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Looks like this ‘mushrooms in a holey bucket’ idea is catching on…

July 26, 2013 | Mushroom Cultivation, Mushrooms | 28 comments | Author:

Last winter, Nick decided that the best way to grow oyster mushrooms for us would be in a bucket. Plastic bags of mushrooms are great and fine, but they’re one-use only, and result in wastage with every harvest.

Food-grade buckets, on the other hand… Nick figured we could use these to grow our shrooms in, and then re-use them for years. Decades, even. And so he tried it, and it worked. 

Proud Nick with his new mushroom-growing system last winter…
Into the kitchen and ready to harvest (to fry with garlic + butter, of course)

At the time when we first blogged about our success with this technique I got a small avalanche of emails saying ‘you should patent that idea, and if you don’t want to, can I?’

To which we said: no, and, er, no.

Because growing mushrooms is awesome, and part of our resilient communities’ food futures. And putting patents on such things as growing techniques does not help get people growing. We also weren’t the first ones to do it, it’s an idea that’s been around for years.

And after all, it’s just a bucket. With holes. You can make one too. You should, actually.

The big thing for us with this bucket’o’shrooms™ (just kidding) idea was that we wanted the whole system to be re-usable.

This meant that we had to find a way of keeping the bucket of substrate temperature and moisture stable, until the mycelium colonised it completely enough to start fruiting out the holes that we’d pre-drilled.

Putting the bucket in a plastic bag (or a plastic bag in the bucket) would technically do this, but the chances of you re-using that plastic bag for a decade are unlikely.

The solution? Another bucket.

If your bucket is slightly tapered at the base (as most buckets are), you can slip another bucket of the same size over your fruiting bucket.

This should fit snugly and do a great job of holding in the moisture until your fruiting bucket’s mycelium is ready to face the world. No plastic bag required.

We’re making heaps of these this year, and looking forward to the harvest. I’ll report back when they’re fruiting so you can see how this year’s crop goes.

Theirs look bigger than ours. I'm sure it's just the filter...
Theirs look bigger than ours. I’m sure it’s just the filter…

Lastly, it’s great to see this growing technique is catching on. These guys have chosen to go with ‘bag in a bucket’ that you then puncture to fruit approach, making the bucket kinda like a very sturdy bag-holder.

The bucket is still a great idea in this context though – it’s sturdy, can be stored/stacked away until it’s likely to produce your mushies, and if you had 6 of them you could make a stackable, delicious mushroom tower…

I take this as a good indication that we’re onto a technique that’s viable, given that someone else decided to make a business out of it…

Either way, it’s a great idea. And you can learn to do it yourself from scratch, at home, with simple, inexpensive tools and materials. Hooray for fresh breakfast mushrooms!

If you’d like to learn comprehensive mushroom cultivation, we run awesome Mushroom Cultivation Courses in Sydney and beyond. Or check our how-tos below…

>> More posts about Mushroom Cultivation at

Home grown breakfast mushrooms are go.

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  • David Trees July 26, 2013 at 6:18 am | Reply

    Hi Kirsten,

    Where did you score the food grade buckets from please?

    I read in another post your grew up in Sydney. Me too. What part? I high schooled in the East Hills area.

    Eventually moving to the north shore with work.

    Thanks for the post and ideas. :)

    1. milkwoodkirsten July 26, 2013 at 7:04 am | Reply

      David we got ours from the local bakery in town – they’d had strawberry fondant in them (of course). You can buy ‘food grade’ buckets from hardware stores etc if you can’t find any, but bakeries are a good idea.

      I grew up in Kiama actually! But went to uni and schlepped around Sydney for many years, in the city and inner west :)

    2. rosemaryandrock July 30, 2013 at 7:36 am | Reply

      My ex-boyfriend scored many, many foodgrade buckets from an ice-cream shop. Another possibility along the same lines!

  • Jesse Woodward (@iconoco) July 26, 2013 at 6:38 am | Reply

    Out of curiousity, this way of growing mushrooms generally depends on your location correct? I’m in the Pacific North West of N. America. What can I grow here for mushrooms?

    1. milkwoodkirsten July 26, 2013 at 7:02 am | Reply

      Jesse you could use this method easily where you are. Oh, except you’d have to turn the buckets upside down, because you’re in the northern hemisphere ;) – seriously tho, with your enviable humidity and rainfall up there, we’d be using mushrooms gardens (see our previous mushroom post) and shiitake logs…

  • Corrin July 26, 2013 at 7:15 am | Reply

    Your new website looks nice.

    And thanks for not going with bucket’o’shrooms, but sharing your idea online, for free, the world is a better place for it.

  • joolie July 26, 2013 at 7:30 am | Reply

    bucket’o’shrooms™ – lol!

