Growing mushrooms at home is not only enjoyable and satisfying. It also gives a tasty supply of food and potential income.
Growing mushrooms in Buckets is a terrific place to start if you are a beginner and can easily be scaled up.
In this guide, we will discuss which mushrooms can be grown in buckets, then go through a step-by-step guide for growing mushrooms in buckets outdoors.
Why Use Buckets to Grow Mushrooms?
Growing mushrooms using buckets is a simple and gratifying method of producing tasty, nutritious mushrooms.
It's a great way for newbies to grow mushrooms because it doesn't require any special abilities or prior knowledge.
Growing mushrooms using buckets does not require expensive or specialist equipment so that you can grow a huge quantity of mushrooms with little work.
Mushroom production in buckets is ideal for small-scale mushroom cultivation or urban mushroom farming.
It is easy to set up a fruitful mushroom farm in a garden or small outdoor space.
Which Mushrooms Can Be Grown in Buckets?
You can cultivate a variety of side-fruiting mushroom types in buckets. These mushrooms, including oyster mushrooms, and lion's mane, grow on trees in the wild.
Oyster mushrooms are the best option for bucket growing; they grow fast and are less susceptible to unfavourable growing environments or contamination than other mushroom species. They can also grow on a large variety of substrates.
Bucket tek is ideal for side-bearing Oyster mushroom species such as white, blue, pink, and yellow mushrooms.
How to Grow Mushrooms in Buckets Step-by-step Guide?
This section will contain a step-by-step explanation on how to grow mushrooms using buckets, this will assume you already have spawn prepared.
We will be using cold water (hydrated lime) pasteurisation to prepare the substrate, however the hot water bath technique described here can also be used if this is too complicated.
Hydrated Lime (Calcium Hydroxide) – You must make sure this is the LOW in magnesium version. The version I use has “Magnesium Oxide (MgO:) <0.23%”, but anything less than 4% will probably do.
Buckets with lid – The larger the better.
Rubber gloves – hydrated lime will irritate your skin if it touches it.
Eye protection and Face Masks (a good all in one solution) – Blocks the irritant from your eyes and lungs.
Old pillowcase/Net bag (optional).
PH testing kit (optional).
Access to a tap.
Butterfly Cage (highly recommend one of these to stop slugs and bugs from eating your crop).
Pasteurization is a technique used to minimize the number of microscopic toxins (contaminants like trich) within a substrate before adding treated grain spawn.
Pasteurization also permits good bacteria to remain in the substrate to fight off other competing pollutants that may try to compete with the mycelium in the substrate.
This entire process benefits the mycelium by providing it with a competitive edge to grow across the substrate before hazardous pollutants establish a foothold.
There are two substrate pasteurization techniques available to use for this guide: cold water, and hot water bath pasteurization.
However, in this post, the focus will be on cold water pasteurization, which enables you to treat a larger substrate without heat if you want to use a different technique checkout this post “How to Pasteurize Mushroom Substrate – 3 methods”.
Step 1. Get Prepared.
Put on some rubber gloves and eye and mask protection.
Collect your bulk substrate, bucket, hydrated lime and old pillow case. You can perform the following steps either indoors (in a well ventilated room) or outdoors.
I will be doing this in my bath with all the windows open and my facemask on.
Step 2. Prepare Substrate For Bucket Tek.
Place your pillow case around the outside of the bucket, then add your bulk substrate into the inside of the pillow case as shown here.
Remove the pillow case from the bucket and tie a knot in the end, then place it to one side.
Step 3. Create Hydrated lime Bath.
Fill your bucket up halfway full with normal tap water. This equals about 12 litres of water for my bucket.
Next, weight out hydrated lime at a ratio of 2g Lime for every 1L of water.
So I will be adding about 24g of lime to my mix.
Next, pour the lime mixture into bucket of water and stir.
Once mixed use a PH testing kit to check if the water is the correct PH. You are looking for a PH of 11-13 approximately to pasteurize the mushroom substrate correctly.
Step 4. Add Your Bulk Substrate To The Bucket.
Place your pillowcase, with substrate inside, into the lime bath and push it down until it is completely submerged in water.
You want to get the substrate completely submerged. Normally if enough water is absorbed into the substrate this is enough to keep it down. If it is not staying down the place a brick or something heavy on top.
Step 5. Wait
Firstly you want to leave your substrate submerged for at least 12 hours in the water.
Once this time has passed remove the substrate pillow and then hang it somewhere to drip dry.
Prepare the Bucket Tek.
Whilst you are waiting for the pasteurization to work you can prepare your fruiting buckets.
This is simple, just drill holes all the way around the diameter of the bucket, leaving a 2 inch gap between each hole.
Holes are needed in the containers or buckets for fruiting, drainage, and ventilation. The diameter of the holes might vary widely depending on individual preference, but it is generally recommended to drill holes between 8 and 12 mm in diameter.
For the colonization phase of the grow it is recommended to tape up all the holes using duct tape or similar.
This will give the mycelium plenty of protection from drying out while it colonises and expands through the substrate.
When the duct tape is removed during the fruiting stage fresh air will enter the bucket and the CO2 level will drop, this will stimulate the mushrooms' natural want to produce fruits.
