Oyster in Bags or Buckets?
Growing oyster mushrooms in bags or in buckets is pretty straightforward and not much is required.
Using a polyethylene bag is easy to manage. Just put the straw and spawn in the bag, and wait until it becomes all white. Punch a few holes, depending on how large the bag is, and you get mushrooms.
You can also use the bucket method, which basically allows you to keep using your buckets repeatedly, but means you have a cleaning job to do after each batch .
Just like anything else in the hobby, this is a matter of personal preference, but also a matter of are whether you plan to grow mushrooms large scale or just as a hobby. Playing around with buckets on a large scale is not practical, not economical and not even environmentally friendly, because you throw away water and resources to clean the buckets after each use.
To grow in bags, hobbyists need the following:
- grain spawn
- wheat straw
- large pan or ideally pressure cooker
- friction alcohol 70% for cleaning
- polyethylene bags 3 to 4 mm in thickness (if growing in bags)
- 2 buckets if growing in buckets (if growing in buckets)
- painters tape (if growing in buckets)
- drill (if growing in buckets)
- 1 inch drill bit (if growing in buckets)
You can find spawn and polyethylene bags in our shop section.
It works better when the straw is cut in smaller pieces for two reasons: the straw becomes in a tighter contact together, which is what we want. The straw closer together and more compressed allows the mycelium to better travel on the straw substrate. In addition, since the straw is tight together, you can fill up your bag or the bucket with more straw, which in turn will result in larger mushroom flushes.
Now before we can fill the bags, we have to cut the straw in smaller pieces and then pasteurize the straw. To pasteurize the straw, our method is to use our pressure cooker, but you can do the same in a large pan. We put some sort of a spacer at the bottom of our pressure cooker to separate the hot water from the straw. We then pour about 1 inch of boiled water in the pressure cooker, and then fill the pressure cooker with straw. We boil the water in the pressure cooker on the stove for few minutes to create hot steam in the pressure cooker, but not to create pressure in the pressure cooker, so we want to stay at 0 PSI. As soon as we hear the water boiling, we stop and put the pressure cooker on the side with the lid closed for an hour. The goal is not to sterilize the straw, but to pasteurize the straw.
After the hour, we drain the water and leave the straw in the cooker for another hour with the lid off for the straw to lose some water and cool down. The straw should not be dripping water; it should be very humid but not dripping.
For the bagging method, once the straw is ready, we tie one end of the bag and start filling it up with straw. We make layers of straw-grain-straw-grain-straw-grain. You can make a small bag or a large bag by pasteurizing straw multiple times. Again, this is a matter of personal preference and up to the hobbyist. We try to keep things small when selling to clients, because not everyone has a large space to keep a bag, but also in the case of contamination, we don’t lose too much.
It is important to compress the contents of the bag. Do not be scared; compress the contents of the bag as much as you can before tying down the other end of the bag. We make one or two holes in the bag.
Now we leave the bag at room temperature for about two weeks. In two weeks, the bag will be mostly white with mycelium. It is then time to move the bag into the fruiting chamber. New pins will appear from the holes we made in the bag.
The bucket method is very similar to the bagging method. Before using the bucket, we have to drill few holes in the bucket. It is from these holes that mushrooms will pop out once the mycelium expands, usually after about two weeks. We drill holes of about 8mm to 1cm, but for the mycelium to expand, we have to close the holes using tape. After about two weeks, we can remove two or more of the tapes and from the holes, pins will start to come out.
Once you’ve made holes in the bucket, wipe it with a towel and alcohol, then let it sit for a few minutes for the alcohol to evaporate. The bucket is now ready to be used. We fill up the bucket with layers of straw and spawn until the bucket is full, and close the bucket using the lid that comes with the bucket.
For both scenarios, being bag or bucket, the mycelium will take about two weeks to expand on the substrate at room temperature. Once we are ready to fruit, we move our bag or bucket into our fruiting chamber and provide it humidity and cooler temperatures (if possible) to allow it to pin, but if you leave it at room temperature, it will still provide pins just fine.
As explained, on smaller level production, the bucket method is more work, because after each use we have to clean the bucket. The Polyethylene method is a bit more expensive, because we have to use new bags every single time; however, it’s easier to manage and deal with. Regardless of which method you go with, you will have delicious mushrooms for weeks to come.
Please see our other blogs covering more specific subjects about the fun world of growing mushrooms.