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Grow Mushrooms Outside! (The easiest way to grow)

The king of mushroom beds is King Stropharia, otherwise known as the Garden Giant, Wine Cap mushroom, or its globally recognized Latin name Stropharia rugosoannulata.  This mushroom loves dirty environments and interactions with other microbes.  Unlike most indoor cultivated mushrooms, Wine Cap mushrooms grow poorly in sterile environments.  They prefer to grow on hardwood chips, sawdust, and straw.  They will also “eat” some leaf litter, lawn clippings, and other garden waste.

Choosing the right wood for growing mushrooms

Hardwood mulch from nurseries or your hardware store will work for mushroom beds.  It's best if the mulch was produced within the last couple of months, so wild fungus doesn't claim all of the wood for itself. Red Oak is the “go-to” for gourmet mushrooms since almost all gourmet species love to grow on it, but many types of hardwood work well for growing mushrooms.

Inoculating Wood

The ideal time window for inoculating hardwood mulch is 2 to 5 weeks after cutting, and no more than 3 months after the tree has been harvested.  Trees produce anti-fungal compounds when they are alive, and these compounds take a couple of weeks to break down.  Waiting until the anti-fungal compounds break down allows your desired fungal species to begin to colonize the wood.  If you wait more than 3 months, wild fungi will colonize the wood, making it harder for your mushrooms to grow. 

Mushroom yields are a result of many variables, including mushroom species, wood type, and environmental conditions such as humidity and temperature.  We highly recommend experimenting to find out what works best for your particular setup.

Link to you tube video, the easiest way to grow mushrooms

How to build a mushroom bed:

  1. Clear any leaf litter or debris from the area where the mushroom bed will be, down to the bare soil.
  2. Lay down a layer of cardboard on top of the soil. This step isn’t 100% necessary, but can be helpful when initially colonizing a bed.  Try half with cardboard and half without, to see which works better for you.
  3. Lay a 1’’ layer of substrate (woodchips, sawdust, etc.) on top of the cardboard or soil.
  4. Sprinkle broken up spawn into a thin layer across the top of the substrate.
  5. Add a 2’’ layer of substrate on top of that and repeat until your bed is 8-16’’ deep.
  6. Add a top layer of mulch or straw to help protect the bed from drying out.
  7. Water the bed thoroughly and keep it moist. This is very important during the first two weeks and can be tapered off after it’s fully colonized. 
  8. Once the bed is established, watering only needs to be done during hot, dry, drought periods.
  9. In areas where temperatures drop below freezing in the winter, add a thick insulating layer of straw or woodchips to protect the bed. In the spring, scrape off the insulation leaving a couple of inches.  When temperatures warm up, the mycelium will wake up and begin to colonize the new food source.

Wine Cap beds can persist for years and produce mushrooms as big as dinner plates!  Adding new layers of substrate to your bed each year can keep it going, in theory, indefinitely.  You can even take pieces of colonized material to start a new bed somewhere else.  One 5 lb bag of spawn can inoculate a 4’ x 4’ space.

Mushroom beds can be constructed with wood walls.  They can be dug into the ground so they are flush with the surface.  They can be as low tech as a pile of substrate on the surface.  Some good places for a mushroom bed are perennial gardens, vegetable gardens, around the base of trees, and the edge of where trees and fields meet.  We like to have them on the north side of buildings in the shade, but wine cap mushrooms can tolerate some direct sun.

Worms like to eat the wine cap mycelium, so moving your mushroom bed seasonally can keep your mushroom harvests plentiful.  Use a big shovel to pick up large sections of your mushroom bed to transfer it to a new location.  If your bed needs a “refresh,” break up new substrate and mix it in with the old mushroom bed. 

Nameko & Oyster mushrooms can also be grown in mushroom beds using the same methods.


Growing mushrooms outside in beds has the potential of harboring wild fungus that may also thrive in your mushroom bed.  Make sure you are 100% sure you are harvesting your desired mushrooms.  Don’t eat any mushroom if you aren’t 100% sure what it is.  Use tools such as Facebook, identification books, local mycology groups, etc. to help identify any mystery mushrooms.  Here are more resources for learning how to identify mushrooms. 

Harvest mushrooms just before the caps flatten.  This is the period before they start producing spores, which can negatively affect the taste and texture of your mushrooms.  Also, harvesting mushrooms after their caps have flattened out decreases their refrigerator shelf life significantly.  For maximum shelf life, always refrigerate mushrooms immediately after harvesting.

Comments?  Questions?  Awesome mushroom pictures?  Success stories? 

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