Update: I have discovered that brown parcel paper is better than duct tape and I will show you why later in this post.
Fill the Buckets with substrate.
Grab your buckets, substrate, rubber gloves and grain/sawdust spawn then move them into the area you will be working in. I do this in the bathroom normally in the bath.
You want to place a layer of substrate, then add a layer of colonized spawn, then another layer of substrate in a lasagna style.
Pack the bucket tightly but not too tightly to ensure that the substrate will continue to breathe. Fill the container to the top.
Put the bucket lid on and label it with the produced and enclosed species.
Set the bucket aside and leave it for at least 14 days.
Keep the loaded and closed bucket out of sunlight and ideally at room temperature. Mycelium should grow and eat the substrate for between 8 to 21 days.
The speed of colonization might be affected by changes in temperature or the amount of spawn used.
Introduce Fruiting Conditions
After around 14 days pop the lid off the bucket and have a look at how the mycelium growth looks.
If it looks like the photo below you are ready to move into fruiting conditions.
If you are growing Oyster mushrooms the mycelium should smell sweet like aniseed, not fowl in any way.
Secure the lid back in place, remove all of the duct tape from the holes allowing fresh air to reach the substrate.
Update: I discovered recently that if you use brown parcel tape you don't even need to pop the lid to discover if you mycelium is ready.
When the mycelium is ready it will start exploring under the brown parcel paper. As a result you can see mycelium patterns form, you can see this when you shine a light on the tape. See below:
Whatever tape you decided on, remove it now.
Find a location outside where you are going to allow your bucket tek to fruit. It should be an area which is not in direct sunlight and is not out in the open where wind could dry out your substrate.
I have chosen to place mine up against the wall of my house in the shade.
Place your butterfly cage in this location then place all your buckets inside the cage and secure it, do this quickly to ensure no creepy crawlies can eat my mushrooms.
However it is also great for misting your mushrooms, you can spray a heavy stream of water against the cage and it will cut up the water into a mist.
Some species, such as the pink oyster, can start fruiting in as few as eight days, while others, such as the blue oyster, might take around three weeks.
Leave your buckets outside but go out to spray heavily everyday with water to ensure it doesn't dry out. If it is a heavy rainy season outside you may not need to do this.
Some species, such as the pink oyster, can start blooming in as few as eight days, while others, such as the blue oyster, might take around three weeks.
The mushrooms require optimal temperatures and humidity before they will begin producing.
For example the blue oyster mushrooms I grew below did not produce until the temperature rose above 0c for at least 5 days. I put them out in December which was not ideal (too cold) but I got lucky with a warm spell.
Ideal conditions are usually wet and cold but not freezing for Blue Oyster mushrooms.
Harvest the Bucket Grown Mushrooms
Harvest the mushrooms well before caps flip upwards. This is normally when they taste best and have the best texture.
Do this by opening the butterfly cage, grabbing the mushroom at the base close to the bucket and twisting them.
Refrigerate them inside a paper wrapper for the best shelf life.
Initiating A Second Flush
Before creating the next mushroom flush, the mycelium may need to rest to recover for a period of 7 to 14 days.
If the container is not kept in fruiting environments while resting, you should replace the tape to retain moisture.
To initiate a second flush I normally put the buckets with holes, inside a bucket without holes.
Then, pop the lid and run a tap on the top of the substrate until it becomes submerged in water again. Leave it like this for a few days then remove the substrate bucket from the water.
Excess water will drain out the holes and the substrate will be re-hydrated.
Summer species, such as yellow and pink oyster mushrooms, will typically produce a second flush faster than cooler-weather species, which might take more time in between flushes.
Each flush after that is generally smaller compared to the previous one.
How Long Does It Take to Grow Mushrooms in Buckets?
When it comes to how long it takes to produce mushrooms, the answer varies based on the species and the method used to cultivate them.
Low-nutrient substrates typically take longer to develop, whereas high-nutrient substrates can grow quickly.
The whole process cant take up to 8 weeks. However, you could set up a bucket then wait 2 weeks and set up another bucket.
Repeating this process would mean you would have a new flush every 2 weeks once you have begun the process.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Cultivating Mushrooms in Buckets
Like all mushroom growing methods, cultivating mushrooms using buckets has advantages and disadvantages.
- You may reuse the buckets, which cuts down on the plastic garbage you produce.
- Buckets can be stacked, allowing you to maximise your storage capacity.
- Buckets are self-contained and do not require additional support like bigger grow bags.
- Buckets can produce commercial yields, although they are better applicable for small scales.
- Buckets are easily accessible.
- If used in the right season buckets can be set and forgotten until they yield.
- When filled with substrate, big buckets could be difficult to handle.
- Washing buckets before reuse is time-consuming, rendering them unsuitable for large-scale production.
Follow the steps above if you want to start growing mushrooms in buckets using bucket tek.
Growing mushrooms in buckets rather than bags is an excellent approach to limit the amount of plastic trash you produce. It's an excellent way for new mushroom farmers to start out.
You do not need specialised knowledge, expensive items, or prior expertise.