Beginners Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home

Not only are mushrooms delicious and good for the environment, but they also have many benefits for mental and physical health. Yet, most people don't think of growing mushrooms as something you can do at home. Whether you want to grow mushrooms as a hobby or a money-making endeavor, there are a variety of methods you can use to grow mushrooms at home.

Growing Mushrooms Versus Growing Plants

While people typically think of mushrooms as plants, mushrooms are actually the fruit of fungi, which belong to a separate taxonomic kingdom from plants.

Fungi are more challenging to grow at home than typical garden plants. While plants turn carbon dioxide, sunlight, and water into food through photosynthesis, fungi feed off decomposing matter or a living host. Instead of reproducing by spreading seeds, fungi produce spores.

Materials for Growing Mushrooms

You need a few basic materials and equipment to get started. As a beginner, you may find it easier to purchase a grow kit with everything you need, instead of purchasing the materials separately.


Mushrooms grow from a network of threads called mycelium. Spawn is a carrier substance that keeps this network intact until you are ready to start growing. Making your own spawn without a clean lab environment and some specialized equipment is difficult, so most mushroom growers purchase ready-made spawn from a mushroom cultivation website.


Substrate is the material you grow your mushrooms in. It contains the decomposing material and nutrients needed for growing mushrooms. Substrate usually contains materials such as animal manure, hay, cocoa bean hulls, and cottonseed meal. Different types of mushrooms grow better in different kinds of substrates. For example, white mushrooms usually do well in a moist substrate, such as manure, while shiitake mushrooms grow better in sawdust or wood.


You need a pump mister to keep your substrate moist. A humidifier may be a good investment to help maintain optimal humidity in the growing environment. You may also need a heat mat to ensure the proper temperature.

A flow hood, which is a fan with a filter on it, keeps the air around your mushrooms clean. This prevents the air from becoming contaminated or stagnant.

It is important to sterilize your hands and all the equipment you use for growing mushrooms. At a minimum, you need some antibacterial soap, and you may want to invest in an autoclave to use for sterilizing your equipment.

Mushroom Growing Process

Now that you have your materials, you are ready to start growing.

Inoculate Your Substrate

This step involves introducing your spawn to the substrate. If you are using a grow kit, you can probably skip this step because grow kits usually come with substrate that is already colonized by spawn.

If you are not using a kit, start by pasteurizing your substrate. You can do this by boiling or microwaving it, depending on the material you are using. Let the substrate cool down and then mix it with the spawn.

Incubate the Substrate

The next step for growing mushrooms is to incubate the substrate. This usually means placing the substrate in a warm, dark place for several weeks to a few months. The mycelium will colonize the substrate during this time. Maintain a temperature of 55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit and minimize light exposure. You may want to use a red darkroom light when checking on your mushrooms.

Fruit Your Mushrooms

When the incubation period is over, prepare your substrate for fruiting by exposing it to fresh air. If you stored your substrate in a bag during the incubation period, you can cut open the bag to expose it to air. Mist it with water throughout the day to keep it moist.

Pinheads will begin to form on the substrate during this stage. Fruiting usually happens between five days and two weeks after the pins emerge. During the fruiting stage of growing mushrooms, your mushrooms need increased humidity and moisture, fresh air, and about 12 hours of natural, indirect light.

Harvest Your Mushrooms

Different species of mushrooms will be ready to harvest at different times. You can harvest most mushrooms by gently pulling or twisting the mature caps away from the substrate. Some kinds of mushrooms will produce multiple crops until the mushrooms have used all of the energy in the substrate.

Outdoor Mushroom Growing

It is possible to grow mushrooms outdoors. However, outdoor grow areas require a significant amount of preparation, and it is more difficult to control the growing environment. You need a shady location that stays between 40 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Logs are one of the easiest places for beginning growers to grow mushrooms outside.

Health Benefits of Growing Mushrooms

Mushrooms can benefit your health in several ways.

Reduce Cancer Risk

Researchers found that common mushroom varieties reduce breast cancer cells by a third. Mushrooms may also lower the risk of stomach and prostate cancer.

Boost Your Immune System

Mushrooms contain crucial vitamins, such as vitamin D and B12. They also contain lentinan and beta-glucan which can boost your immune system.

Improve Mental Health

Many non-western cultures use psychedelics, such as psilocybin mushrooms, to improve mental health. In the 1950s and early 1960s, mental health professionals in the United States used psychedelics to treat depression, anxiety, and addiction. However, psilocybin is currently illegal under United States federal law, though a few cities and states have legalized its use.

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