Growing Mushrooms: An Overview

If you plan to grow mushrooms commercially, you’ll have to consider indoor cultivation. This is because you’ll be able to have more control over environmental conditions. However, indoor mushroom cultivation is more involving compared to outdoor cultivation. But it can also be the most consistent and financially rewarding. It offers better returns than most agribusinesses in Zambia.

Which mushrooms should you farm?

To start with your mushroom growing venture, you’ll first have to choose the kind of mushroom you want to grow. Some of the popular mushroom grown are

  • Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus)
  • Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes)
  • White button mushrooms (Agricus bisporus)

Oyster mushrooms are normally grown on straw, Shitake mushrooms on hardwood or sawdust and white button mushrooms on composted manure. Once you’ve chosen the mushrooms to grow, the basic steps for growing mushrooms are the same. However today, I’ll give you a few basic steps on growing the most common mushroom – Button.

 Preparing your compost

Your compost has to be prepared in open air and it can take approximately two weeks before it’s ready to be used. The basic ingredients for your compost are straw and nitrogen-rich manure. You can mix your straw with chicken waste to make compost. Chicken waste contains lots of nitrogen and it helps in the decomposition of the mixture, which might host several bacteria and viruses. Remember, to soak and toss the straw in water before mixing in the manure. Allow the compost to rest but ensure it’s always moist. When you can no longer smell ammonia, your compost is ready.

You need to add wheat hay to this mixture because it acts as the food or substrate of the mycelia as it helps to colonise the whole compost with the mushroom spawns(mushroom seeds). If you can afford it, you can use the expensive way of pasteurisation, which involves the use of a sterilising machines and a fan. Otherwise, there are lots of other ways to pasteurise your soil which we can discuss in the future. Otherwise some people argue that you don’t necessarily have to sterilize the compost as the process of sterilization can be time consuming and costly.

Growing your button mushrooms

Mushroom like to grow in cool, dark, damp places. So, once your compost is ready, transfer it into the dimly lit room with openings covered with nets. The nets help to keep off insects from entering the room at same time allowing air to circulate. So, create a room with near darkness and control temperature and humidity.

Transfer your compost inside into in a mushroom box or bed for another 14 days. Tightly pack the mushroom beds with your prepared compost and scatter the spawn(seeds) across the surface, before covering with damp newspaper.  The room must be 21 degrees Celsius – the ideal temperature to encourage mushroom growth. After about 3 weeks, the compost will be colonized by mycelium. The spawn will have “rooted.” Once this happens, drop the temperature to between 13 and 16 C. This is the best temperature for growing mushrooms. Then remove the newspaper and cover the compost with a 2.5cm of potting soil . Your soil has to be disease free otherwise your mushrooms won’t sprout.Mushrooms will begin to develop 3 to 5 weeks after adding the casing layer. Cover the soil and pan with a damp cloth and spray the cloth with water as it dries.

You also have to maintain good hygiene to keep diseases and pests such as pink, green, and grey moulds and mites at bay.

In three to four weeks, you will see small mushrooms appear. It can take two months for the mushrooms to mature. You can continue to harvest for another month as long as you keep watering. Mushrooms are ready for harvesting when the cap has fully opened and has separated from the stem.

As soon as you’re done with harvesting, don’t throw away the compost. Instead, you can use the compost, rich in urea to improve the soil fertility on your farm.

 Good luck!

41 thoughts on “Growing Mushrooms: An Overview

    1. Hi Musoli,

      You can get it from the University of Zambia.

      Or try approaching the Jihai Agriculture Company. They are a Chinese commercial mushroom operation that supports small-scale farmers.
      Kasisi Rd off International Airport Lusaka, Zambia
      +260 97 1728899

      All the best!

    2. Hello, I have started growing Oysters on a small scale. I have difficulty in maintaining the required 70degrees plus humidity in the fruiting room. Please advise on how best to overcome this challenge. Don’t suggest anything that requires electricity.

  1. I would like to start mashroom farming on a small scale, where can i get mashroom seeds here in lusaka and how much are the seeds? How many types of mashroom seeds do you have?

  2. I am interested in mushroom growing and where can I have the training course in Lusaka how much is required and training duration

    1. Good day Beatrice,

      Unfortunately we don’t offer any training. However, we’ll look out for training sessions for you and email you should we hear of any.

  3. Greetings
    Please help me with details on how to grow mushrooms in zambia particularly Lusaka and Kafue
    What does one need in terms of space, room and capital(money) and labor

  4. Interesting, I am considering mushroom growing. I am in Chipata, Eastern Province, what is the best variety to grow and where can find the seed in Eastern Province?

    Josephine Chirwa

  5. This is Great. Want to start this project of mushroom growing. Now would like to learn this.

    1. With proper management. How many harvests can you have before desposing of the substrate?

    2. For how long can you use the same substrate ?

    3. What can be the quantity yield per 2×2 square metres per single harvest?

    4. How thick should be the substrate before spreading the spawn?

    My regards.

  6. Thanks for the information.I need updates on growing mushroom nature of room and materials for growing mushrooms.

  7. this is wonderful, am conducting a research on mushroom growing. my reason for this is to commercialize mushroom growing. a few have access to jihai mushroom. any help will be highly appreciated.

  8. Good morning,

    I want to venture in the mushroom farming, But there are terms which i have not understood i wish there was some pictures to help us understand more. I want to learn more,
    1. how much is my capital per square meter?
    2. How much is my profit or how much do i harvest and for how long can i harvest from it?
    3. Where do i get the necessary inputs.

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