Mushrooms are a delicious and nutritious addition to many dishes. Store-bought mushrooms can be expensive though. Growing your own mushrooms at home is an easy way to have fresh mushrooms whenever you want them for a fraction of the cost of buying them. Using mushroom grow bags is one of the simplest methods for cultivating mushrooms yourself.
What Are Mushroom Grow Bags?
A mushroom grow bag is a pre-inoculated bag of substrate that allows you to easily grow mushrooms at home. The bags come pre-filled with a nutritious growing medium that has already been inoculated with mushroom spawn. This takes much of the guesswork and effort out of mushroom cultivation.
Grow bags for mushrooms come in different sizes, from small 1-2 pound bags up to larger 5-7 pound bags. The growing medium is usually a nutritious blend of materials like sawdust, wood chips, straw, and other agricultural wastes. This substrate provides nutrients and a proper environment for mushroom growth.
The spawn in the bags is mushroom mycelium. This is the vegetative part of a mushroom, consisting of fine, threadlike hyphae. When introduced into a suitable growing medium, the mycelium spreads through the substrate and fruit mushrooms. With grow bags, the mycelium is already well-established when you receive the bag.
Benefits of Using Mushroom Grow Bags
Mushroom grow bags offer many benefits for home mushroom cultivation:
With pre-inoculated grow bags, much of the hard work is already done for you. There is no need to buy spores or liquid cultures, prepare substrate, or sterilize containers. Just open the bag, provide the right environment and harvest mushrooms.
Less Risk of Contamination
Part of mushroom growing involves a sterile technique to avoid contamination. Grow bags come pre-sterilized and inoculated in a controlled environment, greatly reducing the risks of competing mold taking over.
Grow bags have built-in sides that keep the substrate together. When mushrooms are ready to pick, you simply cut open the bag and harvest them. There’s no substrate dumped all over the place to clean up afterward.
Some mushroom grow bags can flush multiple crops after the initial harvest. Under ideal conditions, Oyster mushroom bags can yield 3-4 harvests, while Shittake bags can fruit 2-3 times.
Bags come pre-filled and do not take up a lot of room. They are stackable, too, so that you can cultivate a lot of mushrooms in a small area.
Mushrooms grown in bags are faster from inoculation to harvest compared to many other growing methods. Oyster mushrooms, for example, can be found in just 2-4 weeks after receiving the grow bags.
Getting Started with Grow Bags
Grow bags make mushroom cultivation very simple, but there are still some important steps to follow for success.
Selecting a Variety
Many types of edible mushrooms can be grown in bags like Oyster, Shiitake, Lion’s Mane, Wine Cap Stropharia, and more. Decide which mushrooms you want to grow and find a supplier selling pre-inoculated bags for that species.
Popular choices are Oyster mushrooms for their speed of growth and reliable performance. Shiitake is preferred for its rich, earthy flavor.
Choosing a Location
You’ll need an area indoors or outdoors to keep the grow bags while mushrooms develop. A shady spot outdoors works well in many regions. Small mushroom farms often use simple wooden shelves in a shed or room.
Make sure the space maintains a temperature in the ideal range for the variety you are growing. Oysters and Shiitake grow well between 55-75 F. Also, avoid areas contaminated with mold spores, like musty basements.
Preparing the Bags
When grow bags arrive, open them up according to the supplier’s instructions. Sometimes, this involves just removing a sealed lid. Other bags need to be cut open across the top. The goal is to expose the substrate to air so the mycelium can begin fruiting.
Also, make sure the substrate has proper moisture. Often, spraying or soaking bags in water is needed upon arrival. The substrate should be damp but not overly soggy.
Providing Proper Conditions
With the bags set up, mushrooms need the right conditions to grow. Make sure they receive adequate fresh air exchange. Turn or fan the bags to refresh oxygen levels.
Lighting also encourages fruiting for some species, like Oyster mushrooms. Ambient daylight or indoor lighting works. Maintain optimal temperatures and keep the substrate moist without over-soaking.
Harvesting the Mushrooms
Once mushrooms reach a mature size, they can be broken or cut off at the stem base. Harvest frequently as mushrooms grow quickly. Pick individual mushrooms or clusters, being careful not to damage developing pins.
To stimulate additional flushes, soak bags in water after harvesting. Fan out the substrate, too. With good technique, 2-4 total harvests per bag are possible.
Growing Different Types of Mushrooms in Bags
While processes are similar, ideal conditions vary slightly for different gourmet mushrooms. Here are tips for some of the most popular varieties grown in bags:
Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus) are a great choice for beginners. They grow reliably in bags and produce several harvests. Oysters thrive in cool 60-75 F temperatures and indirect light. Harvest when caps are 5-8 cm across. Soak and drain bags between flushes.
For rich umami flavor, Shiitake (Lentinula edodes) is a popular bag choice. They prefer temperatures between 55-65 F. Outdoor shade or indoor conditions work well. Harvest Shiitake when caps open to a flat plane. A few harvests are possible with soaking between flushes.
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Known for unique flavor and health benefits, Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) grows on bags as cascading white spikes. Lion’s Mane thrives around 60-75?F with high humidity. Harvesting is done by cutting spikes just above substrate level.
Wine Cap Mushrooms
For mushrooms with a meaty texture, Wine Caps (Stropharia rugosoannulata) are a good option. They grow in the 50-65 F range in bags. Pick mature mushrooms when the edges of caps start to curl upward. Wine Caps are bruised blue when handled.
Many other edible mushroom species can grow well in bag substrates. Pioppino, Yellow Oyster, King Oyster, Chestnut, and Blue Oyster are just some examples. Do research to learn optimal conditions and care for the species you want to cultivate.
Troubleshooting Common Problems
When using mushroom grow bags, issues are rare but can occasionally occur:
- Dry substrate – Mushrooms stall if conditions get too dry. Remist the bags by soaking or spraying them.
- Excess moisture – Overly wet substrate encourages mold growth. Allow bags to dry out more between watering.
- Low FAE – Lack of fresh air can lead to thin, leggy mushrooms. Fan bags more often.
- Temperatures too low/high – Ensure the environment is in the ideal range for the species.
- Pests – Slugs, mites, fungus gnats, or other pests can sometimes be an issue. Use traps and control methods if they appear.
- Contamination – Bacterial blotch, green mold, etc., can take over the unsterile substrate. Discard bags if contamination is severe.
- Deformed/small mushrooms – This can indicate a problem with growing conditions or genetics. Troubleshoot the environment and get bags from a reliable source.
With good care, bags typically produce excellent results for novice and experienced mushroom growers alike. Always follow supplier instructions for the type of bag and species.
Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor
Home-cultivated mushrooms are incredibly gratifying and taste noticeably better than store-bought varieties. Once you taste their fresh flavor right out of your mushroom grow bags, you may find yourself becoming hooked on this fun gardening method.
Mushroom grow bags from reliable suppliers make mushroom growing easy and accessible for everyone. Give it a try and see the abundant harvests you can achieve!