How to grow mushrooms from A to Z


Are you wondering what steps are needed and what has to come together to grow mushrooms?

Then this video is for you.

Everything starts with the mushroom itself or, to be more exact, with the mushroom species. Currently, there are more than 3,000 edible mushroom species known. Of which 100 can be economically cultivated.

There is, for example,

  • the Shiitake mushroom – Lentinula edodes.
  • The Button mushroom – Agaricus bisporus.
  • The Lion’s Mane – Hericium Erinaceus.
  • The Reishi – Ganoderma lucidium.
  • The Oyster mushroom – Pleurotus ostreatus.

And many more.

Each of these mushrooms has unique characteristics as they fall into different genera. Genus, plural genera, is a taxonomic rank. The next higher rank above genus is the family. The rank below genus is the species.

Figure 1: Taxonomy (Biological classification) [1]

For example, within the genus Pleurotus, there is the King oyster (Pleurotus eryngii), the Pink Oysters (Pleurotus djamor and the and Yellow Oyster ( P. citrinopileatus), and so on.

This abundance of mushrooms can make it hard for beginners to choose the right one. I, therefore, made a video about five criteria to help you to choose the best mushroom.

If you have chosen your mushroom, we have to look for the best substrate. Overall, many mushrooms grow on all sorts of substrates, especially oyster mushrooms. You could use, for example, rice straw, wheat straw, sugarcane bagasse, sawdust from oak, beech, or elm. Some mushrooms like the button mushroom prefer to grow on a mixture of straw and manure. But you could also use coffee ground or banana leaves if you want to cultivate oyster mushrooms.

These substrates have one thing in common. They are the carbon and nitrogen source for the mycelium to feed off. Not all mushrooms are created equal, so they need a different carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. It is, therefore, necessary to find the right substrate-mushroom-fit.

After finding the best combination of substrate and mushroom, it is time to prepare the substrate for the mushroom. As your substrate is not only food for your mushroom, but other fungi and bacteria live off it, we have to reduce the number of unwanted microorganisms. To do so, we either pasteurize or sterilize the substrate.

Sterilization means killing all microorganisms. The good ones and the bad ones. There are several ways to achieve such a result. You could use heat, irradiation, chemicals, high pressure, filtration, or a combination of them.

When it comes to sterilizing mushroom substrate, usually an autoclave is used, which uses heat (121°C) and high pressure (1 bar or 15 Psi). Both the high temperature and the high pressure reduce the time to remove all the microorganisms. The process typically takes 90 minutes.

Suppose you don’t have access to an autoclave. In that case, using the pasteurization method or the composting method is a good alternative. The latter is usually used to treat the mushroom substrates when button mushrooms are cultivated.

During pasteurization, on the other hand, the mushroom substrate is heated up to 80°C to 100°C for 1 hour to 15 hours. The duration here mainly depends on the substrate you want to pasteurize. The more nutritious the substrate, the longer you should pasteurize the substrate.

The following two videos go deeper into this topic and, thus helping you, to better understand which method leads to what result.

Now, after treating your substrate, it is ready for your mushroom. The transfer of your mushroom onto the substrate is called inoculation. While you could directly transfer your mycelium onto the primary substrate, the mycelium is usually transferred first onto grains or or into liquid. This media is called spawn.

The idea behind this step is severalfold.

  • First, it gives the mycelium time to adjust to the new substrate. It, therefore, reduces the lag phase when the mycelium is transferred onto the primary substrate.
  • Second, using grains increases the surface and, therefore, the contact points of the mycelium with the primary substrate. This increases the colonization speed of the primary substrate.
  • Third, by using an intermediary for your mycelium, you can expand the mycelium at hand.

Using this method expands the mycelium from a single petri dish to hundreds of mushroom blocks down the road. This is called mycelium running.

Grains or liquids are sterilized typically at 121°C for 90 minutes using a pressure cooker.

After the inoculation of the primary substrate, the substrate goes into the incubation room. During the so-called incubation period, when no light is applied, and the temperature is maintained, the mycelium colonizes the substrate.

At the end of the incubation period, the substrate is transferred into the fruiting room. The fruiting is triggered by applying light, dropping the CO2 level, and adjusting the temperature.

Using these triggers, simulate nature and trick the mycelium into forming pinheads out of which the fruitbodies will emerge. The fruitbodies, which we call mushrooms, are the way of the mycelium to release spores into nature and propagate itself.

Temperature, CO2 level, light, and water frequency must be monitored and adjusted during the fruiting phase. As, for example, a lack of water or too much CO2 will lead to a deformation of the fruitbodies and, therefore, to a lower yield.

If everything is done correctly, you can harvest the fruitbodies after they are fully developed. Depending on the mushroom species you have chosen, the fruitbodies can be harvested, in the case of oyster mushrooms, for example, after 5 to 14 days.

Now let us put the whole process of growing mushrooms from A to Z in order.

You start preparing the culture media.

You then sterilize it.

After cooling down, you transfer a small mushroom tissue onto the culture media. And incubate it.

Growing Mushroom A to Z
Figure 2: Growing mushroom from A to Z [2].

After the incubation, you can either transfer parts of this culture onto another culture media which you have prepared to even further expand or you start preparing your spawn substrate.

You sterilize the spawn substrate and then transfer a piece of your culture media onto the spawn substrate. After the transfer, you place the spawn bag into the incubation room.

After the spawn substrate is fully colonized, you can transfer parts of it onto more spawn substrate, which you have prepared to even further expand or you start preparing your main substrate, Sterilize it and transfer parts of the spawn substrate onto your primary substrate.

This inoculated substrate then goes into the incubation room.

After the primary substrate is fully colonized, you transfer this substrate into the fruiting room. Where you maintain the necessary cultivation parameter to first initiate the primordia formation and second to help develop the fruitbodies out of the pinheads.

After the fruitbodies are fully matured, you harvest them. Growing mushrooms consists, therefore, of six steps.

Substrate preparation, disinfection, inoculation, incubation, fruiting, and harvesting.

6 Phases of Mushroom Cultivation
Figure 3: 6 Phases of mushroom cultivation [2]

Talk to you in the next one.


⏩ Mini Course | Get Started with Mushroom Farming

✅ Learn how to start a mushroom farm

✅ Learn what it takes to become successful

✅ Learn about common mistakes

✅ Learn to pick the best mushroom



[2] Own illustration