Mushrooms (Agraricus campestris).The common mushroom is the only cultivated fungi in common usage. Although it grows wild in many places, it is safer to purchase or cultivate the mushroom rather than try to differentiate A. campestris from its many poisonous relatives.
For your winter-time gardening pleasure, you’ll find mushroom growing just the thing. All you need is a place – a very small one – that is dark, moist and cool.For most home-owners, that place will be in the basement; even the area under the kitchen sink might do.
It is not necessary to make an absolute “dark room” out of your entire basement; a certain amount of light will not hurt mushrooms. But they do need controlled humidity and temperature. Strong drafts and dry air are fatal, as is a temperature that ranges much above 60o or below 55o.
In order to find a place that maintains the proper temperature range both day and night, make some tests by placing a few thermometers in various spots of your basement. Since temperatures can vary as much as ten degrees at different levels in the same location, make certain you put the thermometer at about the level where the mushrooms will be growing.
Once you’ve selected the spot for your mushroom garden, the next step is to decide how you’re going to grow them. If you use the tray method, a bench or hanging shelves on tiers will do the job. Generally, you can estimate that the trays will weigh about 25 pounds when ready for growth.
Prepared trays, already filled with the growing medium and inoculated with the mushroom spawn, can be purchased. Constructed like seed flats, they measure about six inches deep and 14 by 16 inches in size. They contain compost covered with heavy paper and loose topsoil. Spawn is already plated in the trays, so all you have to do is remove the paper, add an inch of topsoil and water thoroughly. If the conditions are right, you’ll be harvesting your crop in about four weeks.