Growing button mushrooms is becoming a popular part of gardening nowadays. It’s not as common as growing tomatoes and green beans, but it has become a bigger part of the home gardener's arsenal, and for good reason.
Button mushrooms are one of the easier types to grow. They don’t need sunlight, and you can buy affordable, simple kits to help you grow them. Hobby farmers find that growing mushrooms is a great way to make some extra cash, as well.
Unlike some mushroom varieties, it’s simple to find button mushroom spores, and they're some of the most versatile of the mushrooms in the kitchen. Perfect for soups, stir-fries, chicken dishes, and scooped on top of steaks.
Hungry yet? I sure am. Button mushrooms from the grocery store are delicious, but homegrown ones are on another level. Ready to learn how to succeed at growing button mushrooms? Let's dig in.
How Do Mushrooms to Grow?
Before we focus on button mushrooms, we have to learn how mushrooms in general grow. Mushrooms start from spores rather than seeds, and spores are so small that you can’t see them individually with your eye.
Mushroom spores don’t contain chlorophyll like plants do to start germinating, so they need substances like wood chips or liquid for nourishment to get started. The blend of spores and nutrients is called a spawn. You can think of spawn like the starter that you need to make sourdough bread.
Spawn supports the growth of mushrooms’ threadlike roots, which are called mycelium. First, the mycelium grows before the mushrooms appear. Then, in a few weeks, the medium will support the growth of the mushrooms.
Preparing to Plant Button Mushrooms
Button mushrooms are easy to grow for several reasons, one of which is that they don’t require sunlight. That makes them perfect for apartment dwellers and those who have way too many indoor plants taking up window space already.
Not only that, but button mushrooms can be grown at any time of year, including winter. You can get your gardening fix when snow covers the ground. Homegrown crops in the middle of winter sound appealing, right?
Growing button mushrooms can be as simple as grabbing a growing kit and following the directions. It's an easy way to get your feet wet. But if you really want to make cash or feel a sense of accomplishment, this guide will show you how to grow button mushrooms without one.
Choosing a Spot
Mushrooms enjoy growing in areas that are cool and dark, so you want to pick somewhere to grow them that is between 65-75℉. It also needs to be shielded from light and any disturbances.
Many mushrooms growers choose a basement or crawlspace to grow their white button mushrooms. If you live in an apartment, dark closets work as well.
You need to use spawns, not seeds, to grow mushrooms. You can purchase ready-made spores online or at a nursery. Some spores have already been inoculated or mixed in with a substrate, such as dirt, hay, or sawdust.
Ideally, you want to purchase spawn from an experienced mushroom cultivator rather than a random seller online. High-quality spawn is more likely to produce mushrooms.
Growing mushrooms isn’t the same as growing tomatoes or peas. It takes some supplies that you may not use regularly, so you’ll want to prepare ahead of time.
A Box: A cardboard box works well, so long as its at least 6 inches deep and about 14 inches by 16 inches. You need a box with plenty of surface area for your mushrooms to grow. If you don’t have cardboard, you can use wood, instead. Boxes can be made of plastic or metal as well, depending on what you have available.
A Garbage Bag: The garbage bag is used to line the cardboard box to stop things from getting messy while keeping moisture in its place.
Composted Manure: Composted manure is the perfect growing medium for your white button mushrooms as it's a food source for them as well.
White button mushrooms grow well in nitrogen-rich manure, such as cow or horse manure. If you don't have 100% manure, equal parts of compost and manure work as well.
Those who want to dive into growing mushrooms on a larger scale will want to start their compost rather than buying it by the bag. Bagged compost and composted manure can cost a lot.
On the positive side, bagged manure has been sterilized, so you won't have to worry about transferring bacteria. If you start your own manure or compost, you'll need to heat it to kill off spores or bacteria that could harm the mushroom spawns.
Newspaper: Newspaper keeps the mycelium damp while it spreads and grows across the medium.
Vermiculite: Don't make the mistake of growing mushrooms solely in composted manure. Mix the manure with some vermiculite. Manure gives the mushrooms nutrients, and vermiculite provides aeration and moisture retention.
