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  1. Paste for those of you who want to get started from scratch. None, or little prior bio or mycology education.
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  3. Terminology:
  4. Fungus – A eukaryotic higher organism that sustains itself off of other organisms carbon, most of which are masses of threadlike cells, producing spores either through mushrooms or conidia (bread molds and junk).
  5. Agar – A nutrient-rich medium used to isolate and closely control a particular fungus (the platform for most of mushroom science)
  6. Mycelium – The stomach, body, and brain of the fungus. For those of you who need a massive oversimplification; similar to the roots of a plant (except with fungi the roots come before anything pokes aboveground). A mass of threadlike cells called hyphae. It is the visible portion of a fungus as it grows through something. When you think of a mushroom, your mind immediately goes to the colorful object poking out of the forest floor, or rotting log. Well, in actuality, that is a tiny portion of a much larger organism. Mycelium manifests in nature most often as white threads or sheets penetrating soil, wood, or whichever thing it happens to be consuming. Lifting up logs in the woods will often reveal beautiful patterns of mycelium.
  7. Hyphae – The threadlike cells that as a whole create mycelium. They possess great penetrative power, and function to digest substrates and absorb released nutrients. When the time comes, hyphae change form and band together to create the mushroom that we consume. The single basic component of most fungi. (excluding yeast-morphs, and a few other weirdos)
  8. Substrate – Anything mushroom mycelium is consuming
  9. Contamination/Competition – The natural microbial fauna of wild fungi and bacteria that will actively antagonize your desired fungus. The bane of growers, contamination pretty much sets the bar for why growing mushrooms can be difficult. Sterile technique to reduce contamination of spores/bacteria is absolutely key to success.
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  11. Inoculant – Something colonized by mycelium, used to effectively spread the fungus. Anything used as a vector to introduce a fungus is referred to as inoculant. This might be spores spread outside on woodchips, or grain spawn used to inoculate bags of substrate indoors.
  12. -A common proportion of inoculant/substrate is 15% by volume. 1 gallon of grain spawn will inoculate around 6 gallons of substrate.
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  18. So you want to get started growing mushrooms. There are a lot of different strategies and starting points, each of them with pros and cons. To put many of you at ease, yes you can do it for very cheap, and no, you don’t need much space for it. A cupboard, table, water access, and stovetop access (or burner) can be used as a functional facility. There isn’t really a limit to how low-tech you can perform at.
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  24. Some easy, cheap strategies with high success rates.
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  26. Start by choosing one
  27. (Oyster Mushrooms) Pleurotus sp. – The easiest. They have an enormous capacity to consume different substrates, including but not limited to: Old cotton clothing, paper products, fibrous plant matter (grasses and plants like hemp), petroleum products, wood products, and essentially everything that contains cellulose. In the wild, they even poison and consume nematodes and bacteria for nitrogen, making them a predatory fungus.
  28. Great options include both rapid bulk substrate grows in containers, and outdoor grows on logs.
  29. (Garden Giants, SRA) Stropharia rugoso-annulata – I highly recommend this species. It is best suited to outdoor techniques. Yielding flavorful, gigantic mushrooms that can easily exceed 3 pounds per specimen. Very little labor or investment is required for huge yields.
  30. Wood chips, compost, manure, and hay are all great substrate choices that are easily and cheaply obtained.
  31. These two are so easy that I would recommend them as a beginner species. SRA is powerful enough so as to guarantee success for a beginner, and the giant purple mushrooms you create are a wonderful introduction to the world of mushroom growing. Oyster mushrooms are the best intro species for indoor growing, due to adaptability and vigor on a wide variety of substrates. There are many varieties in all different colors too, making them extremely marketable.
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  33. Or, buy a kit. It is an already colonized block of substrate ready to enter the fruiting stage. This is most recommended as a first step, because it lets you figure out your fruiting conditions, and also gives you a bit of an example of the amazing world you are about to dip into.
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  35. Growing SRA
  36. This species differs from Oysters in that it loves a rich bacterial community, and thrives in exposure to competition. For this reason, it tends not to do well on the sterile methods used for indoor growing.
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  38. As a location, find a shady spot in your yard, at minimum about 2x5’.
  39. As a substrate, woodchips, mixtures of compost and straw, manure and straw, leaf matter and chips, leaf matter and hay, will all be suitable. You mainly want both a source of nitrogen (manure, leaf compost, rich soil), and a source of carbon (woodchips, straw, leaves). Having just one or the other will leave you open to contamination by wild fungi.
