Spawning A Mycelial Mélange: How to Grow Mushrooms Outdoors

Cultivating fungi at home is a fantastic way to see just how amazing nature is.

With just a few tools, mushroom spawn plugs, and the proper growing medium, you will be on your way to witnessing something magical, right in your backyard.

Maybe you love taking hikes and walks in the woods, but don’t want to spend your time searching and foraging for that perfect fungus to add to this evening’s dinner.

Perhaps you love a particular type of mushroom, but can never find it at the co-op or your local farmer’s market.

Oyster Mushrooms om trunk of beech tree

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If you love mushrooms but don’t like the varieties you can find in the grocery store, growing your own colony is the perfect solution.

Mushrooms Are Everywhere!

Shiitake, oyster, turkey tail, reishi, lion’s mane, chanterelle, chicken of the woods…. There are millions of species of mushrooms actively growing in our world today.

Some are edible and are known to have various health benefits, while others are wildly poisonous and can drop a five-ton elephant to its knees in ten seconds or less.

Foraging for wild mushrooms can be a dangerous sport. It can also be super satisfying, and very worth your while.

Here in New England, foraging for mushrooms is commonplace.

Take a hike, look for mushrooms. Go for a walk, keep your eyes peeled for fungus growing in tall trees or at the base of the trunks. Find a perfect swimming hole, scan the perimeter for any edible fungus.

There is food lurking everywhere; you just have to find it!

Easily Grow Mushrooms Outdoors |

Whatever you do, you must carry your identification book with you and spend copious amounts of time examining each variety you find, to make sure it isn’t poisonous.

Many species look like a particular type of edible mushroom but are extremely toxic and can cause nausea, seizures, hallucinations, and even death.

For example, this is a chanterelle, which is a well-known and delicious mushroom used in cooking all over the world.

The Best Tips On How to Grow Mushrooms Outdoors |

In contrast, this is a false chanterelle, also known as Hygrophoropsis aurantiaca. You can see how easy it could be to confuse the two in the wild, and end up chopping and tossing the poisonous one into the pot for dinner!

Amazing Tips On How to Grow Mushrooms Outdoors |

When I go hunting for mushrooms, I always take a friend with me who is much more well-versed at identification than I. This is for many obvious reasons, but mainly because it gives me a sense of peace and puts me at ease.

For this reason, I also choose to grow my own mushrooms in the backyard in a small stand of evergreen trees just behind our house. This protects them from the harsh Vermont winters and the intensely sunny summers, and I can check in on them anytime.

Also, the process is super fun and makes me feel like a real scientist. (And you can do it, too!)

Why Risk It? Grow at Home Instead!

So, you’ve decided to take the plunge and start a new world of fungiculture at home. Congratulations! Now, let’s get started.

First, find a company that sells the species of mushroom you want to grow.

When searching for mushroom spawn or plugs to grow your own, seek out a reputable vendor who can provide the information and the materials that you need. I recommend Fungi Perfecti, available on Amazon.

Fungi Perfecti Pearl Oyster Mushroom Plug Spawn

If you’ve never grown mushrooms before, you might want to consider starting out with oysters. This type of mycelium is known to grow robustly, and is versatile enough to thrive in many different temperature ranges and climates.

Shiitake mushrooms are another easy-to-grow option.

Next, gather your tools and supplies. You don’t need much, but certain items are essential. You will need:

  • Mushroom plugs
  • Freshly cut stump, or logs cut 3-4 feet in length
  • Drill
  • 5/16th steel drill bit
  • Rubber mallet
  • Soy wax
  • Small foam paintbrush

Pretty easy so far, right? Keep reading to find out what to do next!

Mushroom Plugs and Wood: A Perfect Match

One important detail that you need to remember: in nature, certain mushrooms grow better on or in certain types of wood.

Some fungi prefer hardwoods such as oak, maple, or elm. Some choose to grow on softwoods like spruce, fir, or pine.

Select the type of mushrooms you want to grow and then research what kind of wood is a match.

You can refer to the following chart for some common mushrooms, and their favorite growing mediums:

Want to grow mushrooms outdoors? Certain varieties prefer different types of wood to grow on. Check out our full article to learn more:
Graphic by Gretchen Heber.

It’s important to find the right fit to ensure proper growth and a great harvest.

Another important thing to mention is that the recently cut logs must come from healthy trees and show no signs of deterioration. It is essential for the mushroom spawn to have a healthy tree to live in and colonize.

If you cut your logs, be sure to let them sit for about 2 to 3 weeks to give the wood time to age.

But don’t wait too long – you cannot use logs and stumps more than six months old because they probably already have lichen and fungus inhabiting them.

Easy Tips On How to Grow Mushrooms Outdoors |

Notice the logs in this picture look fresh. They don’t have very much discoloration, lichen, or fungus growing on them. That’s key.

