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The Fruiting Environment: Chosing a Grow Room Design for Home Cultivation

One of the most important aspects of growing mushrooms indoors is providing the right fruiting environment. Unless you have adequate temperature, humidity and air exchange, your mushroom block will dry up and not produce any fruit. Providing adequate air exchange while maintaining high humidity is difficult to master, but there are several possible solutions that will get the job done. Although different mushrooms have their own unique environmental requirements, once you have a basic grow area set up you can tailor it to the specific species you are trying to grow.
Straw logs hanging in the grow room. When trying to design a grow area, think what causes mushrooms to fruit in nature- that is, high humidity and cool temperatures. That is why you see way more mushrooms outside in the fall when the rain is falling and cooler temperatures have settled in. Two other aspect that are not as obvious is the requirement for a high rate of air exchange, or more specifically low levels of carbon dioxide, and the proper light levels. Most mushrooms don’t grow well in the dark and require a threshold level of light to produce normal fruits. As for air, high levels of fresh air can be difficult to achieve when trying to maintain high humidity, and some experimenting will be required on the part of the home cultivator.

The Cheapest Option: The Shotgun Fruiting Chamber

Anyone just getting into the hobby might want to start with a shotgun fruiting camber. It is essentially a clear plastic tote that looks as if it was blasted with a shotgun, hence the name. This design is good for the small scale cultivator who just wants to fruit one or two small blocks, or a few PF cakes. A good fruiting environment can be maintained in a SGFC, but it requires a little more monitoring and maintenance.
Start by getting a clear plastic tote that is big enough for whatever blocks you want to fruit. Drill holes in the tote two inches apart on all sides of the tote. This will allow the fruiting blocks or PF cakes to breath. In order to produce and maintain humidity, fill the bottom of your SGFC with a few inches of perlite. Perlite is a porous rock like material that absorbs water. This water is slowly released inside your chamber which causes a humid environment. Before putting the perlite in your chamber, soak it in water for an hour so it can fill with water. The last thing you will need for your SGFC is a spray bottle with a fine mist. Several times a day you will want to open the lid and fan to get some fresh air movement, and then spray water into the chamber. This should help to maintain high humidity. If you want to know where you are at, get a cheap hygrometer to monitor the humidity levels. It will also tell you the temperature. Keep your SGFC by a window or in room that receives a moderate level of natural diffuse light. See full instructions on building a SGFC here.  

The Dedicated Hobbyist Option: Mushroom Greenhouse Design

If you want to pump out a lot of mushrooms and want to be able to automate some of the process, you might consider stepping up to a mid size grow chamber. The most common type of indoor mushroom growing chamber is the 4 tier green house. This option will cost a little more, but is a great way to increase you mushroom growing potential.
The 4 tier greenhouse is typically used for starting plants indoors. They are very commonly found in garden centers, big box retailers or can be bought online for pretty cheap. You can even buy entire kits online- which saves picking up all the components individually. The 4 tier greenhouse can easily be converted into a mushroom growing paradise. It is big enough to hold several blocks, flat trays and lots PF cakes. The main advantage of this design is the incorporation of the humidifier– which can be automated- and saves you from having to open the flaps and spray several times a day. You could just place the humidifier inside the grow chamber, and although that will easily maintain high humidity, you will still have to open the chamber several times a day to allow for fresh air exchange. A much better option is to pipe in the humidifier using a few pieces of PVC pipe. The humidifier has a fan, which will push fresh humid air into your chamber. When choosing a humidifier, you have the option of either a cool mist or a ultrasonic humidifier. Both will work, but the ultrasonic is a far better option. Ultrasonic humidifiers produce a visible stream of vapor, using spinning discs that vaporize water droplets, and can increase the humidity in your chamber really quick. Cool mist humidifiers simply use a wick to draw water up and into an air stream and are much less effective. Make sure to clean your humidifier often to prevent contaminants from building up inside. It is best to use a hygrometer in your grow chamber to monitor the humidity. You will not want to run the humidifier all the time, as it will will produce way to much moisture in your grow area. Typically, you will want to maintain at least 80% relative humidity. A good option is to get a timer that has multiple on and off setting, and playing around with your specific set up until you find a good on-off pattern. If your grow chamber is placed on carpet or hardwood, make sure you place a sheet of plastic underneath so that the build up of moisture doesn’t damage your floors. Also, although the humidifier will pump in fresh air, it is not always enough, especially for air hungry species like blue oyster. You may still have to open up your chamber once in a while to fan in some fresh air. The trick to a successful 4-tier grow tent is trial and error in order to figure out what set up works best for your specific area, season and type of mushroom. Here are some things you might need. In particular, we have used the tear drop humidifier with mush success.
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See what works for you!

Mushrooms require a specific balance of humidity, temperature, fresh air and light. The above options are good choices for the home cultivator, but you can get creative and come up with a design that works for your situation. Part of the fun of growing mushrooms at home is the experimentation. Post pictures of your set up below! Thanks for reading and good luck with your grows!
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