  40. The texture of the substrate is important as well. It should drain when moistened, and should not form into tight clumps (as pure manure or clay soil would do). Adjust the ratio of carbon/nitrogen to amend the texture.
  41. In my town, there are city crews that go around and remove branches from near powerlines. They are then processed into a mix of leaves and chips. Hardwood chips are best, but as long as it isn’t mostly pine or pitchy conifer it should work. I pile up the chips and let them hot-compost until the leaves are blackened and the pile is noticeably warm. This requires a pretty well sized pile.
  42. As an inoculant, you can order SRA grain spawn from a number of online sources. Due to competition from mice and birds, it is not recommended to apply grain directly to your new patch.
  43. My method has been to combine a few gallons worth of my substrate with the spawn indoors, and once it has colonized, to use this as an inoculant. It also helps expand out your spawn for inoculating large beds. (mix grain spawn with woodchips/straw mixture in a large tub, and cover. Incubate for around a month).
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  45. Creating your patch
  46. Best times to inoculate are spring and late summer (when the rain starts)
  47. Clear the area of all plants and roots. If you have packed soil, then tilling into it a couple of inches is recommended. Wet the soil if it is dry.
  48. Lay down about 4” of your prepared substrate.
  49. Spread inoculant over the surface evenly.
  50. Lay down four more inches of substrate, covering the inoculant. If you exceed 1’ deep, you can risk anaerobic conditions, and composting will resume. Woodchips are better suited to be deeper than something dense like a hay/compost mixture.
  51. Lightly water the patch, assuming that your substrate is already somewhat damp. You do not want water pooling on your patch, or anything to waterlog. Just moisten it.
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  53. Cover the patch with cardboard for the next couple of weeks.
  54. Done! Now wait. If you inoculate in spring, you can expect fruitings either early fall, or next spring. If you inoculated in late summer, then you can expect fruitings in the next spring and summer. One consequence of outdoor growing is that you are at the beck and call of the seasons, and it takes a lot of time.
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  57. Growing Oysters
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  59. These species function well with semi-sterile technique, indoors, on straw or sawdust.
  60. Applying grain spawn directly to bags of pasteurized substrate is the common method.
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  62. The easiest way to get started with Oysters is to buy grain spawn for inoculant. Pleurotus ostreatus, P. djamor, P. pulmonarius (also sold as P. sajor-caju), and P. cornucopiae are all great choices. P. ostreatus and P. pulmonarius are the two best species for almost guaranteed success.
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  64. Fungi.com is a site with these available, but I would recommend buying directly from another hobbyist or local company. Joining the group “Mushroom Growing” on Facebook is recommended, as it connects you to the local community, allowing for majorly discounted spawn with lower shipping costs.
  65. After you have your grain spawn, you will want to buy some gallon-sized Ziploc bags.
  66. This next step is where you can make decisions based on what is available to you. Choosing your substrate and pasteurization methods are what comes next.
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  68. If you have a large (at least 5 gallon) boil pot, I recommend heat pasteurizing straw.
  69. If you don’t have this, then I would recommend buying 5 gallon buckets, and agricultural powdered lime (sold in feed and farm stores, it must be calcium carbonate, and it must have a magnesium content below 15%).
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  71. BOIL-PASTEURIZATION
  72. The easiest option.
  73. Buy straw in a bale (not hay) and chop your desired volume (if you have 1 gallon of grain spawn, you are going to need around 6 gallons of chopped straw) into smallish pieces around 4 inches long. This is so you can more effectively stuff it into bags. This step is a giant hassle, and can be massively accelerated if you use a lawnmower, or a weedwhacker. Otherwise, make sure to stretch your scissors-dominant hand.
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  75. Load the straw into your boil pot, and submerge in water. Boil for 10 minutes,  then remove from heat and close the lid, letting it sit for 50 minutes while it cools down. This prolonged period of cooling lets it sit at 160f for an hour, pasteurizing the straw while preserving beneficial thermophilic species.
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  77. Strain the straw and let it drip dry for another hour. A pillowcase works well for this step.
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  79. Fill the Ziploc bags halfway with straw, using clean hands (wash them, clean the fingernails, and either rinse with alcohol, or wear gloves).