You want your plugs to have an easy time settling in and setting up their living space. New logs make it very easy for them to do just that.

Let’s Do This!

Time to drill your holes.

If you have chosen a newly cut stump, use your drill and drill bit to drill holes all around the top and sides of the stump, pushing the drill about 1 1/4’” in, to create enough space for each plug to fit snugly. A stump will usually hold up to fifty plugs.

If you are using logs, drill holes all along the length of the logs in rows, keeping each hole about an inch apart. Again, you can fit about fifty plugs in one 3- to 4-foot log.

Drill holes into a stump or log to grow your own mushrooms outdoors. |
Photo by Leslie M.G.

Hammer Them In

Here’s the fun part. This process is known as inoculation.

Grab your bag of mushroom spawn plugs and open them up.

Sometimes they look fuzzy, which is the mycelium growing and colonizing the wooden dowels. These little guys are healthy and ready to start working on your logs, stumps, or whatever growing medium you choose for cultivation.

Grab your mallet and a plug. Put the tip of the plug in one of the holes and gently tap it into place, making sure to get the entire plug in the log.

The dowels are soft, so they might squish sometimes. As long as that plug spawn gets into the hole, it will work.

Repeat until all of your plugs are inserted.

Seal the Deal

The next step is to cover the holes with wax, which helps to keep the mycelium safe, clean, and protected.

Heat up a small amount of your soy wax, either in a double boiler on the stove or in the microwave. Using a small foam paintbrush, cover each hole with hot wax.

Stack It Up!

If you are using logs, you can stack them or prop them against something. They just need ventilation and ample opportunity to absorb moisture.

Easy How to Grow Mushrooms Tips |

I stack mine like Lincoln Logs. The stack is about 3 feet tall and sturdy, so that it can withstand the elements.

It’s important to place your logs in a spot that isn’t always sunny, so they won’t dry out too quickly.

How to Grow Mushrooms Outdoors On Logs |

Like I said before, I chose to place my wood stack under a stand of evergreen trees so they would be shaded and well ventilated, but still have the opportunity to get wet on occasion.

The Power of Water

During the beginning phase of this process, when the spawn is slowly colonizing its new home, moisture is crucial.

You need to water your logs or stump for the first few weeks until you see that the wood is absorbing the moisture.

After that, allowing the wood to seek its moisture is fine – unless you live in an arid climate. If you’re located somewhere hot with low humidity, keep watering every week!

Important Tips On How to Grow Mushrooms Outdoors ||

In the hot New England summer, I water my logs once a week. You’ll know if they need to be watered by how dry they look, so plan accordingly. Treat it like a garden, and it will grow in kind.

How Long Will It Take?

Mushrooms generally grow very slowly. Cultivating mushrooms outdoors takes longer than growing them indoors, because you are replicating natural growing conditions for the spawn.

Depending upon the type of mushroom you choose to grow, you could see evidence of growth in as little as six months – or as long as two years.

Easily Grow Mushroom Outdoors |

I opted to grow chicken of the woods because they are delicious, and I almost never find them when I am in the woods myself. After over a year, I am beginning to see actual growth!

Do you want to have your own supply of mushrooms? Grow them in your garden. Learn the easy way now:

It’s a slow process, but so worth it. Keep in mind that a mushroom colony can last for years when it’s healthy and thriving, ensuring a supply of delicious mushrooms whenever you want them, right in your backyard.

Mycelia Madness!

Once you have cultivated your first batch of mushrooms successfully, chances are you will want to grow more.

Take the time to experiment with different species and different growing mediums. Growing in stumps and logs is just one way to do it.

How to Grow Mushrooms Outdoors The Easy Way |

There are other mediums – such as hardwood chips or hardwood sawdust – that can also be a wonderful way to grow mushrooms.

When placed in burlap bags or plastic bags with holes punched in them, the mushrooms will grow right through the bag! This method is often used for more commercial cultivation.

Homegrown Fungi on Demand

There are many, many types of edible mushrooms, from shiitake to porcini, and reishi to blue chanterelle. Do your research to find out which types you prefer to eat and what their growing habits are.

You’ll also find many excellent reference books. One of my favorites is The Mushroom Cultivator: A Practical Guide to Growing Mushrooms at Home, by Paul Stamets. This guide provides a comprehensive approach to cultivation, harvesting, and use, and it is available on Amazon.

The Mushroom Cultivator, available on Amazon

Even though foraging for edible mushrooms is like going on an adventure, the excitement that comes with cultivating and harvesting your delicious crop, which will continue to grow and thrive for years to come, gets pretty close.

What type of mushrooms do you want to grow at home? If you’ve tried it before, what are your favorite methods, and what are some setbacks that you faced?

Tell us your stories in the comments below. We’d love to hear them.

