Throughout the winter months few garden productions, in the way of eatables which pass through the kitchen, are more acceptable or highly valued than Mushrooms. When outside vegetables are scarce, as they have been in many instances during the last two or three winters, a good supply of Mushrooms will be found most useful, as they can be used in a variety of ways at the dinner-table, and form substitutes for many other things; and many are anxious to have them frequently for breakfast too. Altogether they must be regarded as the most useful of our crops at this season of the year; and fortunate are they who have the means of producing abundance of them. Although we have heard some assert that they could grow Mushrooms in an old hat, or shoe, or anywhere, I hardly agree with this, and think that reasonable means for their culture must be provided. Material for making beds is of less importance than having a suitable house for growing them in. In summer time, or during the warmest part of the year, they may be grown out of doors or in a cool shed, or any place of the kind; but now, and from November until April, artificial heat is wanted in their quarters.

To secure this, many have thoroughly-heated structures; but all are not so well off : the Mushrooms would be more certain if they were. Here our Mushroom-house is heated with a flue, which is capable of maintaining a high enough temperature so long as the outside elements are favourable; but during severe weather the temperature fluctuates a good deal, and this is much against the Mushrooms. A steady heat is most favourable to them, and this may sometimes vary 5° less or more from 60°, but never lower, and at times 70° is required to bring them forward more quickly. Sometimes our temperature cannot be raised above 40°, and this is a great disadvantage, as Mushrooms may be checked in their growth like other things. A good layer of dry hay thrown over the beds at such times is of great benefit. Still this is never so satisfactory as having a good command of heat, and any one putting up a Mushroom-house would find it much to his advantage to see to this. Its form or position is not of very great importance; generally it is included with other sheds behind forcing-houses, and this is very suitable. The most conveniently arranged house we have had any experience of, is one with a pathway up the centre and a bed on each side.

The back is some five feet wide - which is a good width for a Mushroom-bed, - and about four feet above this there is another bed made of wood, of the same dimensions as the lower one, and in this way two rows of beds can be made. To the front there is a vacant space, which is filled up with fermenting material, and this answers admirably for bringing forward Rhubarb, Seakale, etc., at the present time. This hotbed manure also helps to keep up the temperature, and a nice agreeable humidity is emitted from it. Besides this, sometimes small beds can be made up here and there in comfortable corners, and these often prove most useful. Whenever it is decided to make a bed to grow Mushrooms, material for its composition must be found. At one time it was generally thought that nothing but horse-droppings would produce Mushrooms, and much time was devoted in getting beds of this; but it is understood now that Mushrooms of the finest quality may be had from beds with little or no horse-droppings in them. We have proved this, and many others have done the same. In fact, the finest Mushroom-bed we ever had has been bearing from July till now, and three parts of it are leaves and turves, the remainder only being droppings.

At the same time it may be well to say, that had we abundance of droppings at all times we would use them, but not wholly; and the want of droppings would not keep us from making a bed, as leaves and turve3 and any other slightly fermenting materials would be used. Lumps of fibrous loam are useful in all Mushroom-beds. It is surprising what a cluster of Mushrooms may sometimes be found coming out of a nugget of loam. The material for the bed, whatever it may consist of, should be moderately dry before being used; but it must not be too dry either, as much of the fertile matter is thereby lost. A little experience will soon enable any one to tell when it is in proper order, and then the bed must be made up. Firmness is one condition of success. When put up loosely the heat soon escapes, and Mushrooms are not produced for long if there is not a little heat in the bed; the longer the heat lasts, the longer will Mushrooms appear. Its size may be anything from one yard square. The larger it is the better; and a good depth, too, is an advantage, as this all tends to retain the heat in the bed. We have found beds 18 inches or 2 feet deep bear much longer than those half that depth; and when material will allow, there is nothing like making up a large, deep bed.

Its size should be ascertained before beginning, and a layer of stuff should be placed all over the bottom first, and this repeated until the top is reached. As each layer is put in it should be trodden down firmly with the feet. After this the temperature in the bed will rise rapidly, and may reach 100° or more; but the spawn must not be put in until the heat declines to 80° or 85°.

Good spawn is most important, and such must be used, or no skill will bring the Mushrooms. One of the ordinary squares may be broken up into a dozen or more pieces; and one of these should be dibbled in every foot all over the bed, and about 3 inches below the surface. The holes made in doing this will let out a good deal of heat, and when there is rather too much heat in the bed this will generally rectify it, especially if the holes are left open for a few days; but it is always best to close them up before the temperature is too far down, which it would be at 60° or so. As soon as the spawn-holes are shut up, the bed may be soiled over. Various textures of soil have been recommended for this purpose, but we find the soil from any ordinary kitchen-garden very suitable as a rule. It may be put on to about the depth of 3 inches, and it must be beaten very firm, and the surface should be made quite smooth with a spade. It is best when the soil can be beaten into a complete cake all over the surface; but if this cannot be managed without water, a little should be applied to the surface until it is quite moist, and beaten immediately afterwards, when a smooth surface will be formed. From the time the bed is spawned it may be five or more weeks until the first Mushrooms appear.

Sometimes we have had them in four weeks, and at other times it has been double this, much depending on the quality of the spawn and the temperature of the bed and house. To keep up a constant supply, a bed should be made up every three weeks. When a bed has been bearing for some considerable time, and shows signs of flagging, a thorough soaking with water at a temperature of 85° will often put new vigour into the old material, and a fresh crop will be the result; but of course this will not continue so long as in the first instance. Snails often destroy many Mushrooms, and small worms eat the best part of some; but a slight sprinkling of salt thrown over the bed at their first attack will generally stop them.

It may be added, that although Mushroom-culture in many instances is one of the easiest of all our garden practices, it is not so in every case, as failures sometimes occur where they are least expected, and nothing is more obstinate than a Mushroom-bed, so that all precautions should be taken in its preparation to reduce the chances of failure as much as possible. J. Muir.