Did you know you can grow profitable mushrooms in five easy steps? It’s true and the results will amaze you as well as generate a nice extra income. Mushroom growing is an excellent income earner for someone looking for an additional stream of income or for someone who is semi-retired but still looking for a way to keep earning an income.
The best part about growing mushrooms for profit is that there is a demand for gourmet mushrooms which will never diminish. So, how do you start? Follow these simple 5 steps and you will be on your way.
Step 1 – Oyster Mushroom Spawn
In order to start your own mushroom culture you require something called the spawn. You can use a sterile culture and produce your own spawn or you can skip that part and get straight to growing by using a supplier who can provide you with spawn that is ready to inoculate.
If you are concerned about start up costs and have some growing experience, the sterile culture route is the most logical. That being said, purchasing a ready-to-use spawn will get you up and running faster and the faster you are at growing, the quicker you will see a return on your investment.
Step 2 – The Growing Medium
This part is fairly easy to come by but before I give you suggestions I want you to understand why you need a growing medium. It is actually referred to as a substrate and what it does is promote growth of mycelium (the spawn) which is the vegetative growth of the fungus plant. The mushroom itself is the fruit of the mushroom plant you will be growing.
Great growing mediums include deciduous wood chips, straw from cereal grains (oats, rice, barley, wheat and rice as examples), coffee grounds or even wood pellets.
Step 3 – Preparing the Substrate
The growing medium you choose needs to be chopped into small pieces, moistened with water then heated. This pasteurizes it and allows it to inoculate with the growing medium. There are a number of ways to chop up your straw. If you have a small chipper/shredder already, that would work very well. Even a rotary lawnmower passed over it several times can do as good a job of cutting it into small pieces.
For the pasteurization process to begin you can use a 55-gallon steel drum with two mesh baskets. One should be coarse, between a quarter and half inch, with the other one finer than that. This is used to hold the straw inside the drum. Make sure the drum you use has not been used for anything else that can hamper mushroom growth. In other words, a clean drum is best.
For Shiitake mushrooms to grow the substrate needed is sawdust and you can access that from a variety of sources. Hardwood sawdust works best. Pasteurization of sawdust requires an autoclave or even a pressure cooker can work.
A hot water bath is the best way to pasteurize straw substrate. Using clean and dry straw, which has been chopped into pieces about three inches long, wet it to about 75-percent moisture content. Heating it can be done with the 55-gallon drum raised high enough to allow a propane burner to be located underneath.
A basket made from the coarse mesh, lined with a smaller basket made from the fine mesh, holds the straw in place and is lowered into the drum. You will need to keep the bottom of the mesh basket about six inches from the bottom of the drum for drainage. The top of the mesh basket should sit just below the top of the drum to allow a lid to cover it.
Fill the drum half full with water, add one cup of gypsum and stir. Heat to 150 degrees F and lower the basket filled with straw into the drum and completely submerge the straw. Keep heated at 150F for 45-minutes then remove the straw to drain. Cover it with clean plastic to keep it from picking up any kind of airborne contaminates.
Once drained, spread on a clean surface and allow to cool to no warmer than 80 degrees F. After it has cooled, add the spawn and bag. Shiitake mushrooms grow well with starch-based additions to the sawdust substrate such as rice or wheat bran. This works because it will bring more nutrition to the mixture which increases overall yield.
The formula to shoot for is around 30-percent by dry weight and the sawdust/supplement combination needs to be thoroughly mixed before bagging.
Once completely mixed, use heat-resistant bags and heat in a pressure cooker/autoclave for about two hours at a heat of 250 degrees F. This kills off potential microorganism growth that could compete with the developing shiitake spawn. Cool the bags to 86F, then leave in a clean grow room and let them grow.
Essentially at this point the grain or sawdust that the mycelium starts growing on becomes the spawn which then takes over the substrate. After the inoculation process is started, the growing medium is placed in plastic bags and stored in a controlled space. This allows the spawn to spread throughout the substrate. This is where it will take the form of thin white spider web-type threads. That is the mycelia.
Step 4 – Shocking It Into Production
Once the growing medium is completely taken over by the mycelia it is said to have colonized. Once this has happened you will need to introduce cold temperatures to the bags of it your stored in order to encourage it to produce mushrooms. This process is known as shocking.
Step 5 – Harvest
Carefully monitor the progress being made in your grow rooms. Mushroom plants can grow rapidly under the right conditions and you can be harvesting your first crop within weeks. If you time it correctly, you could have fresh spawn and substrate being prepared at an interval of two or three weeks apart which would bring a regular yield over several months.
Following these five simple steps will not only get you started in growing profitable mushrooms, it will earn you a steady extra income. By staggering the inoculation of each spawn/growing medium preparation, you could easily have continuous harvests of fresh mushrooms, so your income will be stable.
Learn more about growing gourmet mushrooms in our growing guide, Growing Gourmet Mushrooms For Profit.