Mike Musialowski

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since Mar 02, 2016
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Grew up in NYC with Polish parents. Double master degrees and 10 years teaching HS science and math sent me running to escape to rural NM and a 1 acre dream spread of self-designed house/orchard/garden and lucky do it with a wife and new baby!
Taos, New Mexico at 7000 ft. - Zone 5
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Recent posts by Mike Musialowski

I think this is a great research question! Sorry, I'm a scientist by training and think this way. I love the idea of trying to synergize methods... very permie-ish, like stacking functions.

I'd look at how each system works separately and then see if they're likely to synergize or compete:

- Pit works by utilizing the relatively stable temperature of the earth
- Geothermal greenhouses work by circulating ever colder nighttime air and putting it into contact with relatively warm, say 50 degree F, earth a minimum of 8' below the ground.
- Climate battery (I spent 2 days a CRMPI with Jerome Osentkowski and saw them work magnificently) has a dual method of working: 1) daytime warm air in the greenhouse is put into contact with cooler soil by circulating it through perforated pipes buried in the soil. Intake is up high where air is warm, return is down low so cooled air (after soil has sucked away some of that heat) can be re-heated. 2) The soil must be damp... water has three times the "heat capacity" of concrete and is superb at storing heat in the soil itself. This is even more ridiculously multifunctional because warmth is delivered directly to the roots!

So... I think the first two of these strategies reinforce eachother... they're using the same approach.

But I worry that mixing the climate battery with geothermal might compete. My logic is all about temps. Somebody already mentioned that heat transfer is proportional to temperature difference. During the daytime, the climate battery and geothermal accomplish the same; they actually cool the air down to prevent crispy leaves. But what happens at night? The climate battery fan continues to run, trying to use heat stored in the soil to warm up the air. I've not done enough research to know what the output temp is at night. But, if you take that heat out of the soil and send it down into the ground which may be colder, at least in the earlier part of the night, that may leave the heat ... in the ground? I suppose if the climate battery outgoing temp is colder than the geothermal air, then at least you'll experience less warming from the earth and the latent heat in the dirt surrounding those deep buried will last longer. The bottom line is that this tries to mix warmed air with warmed air.

I suppose you could just try! And... from an engineering perspective, isn't sometimes simpler more elegant and effective? I think you'd get more bang from your buck by choosing either the climate battery or the geothermal. Both of these systems require separate operating fans driven by electricity. Both require significant labor to install. The geothermal requires either endless hand digging (8 feet down!) or heavy equipment. I had a fantasy at one point about digging a 4 foot pit and digging 4 feet more with a "ditchwitch" to get the 8 feet. But I think that pipe needs to snake around and be long. I have irrigation issues that preclude this, but it might work for you.

I'll leave you with a personal note: I am a workaholic, and I tend to overbuild. Jeez it's exhausting! How nice it would be to put in effort, get decent if not stellar results, and not go crazy. Some refer to this as the "Law of Diminishing Returns".

You can always ask Jerome and his architect partner Michael Thompson. They're at ecosystems-design.com. Good luck and thanks for sharing your question and vision!
1 year ago

Kyle Neath wrote:I have found starting most perennials from seed to be very difficult, but I'm not sure that has much to do with the seeds or genetics. It's more than I'm new to seeds that require stratification / scarification, and it's a good bit of a learning curve to figure out a successful strategy. To me a lot of this comes down to the path of least resistance and the timeliness required. For example, last year I spent an incredible amount of time researching the plant's needs, collecting hundreds elderberry seeds, cleaning out the fruit, scarifying them with sulfuric acid, cold stratifying them, then trying to start them. None of them sprouted. This year I spent about 5 minutes taking cuttings in the fall, and all but one of them have buds opening up now. I haven't given up on starting some from seed, but it's clearly a no-brainer for me at this point to use cuttings to get more elderberries.

Out of your list, there's a few that I wouldn't hesitate to buy root cuttings / crowns for. Comfrey, Asparagus, Onions, Sunchokes, Horseradish, and Strawberry. If you can't afford to buy the number you need right now, plant the ones you can afford and split them up next year. It's all very possible to start these from seeds, but the return on effort is going to be through the roof with cuttings.



Great, yes, propagation by division seems indeed to be so much more efficient! Query: when you use cuttings of elderberry, do you plant them with any rooting hormone? Willow juice? or just straight in the ground? :-) Thanks for your help.
1 year ago

leila hamaya wrote:theres a few there i dont have any knowledge of but the only one that pops out as being difficult from seed is comfrey.

