At this time of the year there’s not too much that seems to be growing in the garden. Sure, the weeds are making some headway and the winter veggies are accelerating away from the snails but apart from that most of our plants are now well into their dormancy period.
Yet, pushing their way through the top soil and the layer of humus that still covers the garden beds are the odd mushroom or toadstool. The first rains of the year have brought them to life and they are enjoying the coolness of the days and nights.
While this is all exciting, and will certainly add some diversity to the evening meal from time to time, these mushrooms can’t be counted upon to produce regularly. One day they’re in abundance while the next they’ve succumbed to the extreme weather conditions and have begun to wilt or even departed absurdly from the planet altogether.
For this reason mushroom kits have become so popular. As gardeners we want to grow our own produce, not buy it from the store so a mushroom kit is like a half-way measure. Unfortunately, mushroom spores can’t be sold in packets alongside vegetable seeds so the kit allows us to buy them in a semi-unprocessed state.
How to grow mushroom kits
Most mushroom kits are comprised of a box, some growing medium (compost), mycellium spores, and some peat moss casing. Once the kit is opened, remove the peat moss bag and lightly pour over the compost covering the mycellium. Then with a fork or some other instrument, scarify the surface to enable the spores to grow.
Mushroom kits need to be kept at a constant low temperature 15-25°C (60-78°F) but not necessarily in the dark – provided they are kept away from direct sunlight. If the room temperature shifts above or below this range your mushrooms won’t grow and your kit may struggle to produce at all.
Once you’ve started your mushroom kit – this can be delayed for a few weeks but not wise to hold off any longer than this – you will start to produce mushrooms within 7-10 days. Almost half (50%) of your fruit will be produced in this first yield with subsequent production slowing with each harvest until eventually the kit stops producing altogether.
In most cases, once this kit has expired there is nothing more that you can do with it except toss the growing medium into the compost heap. If you have access to more mycellium spores then it is possible to continue growing more of these mushrooms provided the peat moss casing is replaced and the compost medium is still moist.
If you’re like me then discovering that mushroom kits now offer more than just white button mushies is quite a boon. Shiitake, Portobello, Enoki and many other varieties are now making their way into the marketplace as gardeners start to experiment with these diverse fungi.
Who knows, maybe one day they will offer packetted mycellium alongside the vegetable seed racks.