Gathering Morel Mushroom Spores to Grow

baby mushrooms on a mossy log

Wild morel mushrooms are fungi that live by helping dying plants decompose. Their microscopic spores self-establish in decaying plant matter. You will find most types of fungi on trees and fallen timber, facing northward to minimize exposure to direct sunlight. Morels and other mushrooms prefer dark conditions, and propagate best under layers of decomposing leaves and other plant debris. Thus, it is not normally possible to gather morel or any other mushroom spores in the wild and take them home to plant in your garden. The conditions for their growth do not exist in most urban or suburban backyards.

To ensure you can harvest a steady supply of wild morels, monitor the growth of morels each spring in places where you found them before. Attempt to let spores fall from the morels you do pick in the best locations for their growth. Preferred spots are near the roots of dying trees or in significant depths of plant detritus, shaded from bright sun for most of the day.

Step 1 - Purchase a Morel Mushroom Growing Kit

Given the rise in demand for morels, some purveyors of gourmet mushrooms have created morel mushroom growing kits. If you can provide a suitable habitat with minimal light and plant debris, these kits may enable you to grow the Morchella esculenta (white) variety of morel mushrooms at home.

Step 2 - Create Your Own Morel Mushroom Patch

The primary ingredients of most morel habitat kits are a substance called "morel spawn," composed of spores and other organic materials to promote growth, and directions for how to establish a suitably dark, northern-oriented habitat. The recommended size of the mushroom patch is a square 4 feet on a side, totalling 16 square feet.

morel mushrooms

Step 3 - Establish a Suitable Morel Mushroom Habitat

Build up a six inch-deep layer of moist wood chips, shavings and mulch, from oak, maple and beech. Water this layer of material until it is very damp, to accelerate the process of decay.

Apply the morel spawn over the moist base, in an area no larger than four feet by four feet to be easily manageable. Add another four inches of mulch wood shavings and chips over the morel spawn material.

Water the habitat when it dries out. Check when to water the plant material, by pushing your hand or a long bamboo stick deeply into the layers. If the lowest layers you can reach seem dry, moisten the plant matter base thoroughly by soaking it with water.

Step 4 - Harvest Your Morel Mushrooms

It may take up to two years for this morel mushroom habitat to produce the first mushrooms of a suitable size for eating, but afterward, the site will sustain itself with natural spores. You will harvest about five pounds of morel mushrooms from the third year onward. Maintain the habitat by adding leaves, lawn cuttings, and your leftover garden annuals after the first frost. Refresh it every 2 years with more oak, maple or beech mulch. Leave existing trees and shrubs in place to prevent excess sunlight from penetrating.