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