How to Grow Your Own Oyster Mushrooms on Straw

by Dr Samuel Alexander, co-director of the Simplicity Institute and a lecturer with the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne.

I’ve been experimenting recently with growing my own oyster mushrooms, and as you can see from the photos, I’ve met with some success. I was motivated to explore mushroom cultivation partly because I’m a vegetarian and want to produce my own high-protein alternatives to meat; but I was also interested in using so-called ‘dead space’ to grow food (either inside or down the shady side of the house). Oyster mushrooms tick both these boxes, and they are also ridiculously tasty. Seriously.

Not only that, oyster mushrooms are extremely expensive when purchased from a supermarket, so it makes sense to grow them yourself. Currently in Melbourne they are going for $34 per kilo.

I’m no mushroom-growing expert, so do your own research, but below I’ve outlined how I’ve successfully grown my own oyster mushrooms on straw. It’s surprisingly easy, although you do need to take appropriate precautions to make sure you are growing the right mushrooms and in a hygienically safe way. Apparently white oyster mushrooms are the easiest variety to grow, which is why I started with them.

What you need:

  • Straw (I used pea-straw successfully but I’m told wheat straw is better)
  • Robust plastic bags, medium or large size (which can be reused)
  • Oyster mushroom spawn (which I got from CERES in Melbourne and are also available here). You may need to find your local supplier.
  • Spray bottle and water

My 10-Step Method:

  1. Before you begin, wash your hands and clean all your surfaces well. It’s very important to be hygienic when cultivating mushrooms, as you do not want to grow the wrong types of fungi! Good mushrooms are really good; bad mushrooms are really bad. Fortunately, oysters mushrooms are very distinctive.
  2. Once you’ve got all the materials, the first thing you need to do is pasteurise the straw. From my research online, I discovered that this essentially means heating the straw in water to around 70-75 degrees (Celsius) and holding it at that temperature for around 45-60 minutes. I used a large Fowlers cooking pot. Pasteurisation kills the bad bacteria but leaves the good bacteria. Before you put the straw in the pot, most websites recommend that the straw is cut up into small pieces, around 1 to 3 inches in length. (To be honest, I didn’t cut up my straw, and I still grew mushrooms, but perhaps if I had cut it up my production might have been greater — further experimenting required.)
  3. Once you’ve pasteurised the straw, take it out of the heating pot with tongs and let it sit in a clean tub while it cools down. Be careful as you’re dealing with a lot of hot water and the pot will be heavy. It’s important you don’t put the mushroom spawn into the straw until the straw is at room temperature otherwise you will kill the spawn.
  4. When the straw has cooled down, pack your robust plastic bags with straw quite tightly, and then distribute some of the mushroom spawn throughout the straw. I put about three or four pieces of spawn-covered dowel in each bag, but perhaps one would have been fine (further experimenting required). The straw should not be dripping wet, but it should still be damp from the pasteurisation.
  5. At this stage, sterilise a skewer or a nail (by pouring boiling water over it) and jab holes in the bags every 3 inches or so. This lets some air in, but not too much.
  6. You now have to find a home for you mushrooms. Keep them out of direct sunlight. They like some indirect light and I am told they like it best at around 15-20 degrees Celsius. (It’s been considerably warmer than that in Melbourne over the last two months, and mine have grown very well, but again perhaps the yields would have been greater had the temperature been cooler). More experimenting required. I kept my bags inside to minimise the risk of contamination.
  7. Now you wait while the mushroom spawn develops into mycelium and begins taking over the entire bag. Mycelium looks a bit like white furry cobwebs, and you should start seeing it develop in the first couple of weeks. It’s important that your bags of straw stay moist, but not dripping wet. I found that the water from the pasteurisation was sufficient to keep the straw suitably moist without needing to spray with water.
  8. After a number of weeks (depending on the size of your bags) the mycelium should have spread across the entire bag of straw. It is at this stage (which for me was about 5 weeks later) your mushrooms should start forming. I cut some slightly larger holes in the bag, although I’m not sure this was necessary. The mushrooms will decide that they want to grow out of one or more of the holes you’ve created, and they’ll usually grow in one or two clusters.
  9. Now comes the fun part. The mushrooms essentially double in size every day, so within a week or so you should have good-sized oyster mushrooms. Mist them with water two or three times a day over this period – again, not so they are dripping, just so they are moist. The mushrooms should be harvested while their rims are still curled over a little and pointing downwards. If their rims seem to be turning upward, it’s probably time to harvest.
  10. Harvest and eat. To harvest the mushrooms give them a twist at the base. This ensures that you leave the very bottom of the mushroom still in the bag. You want to leave that part behind as it is needed for the subsequent flushes of mushrooms. If you keep the mushrooms moist and in suitable conditions, you should get three or four flushes of mushrooms, although I’m told the first and second flushes are the most productive. I’m currently harvesting my second flush. When your bags stop producing, the straw can be used as mulch for the garden. (Alternatively, my understanding is that you can distribute some of your straw into new bags of fresh straw and the growing process begins again).

