Understanding Mushroom Substrates 101

So you’ve decided to embark on the thrilling journey of mushroom substrate. It’s not all mould and mycelium - you might be surprised to know just how much effort and science goes into choosing the perfect substrate for growing mushrooms.

Substrate is the shroom equivalent of a delicious fertiliser, but it also makes a big difference to you (the human) who will end up consuming those mushrooms, whether they’re for gourmet dinners or supplementing.

There’s much to cover in the world of mushroom-growing substrates, so let’s dig in.

What Is A Substrate And Why Is It So Important?

Things can get intense with the mystery of mushrooms, so let’s cover the basics first.

Wild mushrooms are happy little guys growing in soil in dark, dank environments like decaying logs or grandma’s ears. Just kidding, Grandma. But really, when it comes to growing delicate shrooms in a controlled environment - like we do with Lion’s Mane here at TwentyTwo - then you need a carefully tuned growing operation.

Above all, we need to provide our mushrooms with a fit-for-purpose substrate. Think of this as the magic hay Santa feeds his reindeer so they can fly (you saw that film too, right? We didn’t dream it?). 

So, what exactly is a substrate? It’s not as fancy as it may sound. It’s simply the material that mushrooms live or grow in, getting nourished by it as they get big and strong. A substrate is like an amped-up energy bar for shrooms, providing all the nutrients it needs for the mycelium to first grow and then fruit above.

Finding The Right Substrate For Different Mushrooms

Fortunately, we’ve nailed our substrate and growing process, which is how we put out incredibly high-quality mushroom supplements. But it’s no easy task. 

It’s kind of like dating. You need to find the right match between mushroom and substrate to create a beautiful, nurturing relationship. Aww.

Every mushroom species has a preference - some like blondes, some like wood chips. No really, you wouldn’t put a sun-loving shroom into a damp, thick, dark substrate. The mushroom and its growing substrate need to be a good fit; otherwise, you’ll never see the fruit(ing bodies) of your labours. A good substrate needs to have the ideal balance of nutrients.

This includes things like nitrogen, magnesium, sulphur, phosphorous and calcium. It’ll also need to be just a little acidic, usually with a pH level of around 5 to 6.5. 

Next is moisture. That’s right, mushrooms like it moist. A good substrate has an optimal moisture content that sits at around 50-70%, with good airflow to boot, minimising the risk of any pesky little contaminants taking root.

Put all this together, and you’ll get healthy, happy mycelium growth in no time. A healthy mycelium (kind of like the roots or brain of the mushroom) is one of the most important things to get right, which is why nailing your substrate is so essential.

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Sawdust: Perfect For Wood-Loving Lion’s Mane

When we first started growing Lion’s Mane here in England, we had a lot to learn, but we did quickly figure out that Lion’s Mane is a wood lover. 

If you’re growing fascinating mushrooms like Lion’s Mane, sawdust is the top-tier substrate of choice. Sawdust is just pulverised wood with some organic matter from logs or tree stumps all mushed up. 

This top-notch substrate is actually a woody wonder because it’s rich in the essentials like nitrogen and provides plenty of space to grow and let the air flow. When choosing a particular sawdust, though, you have to keep in mind that mushroom species also have a preferred type of wood. 

It’s true. Mushies are picky eaters. But matching the mushroom to the wood species will significantly improve your fruiting body yield, letting you enjoy a bountiful harvest. Take oak sawdust, for example - plenty of mushrooms prefer oak substrate because of its high density and nutritional value. So, yummy yummy for their mushy tummies.

The Organic Bran Advantage

Want to be the elite of the elite of mushroom growing? So did we, which is why we used this special tactic to make our Lion’s Mane mushrooms fruit better and for longer! Here’s what we did…

We discovered that we could also use organic bran in our sawdust substrate. Wheat bran, the outer protective layer of a wheat kernel, provides incredible nutrition and tasty dietary fibre for any fungi. 

At TwentyTwo, we use an oak sawdust and organic bran mixture, with 80% oak to 20% bran. This gives the mushrooms the best possible environment and keeps them safe and free from unwanted pesticides or chemicals. 

So, no unexpected guests at the mushroom party!

Growing Lion's Mane mushrooms on substrates like this has many practical benefits, especially since we want to provide only the best shroom supplements out there. Using the right substrate means we get year-round harvests and control over the quality and purity of the mushrooms. 

All of that means more beneficial fungi for our customers who want to biohack their bodies for better performance, protect their brains or boost their immune systems.

Troubleshooting Substrate Problems

There’s no point crying over spilt substrate. If that’s not a saying, it should be because even if your substrate doesn’t seem to be working out, you can always do something about it. Trust us, we’ve learnt by doing!

  1. Mouldy Misery - If you see any signs of mould taking over your substrate, it’s best to start afresh because of the risk of contamination. But when you try again, try adjusting the humidity levels, as well as improving air circulation, since this can keep mould at bay.

  2. Dry Days - Your substrate might be too dry if it is cracking or crumbly. This can lead to very sad shrooms and no chance of fruiting bodies. Just pump up the moisture a little bit, and fungi should flourish.

  3. Oh Dear Odours - Stinky substrate? This isn’t a good sign, but it does mean you’re growing something - mould! Unpleasant smells usually indicate bacteria has contaminated your batch. Your best option is to start afresh.

Embrace The Fungi Fun!

Now that you have a down-to-earth understanding of what goes into the ground that mushrooms grow out of, you can see how important the growing process is. By carefully controlling the growing environment, nutrients, moisture and pH levels that our mushrooms grow in, we’re able to not only have a fantastic harvest but also bring your Lion’s Mane shrooms that are bigger and stronger than any of its rice-grown siblings on the market. 

Want to see well-grown mushrooms work their magic? Check out our high-quality Lion’s Mane mushroom capsules here.

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