One of the most important aspects of cultivation is finding the best substrate for your magic mushrooms. Getting the perfect substrate recipe will help you grow your mushrooms the right way. First off, growers should realize that cultivating mushrooms is significantly difficult from growing plants. Although the concept may be thought of as using similar substrate for magic mushrooms to the soils in the plants, it is actually quite very different. If you would want to learn more, continue reading.
What Is A Mushroom Substrate?
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A mushroom substrate, simply put, is any substance on which mycelium will grow. It is a bulk material that mycelium can use for energy and nutrition. Mycelium, a thread-like group of cells that is a vegetative growth of a fungus, serves as the base for the production of mushrooms. Mushroom substrates need to be properly prepared by adding water, nutrients, and further processed by sterilization or pasteurization.
Common Types of Mushroom Substrates
- Straw – Cereal straws like wheat, rye, or oat can make a strong foundation for mushroom growth. They are easy to get and are fairly cheap. They can usually be bought in large bales from local feed stores. A great advantage of using straws is that it can be used in many different types of mushroom strains.
Most strains do not encounter problems in breaking down the plant fibers of straw, so this is considered the most versatile substrate. One disadvantage you might encounter is that straw must go through a preparation process, as it is laden with other microbes that might compete with mycelium for chances of growth. Straw requires chopping, cleaning, and pasteurizing before you can use them.
- Logs – Another option you can go for is using logs. Basically, you have to cut the log, immunize them with a dowel spawn, and leave the log to incubate them. When you use logs, be careful with the type of wood and when you cut the log. Do some research on the magic mushroom strain that you want to grow and choose the same type of wood that it grows to in nature. Balancing those will save you a lot of time and heartache in the end. However, you can also go for quickly decomposing hardwood like beech, ash, cottonwood, and alder for your log choices.
The best time to cut logs is towards late winter to early spring. Make sure that the log is healthy, with no signs of decaying, rotting or previous fungal growth. Experts suggest cutting the log a few feet long for better storage, handling, and overall results. An advantage of using logs is that there are a few strains that prefer growing in woods and the logs can produce mushrooms up to a few years. The disadvantage though is that it can take time about a year or longer for mushrooms to shoot up.
- Enriched Sawdust – This is a substance most commonly seen commercially rather than home cultivators. Be careful when you choose the woods to turn to dust, and like with logs, hardwoods are preferred. Make sure that your sawdust won’t be too fine so that air can still reach mycelium.
If you are unsure how to make your own, you can find somewhere who sells it. Another thing you should consider is that sawdust is not nutritious enough by itself. It would require a nitrogen supplement such as bran. You should also need to sterilize before use due to microscopic competitors.
- Soy Hulls – Soy hulls can be mixed with hardwood dust at different ratios to produce extremely effective and high yielding substrates, particularly for growing oysters.
- Manure – Many magic mushrooms are grown on composted manure, specially prepared using a two-phase composting and sterilization process. Psilocybe cubensis is an example of a magic mushroom strain that mushrooms grow on manure. Manure, as one of the best substrate for magic mushrooms, goes through several days of composting where straw and manure are heated to allow beneficial organisms to multiply. Compost is then pasteurized to remove unwanted organisms and ammonia that built up during the first phase.
- Coco Coir and Vermiculite – Coir is a commercially available mix of ground-up coconut husk and shells which can be mixed with vermiculite to make a magic mushroom substrate. Coco coir is utilized in many growing systems because it is a great medium for moisture absorption. It is also the perfect amount of nutritious that mushrooms can develop well.
- Coffee Grounds and Other Materials – Mushrooms will grow on a number of urban and agricultural waste products from spent coffee grounds to banana leaves. Coffee grounds are abundant in nitrogen which gives plenty of energy and nutrition that allows the mycelium to grow and process higher yields. Coffee grounds are best used as supplements for other substrates.
Pasteurization and Sterilization of Substrates
Ideal mushroom substrates should look moist and full of nutrition. Unfortunately, there are many things that thrive in similar conditions, such as molds and bacteria. These contaminants can grow much faster than the mushroom mycelium, so something needs to be done to give the mushroom an advantage in the race to colonize the substrate.
- Pasteurization – Pasteurization is the process of heating up a substrate between 150 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit for a period of 1.5 to 2 hours. It does not remove all the contaminants but it will reduce the overall population of other microbes to a level that gives the mushrooms a head start.
- Sterilization – Sterilization is the process of heating up the substrate to extreme temperatures exceeding 250 degrees Fahrenheit under pressure in an attempt to completely eliminate any living or dormant contaminants with the substrate.
Learn What Would Work Best for You
At the end of the day, choosing your preferred substrate for magic mushrooms will be up to you. This choice depends on your location, style of growing, and the strain of mushroom that you want to cultivate. The best way for you to see the best one is to experiment with the available types of substrates, different methods of preparation, and different types of supplementation. Learning improves with practice, so enjoy your cultivation journey and trying new things.