Inoculating Button Mushrooms
If you’re new to growing button mushrooms, these steps can seem strange. Once you get the hang of it, though, you'll find how easy it is to get them to thrive.
- Take an open garbage bag and line a box with the bag.
- Next, add a 50/50 mixture of vermiculite and manure. Read the directions on the spawn to know how much you need. For example, 50 grams of white button mushroom pawn needs 5kg of growing medium to inoculate. More is always better; it doesn’t need to be perfect. The mix shouldn’t be too deep – 3 inches at the most.
- Wet the medium with a bit of water. It should be damp but not waterlogged.
- Sprinkle the white button mushroom spawn onto the damp growing medium. Mix it into the top 2-3 inches of the moist compost.
- Take 4-5 layers of newspaper, spray with a bit of water, and lay the newspaper on top of the scattered spawn.
- Cover the top of the box with a plastic bag with a few holes to help retain moisture.
Caring for Button Mushrooms
Button mushrooms like warmer mediums to spawn, so if the compost gets too chilly, place the tray on a heating pad to bring the temperature to 70℉. You don’t want to heat the soil any higher than that because it can kill the spores.
You'll want to check your mushrooms once a day to be sure that the newspaper is moist. If it's not, gently spray with more water. Never pour water onto the compost mixture or the paper, or you will create wet spots that aren't the right consistency to encourage mycelium growth.
Within three weeks, you should see a white web of mycelium spreading over the top of the manure and vermiculite mixture. Once you see the mycelium, remove the heating pad.
Then, take more of the 50/50 manure and vermiculite mixture, and cover it with one inch of the mix. This part is called adding casing, and it's needed to encourage the button mushrooms to appear. You can also mix parts of peat and soil, or peat and chalk. Spray with water so that everything is damp. Remember not to dump water on top! Cover with plastic again.
Check once a day to be sure that the medium is damp and spray if necessary. Wait another 3-5 weeks, and your white button mushrooms should start to grow. Once mushrooms begin to form, continue to mist the soil and keep it damp.
Common Pests and Diseases
This disease looks like webbed, cottony growth on the surface of the casing and mushrooms. It might turn gray or pink, and the mushrooms will develop a soft, watery rot.
Getting rid of Dactylium disease requires good sanitation practices. Make sure the casing should be kept clean and sanitized, along with all tools and equipment.
When the dense layer of mycelium changes to green, you might have green mold. Developing mushrooms will be brown and might be cracked or distorted. Getting rid of green mold is achieved by good sanitation practices, and make sure the compost is adequately sterilized before use.
If you have small spotting on mushrooms or deformed mushrooms, you might have verticillium spot. A severe infection can cause a deformation known as dry bubble and mushrooms might become covered with gray, fuzzy growth.
You can destroy this fungus by using salt. Put the salt in a cup near the bubbles to dry them out. There are some fungicides to treat verticillium spot, but it could also kill the mushrooms as well.
Harvesting Button Mushrooms
When button mushrooms are mature, the cap pops open. When you're ready to harvest, twist the mushrooms out of the soil. That's it! If you don't want to twist them, use a sharp knife to cut through the stem, just below where the cap meets the stem.
During the growing period, while you pick the mushrooms, look for any fogging. Fogging means mushrooms that have gone soft. You need to remove these as well as any old mushroom stems or spongy material attached to these.
You can fill in the empty space with more casing to make space for new mushrooms. Your mushroom bed should continue to produce mushrooms for 3-6 months.
Cooking Button Mushrooms
Now that you have an ample supply of button mushrooms on hand, it's time for you to start cooking them up. Button mushrooms can be used in so many recipes. They taste great in soups, with rice, casseroles, or stuffed. Mushrooms stuffed with cheese are a delicious appetizer for parties.
It’s one of the great things about growing button mushrooms; they’re so versatile – and they sell well at a farmer’s market. Chefs and local cooks love homegrown mushrooms; they’re hard to find in most places!