Mushrooms in Your Garden

By Marc Donsky

Good Morning Urban Mushroomers! Welcome to Mushrooms in Your Garden!

We assume that if you are interested in city mushrooms you also would like to encourage mushrooms to grow in your own yard. That will be the focus of this section of

Over the next months we will describe various techniques to plant and encourage mushrooms to grow in our yards and gardens. We will document our efforts to create a mushroom garden. Gardening with mushrooms in Colorado presents the expected challenges of moisture and temperature extremes. Many, if not most, of the techniques we discuss and illustrate will be simple and obvious. Others will be extensions of common mushroom cultivation procedures. Our efforts are described on this page - SUMMER 2011 – Growing mushrooms in my yard in Denver.

We encourage you to work with us at your own home as we progress through the season. Send us your ideas and photos, and we will try to provide a forum to share and elaborate on the possibilities, the successes, and to learn from the failures. Creativity and versatility are the words and tools for our success.

We can imagine that there are two aspects to growing mushrooms in our gardens. The first is to create the appropriate environment for mushrooms to grow, and the second is to “plant” the mushrooms. We will find that creating an environment and planting, of course, go hand in hand. By creating our mushroom environment, mushrooms will grow. We will be encouraging volunteers as well as those species we specifically plant.

Let us briefly consider Creating Our Mushroom Environment:

First we should observe our (and others’) yard(s). Where have we seen mushrooms growing? Is there a particular side of our house where the snow melts last? How about shady areas that never get sun? Do we have a hedge underneath of which leaves and mulch have accumulated for years?  Do we have a woodpile we can straighten out and utilize for growing and encouraging mushrooms? Do we want to build mushroom beds? Perhaps we even want to create a mushroom house.

What types of mushrooms are we trying to grow?

We would like the grow mushrooms in our lawns.  Agaricus sps. Marasmius oreades, Chlorophylum rhacodes, Coprinus comatus can all be encouraged. We do not need to only grow edible mushrooms. Chlorophylum molybdites is not edible (on the contrary it is poisonous) but adds stature, mystery, and a sense of wildness to any yard where we see it growing.

We will also put effort into growing wood loving mushrooms. Polyporus squamosus may not be the best edible but has a grace and beauty that adds to any stump. Turkey tail (Tremates versicolor) is also easy to grow and puts forth impressive blooms that can cover a log. The tea from your homegrown turkey tail will serve you the following winter. Oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus sps.) are some of the most delicious and easiest of all mushrooms to grow. We can (and will) grow them on wood, wood chips and simple straw. Our coffee grounds will be used to encourage our oyster mushrooms. We can try to grow straw mushrooms (Volvariella volvacea ). This classic Fantasia mushroom likes relatively hot weather. Our attempts to grow it will help us to know our Colorado climate and help us to understand the needs of other mushrooms. Stropharia, Pholiota, Puffballs, Stinkhorns (or perhaps their cousin Bamboo fungus) are all candidates for Mushrooms in Our Garden. There are many, many more possibilities (see Helmut Steineck’s Mushrooms in the Garden). Of course, you have been throwing your spore water from washing your morels underneath your cottonwood for years. Right?

What techniques?

  • Simple “planting”: The spreading of spores and mushrooms where we would like them to grow. I have found this to be quite successful for introducing Boletus and Leccinum under spruce and aspen in the mountains.
  • Transplanting: Encouraging growth by moving logs, manure, soil, sod,  or any substrate with mushrooms already growing (or not) (there are bound to be spores).
  • The construction and inoculation of a mushroom compost: The use of sterile and non-sterile techniques to create a bulk of mushroom spawn for the inoculation of our area(s). (For example, see Stem butt cultivation in Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets.)

Your Homework: Observe your yard. Prepare your garden. This is the year we aerate our lawn and fertilize with cow manure. Our neighbors are going to love us. Here come the mushrooms!

Mushrooms in the Garden 2011 Calendar

 January-February: What are we going to do?

 February-March: Prepare our area. Begin spawn production.

 March-April: Spawn and area attention.

 April-May:Spawn production and spawn planting.

 May-June: Picking and transplanting. More spawn.

 June- July: Planting and compost preparation.

 July-August: Compost pile and harvesting.

 August-September: Harvesting and winter preparation. 

 September-October: Winter preparation.


Recommended Reading:

Cultivation Corner by Marc Donsky, on the Colorado Mycological Society Website 

Mushrooms in the Garden by Hellmut Steineck, English translation Mad River Press, Eureka, California, 1984

Growing Gourmet & Medicinal Mushrooms by Paul Stamets, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California, 1993

Mycelium Running by Paul Stamets, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California, 2005


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