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Mushroom

UK Garden Centre - Information on Mushrooms

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There is something especially exciting about the sight of the first flush of mushrooms breaking through the surface – we should feel the same way about germinating lettuce seeds…but we don’t. There are two reasons – with mushrooms we know that it will take no more than a week or two for the tiny white pinheads to turn into button mushrooms ready for picking. Secondly, we also know that mushrooms are notoriously unpredictable – an outdoor planting is indeed a gamble; using home-made compost reduces but does not remove the risk and only the use of ready-spawned containers provides anything like the predictability associated with other vegetables.

Mushrooms outdoors
· You may or may not be successful in raising mushrooms in a corner of your lawn. It will certainly have to be in a shady spot and the ground below will have to be enriched with well-rotted manure. Even if you are successful, there are the drawbacks of being unable to cut the grass when cropping starts and weeds cannot be treated by chemical means.
· If the above points act as a challenge rather than a deterrent, pick a damp day in spring or autumn and use golf-ball sized blocks of spawn, setting them about 2in (5cm) below the surface at 12in (30cm) spacings.

Mushrooms indoors
Anywhere indoors will do provided that the container or bed is shaded from direct sunlight and the temperature is in the 55-65°F (12-18°C) range. Large fluctuations in temperature will slow down production – both cold and hot conditions will stop it. You will need specially-prepared compost which is hard to make at home, although you may be lucky enough to find a local supplier. This will have to be planted with mushroom spawn and properly tended to ensure success – a much easier course is to buy a ready-spawned container of compost from a garden centre or mail order nursery.
Start from scratch method
· Start with stable manure or straw plus an activator. You will need a large heap, about 5ft x 5ft x 5ft (1.5m x 1.5m x 1.5m), to be reasonably sure of success and it must be well watered at the start. Leave covered until the temperature reaches at least 140°F (60°C) – then turn every week until the heap is dark brown, crumbly and sweet-smelling.
· Fill boxes or buckets 9-12in (23-30cm) deep – firm down with your fingers. When the temperature has fallen to 75°F (24°C) the surface is ready for spawning.
· Two types of spawn are available – fungus-impregnated manure (block spawn) or impregnated rye (grain spawn). Block spawn is the easier one to use – push golf-ball sized pieces about 1in (2.5cm) below the surface at 12in (30cm) spacings.
· After a couple of weeks the spawn will have started to ‘run’ – white threads will be seen on the surface. At this stage add a 2in (5cm) layer of moist casing mixture (2 parts peat, 1 part chalk).

Easy method
· Buy a bucket or bag of ready-spawned compost. Avoid any pack which has obviously been in store for a long time and make sure that you start the pack into growth within 3 weeks of purchase.

Looking after the crop
· A temperature of 55-65°F (12-18°C) is necessary to promote the active development of the white fungal threads (mycelium) below the surface and the appearance of the edible fruiting bodies above. The casing should be kept moist but not wet by careful syringing with water.

Harvesting
· The first flush will be ready for picking as button mushrooms 4-6 weeks after casing – these buttons will open into flats in about 7 days. Once the first flush has been harvested there will be a pause of about 2 weeks before the next flush appears. Cropping normally continues for about 8 weeks.
· Do not harvest mushrooms by cutting the stalks. Twist the mushroom upwards, disturbing the compost as little as possible. Cut away broken stalks and fill holes with casing mixture.
· After the final flush has been picked, use the spent manure in the garden – do not try to re-spawn for a second crop.

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