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Urban Gardening: Growing Mushrooms Outside in a Small Space

Updated: Feb 16


Living in a city apartment or having limited space around your home shouldn’t deter you from having a flourishing garden. Urban, or small space gardening can be a truly rewarding experience, and for those looking to kick it up a notch, incorporating mushrooms into your small urban garden can be a game changer. In the midst of the bustling city landscape, or on a small deck space, for example, you can begin growing mushrooms outside, transforming it into a thriving, densely productive oasis. Trust me, by implementing the principles of what is known as lasagna gardening and some clever mushroom growing techniques, you can make it happen.


How to Grow Mushrooms in a Small Space:

Growing mushrooms in a small space is easier and more plentiful than you might think. In fact, mushrooms are uniquely suited to grow in small spaces. As an added benefit, they can be grown side-by-side with other garden vegetables – in fact, they can enhance one another. If you don't plan to grow mushrooms directly in your garden bed, on the other hand, here's how you can start growing mushrooms in a container:


1. Choose the Right Spot

In your urban mushroom garden, finding the perfect spot is essential. Look for a location that offers plenty of shade or dappled sunlight, good airflow, and receives some rainfall.


2. Preparing Your Urban Garden Bed

Mushroom gardening can be done in a variety of small containers. I recommend you keep it simple – opt for a clay flowerpot, wooden wine barrel, a milk crate, or a plastic bin or five-gallon bucket. Whatever container you use, make sure to drill a few holes to allow for drainage.


The lasagna gardening method involves laying down layers of organic materials like cardboard, straw, leaves, and food scraps to create a nutrient-rich, moisture-retaining bed. As you can see above, I used pine needles, leaves, yard scraps and old bananas. I will show you how these principles can be applied to growing specific mushroom species. As a note, specific mushroom species may require different materials – keep reading.


3. Selecting Mushrooms Varieties

For small containers using the lasagna method, consider wine cap and blewit mushrooms. In this case, I have opted for blewits because I had some yard scraps handy, and Blewits like to grow on semi-composted materials and beds with a high proportion of leaves and pine needles. Likewise, it is the end of the summer, which is the perfect time to start a Blewit garden. If you have opted for Wine caps, on the other hand, you will want to focus on wood chips. You'll want to simulate a forest woodland floor. More on this here.


For Blewits, you are going to want to layer leaves and/or pine needles in between nitrogen-rich materials like food scraps, coffee grounds or yard clippings, adding mushroom spawn as you go. Remember, the more composted these materials are, the better. So, if you have fresh leaves or the prior season's leaves, opt for the prior season's. Each layer should be one or two inches deep, up to a maximum of no more than a foot.


light purple mushrooms - Blewit

Blewit Mushrooms - Lepista Nuda


Straw growing wine cap mushrooms outside

Wine Cap Mushrooms, known as the "Garden Giants" - Stopharia rugosoannulata


4. Adding in the Mushroom Spawn

You will have a couple of choices here for either Blewits or Wine Caps, but the most popular is to use a bag of mushroom sawdust spawn. This is a supplemented bag of sawdust that has been inoculated with mushroom mycelium (can be thought of in the same way as a plant’s roots). These spawn bags are recommended to be used for large garden spaces.


For small spaces?


If we are talking a container with wine caps, try our Myco-Spikes. These are inoculated wooden dowel pegs that can be pushed into a layered bed after the bed has been assembled.


For Blewits, you might try our Myco-Balls, which are specially formulated and highly supplemented spheres of inoculated material that Blewits thrive on. Add these as you go, or alternatively, dig holes in your assembled beds and drop them in.


If you choose this method, you will want to make sure to add spawn between every couple of layers of material. The mycelium will then spread throughout the bed and use the nutrients to yield mushrooms.


