Showing posts from March, 2016

Trees for the People

In Maryland it can be hard to see the trees for the forest, since the forests cover over 40% of the landscape. Forests offer cover, but trees offer comfort, whether from their fruits, nuts, shade or shape. A tree in a forest is just another occlusion, while a tree free to unfold can be a wonder to behold.
In case anyone in my area was planning to plant trees this Spring, the end of March is the free shipping deadline on trees from Izel Plants and Tree-Mendous Maryland. The latter is a government program for plantings on public property and the former is a clearinghouse for a few commercial nurseries specializing in native plants. Prices from either are about half of what you would pay at retail nurseries. Good deals on small numbers of trees are also to be had at Master Gardener and Garden Club plant sales.  Sotterly Plantation's is coming up at the end of April, as is the Calvert Master Gardener's on May 7. Trees planted in large quantities for conservation efforts can be ord…

Demystifying the Woods

The University of Maryland Extension's Watershed Steward program imitates the Master Gardener and the Master Naturalist programs in acquiring volunteers to be "boots on the ground" promoting care of their respective commons. There is another similar program called the Maryland Woodland Stewards program that has been around for decades under the title "The Coverts Program." The name changed in 2007, probably so as not to let it get mixed up with so many other covert programs with obscure names in this deep state vortex surrounding our nation's Capital.

The Woodland Stewards program (not covert in the usual sense) is interested in people who have acreage of forest (coverts, if you will) that they own and/or manage. I don't think they would be too interested in me, since I am responsible for less than an acre and I'm planning on converting it to a food forest.

On the other hand, there are many links to biochar and mushrooms that would make Maryland Woo…

Getting Cred to Help the Watershed

Rain barrels are one of many changes you can make to your property for stormwater management. BayWise certification process and reading +Michael Judd's book, Edible Landscaping, I hadn't realized how important erosion control is to gardening. The organic layer of a garden is the first to wash away, so getting control of how rainwater flows is a must in setting up any planting area. The main things are to reduce the velocity of runoff and to capture nutrients before they escape.
The University of Maryland Extension notes many other features which I have incorporated into my hilly property, such as rain gardens, conservation landscaping, swales, fertilizer reduction, a pet waste station, and tree planting. Before going through Maryland's

Stormwater management is not the most tantalizing task, even less so when it requires many hands. That is why, in setting up a curriculum for the Watershed Stewards Academy, the University included lessons on educating and motivating groups…

Eco-solution for E. Coli

When I became aware, a couple of years ago, that roof runoff may contain some heavy metals that could potentially find their way into your food garden, I took a bucket of biochar and dumped it into the bottom of my rain barrel. Problem solved. What I didn't realize is that I was solving another (bigger) problem of roof runoff - e. coli bacteria.

To be honest, my quick fix may not have solved the problems; (a) because I didn't really have a problem - my rain barrel feeds my ornamental rain garden, and (b) the biochar filter inside a rain barrel should probably be a little more meticulously constructed and maintained.

Now that I am about to set up a rain barrel that will be used to spray my mushroom logs and save money on my water bill, I definitely need to think about the contaminants in the water. The draft Certified Naturally Grown standards for mushroom growers does not address roof runoff specifically, but does cover surface water. Could a biochar filter be used to meet the…

Avoiding Poison Mushrooms (at the Market)

Not all edible organic mushrooms are safe to eat.  As +Paul Stamets points out in Mycelium Running - How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, some mushrooms from China, for example, might have accumulated heavy metals from the high degree of ambient pollution where they were grown, yet still be considered organic. The draft standards for Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) mushrooms should mitigate this problem, as hyperaccumulation of heavy metals is built into its safeguards. To wit:
Substrate may not be directly placed on any surface contaminated with heavy metals or other synthetic pollutants.
For growers, CNG offers a clearer path to producing wholesome mushrooms than the organic program followed by most other agricultural producers. The National Organic Program (NOP) requirements may take measures beyond what should reasonably be applied to an organic mushroom farm, since fungi are nourished and cared for differently than plants and animals. However, if a beginning grower could convince…

I Wannabe the Fungi Guy

Mark Jones of Sharondale Farm in Virginia talks about his vision for the relationship of towns and communities to fungi. This whimsical vision includes the idea that every place will one day have its own mushroom cultivator, just as today every place has its own McDonald's. In the appropriate tech future that we are about to enter, this should be one of its finer elements. Since I may be the most advanced cultivator in my neighborhood, I might well look to be the Papa Smurf of Calvert Shores (aka Chesapeake Ranch Estates).

