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Top 13 Mushroom Growing Substrates | How To Make & Use

Mushroom Growing Substrates

Mushroom growing substrates provide specific nutrients for different types of mushrooms to grow.  It is essentially the food for your mushroom to grow.

That being said, let’s look at what mushrooms eat…

  1. Lignin
  2. Cellulose
  3. Hemicellulose

These are the 3 main components found in the cell walls of plants and trees and this is what mushrooms feed on to grow.  Additionally, they like to have the following:

  1. Small amounts of nitrogen (0.2% – 0.4%)
  2. Small amounts of minerals (K, P, Mg, Ca)
  3. pH levels in the range of 4 – 7 depending on the mushroom (almost neutral on the PH scale of 0 – 14)(you may find a PH tester useful)
  4. 50% – 70% water content in substrate

The reason I tell you this is because people come up with new mushroom growing substrate ideas all the time.  For example, TR Davis came up with the idea of using a 50/50 mix of 1 lbs hardwood sawdust and 1 lbs soy bean hulls with 1.4 liters water (AKA Master Mix).  This formula produces HUGE first flushes… better than almost any mix before it.

Certain mushroom will grow better on different types of mushroom growing substrates.  I have other articles linked further down in this article that will tell you the best substrate to use for that specific mushroom based on what other people have tried.

Now that you understand what your mushroom growing substrates should contain let’s look at the most common ones to choose from:

1)  Supplemented Hardwood Sawdust 

sawdust pellets

5 pound block = 5 cups hardwood pellets, 1.4 liters water, 1 1/4 cups bran (wheat or oat).  This would need to be sterilized in a pressure cooker.

If you don’t use the bran to supplement the sawdust you wouldn’t need to sterilize it because the wood pellets are already sterilized in the process of turning them into pellets.

Can be used to grow almost any type of mushroom, but best for mushrooms that specifically grow on dead trees in nature or for inoculating logs.

2)  Psilocybe Fanaticus Technique (PF-Tek)

In 250 ml (half pint) mason jar put = 1/6 cup brown rice flour (BRF), 1/2 cup vermiculite & 60 ml water.  Then put the jars into a pressure cooker at 15 PSI for 45 minutes.

The PF-Tek method is good for making small amounts of mushrooms but isn’t designed to make big mushrooms and they will tend to be much smaller.  The majority of mushrooms can grow on the PF-Tek substrate.

This one is a favorite among psilocybe cubensis growers.

3)  Straw

Straw chopped into 3 to 4 inch lengths (use a weed wacker in a 55 gallon barrel).  Can be pasteurized using a hydrated lime or hot water.

  1. Hydrated Lime:  175 grams of hydrated lime per 100 litres of water and soak for 12 to 18 hours.  Use mesh bag to soak straw and then drain out for an hour.
  2. Hot Water:  Raise water temperature to 149 – 175 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 to 2 hours.  Use mesh bag to soak straw and drain for 15 to 20 minutes.

Another option that could work would be to put straw in a bowl with water into the microwave.  Then turn the microwave on until then water boils out of it..

You could soak the straw in 55 gallon barrel or you could use a bucket.  I heating it you could:

  1. Prop the barrel up on some cinder blocks and put a fire underneath it.
  2. Use an electric drum heating belt around the barrel.

You could also use a bucket to soak the straw if you are using the hydrated lime method.

Almost any type of mushroom will grow on straw but some may require different supplements to be added to make them grow better.  This is favorite among oyster musrhoom growers.

4)  Coffee Grounds

coffee grounds

Use spent coffee grounds after making coffee (if not used within 24 hours they will need to be sterilized).  If you don’t have any you can go to the nearest coffee shop (Starbucks) near you, give them a bucket and ask them to throw their spent coffee grounds in there and you pick up the bucket at the end of the day.

Almost any type of mushroom will grow on coffee grounds but may require different supplements to be added to make them grow better.  Normally it is better to add coffee grounds as a supplement to other substrates then to use by itself.

Shiitake and Oyster mushroom grow well on coffee grounds.

