The complete step-by-step guide to get the solid basic skills you need to grow your first pound of fresh mushrooms, at home.
Disclamer: I’m not responsable for your actions, use common sense and make sure you work safely. Avoid doing anything that you think may cause you illness or injuries. I wrote this guide based on my experience growing mushrooms at home, your success rate will vary. This guide is not intented to be used by children or by anyone who plan to grow illegal mushrooms.
Who I am
Hi, I’m Simon and I’ve been growing mushrooms since 2006, both for fun and profits. Back then, the only way to learn how to grow mushrooms was to look around on online forums, ask questions and learn from your mistakes.
It was a fun ride, but let me tell you, it was a painful process to waste a whole year online trying to figure out which techniques were good. It took me a lot of time and required a lot of testing.
At the beginning of 2012, I finally made it and funded my first start-up company, called Champi. I’m now making profits by selling fresh mushrooms and growing kits in Quebec, Canada.
I believe it’s now time for me to give back and help people get started too. I designed this guide to be as short as possible, without cutting any corners, so you can start growing mushrooms without doing the same mistakes I made.
Who this guide is for
I made this guide for everybody who:
- Want to grow mushrooms for the first time.
- Tried other tutorials that didn’t work.
- Want to start making money, on the side, growing mushrooms.
Also, everybody we hire at Champi is required to read this guide (that’s right guys, you got to read this on your first day!)
So, if you want to grow your first pound of fresh mushrooms, this completely illustrated step-by-step instructions guide give you the solid basic skills you need to grow mushrooms, from start to harvest, at home.
How much of this guide should you read?
This guide is designed for you to read from cover-to-cover. At least one time, before you start anything. You could skim through it, but honestly, you would miss the good stuff that will make you get the greatest possible yields for the smallest amount of work.
Read it, it’s totally going to be worth the investment.
How this guide is structured
First, I will briefly explain to you how mushrooms are grown, we’ll choose a mushroom specie you want to grow and I’ll tell you where you can get the supplies you need to get started.
Then, were going to go through every steps together, there is no place for failure. It’s going to be straight to the point, there is one picture for every step and everything is explained in a language everybody can understand.
Need help? Contact me anytime!
If at any point you have a question, you get stuck somewhere or you have a suggestion that could help me make this guide better: please let me know! I truly want to make your learning experience easier and more enjoyable.
I need to understand what you struggle with, so I can help you better. Also, your questions inspires me to write articles that will actually be useful for everybody.
I’m waiting for your questions!
Alright, let’s get started!
Now it’s your turn.
But first, If you like this guide and want to download it, I give it for free as a gift when people join my mailing list. I highly suggest you join because I treat everyone on this list as my VIPs and it’s where I send my best actionable tips and tactics to bring your mushroom growing skills the next level.
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Ready? Let’s go!
How mushrooms are grown?
Growing mushrooms is a fascinating process. It’s like merging traditional gardening with basic cooking techniques. In gardening, you plant seeds in soil, they germinate and then the roots grows as the actual plant gets bigger. When the plant is mature, you harvest the fruits.
- The seeds are the spores
- The soil is called the substrate.
- The roots are called the mycelium
- The fruits are the actual mushrooms
To grow mushrooms, farmers starts with making and cooking substrate blocs by following a mushroom substrate recipe, like the one detailed in this guide. During the process, spores, or already living mycelium, is inoculated in the bloc by the grower. This is how farmers choose which mushroom specie is planted into the substrate.
Basically, at this point, most of the work is done. For the following weeks, the spores will germinates and the mycelium will grow all over the substrate.
Once it’s fully colonized, and not before, the growers gets the bloc out of the jar and move the substrate to a humid environment, that could be as small as a shoe box or as big as a huge commercial greenhouse.
Mushrooms grow FAST.
With proper humidity, air exchange and good lighting, healthy mycelium often times start to produce mushrooms only a few days after being put in the greenhouse.
What’s even more impressive, is that most mushroom species only takes 7 to 10 days to mature and be ready to harvest!
