To know how to grow morel mushrooms properly, you must first know the different ways of growing morel mushrooms.
The process of growing morel mushrooms has baffled amateur and professional mycologists for years.
In the past, we talked about the yummy and weird morel, growing your own is certainly possible (if you follow our guide closely).
NOTE: These are hard mushrooms to cultivate, and it may take years before you see results.
Reading through the other morel pages on this site before you start will help you better understand their life cycle.
Below are a few different methods of growing morels, ranging from the simplest techniques to the more difficult. I’ve added the grow kit and mushroom approach, the spore slurry process, and a few other methods.
With a little experimentation you can make one of these work for you!
How to Grow Morel Mushrooms at Home or Elsewhere
The Grow Kit and Spawn Method
One of the most well known ways of growing morel mushrooms is with purchased spawn.
Mushroom spawn is simply the mycelium, or “vegetative growth” of the mushroom, and the material on which it was grown. Spawn can come in the form woodchips, of grain (such as rye berries), sawdust, etc.
This mycelium-infused material is then used to inoculate bigger batches of substrate to create a mushroom bed.
The simplest way to get spawn is by purchasing a morel mushroom kit, which you can do online. Your kit will arrive with some type of spores or spawn, and instructions on how to plant them.
Follow the instructions that comes with your kit. Regardless of the company you purchase from, most will inform you on what to do with some variation of these similar steps:
Prepare your morel bed:
- To create morel mushroom growing conditions, the site can be made between the summer and fall in a climate where there is an actual change of seasons. Morel mushrooms kits don’t perform well in tropical environments with no real spring or winter.
- Pick a shady spot and measure the dimensions. Most kits seem to be enough for a 4-foot by 4-foot square.
- Prepare the soil. You want a sandy soil mix with adequate drainage, not too much rock or clay. A sandy soil with some peat moss and gypsium mixed in seems to work well.
- Add some ashes from buried wood to your soil. Morels are known to spring up after forest fires, and ashes add nutrients and mimic a post-forest fire habitat.
Plant your spawn:
- The next step on growing morels is mixing your morel spores/spawn in the prepared bed according to the instructions. This isn’t complicated, and usually just involves spreading it through the top layer.
- Mix some hardwood chips on top of the spawn bed. Morels grow near old apple, elm, ash, and tulip trees so use chips from one of these trees (preferably elm or ash).
- The worst part! Although the mycelium is a fast colonizer, it may take a several years before it produces any actual mushrooms. Growing morel mushrooms is not a hobby for the impatient.
That’s right, a few years. Don’t get discouraged if nothing happens the following spring. Keep the area moist and nutritious according to your kit instructions. With some luck and the right conditions, you may someday have morels in your backyard!
The Spore Slurry Method
If you’re an experienced mushroom hunter and don’t want to buy a kit, you may have some success growing morel mushrooms by using the spore slurry method.
A spore slurry is simply a solution of water, some salt, a form of sugar, and spores. The spores are suspended in the water and used to inoculate an indoor habitat.
To create this solution you’ll need some wild morels. They should be mature, although not rotting or mushy. A few mushrooms per gallon of water will be sufficient.
Follow these easy steps:
- Begin with some clean, non-chlorinated water in a food-safe container.
- Add a pinch of salt and about a tablespoon of molasses to the water and stir. You don’t need much of each. The salt is to prevent bacterial growth; the molasses is to provide sugars for germinating spores.
- Add mushrooms and let the mixture sit covered for 1 to 2 days in a temperate place. Any longer than that and you risk bacterial contamination.
After you strain and remove the mushrooms you’ll have a liquid with millions of spores!
This spore liquid can then be spread over a prepared bed as described above (sandy soil with peat moss, ashes, and wood chips).
It can also be spread in other known morel habutats, such as at the base of dying elm trees. Feel free to experiment with your slurries.
This process is easy, but the downside is that it can be unreliable. A spore slurry is not as far along in the life cycle as mycelia in spawn, so the odds of success aren’t as good.
However this is one of the cheapest and easiest ways of growing morel mushrooms indoors, so why not give it a try?
This method can work with other types of mushrooms too!
Other Methods for Growing Morel Mushrooms
Because morels often grow near certain trees, it would be smart to inoculate the roots of these trees with morel mycelia which may result in mushroom production.
The simplest way to do this is by broadcasting spores using the slurry method described above near the base of a tree (ash or elm). Other ways involve nurturing a young tree by either:
- “Infecting” the roots of a young tree with mushroom spawn. You’ll need a very young elm, ash, or apple tree and some spawn from a morel mushroom kit. Plant the spawn and tree together, with the spawn strewn throughout the tree roots. Care for it as you would any young tree of the species you chose.
- Purchasing inoculated trees. You can purchase baby trees that have been inoculated with morel spores/mycelia online. These will come with instructions for care, and if you follow them carefully you may be growing morel mushrooms within a few years.
Indoor Morel Cultivation:
Growing morels indoor has been thought not to be possible for many years until now.
Don’t think you have it in you to nurture a young tree? You can always try the last, and most difficult, method mentioned on this page: growing morel mushrooms indoors.
For years this technique was thought impossible. Many tried and failed to cultivate morels indoors.
It was only until in 1982taht Ronald D. Ower reported success. Ower was eventually awarded a patent along James Malachowki and Gary Mills. Their work paved the way for indoor morel cultivation.
