In today’s article, I want to address the 12 common mistakes beginners do, and I did in the past.
WANT TO DO EVERYTHING
When you are first starting, you are super stoked. You maybe took a course and thinking “That is easy. I can do it.” And then at one point or another, you want to go all in. You are setting up your tent. You are buying cultures, a sterilizer and so on. You want to do it all at once.
Because that is what you learned in the course. Do all. Do it yourself. But doing everything, right from the beginning can lead to trouble down the road. This is especially true because you are missing the routines and practices.
Therefore, you should divide your endeavor into three steps.
Step 1: Buying Ready-to-fruit blocks, cultivate them and sell the mushrooms
Step 2: Buying Spawn and making your own substrate
Step 3: Buying Cultures and making your own Spawn
With this three-step approach, you are reducing the risk of failure dramatically. Every one of these three steps teaches you another aspect of your business while at the same time, it prevents you from overloading.
In the first step, you are solely focusing on the fruiting parameters and selling. If you can grow consistently and importantly sell consistently, then you are ready for the next step.
In the second step, you will learn everything about substrates, supplementing, and sterilization. If you mess here things up, you will get hurt down the road. Learn these steps while you are running your operations with Ready-to-fruit blocks. If you mastered this step, then it is time to move on to the final step.
In this third step, you are going one more step upstream. You will learn to transfer tissues from agar to agar and from agar to grain. You will learn how to take spore prints. You will discover that everything is about hygiene. Not that cleanliness isn’t essential in the first two steps, but not paying attention in this step will ruin everything. Learn to master this step while running your current operations.
With that said, you don’t need that much to start growing mushrooms. You can find everything with which I started growing mushrooms in my article, “What do I need to start a mushroom business?”
Another point when first starting out is overthinking. You are reading a ton of books and in my case, scientific papers. You want to make it right from the beginning. You are thinking, “I am smart” and “I just take the best part of everything I read and put into practice.”
Wrong. Start simple. Take the three-step approach I just mentioned. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Especially not in the beginning.
This mistake was especially true for me. For example. instead of building my own tent with sliding doors (I know what you are thinking, but I thought it would be cool because I could move easier in and out.) I could have bought a simple tent and didn’t waste time and money.
The first two mistakes beginners make are going hand in hand with impatience. Because you are super pumped. You are rushing in.
You want to make it all! At once! Now!
But growing mushrooms takes TIME and PATIENCE. Mushrooms don’t grow overnight. Especially not in the wrong environment.
The three-step approach helps you avoid this mistake because each one of them focuses only on some aspects of the business.
Each one of them is important if you want to be a successful mushroom farmer, so don’t try to cut corners.
With impatience comes laziness. You don’t pay attention to the hygiene aspect of your business. But not paying attention to this point will hurt you sooner or later.
Because contamination is one of the main reasons why mushroom farmers fail.
It all starts with the cleanliness of your fruiting room. If you don’t pay attention to it, you will end up having blotch or mold.
If you don’t correctly sterilize your tools before a transfer, you will open the door for contamination, and more importantly, you will spread the disease.
Speaking of contamination. Knowing what kind of contamination can occur in each step helps you to spot it early on. In doing so, you can prevent the disease from spreading.
If you want to prevent contamination from spreading, I wrote the following article about it, “How Do I Prevent Contamination?” In it, I talk about the six vectors of contamination. In combination with my article “18 Ways to Keep Pest in Check?” these articles are a good starting point for beginners.
Speaking of contamination, the process of sterilization is crucial. It doesn’t matter if you are sterilizing substrate for your blocks; for your Spawn or for your culture media, if you aren’t following protocol, it will have a high impact on your production.
In the beginning, you will likely either sterilize too long or too short. If you are sterilizing too long, then, for example, the media gets dry or burns. If you are sterilizing too short (which is either a sign of impatience or not knowing what you are doing), then there will be too much contamination left in the substrate, and your fungus have a hard time to compete with them.
Besides sterilizing to short or to long using the wrong sterilization method for your production can hurt you as well. For example, you can use pasteurization to sterilize your substrate. Even if you want to grow Pleurotus sp. But keep in mind that Pleurotus sp. is a primary decomposer, and pasteurization done improperly can lead to decomposing your substrate. If this happens you will end up with a smaller yield.
I don’t say that you cannot or shouldn’t use this method, but you should be aware of this detail. More details about sterilization and its impact on your yield can be found in my article, “How Your Sterilization Method Can Impact Your Yield“. In this article, I talk about on the one side about the different sterilization methods like, for example, composting, chemical sterilization, or steam sterilization and their impact on the contamination level as well as the yield.
Another mistake comes with inoculation. Mostly done because of impatience. For example, you sterilized your substrate, and you inoculate it too early. If you do so, the heat will kill your mycelium, and you are prone to contamination.
Another one is that you don’t pay much attention to the cleanliness of your laboratory (aka as the room in which you are making the transfer). We already talk about this point. But I cannot stress enough the importance of that.
Improper cleaning will lead to contamination, and you will end up doing everything from scratch again.
One final mistake which falls in this section is to use too much or too little Spawn. While too little Spawn can increase the risk of contamination too much will lead to overheating your substrate blocks. As mentioned earlier, too much heat will kill your mycelium.
To address this issue, I wrote an in-depth article on, “How your Inoculation Method can Impact your Mushroom Yield“. In this article, I talk about the influence of the inoculation rate (spawn rate), bag sealing, mixing, documenting, and Scheduling.
NOT KNOWING THE SPECIES
A common mistake in mushroom cultivation is not knowing with which species you’re dealing with. You might be laughing right now, but even the two species, white oyster and grey oyster, behave differently.
