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Maximizing Yields in Magic Mushroom Cultivation

Magic mushrooms have increasingly gained recognition, not only for their mystical experiences but also for their potential therapeutic applications. Understanding Magic Mushrooms: A Brief Overview helps us better grasp their significance.

harvesting magic mushrooms

Understanding Magic Mushrooms: A Brief Overview

Magic mushrooms, or Psilocybe cubensis, are a special type of mushroom known for their psychedelic properties, primarily due to a compound they produce, psilocybin.

The Role of Psilocybin

Psilocybin, upon ingestion, gets converted into psilocin, inducing a variety of perceptual changes and potential psychological healing effects. Researchers are now investigating the implications of this potent compound for treating mental health disorders.

Essential Factors for Magic Mushroom Cultivation

To maximize yields, understanding the factors essential to magic mushroom cultivation is crucial. These factors include genetics, spawning substrate, bulk substrate, environmental conditions, and growth chamber.

The Substrate

The substrate is a medium that provides the essential nutrients and moisture for mushrooms to grow. In this context, there are two categories of substrates to consider, spawning substrate (the material used to germinate spores or innoculate), and bulk substrate (non-nutritious materials which serve to increase the surface area, depth, and moisture content)

Choosing the Right Substrate

Common bulk substrates include manure-based mixes, coco coir, vermiculite, and peat-moss. The choice depends on what’s readily available and what meets the nutritional requirements of your mushrooms.

Grain is most commonly used as a spawning substrate. Rye grains, millet, milo, oats, and wild bird seed are all great choices and provide all of the necessary nutritional requirements needed.

Common Bulk Substrate Recipes for Magic Mushroom Cultivation
  1. Manure-Based Substrate
    • 5 parts horse manure (leached and dried)
    • 1 part coco coir
    • 1 part vermiculite
    • 1 part gypsum
  2. Coco Coir, Vermiculite, and Gypsum Substrate
    • 650 grams of coco coir (bricks)
    • 2 quarts of vermiculite
    • 2 cups of gypsum
  3. Brown Rice Flour and Vermiculite Substrate (PF Tek)
    • 1 part brown rice flour
    • 2 parts vermiculite
    • 1 part water

Environmental Factors

Temperature and humidity are two paramount factors in the successful cultivation of magic mushrooms, playing a vital role in each stage of the mushroom life cycle, from mycelial growth to fruiting. The correct temperature fosters mycelial expansion, initiates the pinning stage, and allows the mushroom bodies to mature optimally. Simultaneously, high humidity levels prevent the substrate and developing mushrooms from drying out, promoting proper growth and spore release. Understanding and manipulating these two environmental variables can significantly increase the success and yield of your mushroom grow.


Each stage of the magic mushroom lifecycle has specific temperature requirements that can either facilitate or hinder its growth. From the initial colonization stage to the final fruiting phase, temperature controls the rate of mycelial growth, the initiation of pinning, and the maturation of mushroom fruiting bodies.

  1. Mycelial Growth: The mycelium, the vegetative part of a fungus, grows and colonizes the substrate best in relatively warm conditions, typically around 75-81°F (24-27°C) for Psilocybe cubensis, the species commonly known as magic mushroom.
  2. Pinning Initiation: Pinning refers to the formation of tiny mushroom primordia. A slight drop in temperature often triggers this stage. That’s why, after full colonization, mushroom cultivators often induce a ‘cold shock’ to stimulate pinning.
  3. Fruiting: During the fruiting stage, a slightly lower temperature (around 70-75°F or 21-24°C for Psilocybe cubensis) helps in the optimal development of the mushroom fruit bodies.

Deviations from the ideal temperature ranges can lead to slower mycelial growth, delayed or stunted fruiting, and in extreme cases, could cease growth entirely.


Humidity is another crucial factor as it prevents the mushroom from drying out and helps in several physiological processes that drive growth.

  1. Mycelial Growth: High humidity levels are necessary for mycelial growth, with 95-100% often being the ideal range. This helps maintain the moisture content of the substrate, preventing it from drying out and allowing the mycelium to absorb the necessary water for growth.
  2. Fruiting: High humidity is essential for primordia formation and the subsequent development of fruiting bodies. It prevents the young pins from drying out and allows them to develop into mature mushrooms.
  3. Spore Release: Spores are released in a fine mist from mature gills, and adequate humidity ensures successful spore release and potential propagation.

