Growing Shiitake Mushrooms on Sawdust Spawn

We’re getting very excited about growing delicious culinary mushrooms at Milkwood. Ever since we ran our first mushroom cultivation course in January, they’re springing up all over the place.

One of the easiest and cheapest ways to grow them is on sawdust spawn that you can make yourself…

Adam and Will mixing sawdust with straw to make substrate

Straw and sawdust all mixed together, now all ready to bag up

Students fill the mushroom bags with the substrate mix

Bag packing and sealing time…

All packaged up and ready to sterilise

Easy substrate sterilization technique #1 – 44 gallon drum with boiling water beneath bags – steam technique

Easy substrate sterilization technique #2 – the good ol’ pressure cooker (much quicker, good for small batches)

Loading up the pressure cooker. Once the substrate (sawdust and straw mix) is sterilized then it’s ready to be inoculated with mycelium, which can then colonize (ie eat) the substrate without having to compete with all the resident incidental spores in there…

One week later… mycelium running…

Ta da! First flush of shiitake mushrooms from sawdust spawn

The next course we’ll be running on mushroom cultivation is in Sydney in May. As you can see, it’s aimed at folks who really want to get going on home mushroom growing, using their own natural resources wherever possible.

Mushroom cultivation is actually very simple once you get the hang of it, it’s just getting over that first big bump of understanding how fungi as a kingdom works under cultivation, what you do and don’t need to get going, and how to approach it all, and what to look for, and when to do the next step.

What we’re trying to do with this course is get students worded up on how to grow mushrooms themselves from scratch in enough different ways so that you can adapt this knowledge to whatever your situation might be – leafy backyard, damp area under the house, woodlot or forest.

Will Borowski will be bringing a heap of new and interesting types of cultivated mushroom spawn in bags for the students in May, as well as taking us all through the techniques.

Hopefully we can get a Sydney home mushroom growers club started! With shiitake soup for every meeting. Yum…

Exotic reishi mushrooms grown in the same way – these are highly medicinal and used extensively in chinese medicine..

Thanks also to all the students that have been through our short and two-day mushroom courses so far – your enthusiasm & suggestions have been valuable in figuring out how to craft the best mushroom cultivation course we possibly can so that more people can get growing!

We run Mushroom Cultivation courses! Mostly in Sydney, at this point. Check them out here…


  1. Posted March 30, 2012 at 6:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    I LOVE mushrooms. Our property is loaded with little nooks and crannies of wild mushrooms/toadstools etc. and we are yet to spot the delightful Fly Agaric that seems to love it here in Tasmania. Obviously we are NOT eating our wild mushrooms but it would be amazing to learn how to grow our own using our local conditions. Its just a pity that Sydney is so far away…

  2. Douglas Barnes
    Posted March 30, 2012 at 9:11 am | Permalink | Reply

    Very cool! I’m just getting into mushrooms myself and am lucky that our farm has a lot of great wild mushrooms including oysters and puffballs.

    Just a wee correction on the last photo. Reishi is Ganoderma lucidum (that’s it in the photo), whereas the artist’s conk is Ganoderma applanatum.

    • Posted March 30, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink | Reply

      cheers Doug! Tho i think reishi is used for artists conk also? From what we’ve read and been told…

  3. Douglas Barnes
    Posted March 30, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink | Reply

    Wow, never heard of that. Seems like sort of a waste of a reishi.

  4. Posted March 30, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink | Reply

    it’s interesting and exotic sounding and ick all at the same time lol :)

  5. Dr. Umesh Kakde
    Posted April 3, 2012 at 1:38 am | Permalink | Reply

    I like the way of explaination. Its vey good. I like very much. I like to grow mushrooms.

  6. Windy
    Posted April 9, 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink | Reply

    I’m trying to grow these on a log on my deck. So far, not much luck, but I am hoping as things get warmer and more humid I will see something.