Good news: most mushrooms species grows in waves, called flushes.
This means that on a bloc, all the mushrooms of the first wave starts to grow at the same time; and the whole crop is ready on the same day.
Then, after a few days of rest, sitting there after being harvested, the bloc is ready to be soaked with water by the grower to be prepared for the next flush. Each bloc generally give between 2 to 5 yields before being too weak to produce mushrooms.
After that, old substrate blocs are put outside in a compost pile and fresh new ones replace them in the greenhouse, the cycle never stop.
Don’t feel overwhelmed!
Although it may sound like a very complicated process, it’s not!
All you have to do is follow this guide. I walk you through the whole process, completely step-by-step, to what I believe is the best way to start growing mushrooms at home at any scale you want.
Which mushroom specie do you want to grow?
Before cooking your first mushroom substrate, you need to choose which mushroom specie you want to grow. I suggest you start with oyster mushrooms, but here is my top 6 list of the easiest, legal to grow, species that are compatible with the substrate recipe detailed in this guide.
The list is classified from easy to hard.
- Oyster (available in white, grey, brown, blue, pink, yellow species!)
- Lion’s mane
To “plant” one of these mushroom in your substrate, the way it’s explained in this guide, you will have to get either a spore syringe or a liquid culture syringe.
Both are basically the same but, generally speaking, liquid culture syringes gives better and more consistent results and that’s why I recommand them. Spore syringes works too, but they are known to be the number 1 cause of failure when used with this method so don’t despair if it doesn’t work the first time.
Click here for more details about Spores VS Liquid culture syringes #link.
If you already have your syringe, that’s good, if not, I suggest you head over to the ressource page to see a list of the places I recommend to get one. One 10ml syringe is enough to make 10 substrate jars.
GROWING MUSHROOMS AT HOME IN 2015
Overview of the PF-Tek
The brown rice flour cake technique, originally published in 1995 by Robert McPherson, is still considered the fastest and easiest way to learn how to grow mushrooms.
Although this method was originally intended to be used to grow psychedelic mushrooms, 20 years of improvements and testing made it also perfect for edible species such as oysters, shiitake and reishi.
There is just no other techniques that will give you faster results when you start from scratch than the Pf-tek and, when done the right way, this technique has one of the highest biological efficiency ever seen the mushroom growing industry. This means that, compared to other mushroom substrate recipes of the same size, the yield is higher.
The brown rice flour cake mushrooms substrate recipe
Generally takes around 2 hours, this recipe makes 10 jars.
Based on my experience, each jars can grow up to 120 grams of fresh mushrooms, which represent around 13 grams when dried. The total yield is calculated by adding together all flushes.
Please note, the results will vary and depend a lot on your experience and the quality of the mushrooms strain and the specie you work with. Still, I love the PF-tek! It’s a lot of mushrooms considering the small size of the substrates.
- [1x] 1000ml (4 cups) dry vermiculite (fine grade is better)
- [1x] 500ml (2 cups) regular tap water
- [1x] 500ml (2 cups) ORGANIC brown rice flour.
- [1x] 15gr Agricultural grade gypsum powder (facultative)
- [1x] Around 500ml (2 cups) of dry vermiculite (set aside for the moment)
Tools and supplies:
- [10x] Wide mouth (86mm) 250ml mason jars with their 2 parts snap lid and screw bands
- [1x] 1 to 2mm nail
- [1x] Hammer
- [1x] Mixing bowl
- [1x] Spoon
- [1x] Measuring cup
- [1x] Paper towel roll
- [1x] Aluminium foil roll (thick, if available)
- [1x] Cooking pot / big saucepan with a tight lid (or a pressure cooker, if you know how to use one)
Put 1000ml (4 cups) of dry vermiculite in a mixing bowl .
Pour 500ml (2 cups) of regular tap water in the bowl. Mix well until all the water is absorbed by the vermiculite. If some water doesn’t absorb, add a few tablespoon of dry vermiculite to the mix until it does.
