Growing Oyster Mushrooms in a Worm Bin?

One topic I’ve been fascinated with for a long time is mycology – especially as it relates to edible fungi. Likely the coolest online video I’ve EVER seen featured a large-scale integrated “eco-machine” system set up by Dr. John Todd in Vermont (quite a few years back now – sadly I was never able to track down the video again). It involved using brewery waste to grow oyster mushrooms. The spent mushroom growing substrate was then fed to Red Worms, which were in turn fed to yellow perch in an aquaponics system used to fertilize a variety of plants. It was absolutely amazing!

Even just idea of combining mushroom growing and vermicomposting really appeals to me, so when my good friend Joe Ferrone (links to a Worm Farming Alliance interview) told me he was actually growing oyster mushrooms IN a worm bin, I certainly sat up and took notice!

Joe originally added some oyster mushroom mycelium (“spawn”) to his worm bin thinking it would help to speed up the vermicomposting process, but when he ended up with a nice crop of delicious gourmet mushrooms he (not too surprisingly) got pretty excited!

My own assumption would have been that the worms would end up preventing the oyster mushrooms from ever really gaining a foothold. I’ve certainly seen mushrooms pop up from time to time in my worm beds, but they never seem to last very long.

Now I’m REALLY excited to try this out myself! I think the VB48 in my basement will offer the best chance of success. I’ve read that oyster mushrooms like fairly cool conditions and require some light. I keep some fluorescent lights on in my worm room at all times, and the temps down there are definitely cooler than the rest of the house.

If you want to learn more about Joe’s oyster mushroom vermi-adventure be sure to check out his blog. You need to start at the very beginning to get the full story, so here is a link to the very first page of posts (just start from the bottom and move up, then click the link that says “newer posts”):

Even if you’re not interested in mushroom growing, you HAVE to check out Joe’s cardboard shredder, and the incredible bedding it spits out! Absolutely amazing!

I am already shopping around for some oyster mushroom spawn, and making an effort to extract more information from Joe! LOL

Will keep you posted!

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    • Ruth Ann (from PA)
    • February 25, 2013

    My concern would be how the oyster mushroom fungi effects the other fungi in the bin. These are my questions. Will the oyster mushroom fungi outcompete the other fungi? I would not want to disturb the variety of fungal species that I have worked hard to establish in my bins.

    • Jeff Cummings
    • February 25, 2013

    The concern would be the fungi already in the bin, but is great.
    What I want to know is: Where can I buy one of those cardboard shredders? And how much? I’d be willing to spend about $20??

  1. Bentley, my partners and I were really excited to read this article about blending Vermicomposting and growing mushroom, both of which we do at our farm (Eli’s Greens) in Farmville, va.
    We would like to provide you (gratis) with the needed mushroom
    spawn necessary to do your experimenting. We have a Phoenix Oyster mushroom
    line that we’ve been working on that has shown to be very prolific and aggressive in growth, which we think might be best for this type of application. Also, we can send
    you some Blue Oyster spawn that has shown to have excellent colder weather growth characteristics, and also is very fast to inoculate the environment it is put in, which is important for mushroom cultivation.
    We’d be very interested to see how these would work in some of your
    bins, both as a mushroom producing environment, and as a symbiotic ecosystem
    between the worms and the mushrooms.
    if you send my your address, we can ship them out to you when we have some
    more bags of spawn ready that would be a good source for wormbin inoculation.

    Don Dillon
    Fantastic Fungi

    • John Duffy
    • February 25, 2013

    Man…I am sooo jealous over that shredded cardboard. That is some beautiful stuff!
    I’ve never eaten oyster mushrooms. In Indiana, morels are the standard mushroom hunter’s bounty. How do they compare to other mushrooms as far as their flavor?

  2. I meant to put links in the last comment to show you what were doing with the worms and mushrooms.

    Our mushroom site is :

    A picture of a couple of our wormbins. We haven’t tried to cover or winterize these, but come march, the worms are back up in the mulch by the gazillions… and hungry. We will be feeding them lots of mushroom compost now.

