Friday, June 27, 2014

Stackable mushroom grow tower

We started growing these a few years back and we improved on the system to make it accessible to almost all homesteaders whether city or rural and this is what we came up with.

Materials : 
Inoculated spawn mixture usually consisting of spores mixed with a sawdust product.

A drill with 1 to 3 cm ( .5-1 " US ) drillbits. 

A few food grade buckets ( with lids ) and a large plastic tote or container . 

Access to a very large and safe container or a standard bathtub.

straw broken up 
Usually about 10-15 lbs of wet straw per bucket. 

Plastic sanitation gloves  optional

A couple of pots for boiling water

A large plastic garbage bag

A little bit of food grade alcohol. ( or bleach , more in this later ) 

Paper towels or small rag

The 5 gallon bucket mushroom grow system is not only versatile but it's also practical. This method is not for anal retentive cerebral folks looking to prove how much they think they are a god. This is a simplified method for people who
Just want to grow some shrooms .Single food grade buckets ( often free )  could be kept on your countertop or the corner and since the buckets are stackable it allows you to grow many different varieties of mushrooms all-in-one place. Oysters are used primarily by me with this system but experiment if you like.
Boil water and place straw in a basin . Pour hot water over straw in basin and keep soaking for a few minutes .Your straw can be roughly chopped or just broken up well. The more you chop the less spawn mix you can use. I skip the chopping method and instead beak it up
Well and use more spawn because ... Spawn is cheap especially if you make it yourself .  
Now comes the straw sanitation.
Variants : 
Purists will say you have to place your straw in a pressure cooker and heat the it to all Hades . 
Some will say you have to boil it in a pot for an hour 
Truth being they are also destroying the nutrient base that is suppose to feed the mushrooms by doing this. A few minutes is all that's needed to destroy the native spawn. If your making your own spawn then use their techniques because sanitation is key, therwise keeping it simple is my plan. You'll find some say one whole hour of boiling some a half some none at all .
Some claim you shouldn't heat it at all. If you have good spawn it should be in a condition that would be able to take over before native spawn that's dormant even has a chance. They also say that you preserve more of the nutrient base by not heating it. Truth is I like the Buddhist path to mushroom growing ... The middle path . 
 Now is the perfect time to drill the holes in that bucket. Using a drillbit a couple centimeters across ( 1-3 C ) begin drilling in a diamond pattern by alternating the holes . 
After you have drilled the holes in your bucket take a little household spirits (vodka gin etc. )and using a small rag or paper towel wipe out the inside of the bucket or use the hot water you are boiling .Set this bucket aside and you just performed another sanitation process that will help ensure success. You could skip the alcohol or hot water and instead use bleach water or maybe antibacterial soap. Make sure you rinse all of these multiple times as you do not want any bleach or antibacterial soap residue left in the bucket. You then take your  straw
and add it to your tub , tank or basin .
Using your thermometer you then add boiling water until you reach the ideal temperature of 71°C. Here's where the tricky part comes in. Some straw is under the hot water while some is floating on top above the water. I allow it to sit like this for 10 minutes and then flip the whole mass like an egg . And soak another 10. Unless you have hands like mine use tools like a pitchfork or gloves to manipulate the straw lest you burn yourself. 
While you are maintaining your temp , now is a great time to take out your spawn medium which is mixed with sawdust and place that in a sanitized bowl. 

After your chopped straw is sanitized you may then drain the tub or bucket. Removing the straw from the tub or bucket and place in a large sanitized container to cool, you are now ready to begin the seeding of your bucket. 
After the temperature of the straw has fallen to body temperature it's now time to pack your hole drilled bucket. 
Put a nice thick layer on the bottom and sprinkle some spawn over it . Place another layer of straw on top and push down generously and repeat the spawn sprinkling . Alternate layers inside this bucket by placing  packed straw and then a small handful of your inoculated sawdust spawn  mix on top of that, followed by yet another layer of straw. Alternate these layers until you get to the top of the bucket.I usually make 3-5 layers and you can use another 5 gallon bucket on top to push the straw down in your mushroom bucket and that works very effectively to pack your bucket. Make sure you sanitize the outside of hat bucket .You can also bulk mix your spawn with your substrate and some people go anywhere from 5-7 lbs per 100lbs of your sanitized substrate. Usually I go a wee bit heavier than that in my mix. 
When your bucket is packed to the top ,put the lid on the bucket and place the entire bucket into a plastic garbage bag and tied shut. Please keep in mind that certain commercial garbage bags have added fungicides to them like hefty and many other namebrand products. This is where using the cheapest product is best because the cheaper plastic bag will not have such antifungal treatments.
I usually leave mine in a position like this for a month and then I will inspect everyday . When I see a bloom I then remove the bucket from the plastic bag and stack them. You may find, depending on the humidity in your house, you may need to "water "your bucket after removing it from the bag. This can be easily accomplished with the water spray bottle and clean non-chlorinated water. Spraying a little bit into each hole every now and then( like once or twice a week ) will help ensure that the bucket never dries out. It may take a few months for your first "flush " ( bloom of mushrooms ) to appear it may happen as soon as a few weeks . And a bucket is usually good for 2 to 4 flushes before it has to be replaced.After that , dispose of the spent material and reseed . 
This method can be used to grow a few mushrooms in the kitchen or stackable towers in your basement for commericial purposes. 
There are hundreds of you tube videos and papers teaching you how to grow mushrooms. Don't like this method ?  go find one you do . That's the beauty of growing food , so many beautiful ways and only control freaks claim they know the only right way ... Take it easy and have fun first ! 


  1. this looks really good! did you catch Tradd Cotter on the Small Farm Sustainable Summit last week? He is a mycelium scientist and runs a lab, Mushroom Mountain, where you can purchase the specific spores you want to grow. He sounds very passionate about sharing his knowledge and making mushrooms reproducible as sourdough culture or kefir/yogurt cultures. Mushrooms are angio -genisis inhibitors and nutritionally dense foods. they should be common in the homes of America. Thanks for the story!

  2. Will use this as my first try at growing mushrooms, Thanks

  3. Will use this as my first try at growing mushrooms, Thanks