your own mushrooms, since the bought ones are costly and the taste is simply not as good as if you have grown them yourself. Perhaps more importantly you also know the exact conditions they were grown in and what went into the compost, what treatment if any they received etc.
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