Trees can grow mushrooms and so can you.
Story and Photos by Donna Iverson
Ever thought about growing your own mushrooms? Jason Alberts is someone with the expertise to get you started. He can be found Saturdays at the Muskegon Farmers Market and that is where he agreed to answer a novice's questions about mushroom cultivation.
1. How did you get interested in growing mushrooms?
I am the owner and lead farmer of Temple Urban Farm in Muskegon Heights. We are composed of a team of Family, Friends, and Neighbors. This is Temple Farm's second growing season and we are all excited about the progress and potential we are building. I initially became interested in mushrooms through my research in sustainable/regenerative growing methods. I learned a lot about both the nutritional and economic value of gourmet mushrooms. What really grabbed me is their high potential yield relative to the low square footage required. At the time I had no access to farmland, so I decided to get a jumpstart in agriculture by starting an indoor gourmet mushroom enterprise. That initial effort eventually led me in the direction of offering the means to grow your own at home. It's a better value and a unique experience. You can't beat the freshness of growing and harvesting your own mushrooms!
2. What are the basic essentials of growing your own mushrooms: growing medium, mushroom seeds (spores), etc
All mushrooms require the same 5 basic essentials.
They need a food source, such as: straw, wood, agricultural waste, etc
They need a moderate amount of artificial light or indirect sunlight.
They need fresh air, and high humidity,
And they need a comfortable temperature range.
The initial gourmet mushroom strain is stepped up and expanded through various stages and food sources successively from agar to liquid culture to grain and then on to it's final food source of straw, wood, etc.. So where in that process you begin is what determines where you go next.
3. Do you need a dark place like a basement, attic, shed to grow mushrooms?
Dark places are an urban myth when it comes to mushrooms. However full light is damaging. What's required is a moderate amount of indirect sunlight or artificial light. That said, mushrooms can be grown in just about any space or container as long as the proper conditions, previously described, are met.
4. What is the best variety of mushroom for a beginner to try. What varieties are available to home growers?
Oyster mushrooms are far and away the beginner mushroom growers best friend. They are notoriously aggressive eaters and survivors. They will grow on almost anything including cigarette butts, which is of course not recommend but makes for an interesting waste remediation experiment.
5. How long does it take to grow mushrooms from planting to harvest?
Depending on where in the growth process you start, what strain you are growing, and what growing medium you are choosing the expected harvest time fluctuates greatly. Our indoor kits can start in producing in about 2 weeks, whereas our outdoor logs require a first year to establish, much like any perennial plant.
6. Temple Urban Garden offers mushroom kits for sale at the Muskegon Farmers Market on Saturdays. What is included ? Do you sell logs too?
Indoor mushroom kits are available in three varieties: Shiitake, Lion's Mane, and Oyster. They start growing in about 2 weeks and produce about 2 lbs. mushrooms from each kit.
The outdoor logs come in three varieties as well: Shiitake, Lion's Mane, and Hen of the Woods (Maitake). These take a full year to establish, like any perennial, and produce for 4-6 years, giving you 2.5 lbs of mushrooms each year!
Our Lion's Mane kits are $25 each, where as our shiitake and oyster kits are 1/$20 or 2/$30. They don't require as much growing medium as the lion's mane to ensure a 2lb harvest, so a lower price is available.
Our outdoor logs are priced at 1/$30 or 2/$50. These longer producer will more than pay for themselves after the first harvest year and will just keep producing year after year.
7. Why grow mushrooms?
Nothing beats the freshness and satisfaction of growing and harvesting your own food. Gourmet mushrooms are highly nutritious and when prepared to your liking they're also greatly delicious. Studies have also shown that many mushrooms have antioxidant, anti-cancer and regenerative neurological properties. However, I always mention that because I am not a medical doctor, I will not make any medical claims. I encourage you to do your own research and talk to your physician about your physical condition and dietary limitations and/or requirements.
8. Contact information for anyone with questions about getting started as a mushroom grower?
For anyone interested in growing their own mushrooms at home they may contact me through my Facebook page, Temple Urban Farm, email me at
or visit my online store at
By Donna Iverson
They are hard to resist, these diminutive colorful figurines of animals and people, especially gnomes.
When you start looking for them, you find them everywhere, in neighbors' gardens, under bushes, in store windows and even at the local farmers' market. They are for sale at garden centers throughout the state. Am guessing, there is a good chance you already have one in your yard
Their appeal is ancient, with a written history dating back to Roman times when people reported seeing "little people" in Western Europe, including Holland and Scandinavia. By 1200 AD, artisans were creating statues of these "little people" out of wood and clay. They measured about 6 inches high and were traditionally of elderly small men, with a white beard and red pointy hat. There were called gnomes and it was believed they lived underground, came out at night and could move at great speed. Female gnomes were also reported along with gnome babies, usually twins. There are rock gnomes, forest gnomes, river gnomes as well as the more traditional garden gnome.
Garden gnomes could be found in colonial America, and became especially popular after WWII around the Great Lakes. Farmers placed them in barns and fields, believing they offered protection to crops and livestock. The 1960s brought plastic gnomes, in the style of Disney, the kind you see most likely to find today in the big box stores.
So what is there enduring appeal? For one thing, they are darn cute. Our fascination with miniature railroads sets and doll houses, extends to the garden. And the gnomes reputation for bringing good luck doesn't hurt.
