- What is a Mushroom Substrate?
- Common Magic Mushroom Substrates
- Pasteurizing Substrates
- Sterilizing Substrates
Growing magic mushrooms is significantly different from growing plants. Finding the right type of magic mushroom substrate is one of the keys to a successful magic mushroom harvest. Although substrates work for mushrooms in the same way soil works for plants, there are several differences cultivators need to consider and understand to achieve the best results.
What is a Mushroom Substrate?
Simply put, a substrate is a bulk material used by mushrooms as a source of energy and nutrition. A good substrate is one of the keys to successfully grow magic mushrooms. Common substrate recipes involve straw and sawdust, although there are other alternatives.
Magic mushroom substrates need to be properly prepared in order to promote the growth of healthy mycelium. The process also requires sterilization, and the possible addition of nutrients. Once ready, it can finally be inoculated. Inoculation is a process when pieces of mycelium-covered grain, also known as grain spawn, are mixed into the substrate.
Under the right temperature, humidity, and amount of sunlight, mycelium should grow rapidly. Mycelium rapidly devour and decompose the organic material in a process called colonization. Once the substrate is fully colonized, it would be finally ready to harvest.
Finding the perfect mushroom substrate for your grow is one of the most necessary steps of mushroom cultivation.
Common Magic Mushroom Substrates
The following are the most common substrates used in growing magic mushrooms.
Straw refers to the stem portion of grains – barley, rye, oats, and wheat. It is a cheap and effective substrate which is perfect for different types of magic mushrooms. In most ways, it’s seen as an agricultural waste product.
A quick visit to a farm should give you access to all the straw you need. However, straw is messy and needs to be chopped, cleaned, and pasteurized before you even consider using it as a substrate. Straw is more compatible with large grow operations.
- Hardwood Sawdust and Woodchips
Hardwood sawdust is an excellent substrate and it’s one of the most commonly used substrates among mushroom cultivators. It’s a waste product of the lumber industry which makes it easy to find and economical.
Sawdust is usually mixed with wood chips. These wood chips allow faster colonization and can provide mycelium with better structure for them to take hold. The most common hardwoods used as substrates are oak, maple, beech, and hickory. Species such as spruce, pine, and fir are not suitable for growing mushrooms because they are considered softwoods.
Even if you don’t have access to sawdust and hardwood, hardwood pellets are a great alternative. Not only do they work wonders for wood stoves – they’re also a good choice for growing mushrooms. The pellets have to be soaked in water to become better hydrated before being broken up into fine sawdust.
Not all mushrooms grow on manure but some magic mushrooms do. One example is the famed Psilocybe cubensis.
Manure, as a substrate, goes through several days of composting where large piles of manure and straw are heated to allow beneficial organisms to grow and multiply. After this long process, the compost is then pasteurized to remove unwanted organisms. The follow-up pasteurization process also removes ammonia which builds up during the first phase.
Growing magic mushrooms in manure isn’t a viable choice for small, home-based grow operations.
- Coco Coir
Coco coir is another material used to grow mushrooms at home. It’s a natural material made from the husk and shell of coconuts. Although it’s not a commonly-used substrate, coco coir is used for different plant growing systems because it retains moisture well. It’s also nutritious enough for mushrooms while not overly nutritious that it would cause other organisms and contaminants to proliferate.
To be an effective substrate, coco coir is usually mixed with equal parts vermiculite. Even then, the coco coir and vermiculite mix needs to be properly pasteurized before being inoculated with grain spawn.
Coffee grounds are high in nitrogen and will give plenty of energy and nutrition for the mycelium to grow and produce higher yields. However, this richness is double-edged. This also means coffee substrates have higher chances of contamination.
You can use coffee grounds as a supplement to other substrates such as sawdust or coco coir. You can also just use pasteurization or sterilization.
Substrates are moist and filled with nutrients. Sadly, many different types of mold and bacteria also thrive in this type of environment. These invasive microorganisms have an accelerated growth rate compared to the mycelium of magic mushrooms. To prevent the contaminants from competing with the mycelium, they need to undergo pasteurization.
Pasteurization is the process of killing microbes. It eliminates contaminants from a substrate but it doesn’t kill all the microorganisms. It reduces the number of microbes so they are less likely to interfere with the growth of mycelium.
At one glance, pasteurizing a substrate involves applying between 150 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit of heat for 1.5 to 2 hours. This won’t remove all the contaminants but it will reduce the number of microbes to a number that won’t allow them to be harmful to the mycelium.
An example of a substrate commonly pasteurized is straw.
Sterilization is the process of heating substrates to extreme temperatures more than 250 degrees Fahrenheit under pressure (around 15PSI). This process aims to completely eliminate any living or dormant contaminants already living on the substrate.
This is the method of choice for more nutritious substrates such as hardwood sawdust. When sawdust is not sterilized it is guaranteed to be contaminated with molds before the mushrooms have a chance to flourish.
Afterwards, the substrate needs to be inoculated under sterile conditions and should remain so until the mushrooms are able to fully take hold.
At the end of the day, your decision of which substrate to use will depend on which works best for you. The substrate you choose should be compatible with your location, cultivation technique, and the type of mushrooms you want to grow. Experiment with different types of substrates.
If you want to grow your own psychedelic fungi but don’t want to deal with the complexities of substrates, magic mushroom grow kits are the option for you. These grow kits are guaranteed to produce psychedelic truffles in a short period of time and in a few simple steps!
Buy magic grow kits online today!