fungiblock1I’ve been doing a bit of research and have been coming to the conclusion that growing mushrooms is pretty hard work and that it seems that the Mushroom kits are generally not worth trying. Most people seem to have had no luck at all with the standard button-mushroom kits bought from supermarkets, and the only really positive story was about a Shiitake mushroom kit from Ardna Mushrooms, who really seem to know their stuff. The simplest way to get one of their kits is from West Highland Crafts, and there is a great motivational video from Gardeners’ World showing how to grow Shiitake and Oyster mushrooms with kits and dowels – makes it look very easy. Even so I’m thinking mushrooms might be a second-year project rather than an initial, easy dalliance.

The only consistent way people seem to get crops of button mushrooms seems to be from spent mushroom compost – so I’m wondering whether it’s possible to get spent mushroom compost (containing the mushroom mycellium), and “top-it-up” with new, home-made, mushroom compost to reinvigorate it. Seems to be the cheap-and cheerful way to mess about before getting serious and buying “Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms” by Paul Stamets, over at Fungi Perfecti.

There was a great description on how to make your own Mushroom Compost over at Allotment.org.uk, even simpler than my previous post on Mushroom Compost:

The perfect ‘substrate’ on which to grow mushrooms is well rotted horse manure. Either purchase ready, pre-packaged manure or if you can obtain fresh manure simply add 20% wet straw and leave outside in a heap, the centre of the heap should become hot within hours. Turn it over weeky and keep moist but not wet. When the heap has rotted sufficiently it will no longer be hot in the middle. When it has been composted and become dark brown with little or no smell it is ready to use. You will need approx 5kg of well rotted manure for one packet of mushroom spawn. Mix the spawn into the well rotted manure and place in a sturdy plastic bag or crate, firming it down well. Then mix equal quantities of sieved garden soil (from just below the surface) with ordinary multipurpose compost and use it to cover the manure and spawn mix witha a 2.5cm layer known as ‘casing’.

Keep the bag or crate in an airy garage, shed, greenhouse, cold frame or cellar at a temperature of approx 15 – 20C. Ensure the earth layer or ‘casing’ remains moist but not wet. The first mushrooms should begin to appear in 20 -30 days, often in flushes 8 to 10 days apart, until the substrate is exhausted. To harvest your mushrooms grasp the base of the stem and rock them free from the compost, avoid pulling as this damages the mycelium for further crops. Button mushrooms are at their best when the caps just begin to open.

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