If there are any mushroom experts out there, do let me know if you have any advice, and if any of you decide to begin cultivating your own mushrooms, do let me know how you get on. I’m going to keep experimenting in the hope of developing the easiest and most productive methods.

That’s all for now. I’ve got to go cook me some shrooms.

Samuel Alexander

Dr Samuel Alexander is a lecturer and researcher at the University of Melbourne, Australia, teaching a course called ‘Consumerism and the Growth Economy: Critical Interdisciplinary Perspectives’ as part of the Master of Environment.


  1. The reason for cutting straw up into smaller lengths is to make it easy to handle, and easier for the fungus to colonize. It doesn’t matter, like you said, you got great ‘shrooms.

    Shitake can be grown on wheat as a base, with the same plastic bag setup.

  2. thank you for the clear and concise instructions. It sounds like you had fun and lots of experimenting ideas.

    Will you have to get more spore or will the mushrooms you have give you the spore for the next harvest?

    CAn they be grown at any time during the year?

  3. to Barbara: it’s my understanding that different species and different strains of those species, have different “seasons” just like wild mushrooms do in the woods/fields. weather and moisture conditions affect the fruiting as well. I live in North Carolina, and am growing Shiitakes and oyster mushrooms on wood, in the woods; I am also learning to identify oyster (a different strain/appearance from the one pictured above); lion’s mane; chanterelle; and “chicken of the woods” in the woods here. friends also report sightings of morel mushrooms too! exciting mycellium!!

  4. Thank you for your article. Mushroom growing must take on its full role as part of permaculture design, especially the use of mycorrizal mushrooms for maintaining soil health and bioremediation. In response to Alexandre’s idea of utilising ‘dead’ space, it will be useful to experiment with inoculation of mulching materials with gourmet and/medicinal mushrooms, in swales and shady beds as well as the woodland.

  5. i try to have my own oyster mushrooms farm before but i face more problems pls help me the steps, the madecine and other important things

  6. I want more information about oyster mushrooms and from on what basis oyster mushrooms will be prepared we want information please .

  7. Dear Friends
    I live in Dallas, TX
    Please show me where to buy all materials needed to growing Oyster mushroom
    This is the first time I try to growth them at home my my Vegetarian
    Thank you

  8. ive just grown my first flush of pluerotus; it was a great success. I used organic hay, pasteurized.

    After one flush it got too cold here (0deg f) so I let things go dormant.

    Then I built a small indoor greenhouse in the cellar equipped with a seedling heating pad, a household humidifier, and some aquarium controls for the heating pad. I set it to heat at 70df and shut off 1 deg later.

    The dormant mycellium, although completely frozen, took off nicely. Im having rapid pin formation and will have Oysters for Christmas.

    My question is: once I’ve gotten my next flush, I want to add the mycellium to a new batch of hay. Anyone try this? Can the mycellium stand to be shredded?

    1. If you want a continous spawning with the same variety of oyster you can use straw as spawn!!!It is only a week slower in colonization but you wont buy spawn again.

    2. Don, from my research it should be fine to use some of the mycelium to a new batch of hay, be sure to use sterile gloves when you remove the mycelium, yu can also grow mycelium from the harvested oysters, theres plenty of informative videos on youtube.

  9. Thank you for very straight forward information. Please advise what causes the growing rooms to have flies. And has anyone ever used cotton hulls as substrate as I found it very challenging.

    1. flies are atracted from the odor of the mushrooms.Use screens everywhere.If you dont use clean,moldfree,yellow color straw then you dont have a fully colonized substrate and you end with flies that come from the bag.thats why we pasterize cause the straw has flie eggs on the leafs.

  10. Please, can someone help me to know the full process involved in producing my own mushroom and where to get the stuff needed within mullingar co. westmeath. please, I need help

  11. any ideas for temperature control?
    As I live in area it can get as high as 40 degreesC to as low as 5 degress in the winter.