Both species are belonging to the Pleurotus family, but because of their genetic difference, they will behave differently. This is especially true when it comes to mycelium growth rate and yield.
But even if you are talking about the same name as, for example, white oyster, you are meaning a different Pleurotus species. In this case, Pleurotus ostreatus and Pleurotus pulmonarius.
Because of this issue, I start writing a new article, “What kind of mushroom is this?,” in which will give you an overview of mushroom names and to what species they are referring to.
This mistake goes hand in hand with the last point of not knowing the species. If you treat all your species the same, you will end up growing them, but you will let money on the table.
I saw a mushroom farmer using one substrate for all his mushroom species – primarily Pleurotus. He used back then wood chips from different trees. Because the mushrooms where growing, he didn’t think about this issue. But after several years, he came across a different substrate mix and gave it a try.
And lo and behold the yield went up 50%!
Know what you are growing and give each species, if possible, what it needs to grow at the optimum. To help to find you the right substrate, I wrote the following article, on “How the Substrate Influences your Mushroom Yield“.
In it, I talk about different substrates (e.g., wheat straw, wood, sugarcane bagasse) and supplementation (e.g., rice bran, urea, soybean meal). I address the factors which are influencing the mycelium running rate as well as the yield.
While many people are thinking that mushrooms don’t need light to grow, they are, to some extent, right and to some extent, wrong.
The mycelium itself doesn’t need light at all. Quite the opposite. It should be as dark as possible.
But if the mycelium fully colonized the substrate, you need light to initiate the formation of the pinhead.
After the initiation, you don’t need all day long light, especially not for all mushroom species but no light at all, and your mushrooms will suffer. You will end up with long stems.
As one mushroom farmer stated, a decent light bulb that provides enough light to read a newspaper is good enough.
Light also helps you to spot contaminations. Therefore, equip your fruiting room accordingly.
Another mistake beginner make is moisturizing too much or too little. First, the substrate and later the mushroom itself.
While a high moisture content in your substrate leads to contamination. A low moisture content will hurt the growth of your mycelium.
The same is true for the fruiting phase. If you water too much, you are risking, getting blotch, and deformation of your mushrooms. But if you are watering too less your mushrooms will dry out.
But even if you are doing everything right, it seems that some mushrooms are growing better than others. This could be the case that you didn’t pay attention to how you set up your fruiting room. In my article, “How to Handle Temperature and Humidity the Right Way?” I will address this issue from a technical point of view.
TIMING / SCHEDULING
Timing or Scheduling is a common mistake beginner makes. This issue comes in many shapes. Sometimes they forget to set-up the proper time, for example, for the sterilization process or the humidifier.
And sometimes they are running out of substrate but must deliver mushrooms the next week to their customers.
In both situations, the beginner does not follow protocol. Which leads me to the point of documentation.
If you want to succeed with your mushroom farm, I cannot stress enough that you must document every single step of what you are doing. You don’t have to do it right from the start, but you should start as early as possible.
The three-step approach should give you enough time to document the processes. Write down when you start with your sterilization process and when you expect to have mushrooms from it.
Documenting each step helps you not only to avoid mistakes; it will help you down the road if you want to hire someone to help you. After you hired the person you can simple hand out your documents to him/her and explain everything. They then have just to follow YOUR protocol to get the same results as you.
Documentation helps you also with identifying problems on your farm. You can track down them way more comfortable. In doing so, you can increase not only the productivity but also the efficiency of your farm. You will end up making more money.
To track down your production, you don’t need a fancy system. In my article, “How Do I Keep Track of My Production?” I talk about a simple solution to this issue.
NEGLECTING the LIFE CYCLE
The last mistake beginner makes ignoring the life cycle of the mushrooms. Every fungus goes through several phases during the life cycle. If you are too impatient and don’t pay attention to the stage your mushrooms are currently in, you will impact your results.
If you, for example, initiate too early the pinhead formation, you will end up with less yield.
If you, for example, don’t pay attention to the growing parameters, you will end up with less yield.
Each phase takes time. Be Patient.
As you may notice, many mistakes come for not knowing, ignoring, or being impatient.
To avoid these mistakes, you should inform yourself first about the whole endeavor. To do so, I will guide you in my article, “Things to Know Before Starting a Mushroom Farm” through all steps. In this article, I give you an overview of the main steps’ sterilization, substrate, waste management, and many more.
Tell me in the comment section below what your biggest mistake was. By sharing our mistakes, we can learn from each other.
Thanks for sharing.
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7 thoughts on “12 Common Mistakes Beginners Make | Mushroom farming”
Very interesting and helpful, thankyou
Hello Anthea, Thank you very much for your feedback.
I found your site yesterday througt this arcticle…read this one and scanned the other titles – looks great, one of the best sites for mushroom cultuvators – practical, to the point, a LOT of important topics – thank you very much!
Hi Alina, Thank you for your kind words and for letting me know that you found my articles helpful.
Fantastic site! I’ve gone through a lot of your articles over the past few years. One thing I will say is that if you’re like me (hopefully you’re not) you almost have to make the mistakes you are warned about. Then you can understand why people said things like “don’t try to do everything” haha.
After burning myself out for two years I’m finally going back to step one and buying blocks to grow the mushrooms. I can feel the cloud lifting already! I am however still sterilizing and inoculating blocks for the grow kits that I sell.
All that being said, thank you for documenting you’re experiencing and sharing your knowledge!
You’re right. Sometimes we only learn the hard way. 😉
Thanks for sharing your experience with us and for being a long-term reader. Great to read that my articles are helping you! You’re welcome.
A useful source for beginners..rightly pointed out the follies made by over enthusiastic like me.