5)  Rye Grain

Rye grains soaked in water (option to add a cup of coffee (better yields) and a tbsp of Gypsum (prevent grain from sticking together)) for 12 – 24 hours then bring water to a boil and let simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.  Let dry and put in bags or jars.  Sterilize in pressure cooker for 90 minutes at 15 PSI.

You can also buy the rye grain substrate bags already done for you.

Rye grain is typically used to create mushroom spawn that will later be used to inoculate a bulk substrate.  Just about any mushroom spawn can be grown on rye grain.

6)  Manure

You can be creative with mixing stuff with manure but a good mix would be 2 parts sun dried horse poop with 1 part coco coir (comes from coconuts).  Need to add water to get it to field capacity.  Field capacity basically means it is holding as much water as possible without pooling any at the bottom (when you squeeze lightly no water drips out but if you squeeze it hard a couple drops drip out).

Use a pressure cooker to sterilize it at 15 PSI for 2.5 hours.

You can also get bags that have manure already ready for inoculation.

Manure is good for your manure growing mushrooms like the button mushroom or psilocybe cubensis.

7)  Masters Mix

50/50 mix of 1 lbs hardwood sawdust and 1 lbs soy bean hulls with 1.4 liters water.   Sterilize in a pressure cooker for 2.5 hours at 15 PSI.

Let soy bean hulls soak overnight with boiled water so it will be easier to break apart.  700 ml water for every 2.5 cups of pelletized soy hulls.  Sawdust will break apart much easier.

Master mix will create amazing first flushes for most mushrooms and is a good option if you want to grow a larger than normal mushroom.  It works well with most mushrooms but not well with Shiitake.

8)  Logs

Depending on the mushroom, you will use a hardwood log that is 3 to 4 feet long by 4 to 6 inches in diameter (the wider the log with bigger the mushroom typically).  Drill inch deep holes 4 to 6 inches apart in a row.  Each row is 2 to 3 inches away in a staggered (diamond like) formation.

You can use a drill with a 5/16th drill bit or an angle grinder with a 12 mm bit to drill you holes.

Examples of hardwood logs are:

  • Alder, birch, oak, maple, beech, polar, balsam, aspen, elm, and willow.

You can get the mushroom log drill bits, inoculation tools and angle grinder adapters shown in the video here:

You can also get the sawdust spawn for the type of mushroom that you want to grow here:

The best time to cut your trees is from mid summer into late fall but don’t cut trees that are budding out in late spring.  Also, you might want to wait a month before inculcating to give the tree’s natural fungi prevention ability a chance to die off.

For this you will grow mushrooms that are typically found growing on dead or dying hardwood trees to mimic their environment perfectly.

9)  Straw with Coffee Grounds

  • 60% hydrated & pasteurized wheat straw
  • 30% fresh (within 24 hours) coffee grounds
  • 10% mushroom grain spawn

Depending on your mushroom, you could mix all the ingredients together (can use a compost tumbler if you want or do by hand) and the layer the mushroom spawn in (every inch of substrate sprinkle some spawn).

You can make your own grain spawn or get it pre-made here:

The majority of mushrooms will grow on coffee grounds with straw but may require different supplements to be added to make them grow better.  Works well with Oyster mushrooms.

10) Straw with Coffee Grounds & Sawdust

  • 40% hydrated & pasteurized wheat straw
  • 30% fresh (within 24 hours) spent coffee grounds
  • 20% hydrated sawdust pellets
  • 10% mushroom grain spawn

Depending on your mushroom, you could mix all the ingredients together (can use a compost tumbler if you want or do by hand) and the layer the mushroom spawn in (every inch of substrate sprinkle some spawn).  Or you could mix the substrate with the spawn together.

You can make your own grain spawn or get it pre-made here:

Almost any type of mushroom will grow on coffee grounds with straw and sawdust but may require different supplements to be added to make them grow better.  This is a great recipe for Shiitake.

11)  Coco Coir with Vermiculite

1 part coco coir with to 1 part vermiculite and then pasteurized.  Mix it together and then add your spawn.

Or:

  1. 1 brick of coco coir (1.4 lbs)
  2. 8 cups of dry vermiculite
  3. 16 cups of boiling water
  4. Soak in a bucket for 40 minutes with lid on.
  5. Mix and then put lid back on and cool for 4 hours.