  12. Hi everybody. İ want to grow oyster mushroom. But i havent got that much info about growing it. İ want you help ne about how to grow it. İ will be happy about Evert info that you will give. Please write back ASAP. Thanks

  13. Thank you for such simplified process. I’m starting a mushroom growing business in Uganda and my problem is mushroom gardens as prepared ones are not only hard to get but also expensive just as traing. This information is enough a guide to set me onto the pracals. I have to try.

  14. hie. I’m student and i’m starting mushroom production in Zimbabwe. I had never grownmushroom in life . So i’m researching on how to start with. so can u help me

  15. Dear friend, thank you for information about mushroom. I am Dr Mugabo Wambesi and I will grow the mushroom from your webpages.

  16. Hi all. I’m from South Africa and just started a small mushroom farm. I understood that the Oyster must be kept in the dark till they start growing. We have abour 70. X 2.5kg wheat straw bags and now some of them are rewarding us with loveley mushrooms, but some are not, although the bags are white with growth. I still don’t know how to harvest and therefor we cut each “leave” when ready. We harvest about 500 gr 2 times a day from the bags in total. Bur after cutting, the stumps are yellow and dried out, late yesterday, I cut the stumps and then mist it, this morning it looked fine again. Good luck every one.

  17. Thought: Get bags large enough to hold a whole bale.

    Make a insulated box large enough to hold an entire bale.

    Make a wand out of pipe, that is strong enough to pierce the bale lengthsie. Put 1/16 holes in the wand every 3 inches over its length.

    Put the bale in a bag, Put the bag in the box. run the want in the length of the bale.

    Hook a steam generator to tohe wand.

    Hook up a temperature sensor to a point half way between the outside and the wand.

    Run steam until the temp is up to pasturization temp, close the box, and leave for 24 hours.

    This gives you a 40 lb ‘log’ in one go.

  18. I am from Zimbabwe. Growing mushrooms garage its fun. Unfortunately the temperatures can be high. Someone told me you can use a humidifier to boost the humidity. Where can I get one suitable for a 40square metre room. Thanks for the valuable information.

  19. Good day

    I would like to enquire about oyster mushroom farming. Having experimented on the process of growing them. I am not so sure about the pricing and marketing process, please advise.

    1. Any where around the world the market is good for mushrooms depending on the desirability by the customers of what type of mushrooms they wish to have. Even though there are around 50,000 species of mushrooms are existing, only a handful of mushrooms foreg. oyster mushrooms, milky mushrooms, button mushrooms are grown as large scale for business, since it is relatively easy and the spawns are readily available. The price factor depends on the quality of the mushrooms and the freshness of it. If you can sell the mushrooms within a time frame of 3 – 4 hrs of harvest it will fetch good price.

  20. I got the oyster mushroom with cylindrical stalk, no umbrella formed. What may be the cause?

  21. hey guys i started growing mushroom, so half of my pockets suddenly stops to shoots and is the second flushes. what would be the cause

    1. Anyone interested in serious business of growing mushrooms and making income, pls reply to me for the booklet in english where you will find the basic knowledge of how to start this.

      1. I am interested in beginning a business specifically consisting of oyster and shiitake. Please if you can send whatever would be helpful for this beginner, would be very appreciated.

      2. Hi Francis,

        please would you be so kind to send us the booklet?

        Thank you very much in advance,
        kind regards,

  22. Thanks for the info because I am doing a mushroom growing project and I got a good grade with the help from you and leaned a lot. :)

    1. One bale of straw ( golden colour will be best ) can be used in a polythene cover of size 60 X 30 with 150 guage as thickness. The spawns can be scattered on the sides of the cover with holes in it with a maximum of 5 layers of bed.

  23. Question maybe someone here can answer.
    Can you use straw that is colonizing but hasn’t pinned, to break up and use to inoculate more straw?

  24. I am interested in mushroom growing business. Please send me the booklet in English please.
    Thank you very much.

  25. After putting the dowels into the bag of straw, close the bag and allow it to colonize. Do not poke holes in it. Mycelium requires hi co2 and low oxygen so you want close it with a bread tie somewhat loosely to allow gas to escape. Oxygen is one of the main triggers for the mycelium to produce fruits. After full colonization cut a few small X’s where you want mushrooms to grow. Mist it lightly any time it looks dry. If make these minor adjustments then I promise you that you will produce more and higher quality fruits.

  26. I would desperately like to the book on mushroom production as promised by Fracis Varghese( very kind gesture). However I also enjoyed the very informative article by Dr. Samuel Alexander.

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