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Growing Mushrooms – A Beginners Guide

Updated on February 16, 2011

Time lapse video of mushrooms fruiting by ohiotransplant

 Have you ever wanted to grow you own mushrooms? Have you tried it and failed? Growing your own mushrooms is easy. It’s is almost as easy as - Buy Kit - Add Water –Watch Mushrooms Grow – and Eat. Almost, I said. Just as you try to do anything for the first time your first kit will be the trickiest. You’re just learning. Learning takes time and you might make mistakes or problems might occur. The information below will help prevent mistakes and disasters.

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While there is a lot of information below it is easy information. Most of this article is about growing mushrooms with a purchased indoor mushroom kit, but there is information about growing mushrooms outdoors as well.

Blue Oyster Mushroom Time Lapse Video by mushymart

Choosing a Mushroom Kit

You have the option to grow mushrooms indoors or outdoors. Indoor mushroom kits are great because many of them will allow you to harvest mushrooms within just a few weeks. This allows you to experiment with a wide variety of mushrooms to see which ones you like the taste of best (home grown mushrooms taste a lot better and a bit different than store bought mushrooms) and which ones grow better for you. Indoor kits usually come with everything you need including detailed instructions. All you have to do is put it in a good location and add water. Indoor kits are ideal for beginners.

Outdoor mushroom kits and mushroom patches are a little more difficult, but they can give you many years of mushroom production. You can find outdoor kits for hardwood inoculation or for planting in your flower/vegetable garden. Many outdoor kits are actually mushroom spawn plugs used for hardwood inoculation. Other have the spawn mixed with something like straw or hardwood sawdust and you have to obtain the needed hardwood logs or various substrate materials for them to grow on. But it’s well worth the extra effort to be able to do the work once and have many years of mushroomy goodness afterward.

How To Grow Mushrooms by VeggieGardeningTips

Shiitake Mushrooms - food for Kentucky by UKForestry


Whether you choose an indoor kit or an outdoor kit or patch; choosing the right place to grow your mushrooms can mean the difference between try again later and delicious mushrooms for dinner. Indoor kits are easier for beginners to start with since most indoor kits include everything you need to grow mushrooms including detailed instructions. But even with outdoor kits you have to be careful of where you place them. Temperature, light, humidity, and air circulation are various factors to consider when choosing a location. I’ll cover these in depth below. All of this info might make it seem like it is really difficult to grow your own mushrooms, well it’s not. I just want to give you some important information to help make your mushroom growing experience as problem free as possible.



Making sure you can maintain the proper temperature range is vital. It is probably the most important factor to consider when choosing a place to grow your mushrooms. Different varieties require different environments. Too much heat and you can kill your mushrooms, even if it is for just a few hours. Too little heat and your mushrooms will just not grow or might also be killed, depending upon the variety. The temperature should stay within the temperature range of the mushroom variety you’ve chosen to grow to allow it to fruit (grow mushrooms). Of course if you’re growing mushrooms outdoors you can’t control the temperature completely. But you can keep them in the shade and water them more frequently on the really hot days to help keep them cooler. Yet if you grow mushrooms that are naturally found in your area or areas that have a similar climate to yours you will greatly increase the success of growing mushrooms. Here are some factors to consider that might affect the temperature of your location: direct sunlight, ovens, furnaces, and heater vents.

BTTR Gourmet Mushroom Kit Time Lapse by sahoo9

Wow! Fungi plant growth - The Private Life of Plants - David Attenborough - BBC wildlife

You have to remember that tasty edible mushrooms grow all over the world in a wide variety of environments (just like hub readers do) so with a little research you can find a mushroom variety, possibly several varieties, that you will be able to grow. Many people will discover that they are able to grow different types of mushrooms in different seasons very easily. Part of the fun of growing mushrooms is doing the research and learning even more about mushrooms and the wonderful things they can do for us and our environment. The rest of the fun is watching them grow then eating them.



While some mushrooms will grow in dark places most mushrooms like at least a little bit of light. Indirect sunlight is best. North facing windows are great for providing indirect sunlight. Direct sunlight is a big no-no (especially for indoor kits). Direct sunlight can cause the temperature to increase too much in your indoor kit and kill your mushrooms. It can also dry out your mushroom kit, which is also not good. Even mushroom varieties that are often grown in the dark like some indirect sunlight. White button mushrooms if exposed to light will no longer be white and portabella mushrooms will become darker. Many mushrooms will have a change in color depending on how much light they get. Another good thing about sunlight is that exposing your mushrooms to sunlight will increase their nutritional value especially by increasing the level of vitamin D.