  • Medea July 26, 2013 at 7:43 am | Reply

    Thank you sooo much for not patenting and standing up for simple, homemade, DIY solutions that don’t require forking over money for an unnecessary, expensive “kit of mystery ingredients”…

    I feel the same gratefulness for sites showing the totally simple recipes for otherwise ridiculously expensive EM “Bokashi” starter (=inoculant) liquid plus the inoculated “Bokashi grain” for, well, “Bokashi composting”, done in a simple doubled up bucket arrangement similar to your mushroom pails.
    (BTW, Bokashi pre-fermenting of compost is the superstar of composting techniques in my book: apartment-proof for us trapped city dwellers, ultra-cheap if homemade, MUCH quicker than any other composting technique, no odor, no creepy-crawly worms under the sink, and able to turn my 100% barren desert soil outside into a living, fertile humus that can actually grow food! All with my free food scraps, done in 14 days or less- and it can work with meat and leftovers as well, unlike the other methods! In Asia, it’s therefore done on a much larger community scale- check Youtube for How-to videos from Pakistan, Malaysia, Korea,..)

    >>>Where to get Food grade buckets with lids: Here in the US you can get free food-grade buckets from the bakeries inside bigger grocery stores. Just ask them for any empty cake icing buckets they throw out that day- you just have to clean out the colorful gunk at home. I put mine in the dishwasher because sometimes the icing contains soy wax (bleh) you won’t get out easily by handwashing, or only with “tons” of water. Delicatessen stores/delis are another source (ask for empty pickle or olive buckets). They come clean more easily but the pickle smell will stay :)

    1. milkwoodkirsten July 26, 2013 at 9:13 am | Reply

      like we said, it’s not our idea originally, but we love it!

  • […] Mushrooms in a Bucket […]

  • Arwen July 26, 2013 at 9:13 am | Reply

    Any idea if you could grow shiitake in a bucket o’tasty, or do they need the oak logs?

    1. milkwoodkirsten July 26, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply

      yep, using sawdust you could… tho log shiitake’s taste better tho :)

  • andytowell July 26, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply

    Reblogged this on Planet Permaculture and commented:
    Loving this idea, if you’ve not got a log then maybe you got a bucket!

  • ourhomesteaddream July 26, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Reply

    I deffinetly have to try this! We love mushrooms in our household!

  • grizzleygirl July 26, 2013 at 5:58 pm | Reply

    Reblogged this on Ethical Love.

  • Nancy Sutton July 27, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Reply

    This works great with oyster mushroom spawn in fresh! coffee grounds substrate ;)

  • mandy719 July 29, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Reply

    wow, you are so cooool

  • jantieg July 30, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Reply

    Just wondering if this would work with hessian and a wooden pail?

    1. milkwoodkirsten July 30, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Reply

      over time, unless you steam-sterilised the bucket between batches, the oyster/shiitake mycelium would colonise the pail and eat it as well… as would other mycelium that you don’t want in the mix… but it might work for the first round or so…

  • Jake August 8, 2013 at 8:52 am | Reply

    Awesome idea Nick!

  • […] the spawn stage, but still save money by buying good spawn and distributing that into more bags or buckets of substrate, to fruit […]

  • […] to involve soil and green leaves. For example, you can grow gourmet mushrooms indoors using the bucket method, or order a kit from a company like Mushroom Mountain. Both are really compact and can sit on your […]

  • David and Farzana January 22, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Reply

    Nick…..we did this!
    You briefly told us about this method at the Milkwood course in Nov. Farzana uses the university equipment to do our petri’s with agar, the grain is done in our new pressure cooker and we have containers sprouting everywhere! Our timings a bit off with the fruiting (though’s king oysters are so quick) but i can’t find anything that shows you how to spur the things into fruiting? Is just opening the container at the right time enough or do they need soaking in water to?
    Got reshi in 12 old milk bottles about to pop out as we speak!

  • Health Advocate January 28, 2014 at 10:46 am | Reply

    Is it true you harvest all the holes when you harvest the oldest batch that is ready? I heard once you harvest one… the rest stop growing?

  • Recent reading | The Pumpkin Life March 12, 2014 at 5:41 am | Reply

    […] Growing mushrooms in buckets. […]

  • […] using the bucket-in-a-bucket technique, you can minimise the use of disposable plastics in your mushroom cultivation, as the outer bucket […]

  • […] week we’re eating king oysters, and the shiitakes are coming on. Mostly they’re growing in buckets, but the ones we’re eating currently grew in hessian sacks (untreated, of course) of […]

  • permiechick October 23, 2014 at 8:09 pm | Reply

    This has been on my list of things to try. Thanks for reminding me! Perfect timing too since I have two food grade buckets that are just about to be empty.


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