We aren't the only ones who are charmed by their appeal. Famous writers have incorporated gnomes into their tales, including Tolkien, Lewis, and, you guessed it, JK Rowling in the Harry Potter series Gnomes also appear in the Wizard of Oz, where they are hot tempered and mischievous.
Gnomes have made it into the digital world too. A gnome is a character in Dungeons and Dragons as well as many gaming apps.
Today, if you want your own gnome, the plastic ones are the most widely available. If you want a clay gnome, you will need to search flea markets and antique stores. Wooden ones are the most valuable and the most difficult to get your hands on.
Once you acquire a gnome or two, it is difficult to part with them. Gnomes have been passed on in families for decades. If you are really into gnomes, a gnome festival is held yearly in Boulder, Colorado And it is reported that architect Earl Young has built homes for gnomes in Charlevoix, Michigan.
So , if you don't have one yet, your garden would likely benefit from its presence, if our ancestors belief in their protective qualities has any truth in it.
By Donna Iverson
(Publishers note: N3 welcomes Ms. Iverson who will be joining our contributor team to regale readers with helpful hints, timely tips, informative insights and occasional anecdotal offerings from the wondrous world of gardening.)
I'll bet you’re cringing ...aren't those dandelions the weeds that plague your lawn?
Turns out, that the new trend of gardening for pollinators is raising the status of that much hated invader. The dandelion is the first food source that keeps bees alive in the early spring. And your garden needs pollinators to grow food
Gardeners are learning that the lowly dandelion is not only good food for pollinators like bees, butterflies and ladybugs, it's also good people food. The spring leaves can be added to salads, the flowers can be used to make dandelion wine and beer, and the roots can be roasted to make a coffee-like mate.
And you will never starve as long as you can harvest dandelions. The combination of leaves, flowers and roots provide a complete protein . Furthermore, it's free and it can be found literally everywhere . But you want to be sure it hasn't been sprayed with herbicides or pesticides. So the best place to grow it is in your organic garden.
Not only will the dandelion feed you and the pollinators, it will feed your garden soil.
The dandelion root will aerate and mineralize your soil. Earth worms will become more plentiful. What's not to like here?
If you are into native plants, dandelions are not natives. The seeds were carried over to the Americas by the colonists who had used dandelions as food, medicines and a spring tonic. Once in North America, Native Americans also began to cultivate this perennial vegetable including our own Michigan Potawatomis, who concocted a bitter spring tonic from the leaves.
If you do decide to reserve a section of your garden for dandelion cultivation, the plant likes full sun. It is disease and insect resistant and drought tolerant. So you don't have to worry about watering it to keep it alive.
Check the Internet for hundreds of dandelion recipes. But do be cautious for a possible allergy to the plant. Test it by taking a small leaf and press it to your lips. If no reaction, bite off a tiny piece and chew it. Then spit it out. Later try eating a tiny piece of leaf. Finally check with your pharmacist to be sure dandelion doesn't interfere with any medications you are taking. Finally, dandelion is not recommended for people with gallbladder problems.
In conclusion, not only are dandelions good for you, for pollinators and your garden, they are good for your brain. Rethinking the formerly despised plant may just lead you to what the Buddhists call "beginner's mind".... Learning to see old things in a new way, as if seeing them for the first time.
A New Page
By Alexis Mercer
A few weeks ago, Ken, his ever patient wife Lil, and I met to discuss all things Near North Now. I must admit that I thoroughly enjoy every conversation I have with Ken and Lil. If you've never had one yourself, I highly recommend it. You'll walk away with a smile on your face, realizing you've met two of the most genuine, thoughtful people on this planet.
One of the many topics we discussed was where we are headed with this paper we have grown to love so much. We tossed around ideas we each had. Articles Ken and I most enjoy writing, and those that Lil most enjoys reading. It was decided that we needed to go straight to the readers because we are partial.
The N3 Survey was born. Simple...two questions. "Which of the following do you most enjoy reading currently in N3?" With the options of Business openings and changes, High School sports, Legal matters affecting Newaygo County, Local human interest stories, Newaygo County events and Reviews - books, restaurants, movies. the second question was "Which leisure activity would you be most interested in Near North Now covering more often?" The options for this were crafting, fishing, gardening, hunting and knitting.
Responses quickly started rolling in! We were thrilled that readers were interested in giving their opinion on what they currently enjoy and what they'd like to see in the future.
So here are the results!
Newaygo County events won the category of current favorite with a percentage of 58.8. Local human interest stories was next with 17.6%. Legal matters affecting Newaygo County and business openings and changes tied with 8.8%. And High School sports along with book, restaurant and movie reviews garnered 2.9% of the responses each.
The results of the second question earned a whopping 40.6% of the votes for gardening! Next was fishing with 21.8%. Both crafting and hunting got 15.6% of the votes and knitting closed out the categories with 6.2%.
In response to the results of the second question, we have decided to add a new page to our site: leisure. This is where we hope to post articles about all the topics listed in the survey, as we realized there are readers who are interested in all those topics, not just one or two! We did start with gardening, since that was such an overwhelming response. And what better time than in spring, when the weather is finally warm enough to start enjoying the time spent sprucing up the yard.
Be sure to check out the gardening article posted here on the new page. We think you'll love it.
And as for the responses to the first question, we are thankful for your taking the time to let us know what you read, and we hope to continue to provide a wide range of coverage for all the stories you're currently enjoying about N3.
As always, if you have suggestions or comments for us, we would love to hear from you. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and if you aren't already signed up to receive our newsletter, head to the Home Page and enter your email!