How do you make (and maintain) an outdoor mushroom bed?

Maintaining a mushroom bed is as easy as making it! All you’ll need is fresh mulch and spawn to start, and a yearly supply after.

The way you apply the materials can make all the difference in mushroom bed success.

With success, seemingly useless shady spaces can produce bountiful harvests of mushrooms. But you aren’t limited to filling shaded areas with mushroom beds, you can also stack mushroom logs.

Mushroom beds are easier and more accessible to make than mushroom logs, and easier to grow than vegetables. They are less upfront work, nearly maintenance-free, and produce like perennials!

This article will walk you through the materials, making, and maintaining of a mushroom bed. Over here, you can learn how mushroom beds work, and what time of year to start them.

What are the materials used for mushroom bed preparation?

Several types and forms of materials can be used for a mushroom bed. Each mushroom strain has a different preference for material or a mixture of mediums.

Outdoor mushroom bed materials include straw, hardwood woodchips, sawdust or shavings, coffee grounds, or manure. Decide what mushroom to grow then choose the appropriate medium they prefer.

The table below represents the mushrooms we’ve grown and the successful mediums we used to produce them outside.

Wine caps, oysters, shaggy mane, shiitake, elm oysterStraw
Wine caps, turkey tailHardwood woodchips
Wine caps, oysters, shiitake, shaggy mane, turkey tailSawdust or shavings
Shaggy maneManure
Shiitake, oysters, elm oyster, turkey tail, chicken of the woods, maitake, lion’s maneHardwood Logs
Best outdoor mushroom bed materials for different mushroom types.

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It is possible to grow many of these mushrooms with mediums that they aren’t “matched” up with, but other combinations are typically used for indoor cultivation in bags rather than on the open ground.

Wine caps we grew with a mix of straw, leaves that fall, and woodchips.

Shaggy manes are grown with half straw and half manure.

Oysters we grew were on logs, we have yet to do other varieties on straw.

Shiitake, turkey tail, lion’s mane, chicken of the woods, maitake, and elm oyster we grew on logs and will stick with this medium for these mushroom types.

Sawdust and shavings often get added and mixed into any mushroom bed after we cut and split fresh firewood.

For more information about each mushroom read the 10 Best Mushrooms Easy to Grow in a Cold Climate Food Forest.

What is the cheapest mushroom substrate?

Even without the cheapest mushroom substrate, the yields you get from mushroom beds are completely worth the cost. Most of the materials used to make a mushroom bed are cheap in general even if they aren’t the “cheapest.” Each substrate will cost more or less depending on where you live.

A locally sourced substrate is going to be the cheapest in your area. A woodland has leaves and woodchips while a prairie has straw and manure. Straw and manure are generally cheaper, but when factoring in transport, and time, making your own woodchips is cheaper with an efficient wood chipper.

If you can produce your own straw, chips, or manure, you’ll save the most by choosing mushroom strains that desire the medium you have. If you don’t produce anything of your own mulch find a neighbor or local farmer who does.

Leaf litter is a good addition to any mushroom bed and can be found for free every fall. Rake your own or pick up some local leaf bags before the city is scheduled to take the neighbor’s leaves.

Where do you place a mushroom bed?

Mushrooms need certain conditions to grow and produce their fruit. The right location choice is vital to success.

The best place to make a mushroom bed is under a canopy. The canopy can be from a natural forest or perennial garden. Canopies tend to retain moisture, create shelter from drying winds, and cast shade while still allowing dappled light to pass through.

We made mushroom beds in our food forest, and we keep our mushroom logs in natural woodland.

Don’t put a mushroom bed in sunny areas. A low-maintenance endeavor will turn into worry and work. If you let a mushroom bed dry out, the results will be a letdown.

How do you make a mushroom bed?

Making a mushroom bed can be done in several ways with different grow mediums and strains of mushrooms.

in general, a mushroom bed is made by layering materials such as wood chips, straw, and grain spawn. Grain spawn can be purchased by the bag, spread out with the medium on the ground, and watered. After a year or less, you’ll have mushrooms to eat.

Wine caps and oyster mushrooms are the easiest varieties to grow in mushroom beds. I’ll explain how we would make a mushroom bed for each step.

How to make a wine cap mushroom bed

To make a wine cap mushroom bed in a 16-square-foot area, we layer it up to 6-8 inches deep using two bags of this sawdust spawn.