CHOW Tip: How to Grow Your Own Mushrooms by CHOW



Moisture is the second most vital part to successful mushroom growing. You want to keep your indoor mushroom kit moist, but not wet. Most indoor kits suggest that you mist or sprinkle water on your kit two times a day. That can vary and when you are first starting out you need to pay close attention to your kit. The term “mist” can mean different things to different people. Spray bottles that allow you to control just how fine a mist comes out are great to have and will offer you the best control. Just how much you want to come out depends on how fast your kit dries out (which is not a good thing). Good common sense will help you determine if you need to water more frequently or heavier, or just the opposite. If you live in a dry climate or are using a furnace or air conditioner your kit will dry out quicker and since you want to prevent that you can mist your mushrooms more often, mist heavier, or use a humidity tent to keep your mushrooms from drying out. If you are using an outdoor kit just water a few times a week and use a good thick mulch to prevent the ground from drying out too fast. I like to use dried grass clippings as mulch in our gardens. Ours is safe to use since we don’t use fertilizer, herbicides, or pesticides on our lawn or garden. I’m not sure how much of our grass clippings would be broken down by mushrooms, but I do know that our worms love it. We have the biggest and fattest night crawlers you could want.

Air Circulation


Air circulation is also essential for a healthy mushroom crop. Mushrooms give off CO2, or carbon dioxide. CO2 is heavier than air and will sink to ground level - around the base of your mushrooms. This can reduce your mushroom crop, create spindly mushrooms, or prevent them from developing at all. Good air circulation near the bottom of your mushrooms will prevent a CO2 build up. Unfortunately air circulation will also help dry out your kit. If the substrate your mushrooms are growing in is far below the top of the container (some people put their kits in buckets, other kits come in boxes) then you could potentially have a CO2 problem. If you think you have a CO2 problem you can cut holes in the container a little above the substrate to allow the CO2 to sink out side of the container.

Portabella Mushroom Kit by caseychatcher

Humidity tents are great for helping to prevent your indoor kit from drying out to much, but they can also increase the levels of CO2 because if they are not properly set up they can reduce the air circulation. Humidity tents are generally large clear plastic bags of some kind that you put over your indoor mushroom kit. Even a large piece of plastic used for drop cloths can be used. Make sure it’s clear plastic to allow the light in and there should have plenty of space on all sides of the container. Keep the bottom of the humidity tent off the floor by about a half a hand width, more or less depending upon your unique environment, and make sure there is similar space above the top of the container. You can use straws, sticks, or other similar things and tape them in place (at the bottom of the tent and the top of the container) to make sure proper spacing is maintained. You want to keep the help keep the humidity in so your indoor kit doesn’t dry out too fast, but you also want good air circulation.

Some things to be aware of that can dry out your kit are heat sources like sunlight, furnace/heater vents, air conditioners, ovens, open windows that get a lot of wind coming through them, floor fans and ceiling fans. You might have to play with the bottom spacing of the humidity tent a bit if your mushrooms are in an area with a lot of air circulation. If you fold up the bottom several inches and hold the fold in place with paper clips you can lower or raise the bottom edge of the humidity tent easily as needed until you get it just right.

White Oyster Mushroom Kit by sporeprints


One of the most important rules about growing mushrooms is “Do Not” use tap water to water your mushrooms. Tap water often contains chemicals, like chlorine or chloramine, to prevent the growth of bacteria and helps keeps our drinking safe to drink. But these same chemicals are hazardous to your mushrooms. The best thing to use to water your mushrooms with is bottled spring water. Make sure it is spring water and not distilled water. Spring water has a lot of minerals and trace elements in it that mushrooms need for healthy growth. Distilled water is wet, that’s the only good thing to say about it. It lacks the nutrients needed for proper growth so make sure you buy bottled spring water and not distilled water.