I will assume you want to grow "true" comfrey, which is the only kind you can get seed for, and i understand it to be very difficult to start.
bocking (several different "bocking" types )
and most of the russian comfrey types do not make seed and are sterile. comfrey spreads so easily by roots, that its actually something of a blessing that it doesnt also spread rapidly by seed as many cultivars are sterile.

but anywho that might be something to get as live plants and /or root divisions...especially if you want one of the Bocking types as they do not make seed.

horseradish is also generally started from plants/roots...and walking onions are generally started from bulb, even the "seed " of walking onions is a tiny bulb.

chamomile and strawberry both must be surface sown, do not cover the seed, just press them on top of the wet soil and keep the top of the soil moist.

the rest are pretty straight forward...at least the rest that i know about.



Right about comfrey, duh. I've been told a 1/4 inch of root will grow a new plant. Comfrey does so well here that this is a no-brainer. Thanks!
And yes, I have read about certain perennials needing sunlight to germinate and to surface sow, so thanks for adding that to my list of helpful hints! :-
1 year ago

Anne Miller wrote:I have read to follow the instructions on the seed packet which is what I do.

From your list these are the ones I have experience with:

Yarrow - mine came up in the garden from seed.  Not a good germination rate though.

Lemon Balm is one I could not get to germinate, so after several tries I purchased a transplant.  Try using the wet paper towel to see if you get germination then plant the seedling.

I didn't have any luck with loveage but that could have been my seed source.

echinacea (purpurea) - I used the wet paper towel method then put in peat pots.  This variety doen not need stratification.

I don't have experience with these though I suspect that they need stratification.  Try putting the the fridge for a month or follow the planting instructions:  chickpea/cicer milkvetch (Astragalus cicer)
Groundplum milkvetch (Astragalus crassicarpus)
Lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)
wild strawberry (Frugaria virginiana)

Thanks! I've seen my wife do the wet paper towel method, so I'll try it. That's feels similar to the jar method of starting sprouts. Is there any reason to not do them like sprouts so you get more starts? I know that some of the fragile seedlings get damaged as you try to pull them out of the jar. You know I've had lovage and lemon balm growing here the last year and I've hand-shredded the seed heads (whatever was left of them after an autumn and winter of wind) to disperse seeds near by. I'll see what sprouts this spring. .  I'll try it all.


1 year ago

Su Ba wrote:Mike, I have zero experience growing in your region. But I do grow a number of the plants in your list, and start them from seed. BUT, I start my seeds in a greenhouse, not out in the open soil. So I can't say which would germinate and survive by simply sowing and raking in. But it would be a good experiment to try a small patch and see how they do. Personally I wouldn't sow a lot of seed until I knew which varieties the method would work with. I guess I'm just a seed miser and hate wasting seed and garden space. Thus I start my seeds in flats and transplant the seedlings into grow-on pots before transplanting outdoors.



Thanks sooooo much for the reminder to start small. I'm a workaholic by nature and tend to overbuild any project I begin. And yes, I plan to try starts in flats, either indoors or in cold frames. Thanks!
1 year ago

Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

Egyptian walking onion: Typically sterile, therefore planted as bulbils.
Jerusalem artichoke: Unlikely to be able to buy seeds of improved varieties. Recommend rhizomes.



Perfect, thanks, makes sense for most tubers/bulbs. thanks!
1 year ago
Our "Slice of Paradise" food forest is about to get the last major planting to attempt to fill the understory. We have 35 fruit and nut trees scattered about the property with 25 or so species of herbaceous perennials but I want more. I've mapped the hell out of the tree basins and planned where species can go. Now that the planned planting volume is 200+ seedlings, I can no longer afford to purchase all these as starts from local or other nurseries. This will be the first time I've planted "starts". I've been warned by my wife that it's not always so easy. I've already encountered info on seed packets about scarification that seems daunting. I read that a bit of sulfuric acid might do the trick and I'm comfortable with doing that, but how much? The question becomes, which species should I not even dream of growing from seed? I've done some research, but I could see this taking days and I'm already beat from mapping/planning/sourcing all winter. I assume the super weirdos I'm better off getting as tubers/seedlings, etc. But what about all the others? I also know about some in my list are self-sowing annuals and therefore should be growable by broadcasting and raking into the soil a bit.

