Making Mushroom Growing Sustainable – Part 1, the Set-up

Oyster mushrooms

Gourmet mushrooms are an excellent addition to a Permaculture farm. They are nutritious and delicious and they really stand out on your market stall table. Many farmers around the world grow them to add diversity to their produce range and to make use of the shadier areas where most plants won’t thrive.

But mushrooms are funny little creatures and like most other living things they won’t flourish unless some basic needs are met.

Huge king oyster

Here at Fungi Culture we’re in the process of compiling all the information, tricks, tips and techniques to get a small- to medium-sized oyster mushroom growing enterprise set up and running smoothly. The main focus is always to make gourmet mushroom cultivation sustainable, minimize the start-up and running costs and in the process grow happy, healthy mushrooms!

Obviously this is too much info for one article, so it’ll have to be split up into manageable bites.

Step 1 — choosing which mushroom to grow

The first mushroom people think to grow is the common button mushroom found in grocery stores worldwide. It is by far the most popular mushroom in Australia and may sound like a good option at first, but there are a few reasons why I’d recommend steering clear from button mushroom cultivation (unfortunately this includes the Swiss Browns and Portabellas as well!)

  • Button mushrooms are the most popular mushroom to cultivate and the market is flooded with cheap mushrooms grown on a very large scale. To compete with the industrial sized farms, button mushroom farmers will need to invest heavily in infrastructure.
  • Button mushrooms are grown on a very specific compost that is generally (though not always) bought in at an expense. The farmer can sell off the mushroom compost at the end of the cycle to try and recoup the expense.
  • Button mushrooms need a layer of ‘casing’ covering the compost to produce reliable crops. This casing layer is made from peat, an imported material that is both expensive and is harvested from peat bogs making it extremely unsustainable.

Oyster Mushrooms on the other hand…

  • Grow easily on very inexpensive and locally available materials: straw, sawdust, sugar cane mulch, paper, cardboard — the list goes on…
  • They sell for a higher price than button mushrooms
  • Are rare enough to be a talking point at the local farmers’ market
  • Take very little investment in growing space to produce
  • Are arguably the easiest mushroom to grow so it’s a good one to start with.

The Set-up

You’ll need a suitable spot to grow them. If you’re growing them for you and your family it can be as simple as a spot in the shade with access to water.

If your aim is to grow enough to bring to market then you’ll need to put in a bit more effort. A structure that can hold some humidity and gets ambient light is what you’re aiming for. I’ve seen shade-houses, poly-tunnels with thick shade-cloth and shipping containers work well. Depending on the species, oyster mushrooms can be grown between 10-25ºC, making them a great crop for the cooler months depending on your location.

Mushrooms really love humidity, so creating a nice moist environment is a must for decent crops. There are two ways to boost the relative humidity.

  1. Greenhouse misters — this is the cheaper option. Look for the finest mist you can get so the water droplets stay in the air and elevate the humidity. Remember we are trying to elevate the humidity, not water the crops. They can be rigged up to a timer for hands-free automation.
  2. Foggers — greenhouse foggers are the second option. They directly boost humidity and if set to the right amount, very little excess water will develop. They are generally more expensive to purchase but can be programmed to the exact humidity required.

The last essential piece for the growing space is fresh air and lots of it! Because mushrooms breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide they need a steady supply of air to keep them happy. Depending on your growing structure you may need to rig up a fan to keep them growing well.

You can find us at Fungi Culture where we’re exploring gourmet mushroom cultivation in all shapes and forms!

Upcoming article — Planting your Oyster Mushroom Logs

Further Reading:



    1. Tradd Cotter’s Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation is readable and lends many of the author’s ideas and experiences.

    2. google Paul Stamets or look at many videos on utube. Pual has writen multible books and is recognized as an expert,

  1. I’ve found most of the mushroom cultivation books to be very over the top info wise. Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms by Paul Stamets is the bible for exotic mushroom cultivation but you really need to study up to follow along. At Fungi Culture we’re working on a Cultivator’s Guide for a very low-tech affordable and most importantly sustainable mushroom growing. Shoot me an email at info (at) if you need a hand with anything.

    1. Todd knows how technical the book is! Most people don’t have the laboratory workshop to do “clean” transfers from jars to bags! I don’t have a flow hood and can’t keep things sterile!URGH!!! I just let nature do the work for me.

  2. Many thanks Todd, I look forward to the Cultivators guide, any ideas when it might be ready? Your article has come up at exactly the right time and inspired me to get things going so I might just end up emailing you for some advice and tips. Much, much appreciated!

    1. Todd ..thanks for the helpful information on this .I am wondering how your mushroom growing guide is coming along?

  3. The Cultivators Guide will be a summer project but I have most of the info together already. Always happy to point you in the right direction so don’t hesitate to shoot me over an email.

  4. Thank you, Todd. Do you know what kind of mushroom can be grown in the very humid and hot tropics? Can they grow on rice straw, rice hull, banana leaves, coconut leafstalks?

    1. Agree with others – Calocybe Indica – Milky is excellent. I’m growing it in Thailand, but with a little nous grow it on mid nth coast NSW Aust. Humidity is the main requirement – Thai’s do fine with pole and plastic barns – there is a particularly rugged reinforced blue plastic that is long lasting and strong. Straw mushies are common but require some steps that are just hard work. Some new techniques make Milky a great option

  5. Yup there are a few gourmet mushrooms that grow well in the tropics. The paddy straw is a great one that grows well on rice straw and also the milky mushroom (Calocybe Indica) is perfect for hot/humid tropics. A few oysters the pink and the golden are great subtropical-tropical oysters too!

  6. Nice one Todd, I think the idea of a well written cultivators guide has real legs. We’d love to give our students a high quality but simple guide when they do our courses, Stamets books are a bit of an overkill. Keep us in the loop.

  7. I am thinking about growing mushrooms for my business but I no not have an idea phone to sell them. Do you have any ideas. Thanks. LInda

  8. I am from Zimbabwe. I kindly request for information pertaining to structures required to start mushroom production in an environment where there is no electricity. I have farm bricks. I need to know the dimensions of the mushroom growing house and the type of material recommended for roofing.

  9. Hi,
    is it possible to find a bit more info on the grow houses please, what size, shape height etc to be able to service say 800 mushrooms per flush with room to expand. Is vertical growing the better option for oysters ?

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