Mushroom Growing Kit: Is it A Good Christmas Gift Idea?
When I started growing my own food, one of the things I was most apprehensive about was growing mushrooms.
How is it done? Where do I start? What growing conditions do they need?
As it turned out, I was fretting for nothing, and it’s all thanks to mushroom growing kits. They are beginner-friendly and don't require special skills or equipment.
I’m happy to report I was able to grow my own mushrooms on the first try with the help of a mushroom growing kit.
If you’re thinking about becoming a mushroom farmer, consider this the push you need. I’ll talk about mushroom growing kits and everything you should know about growing your own mushrooms. You’ll also find my selection of the best available mushroom kits.
What Is A Mushroom Growing Kit?
The fruiting block is usually substrate, such as hardwood sawdust, bran, and other substances mushrooms like. It’s already been colonized with mushroom mycelium. Essentially, all the preparation and the hard work have already been done. All that’s left is to grow the mushrooms.
The box or a log usually comes in a mushroom grow bag, which can sit unused for a long time, especially if kept in a cool place. You can even store it in the fridge until you’re ready to start growing.
You can buy mushroom grow kits for different kinds of mushrooms, such as shiitake, enoki, oyster, lion’s mane, and more.
However, not all mushrooms will grow equally well in a mushroom kit. Oyster mushrooms are most commonly found in the kit. This is because they are able to grow on different substances without it affecting their fruiting. Moreover, they are resilient, so even if the conditions aren’t ideal, this won’t affect their growth.
Another reason oyster mushrooms are a popular mushroom kit choice is because they grow quickly. They don’t need a ton of maintenance, nor any complicated steps.
Compared to mushroom farming on a small farm, using a mushroom growing kit is much easier. You don’t have to prepare the land for growing the mushroom, and there’s no need to think about what’s the right substance for your mushrooms.
All you have to do is open the mushroom growing kit, and put it in the right growing conditions. Make sure there’s enough fresh air, light, or that the air is humid.
Understanding the Mushroom Life Cycle
I’m sorry if you guys nod off now as I’ll turn into a biology teacher now!
This is how a mushroom life cycle works —
You may say that the lifecycle starts with spores. A spore is released from the gills of a mushroom cap. Now, you may imagine the spores as the seeds of mushrooms.
A mature mushroom can produce hundreds and thousands of spores. These spores are microscopic and can travel beyond the reach of the parent mushrooms.
After the spores are spread across a substrate surface, they start grouping together.
Such a group of mushroom spores is called a hypha (plural hyphae)
An interesting thing is that male spores group together to create male hyphae and females group together to form female ones. Male and female spores don’t group together while forming hyphae.
After the formation of hyphae, they start to look for hyphae of the opposite sex. And, male and female hyphae form together to create mycelium.
Mycelium is a web-like formation that binds to the substrate layer (ground).
Think of them as the root of the mushroom. However, in this context, the mushrooms are the “fruit”, not the plant.
The mycelium spreads out and creates a suitable condition for producing the mushroom.
Hyphal Knots Stage
At this stage, the mycelium has gathered up enough nutrition to produce mushrooms. And, pinheads are the first stage of the growth of the actual mushrooms.
The pinheads are visible to the naked eye.
However, the pinheads need nutrition and time to get into the shape of an actual mushroom.
The Fruitbody Stage
As I’ve mentioned, the pinheads or hyphal knots gather nutrition and start growing. After completing the elongation stage, the fruitbody selection matures and becomes an adult.
This final form is called mature fruitbody or mature mushroom.
Then, the spores form within the gills and the cycle continues.
Mushroom Cultivation Stages (WITHOUT A Mushroom Growing Kit)
If you’re cultivating mushrooms without a mushroom grow kit, you’ll follow the life cycle mushrooms go through when growing in the wild. However, there are a few key differences you want to make for optimal harvest.
Step 1: Start with the Spores
If you’ve decided to cultivate mushrooms without a growing kit, you should start by setting up the substrate. This is the growing medium for your mushrooms.
You can use a tray with dimensions approximately 14 by 16 inches and 6 inches deep. It can be made of any material — wood, metal, plastic.
Make a mix of compost and manure, and fill up the tray, but make sure to leave about an inch of space at the top. Once you’ve filled the tray, spread the spores on top.
You should do this in sterile conditions to avoid mold and fungi growth, as they will compete with the mushroom for growth. Remember to wash your hands before working with substrate and sterilize all the equipment you’ll use.
Step 2: Keep the Soil Moist
Mushrooms grow best in humid conditions, so you should keep the soil moist throughout the growing process.