Photo of holes drilled into log by Leslie M.G. and Woods and Mushrooms graphic by Gretchen Heber, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Product images: Fungi Perfecti and Agarikon Press. Uncredited photos: Shutterstock.

About Leslie M.G.

Leslie M.G. is a lifelong lover of all things natural. She lives in rural southern Vermont with her wife, two dogs named Charlie and Ruby, and one sneaky little cat named Max. She is a grower, a farmer, a forager, and a writer who loves to combine all of these things to eke out a life in her little corner of the world. When the growing season comes to New England, her favorite thing to do is put on her overalls and head out to the garden, where she can plunge her hands into the rocky and fertile Vermont soil and get dirty. Her second-favorite thing to do? Pluck juicy ripe tomatoes from the vine and gobble them up, one by one.

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David Price
David Price (@guest_2752)
2 years ago

Thank you for sharing the how to’s in growing this
amazing plant. I will start my own garden soon.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Noble Member
Reply to  David Price
2 years ago

Good luck, David. Glad we were able to help!

Heather Stewart
Heather Stewart (@guest_6250)
Reply to  David Price
1 year ago

Mushrooms are not a PLANT but rather a fungus.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Noble Member
Reply to  Heather Stewart
1 year ago

You are correct, they are member of the kingdom of fungi rather than the plant kingdom. We’ve listed them under plants > vegetables on our website since we do not currently have a separate category for fungi, and edible ones are typically eaten in the same fashion as vegetables. ????

bee (@guest_6963)
Reply to  Heather Stewart
1 year ago

no need to yell lol. people love to learn, so just tell them without the caps. you will come across as helpful rather than condescending.

bee (@guest_6964)
1 year ago

fantastic article! many thanks!

Blake MacDonald
Blake MacDonald (@guest_6982)
1 year ago

Thank you for this intro to growing mushrooms.

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Noble Member
Reply to  Blake MacDonald
1 year ago

You’re welcome, Blake! Thanks for reading!

Limin Dove
Limin Dove (@guest_7157)
1 year ago

This article is great! I am excited to try. Would you please recommend a reputable mushroom spawn or plugs vendor? The Fungi Perfecti you mentioned ended up being mostly mushroom supplements. And I like all mushrooms but love shiitake, chanterelle and porcini. Are they easy to grow? Do I need a log for each variety? I don’t have much space. Chicken of the woods sounds delicious but I never had them before. Thank you so much and look forward to hearing back from you!

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Noble Member
Reply to  Limin Dove
1 year ago

Thanks Limin! Where are you located/what growing zone are you in? I grew up near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, the “Mushroom Capital of the World,” where farmers grow more than a million pounds of mushrooms are each year in dark grow houses. Legend has it that this tradition started back in the late 1800s in part because Quaker farmers wanted to find a use for the space beneath the raised beds in their greenhouses. What’s their secret? Some claim it’s rich, locally sourced compost. But mushrooms can be grown in various climates, and depending on how many you hope to produce,… Read more »

Jeff Lebowe
Jeff Lebowe (@guest_10977)
9 months ago

This is an excellent, informative article and both the article and the resources linked in it (+1 for “The Mushroom Cultivator by Paul Stamets – great book) have helped many people get started!

Last edited 9 months ago by Jeff Lebowe
Bob Davis
Bob Davis (@guest_11001)
9 months ago

I want to grow Omphalotus nidiformis for the sake of photographing them. Approx how long will it take for them to start growing? Inside or outside?

Allison Sidhu
Allison Sidhu (@allison-sidhu)
Noble Member
Reply to  Bob Davis
8 months ago

Bioluminescent ghost fungi – awesome. Where are you located, Bob? These are common in southern Australia, and they usually grow on dead or dying wood. Far as I can tell, the substrate can come from a variety of species of trees, and they’ll need temperatures of about 65-75°F to colonize and produce fruit – probably easier to maintain in an indoor location, though growing outdoors is recommended if you can protect them from temperature extremes, to increase your odds of producing full-size fungi. Most of the information I’ve been able to track down describes finding these in the wild, so… Read more »

Eileen Simpson
Eileen Simpson (@guest_12453)
4 months ago

I’m another Vermonter with an amazing mushroom patch! I chipped the branches when I pruned my orchard and other trees, laid out cardboard and spread the chips of it in a shady spot. The mycilium has gone crazy! Wine caps, Italian oyster, and grey oyster mushrooms each have their area. My “problem” is how to store all the mushrooms I get. Can someone blog about that for us?

Efa Ita
Efa Ita (@guest_14369)
2 months ago

how can I get the needed things

Clare Groom
Clare Groom (@clareg)
Reply to  Efa Ita
2 months ago

Hi, you can check out our guide to the best mushroom growing kits for more information. Happy gardening!