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High Desert Mushroom Cultivation  RSS feed

 
Robbie Asay
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cat dog forest garden greening the desert solar tiny house
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Mr. Mcoy thank you in advance for your participation here, and to anyone else that has experience in doing this.

I'm looking for a small piece of property and so far it looks like I'll be ending up in the high desert of New Mexico near Taos at about 7k-8000 ft in elevation. What I have been learning from others is how drying the wind and heat can be as well a severe temperature fluctuations. Have there been any types of sheds, greenhouses, growing methods that have been used successfully to mitigate these harsh changes and if so, would this be better suited to an advanced gardener or can beginners tackle it with some initial success?

I ask because I'm going to have to completely change my PNW piece meal gardening skills to some major thoughtful work in a not very forgiving landscape but have tractor, will travel!

Forgot to add that Santa Fe is zone 6a and the property I'm interested in is in zone 5 and fluctuates between a and b, if that helps.
 
Brian Klock
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Very interested to hear an answer to the original post. We also own some undeveloped high desert land in southern Colorado (only about 30 to 40 miles for Taos). There isn't much there, not much water, or organic matter. I am hoping that we get a chance to start developing that property before we are too old or physically damaged to handle it.

 
Peter McCoy
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Hi Robbie,
Great question. However, the answer depends of your goal. You can cultivate edible and medicinal mushrooms and their mycelium year-round indoors using a range of techniques. But it sounds like you want to grow mushrooms outdoors in a garden. Is this correct?

Peter
 
Robbie Asay
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cat dog forest garden greening the desert solar tiny house
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In my post above I asked about various building. I'm going to start a small high desert vegetable and fruit farm. Growing methods will depend on what is best for the things I'd like to grow as I would eventually like to sell to local restaurants. Eventually I'd like to have a greenhouse with a rocket stove so that my growies won't freeze in the winter.

From what I understand it would be impossible to grow fungi in a garden at that elevation(about 8k) and especially with the wild temperature swings and freezing temps. I don't mind building a "mushroom house" specifically for fungi if that's what it takes because I eat a lot of them.
 
Peter McCoy
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Hi Robbie,
Yes, mushrooms can certainly be grown inside a greenhouse. I like to also break down mushroom growing to its basic principles. You need to always account for what I call the "5 Fungal Needs." For your situation I would think about the following:

Air - Fungi need O2—less when vegetative, a lot more when fruiting.
Right Temps - Keep them in the shade and at ~70ºF while incubating. The fruting temp varies by species. Tropoical species will fruit at 80ºF+, but often dont like it very cold (eg at night in the desert). Many other species like to fruit at colder temps (ca. 50-70ºF, depending on the species).
Water/Humidity - The substrate needs to be properly made. When they are fruiting they need about 80-90% humidity.
Shelter - like a container (bag, bucket, etc)
Right substrate/container - these need to match the niche of the fungus.

For you, an easy place to start is get a greehouse in a shady place, out of direct sun or even dug into the ground to regulate temps. Grow a native oyster (cloned from a species in the NM hills) on local ag waste in 5-gallon buckets. When they start fruiting increase the air flow and ambient humidity levels.

I hope that helps
Peter
 
Robbie Asay
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Oh yes, yes it does help! I had no idea there were native oysters in NM. Are they covered in your book?

I'll have to look into building materials that could handle high humidity. I could build a rocket stove with bench seating to set buckets on for warmth and keep metal buckets of water near the stove for humidity. You know, this almost seems like I would be building something like a mushroom sauna!

I'd be very interested to learn what others I could grow in such an environment. Right now I'm in Washington state and have never made it to the mushroom festival. I don't do well in crowds so I miss pretty much everything. I'm looking forward to when I can move to my own property and start working on these "experiments". A mushroom sauna! Love it.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Can this be designed with less alteration of the environment--more TEFA-like and less greenhouse-like? can we all think outside the box here a bit more and then see what Peter thinks about what we come up with?
 