The majority of mushroom will grow on coco coir mixed with vermiculite but may require different supplements to be added to make them grow better.  Normally used as a substitute for manure.

12) Cardboard

Cardboard can be used by soaking it in boiling water.  Bring the pot with the cardboard to a boil then let cool down.

This is a cheap option to use with extra stuff laying around the house.   You can also mix it with coffee grounds.  It is best to do the lazanya layering method by putting cardboard, then grain spawn, then cardboard, then grain spawn…etc.

Works well with oyster mushrooms.

You can make your own grain spawn or get it pre-made here:

13)  Popcorn Grain

This method can be used to create your grain spawn instead of use rye grain.  Rye grain is definitely the most popular but maybe you want to be creative and use popcorn.

Steps:

1)  For this you rinse you popcorn and put it into a pressure cooker (fill pressure cooker with enough water for the popcorn to absorb.  Better to put more than not enough) and turn your stove on high.

2)  Let the pressure cooker steam for 10 minutes to remove air.

3)  Place weight on pressure cooker and let pressure build to 15 PSI.

4)  Then let it cook the corn at 15 PSI for 30 minutes.

5)  Let drain for 10 minutes in a strainer.

6)  Lay out the popcorn on a paper towel to pat dry and then put into the mason jars.

7)  The put the jars into the pressure cooker again at 15 PSI for 90 minutes.

Be sure to drill a hole in the top of the mason jar lid, fill it with poly stuffing and then cover with foil before putting the jars into the pressure cooker.

This method can be used the same types of mushroom spawn that you would with rye grain.

Now that you understand the different types of mushroom growing substrates and how to use them, let’s talk about what to do next…

Choosing a Substrate Micro Environment

Now that we understand the type of substrate we need for the type of mushroom we want to grow the next step is to decide on the type of environment we want to put our substrate into to encourage mushroom colonization…

I have written a separate article on this topic that will explain the following options for your micro environment:

  1. Different types of sealed plastic bags (pre-made and how to make your own with filters)
  2. Improvising with layflat tubing instead of bags (much cheaper then buying mushrooms bags)
  3. Creating a monotub for your substrate and ‘pimping it out‘ to encourage maximum mushroom growth.
  4. Creating a ‘humidity dome’
  5. Using bottles correctly

Additionally, we will go into the next stages of the growing process:

Stage 4 – Inoculate the Mushroom Substrate

Stage 5 – Incubation

Stage 6 – Mushroom Fruiting

Check it out the article now:

how to grow mushrooms at home

Now lets wrap things up…

Conclusion

Pick the right substrate for the mushroom you want to grow really just involves looking at the natural environment that mushrooms like to grow in and what they like to eat.  They like to eat the 3 main components found in the cell was of plants and trees (and they like it moist):

  1. Lignin
  2. Cellulose
  3. Hemicellulose

Really, you can be creative as you want making a substrate or simply pick one of the ones above that have already been proven to work through other people’s experience (or combine different ones together).

The best option is to probably pick one that uses the most readily available resources for you to come across based on where you live.  If you live out in the middle of the country it might not make sense to try and use fresh coffee grounds in your substrate but straw may be in abundance.

Or maybe you just want to get right down to it and order a ‘ready to go’ substrate already in the bag so you don’t have to do anything.  That might not be the most cost effective idea if you are trying to grow mushrooms for profit however if you are just doing it for fun then it would be fine (should be okay to order pre-made spawn even if you are growing for profit).

Be sure to check out my other article (referenced above) that explains everything that you need to do in the next step of the growing process in picking your substrate growing environment and then inoculating it.

I hope you found this article useful.  If you did please share it.  Thanks!

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Top 13 Mushroom Growing Substrates


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Oliver

Oliver

Always looking for ways to improve the health of myself and my family led me to the discovery of medicinal mushrooms and the numerous health benefits they have on the body. My mission is to spread this knowledge and help as many people as possible.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Thanks so much for putting all this information together. I’m just getting my feet wet with all of this and having this comprehensive guide all in one place sure beats having to aggregate together info that’s scattered all over the web. Thanks again for putting out such clear, thorough info!

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