In Blewit container, I had some extra sawdust spawn on hand, so I used that. See below:


Lasagna Gardening
Blewit Mushroom Sawdust Spawn


5. Maintaining a Mushroom Garden Container

After layering, cover your mushroom garden bed with an inch or two of mulch or wood chips to protect it from the cold weather. Keep the bed consistently moist, particularly if you are in an area that does not get a lot of natural rainfall.



Over a couple of weeks, the mycelium will colonize the substrate and you are well on your way to a harvest. Once established, just make to sure to water during periods of extended drought.


6. Harvesting the Fruits of your Labor

If you choose to plant wine cap mushrooms in your beds, you are likely to begin finding mushrooms after two or three months. If you wait until late in the growing season to plant them, you might find that they pop up the following season.

If you plant Blewits, and if it is at least three weeks before the first frost, you will start to see them popping up shortly after the first frost. If not, they will pop up the following season. They will continue to yield mushrooms well into the winter months.


7. Planting Mushroom Companion Plants

Pair your mushrooms with companion plants to enhance growth. For blewits, consider lettuce, arugula, radishes, kale, potatoes and other plants that grow well in cold compost. For wine caps, go for blueberries, tomatoes, peppers, arugula, garlic, thyme and cilantro – plants that can better handle the increased acidity of the soil as the result of the woody material.

Wine Cap Mushrooms growing in small garden space alongside other plants

The plants and mushrooms create a beneficial inter-dependence where they work together, enriching the soil and enhancing each other’s growth, resulting in a more abundant and flourishing eco-system. Wine caps, in particular are known to trap and feed on parasitic nematodes in your soil that degrade your plant’s roots.


8. Sustainable Gardening

Wine Cap and Blewit gardens will continue to produce for multiple years. However, it is good to continue to replenish the containers yearly so that the mushrooms continue to have material to feed on.


The beauty of mushroom gardening is that the material that houses the mycelium of the mushrooms can be scooped up and taken to new locations to inoculate those spaces. If you are diligent about spreading your garden out and replenishing, you can have mushrooms year-after-year.


 

How to Grow Blewit Mushrooms In a Small Container


  • Choose the right time of year. Opt for a time when there's no chance of frost to start your Blewit mushroom bed.

  • Select the container. Pick a suitable container with adequate drainage to create your mushroom bed.

  • Create your bed:

Layer 1: Nitrogen-Rich Material. Lay down a 2-inch layer of nitrogen-rich material, like (ideally, semi-composted) yard clippings or food scraps.


Layer 2: Carbon-Rich Material. Add a 2-inch layer of carbon-rich material, such as leaves or pine needles.


Layer 3: Blewit Mushroom Spawn. Spread a 1-inch layer of Blewit mushroom spawn evenly on top of the previous layers.


Layer 4: Carbon-Rich Material. Place another 2-inch layer of carbon-rich material over the mushroom spawn.


Layer 5: Nitrogen-Rich Material. Add a 2-inch layer of nitrogen-rich material.


Layer 6: Mulch or Wood Chips. Cover the entire bed with a 2-inch layer of mulch or wood chips to help retain moisture.


  • Choose the location. Place the container in a shaded or semi-shaded location, ideally that receives natural rainfall.

  • Moisten your bed.

  • Monitor for moisture.

  • Check for harvest.

 


Creating a mushroom garden outdoors is a rewarding, and sustainable way to cultivate nature’s bounty in small garden spaces. By combining lasagna gardening principles with mushroom cultivation, your urban garden can become a thriving, sustainable ecosystem. Try this exciting project and savor the fresh, homegrown mushrooms your garden produces, proving that small spaces can yield big delights.


For more detailed instructions on growing mushrooms, check out our free comprehensive grow guide. Even better, you might build your foundation of knowledge by downloading the free Mushroom Cultivation Starter Guide from Milkwood, a leader in mushroom cultivation and permaculture education. Make sure to take steps to identify any mushrooms that you are consuming, even if you planted them. Although unlikely, it is possible that other toxic mushrooms will begin growing in your garden space.



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