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Hydroponic Mushrooms: How To Grow Your Own Soilless Fungi

Grow your own mushrooms hydroponically! Grow your own mushrooms hydroponically!

Did you know that you can grow mushrooms hydroponically? For amateur mycologists, this claim may seem like a stretch since mushrooms do not have roots like traditional plants. Despite their differences in physiology however, mushrooms can thrive in a soilless medium and produce greater yields in a shorter amount of time just like other plants inside of a hydroponic system.

Botany still has many secrets to unravel regarding vegetative life and mushrooms are as mysterious as they are odd. While most vegetation on earth uses photosynthesis to produce sugars for food, fungus feeds instead on organic debris.

Since mushrooms do not contain chlorophyll or photosynthesize, their tolerance for low light in extremely high. Light itself seems only to play a part in fungi life as a photosensitive cue for fruiting.

Nutrients given to fungi are consumed as their only form of energy, much in the same way that animal life is sustained.

Mushrooms are made of chitin instead of cellulose, the building block of most herbaceous plants. Chitin forms long, thread-like filaments that branch off in all directions called hyphae. They look very much like the branches of a tree or a system of roots. A collection of hyphae is called a mycelium. A mycelium could be said to be the true body of a fungus.

A mushroom that we see above ground is actually the sex organ, or fruiting body, of the mycelium. It carries the spores necessary for reproduction in its gills on the underside of its mushroom cap. Making mushrooms requires two hyphae to fuse together, which for the at-home grower means the inoculation of hundreds of mycelium into a growing medium.

Just like in regular hydroponics, mushroom spores need a growing substrate. Once this growing medium is inoculated with spores, mycelium will soon develop, fuse, and colonize the substrate. In order for this to happen, the growing medium must contain nutrients in some form. Once again, this is because mushrooms, unlike plants, do not make their own food.

Nutrients given to fungi are consumed as their only form of energy, much in the same way that animal life is sustained. This means that mushrooms must be energized with some form of sugar or carbohydrate in order to thrive.

A recommended growing medium to use for mushrooms is vermiculite. As a source of nutrients, vermiculite is mixed with brown rice flour and a small amount of water and formed into a sterilized cake. A mushroom hydroponics system generally consists of a small tank filled with expanded clay aggregate pebbles, a water heater, humidity gauge, light, and air pump with an air stone attachment.

A water heater and air stone are placed at the bottom of the tank, covered with aggregate pebbles and then completely submersed in water with the inoculated vermiculite cakes placed on top. Air will be pumped from the air filter through the air stone to oxygenate the water while it is heated gently.

If the tank is kept above 70% humidity and the light is left on for six hours a day, the extremely humid and oxygenated environment of the tank will coax the mycelium into fruiting and mushrooms will result.

While this method of growing varies radically from traditional hydroponics, it is still a soilless method that results in fresh, indoor grown produce. Growing it all yourself also means no pesticides or artificial fertilizers and the guarantee that your food is safe. Don't wait until fall for the taste of fresh, wild mushrooms – grow your own indoors any time of the year!

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This guy uses soil for his mushroom farm, but it’s worth hearing him talk about the value of his business.
Last modified on Wednesday, 02 October 2013 17:10

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