Gardening Basics » What is Mushroom Compost?

What is Mushroom Compost?

Updated January 14, 2022
a hand full of compost

When you hear the term 'Mushroom Compost,' you might assume it is compost created from only cultured mushrooms. However, that’s not the case. The term 'Mushroom Compost' might suggest that it is a type of compost prepared using mushrooms, but in reality, it is a type of compost used for raising mushrooms. Mushroom compost is a natural fertilizer and using soil that has already been used to cultivate mushrooms, it slowly releases its nutrients into the soil.

Mushrooms are fungi and do not possess chlorophyll. As a result, they are not able to use photosynthesis for producing carbohydrates like plants. Thus, the surface on which mushrooms arise needs to have enough reserve of necessary nutrients. 

The mixes for mushroom compost vary from one grower to another. The compost mix can be prepared using natural products like rye straw, peat moss, composted wheat, chicken manure, or horse bedding straw. One can use crushing grapes too along with canola and soybean meal, potash, urea, gypsum, and lime. Before mixing, these elements are weighed out. 

It is urea, canola meal, and chicken manure that provide the majority of the nutrients. Straw provides structure and some food for bacteria. The bacteria get increased receiving their food supply and push the inside temperature of the mixed pile to more than 160 degrees. As a result, the weed seeds and pathogens presented in the mix get destroyed. After this, the mushroom compost is prepared. 

What is Mushroom Compost Good For?

Whenever mushroom compost is prepared, the process of 'pasteurization' is needed along with composting. For that, a high temperature should be needed in the mix which destroys the pests and weed seeds. Mushroom compost is quite amazing when it comes to adding necessary nutrients and micro-organisms to your garden. Mushroom compost also helps your soil enrich its water holding capacity, so you will have to water less in your garden if you use this compost. As this compost is fairly inexpensive, you can use it well. You can use this in your vegetable garden as well as around the perennials, trees, and shrubs you have. 

Disadvantages of Using Mushroom Compost

When using the mushroom compost, there are some potential problems as well. You should be careful when using it because the mushroom compost is enriched in soluble salts and other nutrients. It might kill germinating seeds too. Mushroom compost can harm plants that are salt sensitive. For example - rhododendrons, blueberries, azaleas, and camellias

How to Use Mushroom Compost

As there is a chance that using mushroom compost might kill the germinating seeds, to avoid this you need to mix mushroom compost with garden soil before using the compost on the young plants. You can even order mushroom compost in the fall and let it stay uncovered over the winter period. 

Mushroom compost must be combined with soil before being used to grow plants. If you're supplementing your soil with mushroom compost, use a one-to-two ratio of compost to the soil. You can also buy soil that has already been mixed with mushroom compost, and this sort of compost can be utilized without further mixing. The salt levels in the compost will be diluted by mixing it, ensuring that nutrients are distributed slowly and evenly.

Because mushroom compost has such a high water retention property, planting anything in it undiluted will almost certainly result in fungal infections and rot. But diluting it properly will result in well-draining soil with many benefits. You may use mushroom compost to top-dress soil as well as mix it with soil before planting. To do so, spread a few inches of clean mushroom compost on top of the soil, making sure to leave a gap around plant stems and tree trunks.

Mushroom compost can also be used as a soil amendment in houseplants to help retain moisture and provide slow-release nutrients. Only use a small amount in your houseplant soil, and make sure your pots have drainage holes on the bottom. Mushroom compost is ideal for tropical houseplants that require regular moisture; however, it should not be used in pots with succulents, cacti, or any other houseplants that like dry soil.

How to Make Mushroom Compost

Normally mushroom growers create the mushroom compost as they already have every material needed for it. But if you want to prepare your own mushroom compost, continue reading. 

  1. This is the first step. You need to combine the soil, manure, straw, and mushroom bacteria and put them together.
  2. After the first step, you need to let the compost get heated. Wait for 1-2 months. During that period, the bacteria will be feeding on the straw and manure from which most of the essential nutrients can be obtained.
  3. When you’ve completed harvesting the mushroom, make sure you are processing the mushroom compost down. Without processing the compost, the compost won’t be safe to use in the garden. Direct usage of the newly prepared mushroom compost can cause fertilizer burn in your garden.
  4. When in the processing period, you need to observe your mushroom compost carefully so that it maintains the required temperature which is a minimum of 140 degrees Fahrenheit to reach the pasteurization phase.
    • For commercial purposes, you can insert steam into the compost at 140°F, and you are done.
    • If you want to complete the whole process at your home without the help of that commercial method, then turn the compost every few days so that it can break down easily without injecting any steam.
  5. After the pasteurization is completed, you cannot use the compost immediately. Let the compost cool first. If you don’t let the mushroom compost be lower than 90°F, or at least lower than the ambient air temperature and use it, your seeds will die because of overheating.
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