Mills proceeded to create a company involved in large-scale cultivation, which you can read more about in this article by Michigan State University news.
So yes, it is possible to grow them indoors, however unlikely. The process is quite similar to other types of mushroom cultivation:
- The growth of morel mycelia from spores or a small piece of mushroom on a nutritious agar media.
- Sterile transfer of mycelia from agar to a spawn jar, which is a sterilized jar of rye seed or some other grain. The mycelia will colonize these jars in about a month or two. You’ll be able to see lumps of sclerotia forming.
- Transfer of sclerotia from grain spawn to a special substrate of woody chips and sandy. These will eventually fruit into mushrooms under specially controlled environmental conditions and some good luck.
Okay, so the above directions on how to grow morel mushrooms sounds simpler than they actually are. Although I’ve cultivated mushrooms indoors, I’ve never tried with morels, so to go into detail would be just me plagiarizing someone else’s work.
UPDATE: Thanks to the anonymous visitor who sent me Peter Dilley’s Grow Morels instructions. I’d highly recommend visiting his page if you want more info on indoor growing.
For more information on growing morel mushrooms indoors I’d recommend reading Paul Stamets’ Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms.
So there’s your introduction on how to grow morel mushrooms. Start out with one of the easier methods but don’t limit yourself, instead get creative and experiment. Many advances in mycology were made by accident.
Remember that your main goal is to create a habitat conducive to your particular mushroom. Although not always easy with morels, it’s not as impossible as once thought.
The key is to Learn, experiment, be patient, and above all have fun! You’ll be glad you did when in a few years you’re picking morels straight from your backyard.
How to Grow Morels in Your Yard
How to Propagate Morel Mushrooms
The morel mushroom (Morchella), an expensive delicacy resembling a tiny sea sponge. Naturally, it only appears for only a few months in spring on woodland hillsides; hunting them requires persistence and skill. After success with less-demanding relatives, such as the common button (Agaricus) mushroom, you might be tempted to try raising the more sophisticated morel.
Propagating morels involve a two-step process; cultivating mycelia scerotia from spores and fruiting from spawn. Lacking an autoclave, sealed growing room, and a laminar flow hood, you might want to buy a prepared spawn. Propagate morels from spawn in a special mushroom patch.
The first step will be to hang a morel mushroom upside down over a glass petri dish containing a layer of agar, a gel-like substance containing a powdered algae and protein that serves as a nutrient base. Tap the mushroom to dislodge spores into the agar and cover the dish with a glass lid to protect the culture against stray air-borne fungi.
Next, divide the white mycelium strands that grow in the medium with a knife after a few days to a week when they grow thick.
Inoculate moist grain such as rice or annual rye grass in sterile trays by adding slices of the mycelia and allowing the grain to stand for 24 hours.
Last for this section, mix five parts of grain with one part of sterile potting soil in a sterile canning jar and place in a cool, dark place for one month or more until rumpled little mycelia scerotia begin to form in the jars. The scerotia and medium comprise the spawn.
The steps are next on how to grow morels in your yard.
Look for a shady area up to 20 square feet for your mushroom patch — under oak, elm, apple, ash, or maple trees provide morels with their preferred tree root hosts. Cultivate the soil deeply to at least 6 inches and turn to a depth of 6 to 12 inches if possible.
Dig wood ashes and compost into the mushroom patch. Morels thrive after forest fires, so if you have a corner of the yard where past owners burned brush and leaves, use it.
Otherwise, use ashes or charcoal from a wood-burning fireplace. Work the soul until it is fine and loamy while making sure there is good circulation of air.
Now, your soil is balanced for morel growing. Hobbyists recommend adding apple pomice (leftover pulp and skins from cider-making), apple sauce or activated charcoal to make your patch conducive to morel growth. Adjust soil pH to between 7.1 and 7.3 using garden lime and sphagnum peat moss in percentages appropriate for your soil.
Scatter mushroom spawn over the patch in late fall. Use spawn at a rate of 1 gallon per 20 square feet of patch. Turn the soil to work the spawn in.
Turn in 1 cup of compost for every 2 square feet of mushroom patch weekly. Add burned wood as it is available, too. Do this until 30 to 40 days before morels begin to fruit in your area — for instance, in central California, stop cultivating in mid-January.
Allow twigs, leaves, and other organic debris to remain on the surface to shelter the fruiting mushrooms.
Things You Will Need
- Recently harvested morel mushrooms or commercially available spawn
- Grain host
- Sterile potting soil
- Sterile jars and lids
- Shovel and cultivating tools
- Agar medium in covered petri dishes
- Sterile knives
- Sterilized aluminum pans
- Charcoal or burned wood
- Garden lime
- Keep the spawn in the refrigerator until it is time for usage.
- Producing spawn requires specialized equipment; commercially prepared spawn improves odds of successful fruiting.
- Morels fruit commonly from March through May. The temperamental morel may take up to 2 years to fruit.
- Morels demand a lot of time, attention and care. Morel kits are available for the determined hobbyist.
- Agar dishes and other equipment are available from mushroom grower and scientific suppliers.
- If you decide to produce your own spawn, everything — dishes, media and equipment — must be sterilized to keep other fungi from growing and overwhelming the delicate Morchella.
Now that you know how to grow morel mushrooms at home and how to grow morels in your yard, remember to share this post with friends and family.