Everything You Need for Amateur Mycology at Home
Most people think that growing mushrooms is a complicated, expensive process.
In reality, nothing could be further from the truth!
Growing mushrooms at home is simple and inexpensive. In addition to the affordable equipment we’ll describe to you in this article, you really only need three other things:
1.) A willingness to learn.
2.) The ability to follow easy directions.
If you can handle all that, you’ll be growing your very own gourmet or ornamental mushrooms in no time!
This article will use terminology and reference processes that you may not be familiar with if this is your first foray into the lovely hobby of amateur mycology. If at any point you find yourself scratching your head and thinking, “Huh?” then we strongly recommend reading our free eBook, The Monster Mushroom Company Fungi Crash Course.
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Now we’ll dive into describing the equipment needed by any amateur mycologist who wants great results.
Please note that EVERYTHING discussed here is included in the Monster Mushroom Company Complete All-in-One Mushroom Grow Kit.
Let’s begin with a simple but critical component: the monotub.
What is a Monotub for Growing Mushrooms?
Monotub tek (shorthand for “technique” commonly used in the amateur mycology community) is an amazingly effective and space-conserving tool anyone starting out in this hobby should absolutely try out.
The monotub—a modified 51 quart plastic tub—acts as a growing chamber for your mushrooms. We, and many other mushroom fanatics, believe that it’s the ideal way to grow mushrooms indoors.
The tub is further modified to have several “air holes” throughout. This is so that you can introduce air flow to your grow and is an absolutely critical component. Since you don’t want contaminants to get in through the holes, they’ll typically be stuffed with a filtering substance (typically Polyfil, which we’ll discuss in more detail further on in this article).
A professionally modified 51 quart plastic tub is included with the Complete All-in-One Mushroom Grow Kit.
Mushroom Spores From a Spore Syringe or Spore Print – And Which We Recommend
The first thing an amateur mycologist learns is that in order to grow mushrooms, one must have access to mushroom spores!
While a complete description of the mushroom reproductive cycle is beyond the scope of this article—you can get all the details in our free eBook The Monster Mushroom Company Fungi Crash Course—here’s a brief overview:
Mushrooms don’t have “seeds” like plants do. Instead, they have spores. Spores, when placed into the right kind of environment, will eventually grow into mycelium. Mycelium is a white, fibrous, almost spiderweb-like substance. Interestingly, mycelium often represents the largest part of a fungal organism. Again, under the right circumstances, mycelium can produce fruiting bodies (we call them mushrooms). Mushrooms produce spores, generally from their gills underneath the cap, and thus the cycle repeats.
In any event, you’ll need some of those spores so that you can colonize your spawn bags with mycelium and then add that to your fruiting substrate, where with a little luck and patience, you’ll eventually have mushrooms.
Mushroom spores are usually distributed in one of two forms: a spore print or a spore syringe. Let’s understand what they both are and discuss why we generally recommend one over the other.
A spore print is a method of collecting mushroom spores onto a piece of paper or other appropriate material. The person making the spore print cuts the cap off of a mushroom and places it gills-down onto the collection material. The next step is simply to wait until the mushroom cap naturally releases spores. The spores fall down onto the collection material and, in addition to making a unique and often beautiful pattern, are then available for use. As you can imagine, making a spore print requires a clean setting with no open air flow (otherwise the spores could blow away).
A spore syringe is another means of storing spores. Typically a spore print is used as the original source of the spores. The spores are then mixed into a sterile liquid solution (usually distilled water; it must be contaminant free and contain no nutrients to avoid germination). This spore-and-sterile-water solution is then collected with the syringe, sealed off with a luer lock or similar mechanism, and is then ready to be distributed after 24 hours (to allow the spores to hydrate).
Whew—we know that’s a lot to take in, but it’s important to understand these things.
In any event, the means of spore transfer we prefer and highly recommend to readers are spore syringes. Syringes are significantly easier to work with and offer far fewer opportunities for accidental contamination. Whenever possible, we suggest working with spore syringes, but if you’re feeling adventurous or you’re an expert at cultivating mushrooms, a spore print can be a fine choice also.
Our Complete All-in-One Mushroom Grow Kit comes with a free Pearl Oyster mushroom spore syringe.
Spawning Bags: What They Are and How to Use Them
Spawning bags, like the ones we carry, are an ideal container for your spawning substrate. An empty spawning bag must be filled with that substrate, typically grain or something else mycelium can successfully colonize on, although most mushroom growers prefer to buy pre-filled spawning bags like our sterilized Super Spawn grain bags.
As with most of your mushroom cultivating gear, spawn bags need to be sterilized (along with the substrate inside of them). High quality spawning bags will have an injection port—a self-sealing receptacle for your spore syringe. Your syringe will be inserted into the injection port and released into the bag. This process is called inoculation. An injection port makes the whole process about a million times easier, and that’s really only a slight exaggeration!
For a great example of the process, watch Eric from the Monster Mushroom Company inoculate a spawning bag in our video grow guide and tips section.
The Complete All-in-One Mushroom Grow Kit comes with two sterile grain spawn bags.
You Can’t Grow Mushrooms Without it: A High-Quality Fruiting Substrate
Fruiting substrate is a bit of a fancy term for the soil that mushrooms grow in. Despite how it may seem when you consider all the seemingly random places that mushrooms crop up in the wild, fungi need a certain set of conditions in order to produce fruits—mushrooms, that is. When you’re trying to cultivate a specific kind of mushroom, it’s never as simple as tossing some dirt from your back yard into your monotub and hoping for the best.
For example, our Super Shroom Final Fruiting Substrate is a finely-tuned blend of sterilized coco, vermiculite, and gypsum, all hydrated with Rocky Mountain spring water, distilled water, and pH stabilizers. Does one strictly need a substrate blend like ours to grow mushrooms? No, not necessarily, but it certainly makes things faster and easier—not to mention the bigger harvests and repeated flushes that great substrate like this can contribute to.
Important Growing Chamber Accessories: Tub Liner, Hygrometer and Temperature Gauge, Spray Bottles, and More
We’ve covered some of the most important equipment and supplies a mushroom cultivator will need, but there are a handful of other accessories that will make your job even easier.
The first is non-negotiable for a successful grow: you need a tub liner. This is a liner for the bottom of your monotub made out of a dark material. Plastic is fine and it’s what we use, although we have seen some growers paint the outer bottom of their monotubs black for a more permanent solution.
The purpose of a tub liner is to prevent light from entering your monotub from the sides or the bottom where your fruiting substrate is. You want light to hit it from the top, which simulates a natural environment (i.e., sunlight hitting the ground). Without a tub liner, fruiting bodies may begin to appear (“pin”) on the sides of your monotub. However, when they meet the tub itself, they won’t be able to grow properly. A tub liner ensures that this won’t happen (or at least will be extremely unlikely) and will result in a better harvest.
Next, a hygrometer and temperature gauge is very, very useful. The Complete All-in-One Mushroom Grow Kit comes with a combo unit that has a small, easily managed form factor. The reason a device like this is so important is that it takes the guesswork out of maintaining the proper level of humidity and heat/temperature for your grow. At a glance, you can know exactly what’s going on in your monotub, and easily tell if it’s time to raise or lower the temperature or introduce more moisture to the fruiting chamber.
Other gear will come in handy, like spray bottles to introduce moisture. You’ll also need to introduce fresh air into the grow chamber at regular intervals—some growers will remove the lid of the monotub and simply use it to fan a bit of air into the chamber, but this introduces a slightly higher risk of contamination, so our kits come with a small handheld fan.
Speaking of air, a bit of Polyfil will go a long way when used as a filtering material for your monotub. Your grow chamber needs to “breathe,” but you don’t want an open-air setup which, especially in home growing operations, is far more likely to encounter possible airborne contaminants—even if you’re a total neat freak!
Equipment designed to enhance sterility such as gloves, face masks, and alcohol-based cleaning solutions are all additional items to keep on hand. Whenever you’re working on your grow, and especially during phases like spawn inoculation, wearing gloves and a mask can help prevent any contamination from entering the spawn bags, fruiting chamber, or anywhere else that needs to be kept clean. The alcohol solution is great for wiping down spawn bags, fruiting substrate bags, and, again, anything else that needs to be kept free of contaminants.
Ready to Grow Mushrooms at Home? The Monster Mushroom Company Has Everything You Need
While it’s true that we’ve talked about a lot of different equipment and supplies today, you have to admit that mushroom cultivation is a fairly straightforward process which requires precise but simple tools; as we said in the beginning of this article, anyone with a willingness to learn, the ability to follow directions, and a healthy dose of patience can do it. And, frankly, you don’t even need that much patience, as many fungi can grow from spores to mushrooms in just six weeks!
Every item we discussed here today is available to order from the Monster Mushroom Company shop. Whether you need fruiting substrate or empty spawning bags, we’ve got you covered.
If you’re excited to dive into the incredibly rewarding world of mushroom cultivation, the best and easiest way to do so is to simply order the Complete All-in-One Mushroom Grow Kit. The kit includes everything you need to start growing mushrooms, including a free Pearl Oyster spore syringe. The kit also comes with a detailed instruction manual.
Here at the Monster Mushroom Company, we’ve been growing our own gourmet and ornamental mushrooms for years. The equipment we carry is the equipment we use ourselves. Our recommendations to you are the result of years of experience, and we couldn’t be more proud than to do the work that we do—bringing the love of mycology to the masses.
Thanks for reading, and if you ever have any questions, please feel more than welcome to contact us.