Robbie Asay
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This thread is open to all ideas regarding the climate I am describing. It's pretty brutal to grow a lot of things aside from attempting to grow mushrooms. It's zone 5a at 8000 feet, very dry, windy and the temperature can fluctuate from 68 to 18 in the same day. I'm not sure that TEFA is going to be possible in that kind of environment but I'm open to anything practical. Since I will be starting a small organic veggie and fruit growing operation if I buy property there I will be utilizing greenhouses with raised beds including one as part of the southern wall of my house to grow greens all year. I have to due to disability.
 
Joshua Myrvaagnes
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Location: Massachusetts, 6b, urban, nearish coast, 39'x60' minus the house, mostly shady north side, + lead.
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Got it. Well, first of all, there's the interesting air well discussion going on on another thread (the dailyish from today or yesterday had the link)--and you might be able to get creative with that and boost the effect with some mirrors. In other words, I believe your'e playing with the differential of daytime and nighttime temperatures, or really between the air temp and the rocks during the daytime, and if you can increase the air heat around the stones with some mirrors in the daytime you can increase that differential.

The next thing is that from what I know of mushroom cultivation it's WAY easier outdoors than in a sealed environment without wind. So, if you can somehow get around the greenhouse thing it could make your life much easier. That being said, if you really can't do any other way then what about using some temperature differentials to create drafting in the greenhouse for circulation? some black surfaces to generate heat and make a "solar air conditioner" effect, though very mild, and not venting to the outside but just circulation. (the circulation is needed not for fresh air but so that spores get blown away from the media and don't get a chance to take hold before the mycelia you want to cultivate do.)

What does grow at that elevation naturally? are there alpine plants? cacti? I have no idea what goes on up there. Would a check dam be a viable piece of things?

If you really do have to do something rather contrary to nature's flows to survive, by all means do it, take care of yourself and then you may be able to come up with new ideas later when you have time to think.
 
Robbie Asay
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Buying and moving mirrors around would not be practical for me, financially or time wise. Each of my mini-environments has to be created so that when I am in full production I am expending the least amount of money and time to monitor and maintain them. I'm not only playing with temperature fluctuations, I'm also dealing with little money and physical issues that make it where whatever I do takes much longer to get done. I have to be very economical with money and time.

I believe mushroom cultivation is easier outside as well but in an environment such as where I live now in the Pacific Northwest where we average 75% humidity and temperatures are moderate. Or shrooming in the Berkshires when I lived near there. Mushrooms grow like crazy here. If I was able to stay here I'd absolutely be able to do everything you could throw at me without extra time and labor because this is an environment that almost plants and grows itself. It is not that way on the high desert where I will probably end up moving to which is devoid of the 2 things mushrooms rely on; lots of water and lots of trees.

If you look up "high desert gardening" you'll find quite a selection of things that can be grown but again, the environment your plants are grown in has to be manipulated to mitigate the harsh nature of the high desert. It's a beautiful place but does not suffer fools well.

I am not in an alpine area, it is high desert. What grows naturally in the area I'm looking at is sagebrush and pinon. I'd have no use for a check dam at this time.

Just about everything I'm doing is contrary to nature's flows. Just the aspect of all the gardening methods we are using goes against nature because we are attempting to control through manipulating the earth, how things grow. There were quite a few hunter/gatherer Indian tribes that believed that tilling the soil was cutting the flesh of the Mother. Very little of what I will be growing is native to the area let alone grows naturally in that kind of environment. I will try to integrate in what I can but since I haven't been able to find affordable property in a more suitable area I'm going to do what I can with what I can afford and if I can grow one of my favorite foods in the process I'll be a very happy camper.

I am finding information about mushrooms growing in the desert but almost nothing about the kind of climate I may end up in. I did find these:

http://www.tolweb.org/treehouses/?treehouse_id=4535
http://newmexicomyco.org/content/links - definitely going to contact these people
http://mushroomobserver.org/species_list/show_species_list/377 - what an amazing list!

I have a lot of learning to do!
 
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