Mushrooms are mostly water, and insufficient humidity can lead to stalled growth, smaller and drier mushrooms, or can prevent fruiting altogether.

Maintaining Optimal Conditions Throughout The Mushroom Lifecycle

During colonization, you will want to maintain temperatures around 75-81°F (24-27°C) and humidity levels high, around 95-100%. During the fruiting phase, you will want to decrease ambient temperatures by 4-5°F


Contrary to popular belief, mushrooms don’t require darkness to grow but indirect light. Most cultivators will install an led lighting system on a timer. The light cycle will generally follow the sun, at 12 hours on and 12 hours off.

Tools for Maintaining Optimal Growing Conditions

To maintain ideal conditions in your home grow you may want to invest in some automation tools. Some are necessary, others are simply convenient. These are the top tools we use to maintain ideal conditions:

  1. Thermometer/Hygrometer: This tool helps you monitor the temperature and humidity levels within your mushroom growing area.
  2. Heating Mat: A heating mat can help maintain the required temperature, especially in colder climates or during winter months.
  3. Fogger/Humidifier: To maintain the high humidity levels required for magic mushroom cultivation, a humidifier can be a great asset.
  4. Spray Bottle/Misting Bottle: Used to manually increase humidity levels, especially in smaller, enclosed growing spaces.
  5. Grow Tent/Chamber: These are designed to provide an ideal environment for mushroom growth, usually equipped with features to control light, temperature, and humidity. Storage totes are a great way to trap humidity. You can modify the tubs or leave them unmodified. When using a tent, or martha tent setup, it is important to pump in humidity through the use of a fogger.
  6. Fan: To provide air exchange and reduce excess humidity, which can help prevent the growth of contaminants. You will want something that is low output to avoid over-drying. Also, using a controller, whether it be timed or configured to carbon dioxide levels, can automate the process.
  7. LED Grow Lights: Although indirect natural light can suffice, grow lights can help provide consistent light conditions for the mushrooms.
  8. Temp and Humidity Controller: Controllers allow you to set your desired range, then through the use of heaters and foggers, you are able to precisely control your grow chamber.

Each tool plays a crucial role in the successful cultivation of magic mushrooms. By combining these tools with the appropriate substrate recipe, you can maximize your mushroom yields at home.

Tips to Maximize Yields

Substrate Additives

In terms of nutrient requirements, mushrooms require a balance of carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and a variety of other elements in smaller quantities (including potassium, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur). The carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio is particularly important, and for most mushrooms, a ratio in the range of 20:1 to 30:1 is considered optimal. Nitrogen typically makes up 1-2% of the dry weight of the substrate, while carbon usually comprises 35-50%. The remaining elements are required in much smaller quantities.

However, the optimal nutrient ratios can vary depending on the specific strain of P. cubensis and the specific growing conditions, so some experimentation may be required to determine the best substrate composition for your particular situation. Keep in mind that maintaining proper hygiene and environmental conditions (e.g., temperature, humidity, light) is also crucial for successful mushroom cultivation.

While using additives can potentially increase yields, they can also increase the risk of contamination if not properly sterilized or managed. Therefore, careful attention should be paid to cleanliness and best practices when using substrate additives.

Common Substrate Additives to Increase Yields

Above and beyond standard substrate ingredients, adding certain supplements can help boost the nutrient content of your substrate, promoting healthier mycelium growth and increasing your overall mushroom yields. Here are some common substrate additives and their benefits:

  1. Gypsum: Gypsum (calcium sulfate) is often added to mushroom substrates because it provides calcium and sulfur, both of which are beneficial for mushroom growth. Calcium is needed for cell wall development, while sulfur is used in the creation of certain amino acids and vitamins. Gypsum also helps to condition the substrate by reducing clumping and improving structure, which can enhance the ability of the mycelium to colonize the substrate.
  2. Coffee Grounds: Used coffee grounds can be a beneficial additive to P. cubensis substrates. Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen, an essential nutrient for mushroom growth, and they also contain certain minerals and vitamins. Additionally, the caffeine in coffee grounds may stimulate faster mycelial growth. However, coffee grounds should be used sparingly and should be pasteurized or sterilized to avoid introducing contaminants.
  3. Straw: While straw is often used as a primary substrate for many types of mushrooms, it can also be added to P. cubensis substrates to provide additional nutrition and structure. Straw is high in cellulose, a type of complex carbohydrate that mushrooms can use as a food source.
  4. Wood Ash: Wood ash can be used in small quantities to raise the pH of your substrate. Certain mushroom species prefer slightly alkaline conditions, and wood ash can help adjust the pH to suit these types.
  5. Guano: Guano, or bat droppings, is rich in nitrogen and works well as an additive for manure-based substrates. It’s a potent supplement, so use it sparingly to avoid burning the mycelium.
  6. Wheat Bran: Wheat bran can be a useful additive for increasing the nutritional content of the substrate. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as carbohydrates that the mycelium can use as a food source. However, it should be used sparingly because it can increase the risk of contamination.
  7. Bone Meal: Bone meal is a rich source of phosphorous, a nutrient that’s vital for mushroom development, particularly during the fruiting stage. It also contains calcium and a small amount of nitrogen. This can help strengthen the mushroom’s cell walls, promoting healthier and potentially larger yields. Bone meal should be thoroughly sterilized before use to reduce the risk of contamination. However, caution is advised with bone meal, as it can significantly alter the pH of your substrate. Mushrooms prefer slightly acidic to neutral pH levels, and excessive bone meal can make the substrate overly alkaline. Therefore, bone meal should be used judiciously, and the pH should be monitored.
  8. Azomite: Azomite is a mineral product that is high in trace elements. It’s an acronym for “A to Z of Minerals Including Trace Elements.” It’s used in mushroom cultivation to provide a broad spectrum of minerals that can promote mushroom growth and health. This can potentially lead to larger and more nutritious fruiting bodies. However, like bone meal, azomite should be used sparingly and the substrate should be properly sterilized to prevent contamination.

All of these additives may potentially improve yields, but they should be used carefully and in moderation. There is such a thing as overly nutritious, overuse can upset the balance of nutrients in the substrate, potentially inhibiting mushroom growth or increasing the risk of contamination.

Genetics Matter

Starting with good genetics will make all the difference. The culture’s (genetic) age, medium, and freshness will play a cruitial role in your final yields. Whenever possible, use spores or living cultures from a robust, healthy, and productive strain.

Genetics play a critical role in determining many characteristics of the resulting mushrooms, including their size, growth rate, resistance to disease, and yield. Different strains of P. cubensis can have different growth characteristics, so choosing a strain that is known for its robustness and high yield can make your cultivation efforts more successful.

Regarding the age of the genetics, spores and living cultures do not remain viable indefinitely. Over time, they can lose their vitality, which can negatively impact their ability to germinate and colonize a substrate. Older spores or cultures may also have a higher risk of contamination, as they may have been exposed to contaminants over time.

  1. Spores: Spores can be stored for a long period if kept in the right conditions, typically a cool, dark, and dry environment. However, as they age, their viability decreases, which may affect the success rate of germination and subsequent colonization. Fresh spores are usually more vigorous and have a higher chance of success.
  2. Living Cultures: Living cultures, such as those stored on agar or in liquid culture, are more perishable than spores. They can degrade over time, losing vigor and potentially developing mutations that can impact their productivity. Generally, older cultures grow slower, are more susceptible to contamination, and produce fewer and smaller mushrooms. Therefore, it’s usually best to use a living culture within a few weeks to a few months of its creation, depending on how it’s stored.

In order to ensure quality genetics:

  • Always source your spores or cultures from a reputable supplier.
  • Use them as soon as possible to ensure maximum vitality.
  • If you need to store them, do so in optimal conditions to preserve their viability.
  • Practice good hygiene to prevent contamination that can affect the health and productivity of your mushrooms.


To maximize yields of P. cubensis, you should prioritize several factors in a specific order: First and foremost, one should start with high-quality, fresh genetics. Using multi-spore syringes, if possible, or early-stage isolation cultures ensures a robust and diverse genetic basis for growth. Next, the quality of the spawning and bulk substrates plays a significant role, with a preference for nutrient-rich, well-structured substrates that have been properly hydrated to support mycelial growth. If using substrate additives, use sparingly, slowly dialing in your perfect recipe. Lastly, maintaining ideal environmental conditions, including appropriate temperature, humidity, air exchange, and light, are critical for fostering both the colonization and fruiting stages of mushroom development. Each of these factors, when meticulously managed, contributes significantly to optimizing the yield of P. cubensis cultivation.

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