Shoebox tek[i] is another mushroom cultivation technique used to grow magic mushrooms with the use of a growth chamber about the size of a shoebox (roughly six-quart capacity). Almost any monotub or dub tub tek can be adapted to the smaller size, and in fact in our article on dub tub we provided a shoebox-sized example. Here, we’ve got a mini-monotub example for you.
Virtually any mushroom that can be grown in a bulk substrate can be grown in a shoebox-sized tub, although the substrate and the growing conditions will vary with species. Virtually all publicly-available descriptions of mushroom cultivation involve psychoactive mushrooms—mostly one or another strain of Psilocybe cubensis—but you could probably adapt the same method for anything willing to grow on the same substrate.
Why Use Shoebox Tek?
The great advantage of using shoebox-sized tubs is that the mushroom-growing hobby takes up less space. Of course, yields will be less, but since the cost of materials will also be less, the return-on-investment is still very good.
Growers who want a larger crop can always use multiple tiny tubs, losing the advantage of space but gaining the advantage that if something goes wrong with one tub, the others can still fruit successfully—it’s not putting all your mushrooms in one basket, so to speak.
In fact, shoebox teks offer a kind of middle ground between growing cakes and spawning to bulk, with some of the yield size of the latter and the security of the former.
Colonization time varies based on the growing conditions (temperature, humidity etc) but in general Shoebox Tek’s colonize in about 5-10 days. There have even been people who have had their shoebox tek’s take a month to colonize. My advice is don’t panic and be patient, it can take time.
Don’t underestimate the yield of a shoebox tek. Two to three shoeboxes can easily yield as much or more than a monotub. Shoeboxes are also easier to move around, manipulate and experiment with. A typical shoebox yield is about 1 ounce per flush. Each shoebox typically has two flushes, however there have been instances as high as nine flushes, but that would not be the norm. I’d expect at least two flushes and hope for more.
Using Shoebox Tek
This version is designed to maximize quality and minimize hassle. You may notice that it skips several steps that are important in the dub tub shoebox example we provided. The growers who use it get good results anyway, in part because of critical alterations to other steps.
Note that in this step-by-step, we assume you already have jars of fully-colonized grain. We cover getting to that point in our article on wild bird seed, as well as in other articles.
The following recipe is for five shoeboxes, but you can do more or fewer at a time by adjusting the math.
How to Make a Shoebox Tek
- 550 grams of dry coco coir – My favorite Coco Coir Bricks.
- A large cooking pot (and a working stove!)
- A medium-sized cooler – Can’t go wrong with these tried and tested Coleman coolers.
- A measuring cup –
- A scale (it doesn’t need to be a mg scale but that would help in your mushroom journey) – I’m a huge fan of the GEMINI-20.
- A hammer and chisel – This hammer and this chisel will do fine.
- A large, long-handled stirring spoon or fork
- A source of clean water (tap is fine, provided your tap water doesn’t have a lot of chlorine)
- A source of light (need not be direct or bright, but should be sunlight or an equivalent spectrum, and should shine for about twelve hours per day) – Grow lights are nice to have for this job, and others.
- Five shoebox-size plastic tubs with lids – These are the plastic shoeboxes I use.
- Rubbing alcohol – Anything will do.
- A spray bottle – These seems expensive for what they are but anything less breaks after a single use. These are good.
- Five quarts of fully-colonized grain spawn
Step by Step Instructions
The first thing to do is to hydrate the bulk substrate[ii]—note that this recipe calls for coir only, and for less water than most recipes do. This substrate should be at just under “field capacity.” This deliberate under-hydration helps prevent contamination and directs the mycelium towards the wetter top layer, discouraging fruiting on the sides and bottom of the tub.
- Measure out the 550 grams of coir using the kitchen scale—if the coir came in a larger block, it may be necessary to use the hammer and chisel.
- Boil three quarts of water (the actual figure called for by the ideal ratio is 2.89172 quarts). Once it boils, turn the heat down low.
- Measure out two cups of boiling water and put them in the cooler. Swish it around, put on the lid, and wait ten minutes, then dump out the water. The idea is to pre-heat the cooler.
- Put the 550 grams of coir in the cooler and pour in nine cups and four ounces of boiling water (there may be some water left—you don’t need it). Put on the lid and wait for an hour.
- Use the spoon or fork to quickly break up any remaining chunks of coir. Then put the lid back on and let it cool gradually. The end result should be wet, but should barely drip even if squeezed hard.
Next, clean and fill the boxes[iii].
- Clean the boxes and lids and sterilize them with alcohol. Wash your hands thoroughly.
- Put one quart of fully-colonized spawn and one quart of hydrated coir to each box. Break up all chunks and mix thoroughly.
- Make sure the layer is flat and smooth on top (otherwise, fruiting will be uneven and harvest will be more difficult). Do not compact the substrate, however.
- Add another pint of hydrated coir to the top of each box—make sure this layer, too, is smooth, flat, and not compacted.
- Use the spray bottle to mist the surface until the coir visibly darkens. The idea here is for the surface to be much wetter than the lower layers.
- Put on the lids and put the boxes somewhere they will get about 12 hours of indirect light per day. The temperature can be any form of “room temperature,” though warmer temperatures mean faster growth. Now, wait. Visually inspect the boxes, but don’t open them.
- When the mushrooms are less than 48 hours from harvest, loosen the lids—that way, if the mushrooms need more room, they can lift the lid off themselves.
After harvesting, soak the substrate with enough water to cover for about three hours. Less time won’t let enough water soak in, more time will let in too much water. Then pour off the excess water, put the lids back on, and get ready for the next flush. Each box should be able to do at least two flushes, sometimes more, before yields start to drop off significantly and it becomes economical to start over with new substrate.
[ii] Weirdo (2019). SFF Coir Tek.
[iii] Weirdo (2019). SFF Shoebox Assembly Tek.