Add 15gr (about 1 tablespoon) of agricultural grade gypsum powder.
Gypsum is a mineral we often add to our substrate for texture, yield improvement and other benefits. It will dissolve in the water.
Add 500ml (2 cups) of ORGANIC brown rice flour.
Mix the ORGANIC brown rice flour with the wet vermiculite until you get a granular texture that looks uniform.
With a spoon, fill 10 jars with substrate until there is 1 cm of free space between the top of the substrate and the opening of the jar.
Make sure the substrate is loose and airy, your mushrooms won’t like it if it’s packed too tight.
Wipe the inside lip of each jars with a towel to make it completely dry and clean. This step is VERY important!
Pour DRY vermiculite over the substrate to completely fill the clean space you have left. This dry barrier is the filter that protect the wet and nutritive substrate from contamination risks.
Take a 1 to 2mm nail and a hammer. Make 4 holes in the snap lid, near the sides, as pictured.
Put the snap lid and screw bands of each jars, rubber side up or not, it doesn’t really matter. Don’t screw the lid bands too tight.
Cover each jars squares of aluminium foil to protect the dry vermiculite barrier from water drips during the sterilization!
During the cooking part, you only want the steam to touch the jars, to ensure proper sterilization.
Find something, like spare jar rings and aluminium foil sheets, to elevate every jars and protect the dry vermiculite filters from the boiling water.
Add 3 to 4 cm of water. Again, make sure the water won’t touch the jars.
Place the jars in the cooking pot / saucepan.
Put the cooking pot on the stove and turn it on high
Once the water boil, reduce the stove setting to the point where you still generate a fair amount of steam.
Put the cooking pot’s lid and start to count 90 to 120 minutes. Don’t start to count before that point.
Make sure you watch from time to time if you need to add water during the process
*Be careful when you remove the lid: Steam BURNS!
After the 90 to 120 steam sterilization period, shut the stove and remove the lid.
Get the jars out of the cooking pot and remove the aluminium foil IMMEDIATLY. The foil was only there to prevent water from getting inside the jars during the sterilization. If you leave it here at this point it only keep condensation inside the dry vermiculite zone, which may cause contamination.
Let the jars completely cool down, which usually take around at least 3 hours at room temperature. Don’t do anything to try to rush the process, like trying to put the jars in the refrigerator. Doing such is not good for your filter barrier.
You now understand the process of making a light, moist, nutritive and filtered substrate for you mushrooms!
Making the substrate just right, by respecting all the small details, is what matters the most. By doing such, you prepare yourself for a good yield and on the long run, it will pay big time.
Also, there is a lot of other mushroom substrate recipes, with a wide panel of advantages, like scalability.
But for now, you made the right choice. By understanding the technique in this guide, you prepare yourself for the next level and it will be worth it. You’ll be glad you took the time to learn the basics first.
Build your first simple glovebox
Once the jars has been sterilized, the grower can plant the mushroom specie he wants to grow. We call this step the inoculation and, as described in Step 3, it must be done in a very clean way. The cheapest and most simple way to do it right is to build yourself a glove box, which could be nothing more than a clear plastic tub with holes cuts in it, so you can put your 2 arms inside.
There is absolutely no need to build a fancy glove box, trust me, simpler is better.
Maybe up to 25 minutes if you’re a perfectionist (which is a good thing!).
Tools and supplies:
- [1x] A clear plastic tub with a clear lid, around 60x40x30cm in size.
- [1x] The tool of your choice to cut the holes in the plastic tub.
Cut 2 holes on one of the wider side of the tub. The openings should be a little bigger than your harms so you can get them in and out easily.
That’s it. That’s all there is to it. There is no need to glue gloves in the holes or anything like that. All you need is an easy to clean box where the air is still and where your hands can works freely.
Inoculate 10 substrate jars and watch your mushrooms grows
Inoculating substrate jars is one of my favorite steps in mycology. But, although it’s actually a fairly simple and easy process to follow, the sad truth is that most new growers fail at this point because they cut corners.