  7. rotlis
    Posted July 16, 2012 at 11:01 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi. Is eucalyptus sawdust suitable for oysters(or any other mushrooms)? If not what timber is suggested?

  8. Tom Toogood (Permaculture teacher-designer
    Posted August 7, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Fantastic, thanks…..what material are the bags made of (to hold & steam-sterilise the substrate)…plastic?

  9. Jerry Gunsalus
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink | Reply

    Where do you get the bags that can hold up to the heat thats used to sterilize the sawdust/straw ?

    • Posted August 30, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Jerry they’re called mushroom bags (ours are unicorn brand) and can be got from a mushroom cultivation supplier

  10. dave fergusson
    Posted November 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I am going to try my left over Shiitake dowels in a sterilised mixture of straw, & sawdust/shavings in plastic bags. Nobody has been able to tell me if it will work, but here goes!!

  11. Melanie Weaver
    Posted April 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I would love to grow mushrooms here (Gympie QLD) .I’m a bit too far away to do your course. Can i get some Mycelium from you? And A question…When you use a bucket do you still sterilize the straw/sawdust mix in a bag? Do you have a book on how to do it I could buy. Thanks. Melanie

    • Posted September 9, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink | Reply

      Hi Melanie,
      I noticed you didn’t seem to have gotten a reply yet. I know that this site is veryt popular (with good reason!) and busy so maybe you got missed. I know that the Milkwood team don’t sell mycelium but they are big fans of where you can, along with great info about growing including a DVD. They also recommend for buying growing bags.

      I’ve recently ordered some ready-to-go kits from here: This is my first time with this company so I don’t know how they’ll go but the prices are great and they have some lovely varieties including coloured oysters.

      There’s a beautiful post on the Milkwood site about growing mushrooms under a tree, and the spawn for this variety is available here: This is also just a wonderful site about all things fungus.

      Hope this is helpful.

      • melanie Weaver
        Posted September 11, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

        Hey thanks for your reply and info. I will check out all of those sights. I bought a vidio so i have lot’s of good info now

    • Posted September 9, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink | Reply

      PS: I’ve sterilised straw and sawdust directly (no bag) using a pressure cooker I keep for this purpose. It works brilliantly. If you google mushroom growing you’ll find all kinds of different growing methods and sterilisation techniques, including putting it in an old esky and putting boiling water over it. In the Milkwood post about setting up an outdoor mushroom garden under a tree they just soaked woodchip in a drum. It’s not perfect but it will kill off anything that needs air.

  12. wayne Abiah
    Posted October 17, 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    shiitake from sawdust spawn- how long befor yu get a first flush in a laundry basket? wayne Abiah- Lae.

  13. Posted March 16, 2014 at 9:58 am | Permalink | Reply

    Can you sterilize in a microwave?

  14. Peter M
    Posted July 28, 2014 at 12:40 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hi. I am trying to grow King oyster mushroom on meranti subsrate. Is meranti suitable?

6 Trackbacks

  1. [...] bag of sawdust spawn (after being made via this process) has been slowly colonized by the pink oyster mushroom mycelium over the past couple of months, and [...]

  2. [...] seedlings with spores, inoculating shiitake logs with sawdust spawn and dowel spawn, and making grain spawn to grow oyster mushrooms etc in [...]

  3. [...] course, to use these, you have to already have made your grain or sawdust spawn, for which there is a how-to here. And you need your mycelium, of course. Inside the lid of the bucket! Oxygen-starved oyster [...]

  4. [...] (or clone your own if you know how), and grow your reishi mushrooms. There ones were grown on grain spawn by Will [...]

  5. [...] there you have it. Add grain spawn to freshly sterilized straw (which you can make by this method) which is a bit damp, mix it well and bag it up. The last step is to ensure that a little, but not [...]

  6. [...] now you have no excuse. Before beginning, do check out our posts on growing shiitake mushrooms which has all sorts of excellent ebook resources in [...]

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