Wouldn’t be nice if you could grow your own mushroom supply?
I think so. Although I love to forage because it is like a an Easter egg hunt, there are times when I just can’t get out and I would love to go into my garden and pick the mushrooms I need along with my vegetables. Therefor I am thrilled announce, yes! You can grow some varieties of mushrooms in your yard.
Before we go any further we need to discuss a couple things that are quite important.
First you need to know if the species you want to grow is native to your area. This is important because time after time we see what happens when non native species are introduced to an area they don’t belong in because some human thought it would be beneficial to them. Every time this happens be it in plants or animals the non native species has nothing to keep it in check with the rest of the ecological system and because of that the non native species thrives and robs the native species of it’s food and home, thus becoming an invasive species.
Examples of this include the Autumn Olive plant brought over with good intentions to control erosion on our roadsides however this hardy plant now threatens native plants by blocking them out by inhibiting their sunlight and by spreading prolifically. Unfortunately cutting and burning these shrubs causes them to spread more and although they do feed our birds this causes the cycle to continue as the birds spread the seeds. Although humans can help by not planting these shrubs anymore and by picking the berries and processing them into jams for example the Autumn Olive is still a burdening problem that seems impossible to be rid of.
Another plant example is Bamboo. Bamboo is an extremely fast growing plant that has many uses and applications. Bamboo is a sustainable and renewable building product which sounds awesome. However it does not belong in the U.S. and can take over a forest within a couple years. People unknowingly plant Bamboo in their gardens for a privacy screen or for it’s ornamental attributes. However they soon realize they can not keep up with the plant and before they know it the bamboo took over their yard, the neighbors yard, and wherever else it managed to spread it’s roots, suffocating all the native plants along it’s way.
An example of an invasive animal is the European Starling brought over in 1890 to Central Park in New York City. One hundred birds were let free in the park due to a belief that all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare needed to be in the U.S. Well now we have tens of thousands of this species which kill our native species like the Eastern Blue bird and decimate crops not to mention can even take down planes!
SO in our quest to grow mushrooms at home it is important to only grow native species! Do your research first and go with what nature already provides in your area. Which brings us to another important aspect as to why some species of mushrooms can be grown not all.
Remember that mushrooms have specific place in the ecological balance which I spoke about on a different page in this website, I believe the how to forage page. There are three types of relationships mushrooms have with trees; parasitic, mycorrhizal, and saprophytic.
Parasitic meaning just that these mushrooms will kill the host tree. It will rob them of the sugars,
minerals, and other nutrients of the tree until it is dead and then move on to a new host. An example of this is the Armillaria mellea family with one species commonly known as Honey mushrooms. However some parasitic mushrooms can serve as Saprophytic as well.
Mycorrhizal means that the mushroom or rather the mycellium creates a symbiotic relationship with the tree and shrubs. The mycellium breaks down organic matter making it available to the tree and shrubs and the plant produces sugar which it makes available to the mycellium. Examples of this are boletes, truffles, and chanterelles.
Saprophytic mushrooms break down dead plant matter such as downed trees and shrubs. The mycellium breaks these down into organic matter and can be seen as the recyclers of the forest. These mushrooms are easy to cultivate because they feed off of dead matter. Examples of these are Shiitake, Oyster, Champignons or White Button mushrooms (Agaricus spp.), Portobello, Enokitake, Reishi, Maitake, Paddy Straw mushroom, and many others.
So now that you understand the different relationships mycellium has with the plants around them it is easier for you to choose what type of mushroom you would like to cultivate. If you cultivate chanterelles for example and you have the host trees in your yard then there are no worries and if chants start popping up around your yard and trees then you know you are helping your trees. However if you start growing honey mushrooms on an old oak tree per se you are taking a chance that the mycellium will spread and kill all the oak trees in your yard. So before you cultivate any mushroom take note of the relationships it creates and the hosts it will help or kill.
Phew that was alot to go through but now armed with this knowledge we can move forward to where to get the spores.
Spores can be wild or bought. If you collect wild mushrooms you can make a slush per say and inoculate your yard or specific area with this slush and see what happens. This is a technique for morel mushrooms for example.
Or you could purchase a kit with the spores either in dry powder form or in liquid form or in plug form. Each form has it’s own inoculation procedure. Some kits are super easy and all you have to do is open it and water. It is up to you as what is best for your area and how much work you choose to put into it. For example if you want to grow oyster mushrooms it would be best to use the plugs. You would take a log of maple for example and drill holes into it. Each hole drilled then receives a plug which is tapped into the hole and then watered. The mycellium will start to break down the log and grow which in turn will provide a flush of oyster mushrooms when ready.. It’s that easy.
Here are some of my favorite tried and trusted spore dealers you may click the link for my review: