How to Start a Mushroom Garden
While endeavoring to grow as much of our own food as possible I came across a presentation on growing mushrooms at home by Fungi Akuafo and I was intrigued! I had never considered starting a mushroom garden in my zone 3 Alberta backyard. But as I found out, there was few reasons not to. Growing mushrooms in Canada at home in your backyard does not require a lot of space and building a mushroom bed out of cardboard, wood chips, and straw did not take long to do.
Growing Mushrooms in Canada
With a little effort, edible mushroom gardens make a wonderful addition to your zone 3 vegetable garden.
I was able to obtain two fungi spawn kits from Fungi Akuafo (based out of Sundre, Alberta). I planted one spawn kit of wine cap mushrooms and one of blue oyster mushrooms. The spawn kits where shipped in the mail and I stored them in our garage fridge for a few weeks until we were ready to plant.
My husband and I were like kids waiting for Santa to come, excitedly checking our mushroom garden every few days. When the mushrooms did appear it seemed almost magical, one day there was nothing there and just 3 days later there would be mushrooms grown and ready to be harvested!
How to Get Started Growing Mushrooms
What you Need to Grow Wine Cap or Blue Oyster Mushrooms
Substrate to inoculate your mushroom bed
1m x 1m space to grow in
Cardboard (or newspaper)
Hardwood wood chips (Or 80% hardwood and 20% softwood. Do not use cedar as it is a natural antifungal wood.)
Straw - organic if possible. Mine was not organic but I was able to confirm that the crop had not been treated with any antifungal sprays. I was told by the farmer I bought my straw from that antifungal sprays are not commonly used on crops in Alberta.
And that's it! Straw can usually be bought from any local feed stores. I was able to find untreated hardwood wood chips from a friend who does woodworking. Fungi Akuafo also sells these items on site, if you don't live too far from Sundre, Alberta.
Selecting a Location for your Mushroom Garden
Wine cap and blue oyster mushrooms can grow nearly anywhere on your property but will grow best in filtered light. Think forest floor lighting. If you happen to have an already mulched area under trees, consider building your mushroom bed there.
If filtered light is not an option, look for an area protected from sun during the hottest afternoon hours. Mushrooms thrive in conditions with consistent moisture. This can be difficult to maintain in hot, full sun conditions. Mushrooms can grow in full sun but you will need to ensure adequate moisture is provided.
How to Build a Mushroom Garden
Remove the top foot of soil in the area indicated on your spawn kit. (Mine suggested 1m x 1m for each kit.)
Lay down cardboard, then wet down cardboard.
Spread a layer of straw, top with wood chips and then 1/3 substrate. Repeat 3 times, sprinkling water on each layer as you go.
Top with a sprinkling of wood chips.
Water until fully moistened throughout the layers. Ideally your mushroom bed should be maintained to stay moist (but not soaked) when you feel an inch down into it.
Wait. Hopefully you will start to see mushrooms in about two months. They seem to like to appear in the cool period after a hot spell of weather.
Mushrooms can be harvested the day they appear or you can wait two more days for them to flatten out a little. To harvest mushrooms, take a sharp knife and slice off just below ground level. Store in the fridge. Use within a week, dry, or freeze.
Tip: I had thought all wine cap mushrooms were red. It turns out that there are also white wine caps! The variety Fungi Akuafo sell grows both red and white. If I had realized this we could have eaten many more mushrooms! Now I know for next year.
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