    • Bentley
    • February 26, 2013

    RUTH & JEFF – Oyster mushrooms seem to be pretty aggressive (based on what I’ve read), but I’m not sure that they would take over the microbial ecosystem in the bin or anything like that. Will be interesting to see!
    DON – thanks so much for the generous offer! I’d love to take you up on that, assuming you are OK with shipping to Canada (I’ll understand if that’s a deal-breaker). I’ll be interested to learn more about what you are doing with fungi (and worms).
    JOHN D. – I hear ya! Sadly, the machine seems to have stopped working for Joe (he mentioned this in a recent email) . He’s hoping to get it fixed as soon as possible.

    • Don
    • February 26, 2013

    Don’t know what the rates are to Canada, of if we will run into customs issues, but those are just issues that can be resolved. Email me your address and we can figure out the details and see if it is economically feasible to send it there. Otherwise, we could just meet at the border and I will just fling the stuff over the fence 😉

    • Adam
    • February 26, 2013


    I have been meaning to write for a while about persistent mushrooms in my worm bin. I made a bin that is essentially 4 home made worm inn’s in a row with a common lid. Since I found a way to shred cardboard with a paper shredder I have had mushrooms growing in my bin that I cannot get rid of. I feed the worms then top with a 6 inch layer of dry shredded cardboard. I don’t know if the spores came with the cardboard or what, but they keep on thriving in multiple layers of the bin.

    Any ideas on how to curb their growth? I can send you a picture of the mushrooms if you’d like.

  3. That’s one of the neatest things i’ve ever seen!
    John Duffy,i have some friends in Indiana who hunt Morel mushrooms.They’re like gold to those guys.One has a lucky stick he’s been carrying for years.Don’t know what he uses the stick for? Getting older.Maybe to kneel down? Lol!

    • GA
    • March 5, 2013

    @Adam – what’s the problem with the mushrooms growing? Do they cause some issue?

    Knock ’em over, worms will eat them too eventually. The short form is that the fungi (mushrooms) of various types are always in your bin, the mushrooms that grow out of your top layer are the fruiting bodies. The ones down below are breaking your cardboard and everything down, the ones on the top are popping up when the conditions are right for reproduction. Neither should really be an issue.

    • Adam
    • March 5, 2013


    I have had the mushrooms in the bin for 4 months. They seem to be just under the top layer and the deeper I dig, the more I find.
    I have taken the approach you mention thus far.
    The concern that I have is that, when the mushrooms are mature, they “explode” and send out black goo over everything. Concerned as well that they may have a negative effect on my family. The bins are inside and I would guess that having actively exploding mushrooms would cause the air to contain stuff that is not good to breathe.

    The worms are always around the clump that the mushrooms grow out of, so I am not concerned for the worms.

    • Paul from Winnipeg
    • March 9, 2013

    Sounds like ink cap mushrooms to me from the description. I used to have them sprout in the front yard after wet weather. I learned not to kick them with white sneakers after they were mature. No way to get that black goo off. I don’t imagine it’d be harmful, it’s just spores.

    I could be wrong on the identification, there’s so many different mushrooms. I have a mushroom book for going out and harvesting naturally occurring mushrooms in the forest, but I wouldn’t actually eat anything I find out there myself. So many that’ll kill you quick (or slow but sure) that I’ll just stick to what I know for sure.

    • Adam
    • March 11, 2013

    I would agree that they are ink caps. I know nothing about mushrooms, but the pictures I have seen online seem to match pretty close to what I have. I don’t know if spores are airborne and thus could affect people.

    My uncle had a flood in his house. His family lived in it during clean up and remodeling and now his daughter is so sensitive to mold that she has constant flu symptoms if she eats fermented food. I have no idea how much molds/fungi affect people who live in close proximity.

    Thanks for the reply.

    • SK
    • November 21, 2013

    I’ve had worm bins for a while (relatively small, indoors) and just learned that it was possible to grow mushrooms in the vermicompost and cardboard. Where can I get spores? (To Don Dillon I’m in the US if you want to give some more oyster spawn away and I can keep you posted on how it works in smaller, indoor bins). I don’t need much to get started. Any ideas from those who have some experience are welcome!

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