You can use a spray and spray or mist the soil about twice a day. Alternatively, you can cover the soil with damp towels.
Step 3: Incubation Time
You should keep the soil temperature around 70 degrees for about three weeks. You can use a soil thermometer to check the temperature.
A good way to keep the soil at an ideal temperature is to keep the tray in a warmer part of your home. Or, you can buy a seedling heat mat. If you opt to buy a heat mat, choose one with temperature controls, and put it under the tray.
Pro Tip: Check the temperature occasionally, as a too high temperature can kill the spores.
Step 4: Time to Lower the Temperature
You should start seeing mycelium on top of the soil. Once the mycelium covers the entire tray (it looks white), it’s time to bring the temperature down to 55 or 60 degrees.
If you’ve been using the heating pad, now it’s time to remove it. Once the temperature is down, cover the mycelium with an inch of potting soil.
After a couple of days, primordia, or tiny mushrooms, will start to be visible.
Pro Tip: Unlike many other fruits and vegetables, you should grow mushrooms in winter because they like cooler temperatures.
Step 5: Harvest Time
Again, how long your mushrooms will need to grow depends on what kind you’re cultivating. A good rule to follow is to harvest when caps are fully open and separate from the stems.
To harvest the mushrooms, use a sharp knife and cut the stem.
You can expect to have new mushrooms for about six months if you harvest them daily because they’ll keep releasing spores. Once the mushrooms stop growing, you can add more spawn.
Keep in mind that harvested mushrooms can’t last for a long time, and you should use them in a couple of days.
Pro Tip: Don’t pull the mushrooms because you’ll damage the surrounding growth.
Mushroom Growing Tips and Tricks (The Care Guide)
Mushrooms grow best in humid conditions and temperatures that are around 70 degrees.
If you’ve opted for growing mushrooms at home, go around your house with a thermometer, and check the temperature in different places. You’ll be surprised at the results, as our homes have many different microclimates, and the warmer ones are closer to the ceiling.
Set the mushroom kit or tray where the temperature is close to 70 degrees. Once it’s time, move to a place where the temperature is 55 to 60 degrees, or lower the temperature in the corner where you've placed the mushrooms.
Sunlight and Placement
I love mushroom growing because it takes up very little space, and they don’t need as much sunlight as many other plants and vegetables.
You can place the kit in a secluded area of your home, such as a cabinet, drawer, basement, garage, and more.
As for the sunlight, because mushrooms don’t have chlorophyll, they don’t need light to grow. Dim light is enough, and it’s only needed for a couple of hours a day for successful fruiting.
Always remember to keep the kit away from the direct sunlight, as it’ll bother the mushroom.
Pro Tip: You can use a fluorescent lamp if you place mushrooms in a dark place, such as a cabinet or a drawer.
You don’t want to overwater the mushrooms because if they absorb too much water, it’ll impede mushroom growth.
Another thing not to do is soak the mushrooms in water because they can end up absorbing too much moisture.
My tip for keeping the air sufficiently moist is to cover the mushroom tray or box with a layer of burlap. This will allow the air to circulate, and it’ll trap a sufficient amount of moisture.
Another good rule to follow when watering mushrooms is to water them when the soil gets powdery. However, you have to think about the water temperature. Always let the water stand until it’s room temperature. This will also allow the chlorine to leave the water, which mushrooms don’t like.
Pest & Disease Control
Growing mushrooms indoors attracts a number of crop-damaging pests, such as:
A good way to get rid of many insects is proper sanitation and pasteurization of the soil before growing a fresh crop.
To properly pasteurize the soil, you should raise the temperature to 140 degrees for about four hours.
One final tip is on fertilizing your mushrooms. Mix a compost pile or an organic plant fertilizer with water, and give it to mushrooms twice a day.
The compost pile should be made up of organic materials, such as hay, straw, manure, and more.
Pro Tip: Don’t use too much to not disturb the mushroom growth. Repeat the process for 2 to 3 weeks until you need mycelium.
How Are Mushroom Growing Kits Better for Newbies?
The perfect way to start growing mushrooms is to use a mushroom growing kit because you’ll have a very high chance of success.
Once you’ve experienced your first feeling of success and tasted delicious mushrooms you’ve grown yourself, you won’t ever want to stop.
One of the main reasons why using a mushroom kit is better for newbies is that you don’t need a ton of equipment, a special growing environment, or a fruiting chamber. You can do it with minimal expenses, right in your living room, if you choose so.
Most commonly found mushroom kits are for growing oysters, but others are available as well, such as for growing lion’s mane.