Think about it, at this point, most of the work is already done and if you do this step right, you’ll be harvesting your mushrooms very soon!
But, if you don’t follow every steps and try to save 5 minutes here and there, your chances of success are much lower. It’s now time become a rocket scientist!
It generally takes between 5 to 30 minutes to inoculate 10 jars, depending on your experience.
Tools and supplies:
- [1x] Glovebox (like the one we built in step 2)
- [1x] Pair of new latex, nitril or vynil gloves
- [1x] Isopropylic alcohol (70%)
- [1x] Clean and humid towel
- [1x] Regular gas lighter, butane torch or alcohol lamp*
- [1x] 10ml spore syringe or 10ml liquid culture syringe
- [10x] Sterile brown rice flour substrate jars (as made in step 1)
To maximize your chances of success, read carefully every steps before you start and make sure you understand the risk of working with alcohol and fire.
Here is some safety tips I use, among others:
- Never use alcohol and fire at the same time.
- Make sure the alcohol on your gloves is completely evaporated before using a lighter.
- Never use alcohol and/or fire inside the glove box.
- Be aware that alcohol is a volatile gas that take fire easily.
- Keep a fire extinctor near your work area.
Be extremely careful and responsible: take every necessary steps you think you need to do to work safely. I’m not responsible of your actions.
Bring all the material list in a clean room (a bathroom is absolutely not the cleanest room of the house). Close all doors, air conditioning units, fans and windows.
Try to avoid rooms that has a carpet floor.
Make sure you wear clean clothes and wash your hand and your forearms vigorously with warm water and regular anti-bacterial hand soap. Rinse with water.
If you have to use the door to come back to your clean room, try to use a clean towel to manipulate the door knob.
Take a clean and humid towel and wipe all the surfaces inside the glove box. Wet sides helps to trap contaminants, that are naturally present in the air around us, when they touch the sides.
Put the jars you want to inoculate inside the glove box along with the spores (or liquid culture) syringe.
Note: Often times, the needle and the syringe come separately. Put both pieces inside the glove box.
Outside of the glove box, put on a pair of gloves and rub them well with isopropyl alcohol.
***MAKE SURE that all the alcohol has evaporated from your gloves before you put your hands inside the box.
Look at the syringe and If the needle it’s not already screwed on it:
- Take the syringe with one hand and the needle package with the other
- Open the needle package
- Unscrew the syringe’s cap
- Screw the needle on the syringe
Then take the syringe and shake it vigorously.
Remove the needle’s cap and heat the needle with a lighter OUTSIDE of the glove box, until it’s red hot.
Let the needle cool down a few seconds before going to the next step.
Take a jar and insert the needle completely in one of the 4 hole of the lid. Aim for the glass side.
Inject 0,25ml of solution. If your needle is lined correctly, you will see a few drops flowing against the glass. That’s what you want.
Do the same thing the 3 other holes. Each holes gets 0,25ml which give every jars 1ml.
Repeat step 3.1.8 to 3.1.10 for every jars.
Don’t forget to flame sterilize the needle between each and every jars.
Take the time to identify every jars with the date, strain and mushroom specie you inoculated so you can keep track of your batches and compare them.
Take the substrate jars out of the glove box and place them on a shelf, in a clean and aerated room that receive indirect sunlight at least 12 hours a day.
- Artificial light in the 6500k temperature range (also called daylight) is a good equivalent.
- Dark closet and basements are not good places to let substrate jars colonize.
- The ideal average temperature for fast jar colonization is 22°c and 24°c, regardless of the specie you grow.
- Manipulate the jars as less as possible because the dry vermiculite filter tend to move around it cause contamination. Don’t underestimate this tip!
If you followed the sterile inoculation procedure correctly, you should see the firsts signs of growth between 2 to 14 days after the inoculation.
The complete colonisation of the substrate generally takes between 2 to 6 weeks after the point where you saw the first sign of growth.
