Care, Development and Harvesting when Growing Mushrooms
The mushrooms should appear about two to three weeks after casing, according to the temperature. During this period water sparingly, and only if the casing seems to be drying out. If the beds are over-watered, and the manure beneath the casing is drenched, the spawn will be killed. If, on the other hand, the beds are too dry, the spawn will grow away from the surface of the bed, and deeper into the, with the result that no mushrooms will appear on the surface of the . Ideally, the casing should be kept moist with lukewarm water, applied as a fine spray. During this time, the temperature of the bed must not be allowed to rise above 21°C (70°F) for more than brief periods, or the mycelium will be damaged. On the other hand, it should not become cool, and it is a good idea to cover outdoor beds or ridges with a layer of loose straw up to 45 cm (12’) thick, depending on the time of year. Keep the beds well ventilated, but avoid draughts. The air around a mushroom bed should be moist but also fresh.
Harvesting and aftercare
One to two months is the normal span of time from spawning to cropping, but it can sometimes take longer. If the manure has not fermented properly, or there is inadequate moisture or heat at any time, it may take up to twelve weeks for the mushrooms to be ready.
The developing mushrooms appear directly over the spawn, so the crops should be evenly distributed over the surface of the bed. Mushrooms tend to reach maturity all at the same time, in ‘spates’, or ‘flushes’. When the first flush is ready for picking, twist out each mushroom and break it off from the cluster. You should clean out the stem bases from the compost as you pick the mushrooms, to avoid infections and infestations gaining a hold on the beds. After this routine cleaning, fill the holes in the bed with fresh soil. Water the bed thoroughly, although not to the point of saturation. A second flush should appear in about ten days.
Cropping will continue for about three months. If the bed stops cropping prematurely, give it an additional thorough watering. This is often all that is needed to start production again.
Beds in production will need a good steady supply of water as long as cropping continues; make sure that the temperature of the water is the same as the temperature of the bed.
When the last of the mushrooms have been gathered, the compost should be immediately cleared. Never use any of the old compost and soil for growing mushrooms again, although it makes excellent manure for other crops. Give the frames, boxes or other containers a thorough disinfecting to remove any traces of insects or infections. You should also lime-wash the walls and scrub the floors.
Timing mushrooms for a particular show date can be a bit risky; mushrooms can be ready for harvesting from one to two months after the spawn has been planted. To avoid disappointment, prepare a small mushroom bed two months before the show, another six weeks before, and a third bed a month before the show date.
Mushrooms can either be shown as buttons, with the gills still covered by the membranes and not visible, or as cups, when the gills are open but have not yet fully expanded. Twelve is the usual number required, either as single exhibits or as part of a collection of vegetables. Because mushrooms deteriorate rapidly once they are picked, delay the picking until the last possible moment. Pick more than you need for the exhibit, so you will have replacements at the show bench, should they be necessary. Whether they are shown as cups or buttons, they should be as uniform as possible.
There is very little pre-show preparation needed. Simply trim the stems to a uniform length of 2.5 cm (1”). At the show, the mushrooms can be displayed in a shallow basket, box or tray. They will look best displayed near the front of the staging.
Varieties of Mushrooms to Grow at Home
There is only one kind of mushroom available to the amateur grower; this is the species Agaricus bisporus. Commercial names attached to mushroom spawn only indicate the particular firm which has produced and marketed the spawn.