This article is designed to get you familiar with the basic concepts and steps in the mushroom cultivation process. When you start out with your first batch of mushrooms from home you likely will skip some of these steps or start somewhere in the middle. With that being said, these are the steps that a professional cultivation setup would follow.
Step 1. Culture the Mushroom Spores
Mushrooms, like all fungi, start as spores. These spore come in both male and female varieties and start growing before they merge into the structure we would identify as a fungus. Initial spore growth may happen on Agar plates, in nutrient broth, or other growth medium before moving on to future steps.
Step 2. Inoculate Clean Grain
In this step we take the cultured growth which has now developed from spores into mycelium and transfer it to a sterile grain to continue growing. After successfully inoculating the grain we end up with what is known as grain spawn, and is the most typical starting point for people growing mushrooms without a lab setup.
Step 3. Propagation
In this step grain spawn is multiplied by moving it to multiple sets of fresh grain as it grows. There is virtually no limit to how much grain spawn you can make so long as you keep the spawn clean from contaminants.
Step 4. Move Grain Spawn to Fruiting Growth Medium
Once the grain spawn is ready to develop further, you move it into it’s desired growth medium. The substrate of the growth medium can vary dramatically between types of mushrooms as well as preferred growing methods. At this point you would also move the inoculated fruiting growth medium into a fruiting chamber or suitable environment for mushroom development.
Step 5. Development
During development the mycelium is spreading into the growth medium. Mushrooms will not form during this time as you are waiting for the mycelium network to strengthen and absorb nutrients. The time this takes varies based on the variety of mushroom being grown.
Step 6. Induce Pinning and Mushroom Growth
By altering the temperature and humidity you can induce pinning, typically this is a drop in temperature and increase in humidity, but every species of mushroom has it’s own optimal fruiting conditions. Once this happens mushrooms will begin to grow from the planned openings in your growth chamber, typically small holes that allow mushrooms to poke through. These holes can be very small for most mushrooms and still produce large masses of growth.
Step 7. Harvest
Gathering your mushrooms is always the most rewarding step, but if done correctly you can get multiple harvests, or ‘flushes’ of mushrooms. A small closed container may get 2-3 flushes, but some mushrooms can produce continually over many months. So long as you take care to harvest your mushrooms properly you can get a lot out of a single setup.
Repeat the Cycle
If you’re setup to do every step here, you can repeat the cycle easily. Spores from your fresh mushrooms can be saved as a spore print and grown again and again through this process.
This is by no means a complete guide, but instead a quick overview of the whole process. This is designed to help give you the basic understanding you need to be able to fully grasp the concepts we’ll later talk about in our blog. If you’re ready for more why not head their now or signup for our mailing list!