This section is from the book "Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc.", by George Francis Atkinson. Also available from Amazon: Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc..
This method is practiced to quite a large extent by some growers. In the house of Mr. William Swayne, Kennett Square, Pa., a number of large houses, devoted through the winter to the growing of carnations, are also used for the cultivation of mushrooms, a single long bed being made up underneath the beds of carnations. In these houses the water pipes providing heat for the building run along the sides of the building underneath the carnation beds at this point. Under these beds, where the water pipes run, no mushroom beds are made, since the heat would be too great, but under the three middle rows of beds in the house, mushroom beds are located. In this way, in a number of houses, several thousand square feet of surface for mushroom beds can be obtained. The carnations are grown, not in pots, but in a general bed on a bench. In watering the carnations, care is used in the distribution of the water, and in the amount used, to prevent a surplus of water dripping through on the mushrooms below.
For the cultivation of mushrooms on a small scale, unoccupied portions of cellars in a dwelling house are often used. The question is sometimes asked if it is injurious to the health of the family in a dwelling house when mushrooms are grown in the cellar. Probably where the materials used in making up the beds are thoroughly cured before being taken into the cellar, no injurious results would come from the cultivation of the plant there. In case the manure is cured in the cellar, that is, is there carried through the process of heating and fermentation in preparation for the beds, the odors arising from the fermenting material are very disagreeable to say the least, and probably are not at all beneficial to one's general health.
View in mushroom house (Wm. Swayne). View down alley on right hand side. Copyright.
In the cellar culture of mushrooms the places selected are along the sides of the cellar in unused portions. Floor beds alone may be made by using the boards to support one side, while the wall forms the support on the other side as in the arrangement of beds on the side tiers in the mushroom houses; or tiers of beds may be arranged in the same way, one bed on the bottom, and one or two beds above. The number of beds will vary according to the available space. Sometimes, where it is not convenient to arrange the larger beds directly on the bottom of the cellar, or in tiers, boxes three or four feet, or larger, may be used in place of the beds. These can be put in out of the way places in the cellar. The use of boxes of this description would be very convenient in case it was desired to entirely do away with the possibility of odors during the fermentation of the manure, or in the making up of the bed. Even though the manure may be cured outside of the cellar, at the time it is made in the beds the odors released are sometimes considerable, and for several days might be annoying and disagreeable to the occupants of the dwelling, until such a time as the temperature of the manure had dropped to the point where the odors no longer were perceptible. In this case, with the use of boxes, the manure can be cured outside, made into beds in the boxes and taken into the cellar after the temperature is down to a point suitable for spawning, and very little odor will be released. If there is a furnace in the cellar it should be partitioned off from the portion devoted to mushroom culture.
It is possible to grow mushrooms in a number of places not used for other purposes. In sheds where the beds may be well protected from the rain and from changing currents of air, they may be grown. In open sheds the beds could be covered with a board door, the sides of the bed being high enough to hold the door well above the mushrooms. In the basements of barns, or even in stables where room can be secured on one side for a bed, or tier of beds, they are often grown successfully.
In Europe, in some cases, mushrooms are often grown in the garden, ridge beds being made up in the spring and spawned, and then covered with litter, or with some material similar to burlaps, to prevent the complete drying out of the surface of the beds. Sometimes they are cultivated along with garden crops. Field culture is also practiced to some extent. In the field culture rich and well drained pastures are selected, and spawned sometime during the month of May. The portions of spawn are inserted in the ground in little T-shaped openings made by two strokes of the spade. The spade is set into the ground once, lifted, and then inserted again so that this first slit is on one side of the middle of the spade and perpendicular to it. The spade is inserted here and then bent backwards partly so as to lift open the sod in the letter T. In this opening the block of spawn is inserted, then closed by pressure with the foot. The spawn is planted in this way at distances of 6 to 8 feet. It runs through the summer, and then in the autumn a good crop often appears.