How to Grow Mushrooms in Hay Bales


Mushroom growers are affectionately called fungi farmers. In hobby gardens and large-scale commercial cultivation, mushroom production recycles waste products such as hay, manure and compost. Mushrooms have specific substrates on which they feed. Some mushrooms, such as shiitakes, prefer growing in logs, while others, such as oyster mushrooms, grow in straw or hay bales. Cornell University reports that most growers cultivate oyster mushrooms (Pleurotus spp.) in hay bales. Mushrooms reproduce from spores, which form filaments called mycelia that grow into the fruit, or mushrooms. Grains of wheat or rye are most commonly used as starter substrates for the spores and are called mushroom spawn.

Things You'll Need

  • 12-inch miniature bales of hay or straw
  • Tongs
  • Deep roasting pan or larger water-bath canner
  • Baking racks
  • Oyster mushroom spawn

Preparing Hay Bales

  • Use 12-inch mini-bales of hay or straw -- available at feed or craft stores -- for ease in sterilizing them. Choose a site out of direct sun for hay-bale gardens, whether they are located inside or outside.

  • Immerse the bales in boiling water in a deep roasting pan or a large water-bath canner. Remove the bales with tongs once they're saturated. Place the soaked bales on baking racks and allow them to drain. Cool the bales to room temperature.

  • Place the bales directly on the ground, or on tables or trays, for ease in maintaining and harvesting them. Wash your hands thoroughly, then open pockets in the hay on the top and around the sides of the bales.

Inoculating Bales

  • Insert oyster mushroom spawn into the open pockets in the hay. You can purchase the spawn online or from local fungi farmers. Ensure good contact by pressing the spawn into the bales.

  • Pull the hay around the mushroom spawn. Close the pockets by pressing loosened hay into the bale and tamping it.

  • Water the bales, preferably with water from rain barrels or filtered water. Keep the bales constantly moist but not soggy. Harvest the mushrooms at any stage of growth.

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