Once it’s fully colonized, you should let the mycelium consolidate it’s hold on the substrate by letting it sit in the jar for 7 to 10 more days before moving to the next step.
Working fast and effectively is the way to go in a still air glove box. The objective is to inoculate your sterile substrate without letting any contaminant get inside during the process.
Your lab skills will stick with you for all your career, regardless of the technique you will use. The best thing about it is that you can now, like me, call yourself a rocket scientist when people ask you how mushrooms are grown!
Correctly build your mushroom fruiting chamber
Through the years, many mushroom terrarium designs have been built by a lot of mushroom growers. Some were simple and others were exuberantly technological. I understand that people want fully automated system that take care of their mushrooms without any work. I get that and the truth it, I tried a lot of different ways too.
But at some point I realized: when it comes to mushroom farming, often time, simpler is better.
This is why I recommend the very well known “shot-gun fruiting chamber” design made by Mark R. Keith, owner of the Mountain Mushrooms Farm in Washington. It’s a cheap to build design that is almost fully automated.
In 3 step, you will have your own little mushroom farm!
Tools and supplies:
[1x] Transparent plastic tub (around 50 to 65 liters)
[1x] Drill and a drill bit 6mm wide (1/4 inch)
[1x] Perlite (enough to fill the bottom of the tub at 7 to 12 cm)
Drill holes on every sides of the tub, including the lid and under the it. Each holes should be spaced at 3 to 5 cm from each other.
Put the perlite in a strainer and rinse it well with cold tap water. Let it drain well.
Fill the bottom of the tub with 7 to 12 cm of wet perlite.
Put the mushroom fruiting chamber in room that receive indirect sunlight and where the air isn’t stall.
The terrarium should receive around 12 hours of light everyday.
Indirect sunlight or artificial “daylight” (6500k) temperature neon is preferable.
This terrarium will last you for years! I still use mine today to do small scale projects and tests at home. I could even make money growing mushrooms in it if I wanted, consistently growing shiitake in my living room. It’s impressive how much mushrooms one can grow in this little cool looking box.
Birth your first mushrooms
This is it. It’s now time to give birth to your mushrooms! First, were going to give them a little soak to make sure they are fully hydrated, then we’ll place the substrates in your fruiting chamber. In only a few days, you will see your first little baby mushrooms sprouts!
Tools and supplies:
[10x] 100% colonised mushroom substrate jars
[1x] Cooking pot and lid
[1x] Around 500ml of dry vermiculite
[1x] Mushroom terrarium (as build in step 4)
Inspect your substrate jars to evaluate if they are contaminated. Look for weird colours and texture. Take a clear picture if you are in doubt and send it to me (link).
*Shiitake mushroom’s mycelium will be brown as it ages, this is totally normal.
*Shiitake and nameko mushrooms will benefits from being put in the refrigerator 24 hours to 1 full week before you do this step. This is called a cold shock.
Wash your hands
Get the “cakes” out of the jars. If they’re stuck in it, gently slam the jars on a wood surface until they come out. Be careful not to break the glass and wear protective gloves.
Rinse your mushroom cakes with cold tap water and remove the all the dry vermiculite filter with your fingers.
Fill the cooking pot with cold tap water and put your substrate in it. Your cakes will float, put a clean plate over them to make sure they are fully submerged.
Put the lid on the cooking pot and let the cakes sit there at normal room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.
Prepare a bowl with around 500ml of dry vermiculite.
Wash your hands.
Get the substrate cakes out of the water and rinse them well under cold tap water.
Roll the cake in dry vermiculite.
Place your cakes on in the terrarium. Make sure they don’t touch the perlite, you could use you jar lids for that.
Place the lid on the mushroom greenhouse and let the vermiculite stick on the cake for at least 30 minutes before moving to the next step.
From now on, your little mushroom substrates will get fresh air from the holes and humidity from the damp perlite. All you’re going to have to do is to make sure the perlite stay wet and give extra fresh air. It’s the same logic in a bigger mushroom farm: fresh air and fluctuating temperature and humidity, mushroom love that!