You can of course collect rainwater to water your mushrooms with, but collecting it may be rather difficult for some people. Rain water is a very good alternative to bottled spring water. Please don’t use rainwater collected from run off from your roof. There is a high probably that it will be contaminated by bird droppings and dust that make contain harmful elements in it. Possibilities include auto exhaust, factory pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, other toxins, or heavy metals. For the same reasons pond water, lake water, and water from rivers and streams should be avoided. Mushrooms will absorb heavy metals and still grow very well, but would be unsafe to eat. I'm not sure if they do the same thing to the other contaminants, but it's better to play it safe.

Recycling with Oyster Mushrooms

Mold Growing in Your Indoor Kit

This is probably one of the most common problems you might encounter once you have started your indoor mushroom kit. The most common reasons for mold growth is that you are watering your mushrooms too much or there is not enough air circulation, possibly both. So you can mist your mushrooms a little less (if you are giving your mushrooms 7 squirts with the mist bottle try 5 squirts), adjust the mist so that it is a finer mist, or improve your air circulation. It’s very simple to stop mold growth.

East End Legends: The Mushroom Man by drumbum1577

Common Terms Used in Mushroom Growing

Mushroom - Mushrooms are fungi not plants. What we think of when we think of mushrooms is actually the fruiting body of the mushroom mycelium just like an apple is the fruiting body of an apple tree.

Mycelium - This is the reproductive part of fungi, the part that creates the mushrooms we eat. Mycelium is made up of masses of branching hyphae. When you see them they look like white roots. The term mycelium is singular and the term mycelia is plural.

Spores - Are the way fungi and some other organisms use to reproduce. Plants like vegetables, fruit, and flowers use seeds to reproduce. Mushrooms use spores. Under the right growing conditions spores produce hyphae which mass together to create mycelia.

Spawn - In its simplest terms spawn is substrate inoculated with mycelia before the mycelia begins to fruit (grow mushrooms). It is often purchased in a dried form to start growing mushrooms. All you have to do is add more substrate, moisture, maintain it at the proper temperature range, and soon you’ll have mushrooms to eat, depending on which specie of mushroom it is.

Substrate - The substance on which the mycelia will grow. This can be anything from a log, straw, coffee grounds, cotton seed hull, paper products, and many mixtures combining quite a few different ingredients. All substrate needs to be pasteurized.

Pasteurizing - This is a way of slowing the growth of pathogens in food. For mushrooms the food is the substrate the mycelia is breaking down into food. You pasteurize the substrate by heating it to 140 – 160 degrees for 2 hours (or 165 – 185 degrees for 1 hour depending on whose method you are using) and this will greatly reduce the chance of unwanted mushrooms forming, pathogens like bad bacteria infecting your crop, and insects/ insect eggs from becoming pests. You also want to be careful not to sterilize the substrate.

Casing - Casing is a pasteurized top dressing used by commercial or experienced mushroom growers. It is used to hold moisture and it does not have many nutrients in it. The lack of nutrients tricks the mycelia into fruiting (making what we think of as mushrooms in hopes of reproducing). It is supposed to give us bigger crops of mushrooms, but is very tricky to work with. It takes a lot of trial and error to get it right and you could end up ruining everything. Yet some mushroom kits come with casing and detailed instructions on how to use it. Just follow the instructions carefully and you should be fine.

Flush - When you get several to a whole lot of mushrooms coming up at one time.

Mushroom Parts

(1) Cap - The top part of the mushroom.

(2) Stem - The main support of the mushroom. The cap is attached to the top of the stem. Not all mushrooms have a stem, like puffball mushrooms.

(3) Gills- The gills are located on the under the cap and look like delicate flaps running from the center of the cap to the outer edges. The gills are where the spores are made.

(4) Scales - Some mushrooms have rough patches of tissue on the surface of the cap (scales are remnants of the veil).

(5) Ring - A skirt-like ring of tissue around the stem of mature mushrooms. The ring is the remnant of the veil. Not all mushrooms have a ring.

(6) Veil - A thin piece of tissue that connects the cap to the stem in young mushrooms. As the mushroom grows the veil tears exposing the gills so eventually spores can be released. In some mushrooms the Ring is left behind on the stem or Scale is left behind on the cap and some mushrooms don’t have either.