Once you order your kit, it’ll arrive ready to go: you’ll get a fully colonized fruiting block, usually in a box. The mycelium should have fully taken over the substrate.
All you have to do is cut an X on the plastic and wait for your mushrooms to grow (just be mindful where you place it, and spray it occasionally).
5 Best Mushroom Growing Kits for A Beginner
1. Back to the Roots Organic Mushroom Growing Kit (Oyster)
It’s extremely easy to use. Just open the box, place it near a window (in indirect sunlight), and spray daily. A mister is included in the packaging, which makes it extra convenient. You’ll also get organic plant-based soil already infused with mushroom spawn and a booklet with detailed instructions.
Pro tip: Hydration is very important for this kit, so remove the substrate from the bag and submerge it in clean cold water overnight. Pat it dry the next morning and return to the bag.
This kit will produce nice brown oyster mushrooms in about ten days if you hydrate the substrate regularly. Each crop gives three to four mushroom servings, and you can grow two crops.
Once the kit can’t grow any more mushrooms, you can crumble the substrate and use it to inoculate another substrate, such as coffee grounds, straw, and more. Don’t worry about intoxicants, as the kit is 100% organic and non-GMO.
2. Root Mushroom Farm - Shiitake Mushroom Growing Kit
The package has everything you need to grow shiitake: one shiitake mushroom log, a humidity tent, a spray bottle, and a booklet with instructions. This makes it a perfect introduction to mushrooms. You’ll be able to learn how to grow them on your own at home, without any extra equipment needed.
Shiitake mushrooms have healing and medicinal value, which also makes them a perfect gift. It’s also an excellent teaching instrument. Children are often impatient for many experiments, so they’ll enjoy the instantaneous growth of shiitake mushrooms.
The log produces a substantial harvest, with some mushrooms the size of a hand. They taste delicious when cooked.
3. Backyard Morel Mushroom Growing Kit
You can start using the kit any time your soil is workable, no matter the season. You can use this kit to create a sustainable, organic, morel mushroom garden.The kit is made in California, the USA, and comes with instructions on how to produce your own spawn. It can be used straight away or stored for up to six months.
The manufacturer claims some customers have morel habitats as long as 25 years after they first established it by using the kit.For best results, you should place the morels in different areas of your backyard, such as garden beds and wood chips. You can inoculate multiple sports with different conditions, such as soil type and moisture levels. In some cases, depending on the growing conditions, you’ll have to wait up to two years before you see a morel.
4. North Spore | Lion's Mane Oyster Mushroom Grow Kit
In this lion’s mane growing kit, you’ll get a block of substrate that’s already been populated with mycelium, a sprayer so you can water it, and a set of instructions on both growing and harvesting the crop.
It’s easy to use the kit. You should open it along the perforated line and get rid of the cardboard. Cut an X into the plastic with a knife or scissors. Use the sprayer that comes in the package with tap water and spray the plastic where you’ve cut it. Place the kit in the humid part of your home, but not in direct sunlight.A good place to store the kit is the kitchen counter that’s close to a sink, so the mycelium will have enough oxygen in the air. After two weeks, you should see mushroom pins, and in about 2 to 5 days, you’ll have mushrooms ready for harvest.
5. Root Mushroom Farm - Reishi Growing Kit
Reishi can also be used as a medicinal mushroom, and it’s been used for this purpose for more than 200 years.
The kit contains a spray bottle and humidity tent, and it’s easy to take care of. You should keep the temperature between 65 to 80 degrees for fruiting.A lot of mushrooms don’t have an attractive look, but that’s not the case with reishi. Apart from being used as food and for medicinal properties, reishi has an attractive and colorful look, and it’ll be a great addition to the decor in your home.
It yields a good amount, as long as you’re consistent with humidity.
You Too Can Become a Mushroom Farmer with a Mushroom Growing Kit
Mushrooms have a mouth-watering taste and are an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, vitamins, and other healthy nutrients. Not only that, but they have health benefits, such as decreasing the risk of obesity and heart disease.
There’s no reason why you, too, can’t enjoy all the mushroom benefits with a mushroom growing kit. It’s extremely easy to use, it requires minimum involvement on your part, and you’ll have multiple mushroom harvests. It’s also a fantastic and original Christmas gift idea.
Get familiar with the mushroom life cycle and the cultivation process, and for a plentiful mushroom flush, apply all the tips and tricks I’ve outlined above.
Marina is passionate about sustainability and works to help ensure our planet stays as our home for a long time. She takes part in environmental conservation by recycling and not buying single-use plastic. When not writing, she can be found with her nose stuck in a book or trying out new baking recipes.