So...the info I could really use is: Which ones are a no-go (purchase seedlings), and for those that are doable... seed depth, seed prep needs, to cover or not, unique germination needs, varieties you like that might do well in the high desert. So consider those the columns of my info grid... and here's my list of species (the rows of my info grid). What advice/resources might you have? Thanks in advance y'all!

nettle                   rumor is easy to grow from seed

comfrey

leek

yarrow

lemon balm         because a mint, yes?

chives

violets                 self-sowing annual so yes?

welsh onion

Egyptian walking onion

borage                self-sowing annual so yes?

prairie cinquefoil

German chamomile      self-sowing annual so yes?

edible hosta

lovage

nasturtium                  self-sowing annual so yes?

echinacea (purpurea)      

good king henry

groundnut (Apios americana)

Chinese artichoke (Stachys affinis)

Turkish rocket (Bunias orientalis)

Chinese mountain yam

earth pea (Lathyrus tuberosus)

sweet cicely

sorrel

cream wild indigo (Baptisia bracteata)

basil                           self-sowing annual so yes?

jerusalem artichoke

asparagus

cilantro                       self-sowing annual so yes?

sweet woodruff

kale

fennel

horseradish

miner's lettuce           self-sowing annual so yes?

chickpea/cicer milkvetch (Astragalus cicer)

Groundplum milkvetch (Astragalus crassicarpus)

Lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)

wild strawberry (Frugaria virginiana)







1 year ago
Thanks all! My instinct based on your replies is to not risk it. Someday I may try a part of the land that's isolated from the rest. Purlsane is just too risky.
1 year ago
OK, folks. I LOVE the taste of purslane. It grows in crap soil next to my fertile soil no problem. But... and this is a big but... will it seed itself relentlessly and will I regret it? This year I'm going to grow lamb's quarters on purpose. It volunteers here and does not seem to spread too far. And... what about this wonderful weed purslane? Such an opportunity... but such fear. What are your experiences?
1 year ago
I have had the same problem with my 2 Ranier and Van cherry trees: a bacterial canker. Gordon Tooley of Tooley's Trees in Truchas, NM instructed me in detail. Two of his replies are below. I cut mine out, then used the borax/water mix poured onto a napkin and taped it to the would for 24 hours with masking tape. I removed the tape/napkin the next day. I've had to do this with multiple wounds on both trees. I did prune one fat branch that just had too large of an infection to dream of fixing it. I did not witness the "black triangle of death" that Gordon mentions, but the rest of the treatment has worked very well. I believe the thick jelly is the identifier such infections. It's discussed on the internet quite a bit. Four years after the initial infections, the trees are healing, even though they lost cambium along a strip on one side of the trunk. But both trees are growing well.

"Hi Mike,  It looks like bacterial canker, Eutypa lata aka Cytosporina,  you can see the dark canker under the bark that will spread up and down from the site of gummosis.  I dont see borer activity in the pics.   This is a problem in stone fruits,  A cross section from a pruned off branch will reveal the "Black Triangle of Death".  If you are to prune out anything your tools have to be clean and sharp and have to be cleaned after each cut with 90% alcohol.  Very contagious and spreads by injuries to bark,   This can even spread to fresh cuts by rain drops and insect visitation  from the ooze.   With the chance for rain over the next few weeks makes the window for pruning not good,  however this canker is picking up speed daily and if a large lower cut made below any canker is made now it may help out.   Look for the black triangle in a cross section.  
  Mix a tbs, borax in a spray bottle and soak the cut as soon as you cut the branch.  This will speed cell wall closure and help with callus cells.
  There is no shortage of info on this.  The tree my have had it for a long time.   Many factors can bring this on or make it kick into gear.
 All pruned wood and leaves need to be burned or removed from the site,.
Thanks for asking, sorry to confirm your suspicions."

Gordon

Thanks for planting trees! Margaret and/or Gordon
Tooley's Trees
www.tooleystrees.com

"Mike that is last years canker trying to wall off infection, could be the entry site of the canker, trunk injuries are common and caused by a endless list of circumstances.  The other pic with the hole may be borer or bird or where a lesion erupted.  Take a point of a knife and lift the bark around the hole.  You can remove the necrotic bark until you find a new rind of callus, notice how the canker moves up and down to a tapered off point,  could be larva inside also since they all work together.  It is too far gone for fungicides/bactericides  and insecticides.
  The canker is in deep in the sapwood.  Make your cuts, see what happens, if no go, dig it up and covercrop the site and dont put a prunus there until next year."

Gordon

Good luck!
1 year ago