(7) Cup - A cup-shaped structure at the bottom of the mushroom. The cup is the remnant of the button (which is the rounded, undeveloped mushroom just as it begins to pop out of the ground and before the mushroom appears). Not all mushrooms have a cup.



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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I'm going to try growing mushrooms ,but I am concerned about what type of mushroom to grow. I live in the south west if Florida and it has been HOT.

      Is there a special type I should purchase?

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I've had my mushroom kit for about 4 weeks, and it's covered in a nice white frosting, but no mushrooms seem to be growing. Recently I've also noticed a yellow liquid starting to pool on the surface. What am I doing wrong?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Good detailed article, also have a look at , a good site for mushroom growing !!!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I'm interested in growing mushrooms outdoors. Do you think they would do well in the perpetual shade found underneath a trampoline?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I have a kit and am not happy about the idea that it doesn't contain info about renuturing and continuing to grow after the kit produces its initial crop... its a growing organism that I should be able to keep alive.... but I'm completely new to this... can anyone give suggestions?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I received a bag of bolets or porcini mushrooms from a friend. I am excited to

      Grow them but it didn't come with any directions just sealed in a bag. Can anyone tell me how do i even start growing them?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      @Joseph Noel - I believe that I read (perhaps Stamets/Mycelium Running) that you can water outdoor patches with chlorinated water - that there is enough other stuff in the soil to dilute the chlorine effects or some such. I could be wrong.

    • profile image

      Joseph Noel 

      8 years ago

      Living in coastal southern California we have a nice climate under live oak trees to grow outdoor mushroom patches. However, from April through October we get little to no rain so we must irrigate. With a sprinkler system around my native oaks and some cork oak I can keep my patch moist but how do I deal with the chlorine/chloramine? Has anyone just tried it anyway? Trucking in spring water is not practical. Thanks!

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Great hub, very well detailed. Sold...gonna buy a kit today.

      Joeseph Bengt

    • teresa8go profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Thanks thehemu! More people should try growing their own mushrooms. Hope you have a bountiful harvest!

    • thehemu profile image


      9 years ago from New Delhi, India

      great hub. Will try at grandma farm in upcoming vacation. Could be great source of income if works. Thanks for sharing.

    • teresa8go profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Thanks again Steve!

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      9 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Another awesome hub voted up!

    • teresa8go profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Thanks Kentuckyslone!

    • kentuckyslone profile image


      9 years ago

      WOW! This a really thorough hub on the topic.

    • teresa8go profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan, USA

      Hi Akram,

      I must admit I've never heard of "tub water". With that in mind all I can say is the chemical/s to watch for are those that are used to disinfect the water. The only two that I am aware of are chlorine and chloramine. Chlorine is easily gotten rid of by putting it in an open container for a few days and the chlorine will dissipate on its own. With chloramine you have to add another chemical to neutralize it. I found out about chlorimine while reading a discussion about fish tanks/aquariums. Fish don't react well to disinfectants either, they tend to die. So you're going to have to talk to someone in your area who knows about what disinfectant is used in your water. Maybe they will also know how to nuetralize it. If not, maybe there's a pet shop in your area, or someone who has an aquarium that could tell you how to get rid of the disinfectant. If all else fails talk to someone from the water department or local government.

      You also need to find out if "tub water" has any heavy metals in it since mushrooms tend to absorb heavy metals and would become unsafe to eat.

      Good luck

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi Theresa,

      Thanks for this nice article, it will be very helpful for me and all beginners like me.

      My question is about water, the only available water where I live is tub water or distilled bottled water, it is too hard to get spring or rain water enough for growing mushrooms. do you have any suggestions, like treatment of tub water to eliminate chemicals?

      Thanks is advance.


    • teresa8go profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Michigan, USA


      Sorry to get back to you so late, I haven't been home in quite a while. Make sure you are not over watering or underwatering and that the temp is correct. The first batch is always the best. After that they tend to slow down. Growing mushrooms can be tricky sometimes. It could be that you are paying them too much attention. Sometimes benign neglect is best. You know, just water and leave them alone.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi there,

      Thanks for this great article! I've started a mushroom kit, and the first batch was great. I got nice, big mushrooms and plenty of them. Now there are many many mushrooms at pinpoint size, but they're not getting any bigger. I was wodering whether you have any suggestions as to what might be wrong?


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