Taking care of your mushrooms, harvesting and harvesting again!
If you built your mushroom terrarium as shown in this guide, at this point, all you have to do is mist your mushrooms 3 to 6 times a day and harvest!
3 minutes of work per day!
[1x] Spray mister
From 3 to 6 times a day, remove the lid of the greenhouse and spray regular tap water on your substrates, your mushrooms and on the perlite itself.
*Make sure your mister spray as fine as possible.
Depending the mushroom specie, the general health of your substrate and the quality of the care you provide, mushrooms should form on the substrate between 2 to 10 days after being put in the greenhouse.
Your mushrooms are ready to harvest just before they drop their spores. At this point they are at their top in term of yield potential, taste and texture. If the specie you grow has a veil, the right moment to pick them is just before it breaks. Other mushrooms like shiitake and oysters are considered ready to harvest when the margin of the cap are about to unroll. I will add a link here with pictures of ready to harvest mushroom.
Often times, most of the mushrooms on the same substrate will be ready to pick at the same time, even if they are smaller. Look the shape, not the size.
After harvesting, leave the cakes sit there in the terrarium without spraying them for 4 to 7 days. The mycelium will use this time to recover and prepare for the next flush of mushrooms.
Take your cakes out of the greenhouse and rinse them vigorously under cold tap water.
Make sure you remove any dry/dead pieces of mushrooms that may still be attached to the substrate during the process.
Soak your substrate 12 to 24 hours, just like you did on step 5.1.5 and then put them back in the greenhouse.
Wait for the next flush of mushrooms to show up, harvest them and repeat step 6.1.1 to 6.1.6 until the mycelium stop producing mushrooms or contaminate.
Make sure you toss out any contaminated substrate as soon at you see anything other that your mushrooms growing on it, like mold or slimy stuff.
When the whole project is done, it’s time to clean the perlite. To do such, put all the perlite in a cooking pot, add water and boil it for half an hour. If you don’t need it now, drain the water and let the perlite dry for a few days in a clean tub.
Clean your greenhouse with dishwashing soap and rinse it well.
If you already have new substrate jars ready to grow, put the clean and already wet perlite back in the tub and let the mushrooms rise!
Congratulation! Now you know how to grow mushrooms from start to harvest!
You may not realize it, but now you know a lot about growing mushrooms:
- The complete life cycle of mushrooms
- How to make nutritive, humid and properly aerated substrates
- The logic behind contamination prevention
- Proper mushroom lab work (that’s huge!)
- The importance of light, air exchange and humidity during the fruiting stage
But the single most important thing here is that you now have all the solid basic skills you need to run a bigger scale mushroom farm at home! You may only have done small jars, but there is a lot of other mushroom substrate recipes and technique that you can do now. It’s the same logic, only different ingredients, bigger substrates and bigger yields!
The next step for you could be:
Using colonized brown rice flour cake (exactly like we made in this guide) and mixing them with freshly pasteurized hardwood sawdust and wheat straw to make oyster buckets.
Or making shiitake blocs!
Thank you so much for being here!
I mean it, without you, I would not be there everyday doing what I love.
All your questions, your passion and your infinite curiosity gave me the energy to build this guide. Without you, there would be no Mushroomers.com and I would not have the chance to engage the conversion with the awesome mushroom community!
Also, don’t forget:
- Always remember that I’m here to answer your mushroom growing questions, so never be afraid to reach me on the Question page, or on social media. I’m here for you!
- If you want to download this guide in PDF, remember that I give it for free when you join my mailing list. I highly suggest you join, it’s not a spam list where I try to sell you a bunch of stuff everyday. I hate spams! My list is where I send my best stuff first, I treat people on my list as my VIPs and I would love to have you on it. It’s will be worth it, I swear. If you don’t like it, you can easily unsubscribe anytime.
- Send me updates and pictures of your mushroom projects!
- Have fun growing mushrooms!