  80. Break up the grain spawn by smacking the bag or jar, whatever your supplier provided. Sanitize a volumetric scoop so you can divide up the spawn evenly (metal measuring cups work best, but a glass jar works too. Use bleach and do a soak and wash of anything you plan on using) and add it to the ziplocs.
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  82. Shake the bag to mix the straw and grain up. Afterwards, fill the bag completely with straw, filling it up as much as possible. Seal the bag and squeeze out all the air (kneel on it with the zip cracked).
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  84. Take a sterile needle (flame sterilize) and perforate the sides of the bags. You want needle-holes spaced about an inch apart, covering the whole bag.
  85. Write the date on the side, and place inside a clean cupboard or other dark place.
  86. Done!
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  88. In around a month, the bag should be fully colonized by mycelium, the cells will be so dense that the whole bag will have turned white with them. If your bag is not white by a month, or shows no whiteness at all, you have fucked something up. Go ahead and post the situation in the /fungi/ general for diagnostics. Too little holes, improper moisture content, or contamination are the most common causes for failure when growing on straw.
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  90. LIME PASTEURIZATION
  91. Chop straw
  92. Load straw into alkali-safe buckets (most foodsafe plastic buckets) and immerse in 5 gallons of water. Add roughly 1/3 cup lime and dissolve.  Let the straw sit for 6 hours.
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  94. Drain, load into ziplocs and inoculate with grain spawn as described above. It is essential to inoculate immediately after draining.
  95. Perforate bags and wait a month.
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  98. FRUITING
  99. You bag should be white, and it will now be a solid, dense, mass. The mycelium glues the straw together and makes it inseparable. If there are large portions of uncolonized straw, you may have jumped the gun, or it may be contaminated. Post photos in the thread for diagnostics.
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  101. The fruiting period is definitely a make-or-break it trial. It is also the most amazing period, where you get to watch mushrooms appear out of nothing and grow to full size in just 48 hours.
  102. The most important factors are light, humidity, and oxygenation. Oysters are very forgiving about temperature fluctuations, with P. ostreatus enjoying the lower range, and P. pulmonarius liking the higher end.
  103. Without light, primordia (baby mushrooms) will fail to appear, and fruiting will never begin. Any dim indoor light will do, sunlight will dry out the block and is not recommended.
  104. Without proper oxygen exposure, the primordia will extend outwards in search of air, and you will get deformed, coral-like tentacles of oyster mushroom that aren’t very attractive, or tasty.
  105. Without humidity, primordia will “abort” and fail to mature into mushrooms, and any mushrooms that do form will be stunted and deformed. Worst case, ultra-low humidity, your block will dry out and die.
  106. With SRA, all these variables are completely taken care of by nature. Oysters are an introduction to indoor growing, which for the most part is getting accustomed to manipulating said variables.
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  108. To supply these optimums, check your preexisting indoor humidity. Is it at least 50%? If so, you should be able to mist it with tap water two to three times daily. If it is lower you may have to invest in a “fruiting chamber” where you can keep a humid environment and maintain oxygenation. Post in the thread for recommendations.
  109. High humidity is not an issue, as long as your block isn’t literally sitting in a pool of stagnant water.
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  111. BEGIN
  112. Open the bag, and cut the Ziploc away to be level with the surface of the block DO NOT REMOVE THE BAG, AND DO NOT REMOVE MORE OF THE BAG THAN NECESSARY it will dry out and die.
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  114. Set the block on a table or countertop near indirect indoor lighting (fluorescent, incandescent, candle-light, doesn’t matter). Ensure that the bag is not near any source of air flow, such as fans, open windows, ceiling fans, constant foot traffic, etc. The ambient air in the room, paired with the bag being sliced open, will provide all the oxygen it needs.
  115. Begin misting the exposed mycelium multiple times daily. If you sit at 80% humidity daily then one or two mistings is enough, but down around 50% three or four times may be necessary.
  116. In the next week, clusters of small dots should appear in lumps on the exposed surface these are primordia. It can happen as quickly as the next day once you open the bag, or it can take a couple weeks. If it has taken more than two weeks, and the bag isn’t looking dry, then it may need a cold shock. The biggest mistake to make at this stage is to let it dry out.
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  118. Once you see the primordia, you have around 48 hours until mushrooms appear. I recommend taking photos so you can truly appreciate the drastic growth rate. Each couple of hours they will already be bigger. Continue misting as they grow into more recognizable mushrooms. Once the edge of each mushroom cap has become level (no longer curled inwards) they are ready to harvest.
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