The Caley Brothers: Accessible mushroom growing

Mushrooms are having their moment and on their way to becoming a staple in the gardener’s grow-your-own arsenal.

Caley Brother's display at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2023
credit: Petra Hoyer Millar

By means of pre-incubated mushroom grow kits, growing one’s own mushrooms is set to be a big trend for 2024. Especially so, as they appeal to the foodies, as well as the indoor and outdoor gardener. The kits allow for easy growing, providing an opportunity to grow the more unusual varieties – not often available in the shops.

In 2023, Lorraine and Jodie Caley of the Caley Brothers took RHS Chelsea by storm this year, with their gold-medal awarded, edible and medicinal mushroom exhibit. The innovative display, proved that mushrooms can be attractive and useful additions to homes and gardens – whether displayed in ceramic vases, on macrame or even used to make ink, paper or seed pots.

The sisters will be back at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show this year, showcasing project-based mushroom growing. According to Lorraine, they are working on “displays of simple, low-tech growing techniques and materials that are readily available to make mushroom growing, more accessible”. Hence, in line with the projects described in their new book, Project Mushroom: A Modern Guide to Growing Fungi (Frances Lincoln) which will be released in May.

“RHS Chelsea last year had such a wonderful impact on our business last year – so many conversation about all areas of mushrooms and mushroom growing. We wanted to show mushrooms growing as never seen before. We know so much about the flora and fauna around us, but not so much about fungi – and that’s exactly what it did. This year we want to continue the conversation and showcase how accessible they are and easy to grow – regardless of space, budget or growing experience. We cant wait”, explains Lorraine Caley.

Preparations for their much anticipated exhibit at Chelsea are already underway. “We have started the process for the Reishi mushrooms as they are much slower growing. We are working with a company called Marvellous Mushrooms for these mushrooms specifically. We’re going to be growing our own Cordyceps this year and will trial these next month. We always have a fresh harvest of oyster, shiitake and Lion’s mane mushrooms growing at the farm – the ones for Chelsea will be inoculated in March/April, and growing between 2-6 weeks before the show opens”, said Caley.

With expectations high, the pressure is on for the Caley sisters. “We went into Chelsea last year not knowing we’d be judged, we were just happy to be there. We feel similar this year – we’re really happy to be there again and our aim is to hit the gold standards we achieved last year, but we know the judges standards are super high. As long as we’re happy with what we’ve achieved for our display – that’s what matters most to us at the end of the day”.