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Growing oyster mushrooms at home

If you want to try growing mushrooms at home, start with Oyster mushrooms. Their growing medium – usually straw – is easy to come by, and the only other materials you need are a plastic bag to put everything in, and the spawn itself. Oyster mushrooms have a wonderful ‘horn of plenty’ shape, and a delicate and distinctive flavour.

oyster mushrooms, image

All you need is straw, spawn, and a plastic bag…

What you need

Wheat straw works perfectly well and is the easiest to find, but any type of agricultural straw will do. Don’t use dried lawn clippings – this is not the same! They’ll have a far less substantial structure than straw and you’ll probably end up with a slimy, aerobic mess.

Straw, on the other hand, is nutritious and easy for the mycelium to break down. You can often buy it from garden centres and feed stores, but a drive into the countryside may get you a whole bale for between £3 and £8, depending on how generous the farmer is feeling. Most farms use straw, and if you only want a half bale – more than enough to grow your first mushrooms – they will probably be happy to split one for you.

Growing Oyster mushrooms – getting started

The straw must be sterilised before the spawn is mixed in, otherwise you risk contamination from other moulds and fungi.

Use the biggest pot that will fit onto your stove-top. Stuff it with as much straw as you can, and then fill it almost to the top with hot water. If you have a big wire basket of some kind, great – as the straw can be lifted out of the water when it’s sterilised. Otherwise you’ll be tipping the water out instead. If you do this, be careful. Make sure everyone – especially family pets and small children – are all out of the way when you do this.

The pot should be heated until the water is between 70-75 degrees Celsius. Keep it at that temperature for about an hour. You may need to top up the water, and all the straw should be kept below the surface.

Once you’ve either tipped out the water or pulled out the straw, lay it out on a plastic sheet to drain and cool. Again, be careful. Wet straw is heavy, and difficult to deal with.

Adding the spawn

Fresh Oyster mushroom spawn can be bought in wooden plug form from Suttons Seeds. While these are intended to be put into holes drilled into logs, as with shiitake mushrooms, you can also use them to innoculate straw. It just takes a little longer for the mycelium to get going. However, the best way to innoculate straw is with the spawn supplied with one of Suttons’ oyster mushroom kits. The kits may look a bit pricey in terms of the expected harvest, but the spawn provided is not in dowel form. Rather than adding it to the small amount of straw that arrives with the kit, you can add it to a much larger quantity that you’ve prepared yourself for a much bigger return.

Don’t mix the spawn into the straw until the temperature has fallen below 35ºC, or you will kill it. Break up the spawn and sprinkle it onto the straw, and mix it in a bit. Then put the straw/spawn mix into black plastic bags and squeeze most of the air out before tying them shut.

If the bag is then left in a dark place at room temperature the mycelium will develop without any further intervention. After a couple of weeks, cut some slits here and there on the upper surface of the bag. This is where the mushrooms will appear. Their growth is triggered by light, but not direct sunlight – that’s too strong. If the straw dries out below the slits, spray with a mister to keep things damp – but not dripping wet.

The harvest

Eventually, between three weeks and a couple of months later, you should get your first mushrooms. After the first flush, add a little water to the straw and they will probably go on to produce a second round. Eventually the bag will stop producing, and you will need to do it all again.

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10 Responses to “Growing oyster mushrooms at home”

  1. P.S.Murthy says:

    Hi,
    Was nice reading the article, Iam basically from India and have just started mushroom farming (indoors) on experimental basis, Iam doing Oyster & Milky Mushrooms.

    I have sterilised the straw chemically.

    Do u remove the plastic cover of the oyster mushroom after mycelium is formed (i have removed as i was not not sure how to water it )can u please put on video regarding the watering of Oyster mushroom.

    I am getting mushroom yeild from top and bottom of the straw maybe because iam hanging the straw in air… your comments pls… will greatly appreciate ur reply

    Thanks and Best regards
    P.S.Murthy

    • Mark Gatter says:

      You remove the plastic only where you want the mushrooms to appear – otherwise keep it in place, as removing it altogether allows too much light in, and the straw will dry out quickly. If you want, you can remove it to make watering easier, but then put it back! Just water enough to keep the straw damp. Maybe post us a pic of your ‘hanging mushrooms’ – it sounds good! Unfortunately it’s the middle of winter in the UK and not a great time to grow oyster mushrooms, so a ‘watering’ video will have to wait until it warms up.

  2. Ningombam Rolendro Meitei says:

    Dear Sir,
    . I have been cultivating oyster mushroom since 1998. Whats wrong to me I cant figure put yield grouth is retarding gradually, Is there any wrong in farm house design mode of cultivation air circullation etc. I want to have in touch to u for further help. All my photos of firm design mode of cultivation were uplorded in my facebook ID:- Ningombam Rolendro
    . . I hope sir will response to my mail
    With regard, Ningombam Rolendro Meitei of M/s Jamini Mushroom Processing Industry, Bashikhong, Imphal east, Manipur.795008 email:-jamini_mushroom@yahoo.com (m)9856084246

    • gourav sharma says:

      i am also cultivating the oster mushroom first time. ihave remove the cover and it grown slowly.but i do not know how to water the mushroom please give me suggestion.

  3. Mark Gatter says:

    Unfortunately, without being able to see the site and take measurements of temperature fluctuation, humidity and more it’s impossible for us to suggest why the crop might be decreasing. You need to find the expertise closer to home! Sorry not to be able to help.

  4. Growing mushrooms: Can you let me know when are good times of the year in the UK to grow mushrooms?
    I have been told by friends in Ghana that adding lime and sawdust helps. Do you know anything about this?

    Thanks

    Roger

    • Mark Gatter says:

      Hi Roger,
      Sorry for the delay in replying! I didn’t see this comment until now. Mushrooms can be started any time of year, but unless you’re growing them under controlled conditions they’ll only fruit at certain times. For instance, my Shiitake logs sprout in the spring and again with a smaller crop in late August. I’ve not tried either lime or sawdust as I prefer to use fresh logs. The bark acts as a natural coating and keeps other mould spores out, and the beeswax used to seal the ends and the dowel holes also stops anything else getting in. If you use sawdust, it’s going to be just about impossible to ensure nothing else gets in, unless you’re growing in a controlled environment. Wood is quite acidic, and lime will counteract that – which may mean you create a situation the mushrooms wouldn’t want to grow in. As it’s impossible to introduce lime into a log, it’s not something I’ve tried. Some ‘shrooms will fruit sooner than others, but whichever variety you choose make sure you know roughly how long it should take to produce a crop. I threw away some perfectly good logs once because a year later I didn’t recognise the weird blob growing out of one of them as a HUGE shiitake… sigh.

  5. Brian says:

    Can you help please.
    I bought some mushroom spores and planted them in October. They are in the shed and nothing has appeared yet. It’s been about 11 weeks now. Is it too cold. Will the spores keep if it is and grow when the temp rises?
    Thanks for any advice you can give.

    • Mark Gatter says:

      Hi Brian,
      Not sure what to suggest – if the place you purchased them from said you’d get a crop then I have to say it’s getting a bit late! But October is very late for an autumn crop of any fungi as the mycelium takes a while to develop. I think you’re more likely to get your first crop in the spring. Try not to disturb things too much, as the mycelium fibres are very delicate. You may also get some useful info from ‘http://www.annforfungi.co.uk/shop/index.php’.
      Best of luck!
      Mark

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