Before venturing into a business, knowing your market is key. One of my favorite things about Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, by +Tradd Cotter, is the back matter regarding the various species worth cultivating. I particularly appreciate the information on marketing each type of mushroom. +Paul Stamets has a similar section in Mycelium Running - How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, which also contains information that can be used to connect with …

Oyster Gardening

I was sold on the garden plot that we began renting last year after spotting a bouquet of oyster mushrooms growing out of an old stump at ground level directly adjacent the gate. Since then, in addition to the tremendous amount of vegetables we've reaped from the garden, oyster mushrooms have been a frequent enhancement to our meals.

My garden there consists of several raised beds, separated with sunken paths that are filled with wood chips. These wood chips eventually break down and provide nutritious mulch for the following year's plantings. I was very happy to see one particularly deep path of wood chips thick with mycelium when I dug it up early this year. It's possible that the oyster mushroom mycelium had run over to the path, as it was only about 10 feet away from the stump. If oyster mushrooms come up in that vicinity later this year, that will be the most likely cause.

In any case, I aim to get oyster mushrooms from this garden path, even if I have to inoculate th…

Fight Fungus with Fungus

The rise in global temperature is alarming. The IPCC has told us what will happen if temperatures climb 5 C.
The COP-21 agreement aims to keep it to 1.5 C (already baked into the cake), but 2 C at the high end. The effects of that will be bad enough, but don't expect that this limit will be maintained unless we do two things in the very near term: (1) stop expanding fossil fuel extraction (and put an immediate moratorium on fracking while the truth about methane leakage is investigated) , and (2) reforest, (especially in the tropics). A new study points out that we can sequester carbon much faster by regrowing forests in devastated tropical areas than by simply maintaining the remaining old growth forests.

Tropical rain forests are not the only ones at risk from climate change. The U.S. Forest Service just put out their futures projection of the northern forests, which extends all the way down here to Maryland. The outlook is grievous with myriad environmental insults being thrown …

How to Make Forests Renewable

A number of Maryland counties give out awards to people and businesses for excellence in recycling. This year, Calvert County has followed suit. I am deeply involved in recycling for the purpose of building better soil and would like to apply for one of the awards in order to bring more publicity to the potential for recycling woody waste in the form of biochar.

My recycling bona fides could also include acceleration of carbon cycling, which is a major element of what +Paul Stamets describes as mycoforestry. When forests are logged unsustainably (as they have been repeatedly in the U.S. since the settlers arrived), then many of the extant fungi have nothing to feed on after a few years and they die away. This interrupts the carbon cycle, reducing the quality of soil with every new tree harvest. The remedy Stamets prescribes is to insure that logging residues are left in close contact with the forest floor. This gives saprophytic fungi the opportunity to thrive on the dead wood, enrich…

Morel Dilemma

+Paul Stamets, in Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World, gives tentative support to using wood ash as an ingredient for the growing medium on an outdoor morel mushroom patch. +Tradd Cotter, author of Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, says that Eastern U.S. morels found in the wild don't seem to have a preference for burnt areas. Tradd's research points to use of nonnutritive media for morel sclerotia to form and an underlying nutritive zone for hyphae to grow into. I am thinking that uncharged biochar (as opposed to wood ash) could act as the nonnutritive medium instead of the peat or coir Cotter recommends. After all, biochar would be a lot more native than peat from Canada or coir from the tropics.

I have a tulip poplar in my backyard, conveniently near my log spawn run area where I could make a morel rain garden by berming around the dripline and directing overflow from my rain barrel into the depression. There I could set up two plots, one wit…