  1. Sheet mulch the area with newspaper to repress weeds (if any)
  2. Create a border for the area with logs, brush, or stones
  3. Evenly lay out some straw
  4. Evenly layer in 1/3 sawdust wine cap spawn
  5. Evenly cover with hardwood wood chips
  6. Sprinkle another 1/3 of the sawdust spawn
  7. Add another layer of straw
  8. Use the final third of sawdust spawn
  9. Do another thin layer of straw
  10. Cover with woodchips so no spawn sees the light
  11. Water the bed thoroughly if your material started out dry

If you have sawdust or shavings, layer them in to improve the performance of your wine caps.

The border around your wine cap mushroom bed will prevent moisture loss.

With the final layer, cover the mushroom bed with the material you prefer to see, for us that is woodchips!

Ensure that a thorough watering doesn’t result in a waterlogged soup at the bottom of the bed. Your bed should be well-draining. Mycelium can be suffocated in too much water, but should never dry out.

If you don’t have any woodchips you can use the oyster mushroom bed method below. We prefer woodchips for our wine caps because they act as a longer-term food source compared to straw. Mixing the two mediums diversifies the particle size which retains moisture—resulting in better short and long-term performance.

How often do you water a mushroom bed

How to make an oyster mushroom bed

To make a 16-square-foot oyster mushroom bed, we layer it 6-8 inches using this spawn.

Go ahead and choose your desired oyster mushroom species. When choosing, ensure the type will grow perennial in your climate. Various oysters grow in different temperatures.

  1. In a bin or drum, use a whipper snipper to shred half your straw
  2. Make a border with logs, brush, or stones
  3. Layer down some fresh unshredded straw on weed-free ground
  4. Sprinkle on some shredded staw
  5. Water the straw and add in half your spawn
  6. Layer in shredded straw
  7. Cover with unshredded straw
  8. Water and disperse the other half of your spawn
  9. Cover with generous shredded straw
  10. Top it off with generous unshredded straw
  11. Water to ensure all straw has been moistened

How deep is a mushroom bed?

The depth of a mushroom bed can affect production and longevity.

4-8 inches is the best depth for any type of mushroom bed. Any shallower than 4 inches could dry too quickly and be insufficient food to last a year before the annual top-up. Any thicker than 8 inches and the spawn at the bottom may be deprived of oxygen.

We like to pile our beds up to 8 inches. As the mycelium consumes the material, your mushroom beds will sink. Don’t compress the beds to fit more material.

How to maintain your mushroom bed so it continues to produce?

Maintaining a mushroom bed will help contain your gourmet mushrooms in the same spot you intended them to grow. The good news is maintaining a mushroom bed is really simple to do and takes minutes.

Add a couple of inches of new material to your mushroom bed once every year to top up their food supply. Use one or a mix of any of the materials initially used and gently rake it in at no more than an inch depth. Ensure any stirred mycelium is covered.

Mushrooms will keep producing in the spot you started them by keeping the bed fed. But just because the bulk of mushrooms will stay in the bed, some free spirits are bound to roam.

We applied woodchips to our pathways the same year we started wine cap mushroom beds.

Wine caps grow incredibly fast, they are the easiest mushroom beds to grow. It wasn’t nearly a year when they crawled beyond their bed and began popping up in the pathways. And we’re totally okay with it!

More food is more food.

How often do you water a mushroom bed?

Don’t worry, watering a mushroom bed is easier than a houseplant. But there are a few factors to consider when deciding to water your mushroom bed.

In general, you should water once per week if it has not rained in the last 7 days. Dry is the last thing you want for your mushroom bed. Your mushrooms will not survive without moisture, but they can also suffocate if watered too much.

Mushroom beds in partial shade that receive some sunlight during the day, will dry faster than a bed in full shade.

Mushroom beds in breezy areas will be quicker to dry than in wind-protected spaces.

Personally, we’ve never watered our mushroom beds after the day we made them.

  • They are under lush canopies and only receive sunset direct sun.
  • We live in a place that rains often and is generally humid.
  • On top of that, our mushroom beds are situated in a cool shady area that is also protected from strong winds.


While Rachelle's hands are clean for the keyboard, she enjoys writing and designing creative content and resources. You will most likely find her outside planting a cabbage, foraging berries for breakfast, and collecting herbs for year-round tea or making food.

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