Ages ago I tried growing Oyster Mushrooms and found it quite easy and satisfying. I do prefer button mushrooms or brown ‘flats’ though so this year I decided to grow them instead. The kit was from the same company so I was quite surprised to find the process seemingly much more complicated and taking a much longer period of time – there were pages and pages of instructions that were a bit daunting.
There are 2 separate incubation stages: firstly to get the mushroom spawn established in the compost and be fully colonised (can be up to 8 weeks) and then secondly getting it to grow into the topping soil and start fruiting (up to 18 days). This second part is critical and they note that it is better to put the topping on several weeks late than to be away during this stage and miss the timing. Of course as it turned out, I was scheduled to be away during the critical time so I had to delay by several more weeks.
You have to ‘tell the mycellium it is fruiting time’ by scratching a 15mm deep grid into the topping soil and then spraying it with a coarse jet of droplets to knock down any fluffy mycelium as it comes to the surface. You have to do this several times a day over the critical period. This is all accompanied by a complex folding and covering/ uncovering of the different bags that are used. I’m still not sure I got it all right but I do finally have some mushrooms growing.
Looking after these mushrooms is an art as well – the compost must not get water in it (unlike normal gardening) but the topping soil must never be allowed to dry out so you have to spray the topping with a misting bottle several times a day. Finding the right place to put it is important too: not too hot, not too dry, but warm enough, but then a bit cooler if possible to stimulate fruiting … I ended up putting mine in the bath and hoping for the best.
It can take more than 2 weeks in winter from when you first see the tiny mushroom pinheads form (and you are not sure what they are) to when you pick them. You can pick them as you want them – either as buttons or once they have grown larger and flattened out. With the right watering regime(!) (and accompanying manipulation of the bags again) you are supposed to be able to get 2-3 flushes of mushrooms but as my first flush is very small and spaced out, I’m not sure quite how to manage this. I’ll just see what I get by keeping it damp.
The mushrooms are delicious and it is very satisfying to grow your own but the process for button mushrooms is so complicated and drawn out that I’m not sure I will bother again.