Paul Cereghino

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since Jan 11, 2010
South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Recent posts by Paul Cereghino

In Daron and my neck of the woods, the natural development of soil following disturbance is often through fast growing nitrogen fixing trees like red alder.

Ecologists talk about primary succession (from rock) and secondary succession (colonization of empty spaces following a disturbance like wind, flood, or fire).  Theories like succession seem to suggest an orderly sequence, are currently replaced in the vegetation ecology literature by more complicated views of vegetation development, like "assembly theory" in which lots of different factors determine who comes, and what happens next.

In a permaculture design, the gardener becomes a source of continuous disturbance and dispersal.  So we are working within an ecological framework, and thinking about disturbance and colonization, but are no longer sitting by and waiting for things to happen.  We bring in abundant nitrogen fixers and tap rooted species, and accelerate the pulsing of growth and decay.

And yes... if you plant a fussy tree on bad soil with no subsidy of any kind, it will suffer.  Sometimes nutrients (manures etc...) are used to replace the services of healthy soil temporarily, until successional dynamics kick in.
11 months ago
Unless you are managing sward for cutting, "too much brown" is a common problem in most ecosytems. If it is leaves you are lucky.

Particle size governs decomposition rate in addition to nitrogen. If you don't use a chipper, a sharp machete (fine single cut file) is a great tool for processing coarse mulch. A dull machete is not. I add urine directly to coarse woody mulch piles. This is a coarse rural "look". I generally make "compost piles" in locations for future plantings.

Here's some other ideas.

You could also stockpile, and then hire a tree service to chip periodically if that fits your money vs. time position on the continuum.
2 years ago
Look like hybrid tea to me. These are show horses not work horses. However, cut flowers in an urban area may have more ROI than food (self serve bouquet stand?). Roses like drier climate than ours, so good air circulation is important in PDX. Prune to outward buds, maintain an open vase shape. However, no irrigation, and you may see powdery mildew from drought stress. Mulch heavily. Black spot (bacterial) is the other common affliction, and varieties vary heavily in susceptibility. Complementary species will be low to not reduce air circulation, and maybe aromatic to reduce disease, and perhaps build on the cut flower harvest (lavender, thyme, bulbs, etc..)
2 years ago
Walters. Weeds: Control without Poison, has some interesting ideas. It is part of the Albrecht, Acres USA diaspora.

There are some good basic analysis about soil saturation in the wetland delineation literature.. the USDA PLANTS database has a regional wetland indicator code that is used to delineate wetlands. That is relatively data driven and based on lots of observations, and it shifts based on region.

There are indiciator species in the Veg Ecology literature... Klinka and Krajina out of BC for example has a Indicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia... nice and expensive... They only differentiated among four axes... and don't get into plant presence of vigor predicting soil composition.

The problem is that what a plant indicates differs by climate. A plant that might indicate dry conditions in the PNW might indicate wet conditions in California. Climate and resulting pH affects nutrient patterns. I have looked for the basis for all the claims of plant indicators... I've seen some of those lists, and I can't help but wonder... how do they know this? What is this based on? My faith is generally low when someone tells me of a clear cut species-soil condition correlation... there are just too many factors affecting what grows--I've seen veg structure shift so much over time through succession or based on 'founder effects' (who got there first).
3 years ago
Some quick thoughts.

I suspect you goal is to grow plants sustainability... is it working? If you are getting good performance, than reaching a numerical ideal might not be important. I suspect that how soil nutrient analysis leads to individual plant healthy is actually less accurate, precise, and direct than the numbers might suggest. Different plants will respond differently, and no soil is perfect for all plants. Soil amendment suggestions are loaded with assumptions and generalizations.

My understanding is that when CEC is high and pH near neutral, that means there are lots of cations available, and so the exact balance of cations becomes less critical that were CEC to be low (sandier siltier soils). I have never heard of anyone wanting to reduce CEC... usually its the other way around.

The way we tinker with Ca:Mg balance around here is in the ratio of Carbonate Lime to Dolomite Lime... and that is because we are liming regularly to manage pH in leached soils... what is your pH, as that will affect how you tinker with cation balance. (sorry can't help you much there.. but I bet the sulfate based rock are more in line... SulPoMag, Gypsum... etc.

3 years ago
I thought I'd pop this on the passive solar forum... picked the wrong place. It seems like a solar closet is the solution for passive gain with intermittent sun.
3 years ago
I am trying to find any practical information about design and construction of "solar closets".

This is essentially a very flat greenhouse with maximum glazing and thermal mass, but no space for residing. Its designed purely to get hot, and store that heat in thermal mass. It seems to be a solution for intermittently sunny climates where you can't afford a lot of glazing due to heat loss during cloudy days, and you can't afford or don't want a full greenhouse (I don't like the humidity bump from using a greenhouse both for growing and for heating, and so I'd rather spend on a hoop house, and use a solar closet for heating).

I am deconstructing a rotting sunroom in my c. 1982 passive solar house, and have some large windows and thermal mass in a good position, but cannot afford to rebuild a sunroom, but am loathe to give up the solar gain.

I am collection information here:

Any leads or thoughts?
3 years ago
No time to chew on this wonderful question... plan your nursery system early, and, unless you have more mojo than anyone I know, every installation will be experimental and iterative.

Reminds me of an old proj. mngr. saying:

"there is good, cheap or fast; but you can only have two..."
3 years ago
At risk of reiterating the good comments before... it depends on what the species is adapted to growing in at its "day job"

*Big seeds (chestnut) might love germinating under and pushing through a leaf mold.
*I have and no success sowing into wood chip mulch, even with native forest species.
*Straw on top can work well for maintaining dead air space that reduces evaporation, that increases chance of germination, particularly during dry season. I am talking about 50-75% coverage of soil looking down.
*Good seed soil contact (however achieved) is beneficial (I have seen grass seed germinate at 10x the rate in my footprints on a seed bed!)
*Seed recruitment is a tough business, and some kind of disturbance increases recruitment rate.
*Bird dispersed species may be better adapted to recruiting in herbaceous competition when scarified pelleted and fall spread... no experience here...
3 years ago
I think a scythe/kama/rice knife combo is far superior to line trimmers for a variety of reasons discussed elsewhere.

I think management regime (disturbance) drives polyculture composition... by this reckoning I have four patch types conceptually.

Patches that are frequently tilled and sown (annuals, biennials and roots)
Patches that are cut to the ground at least once a year to produce mulch. (competitors like mint oregano, comfrey, etc. mixed with wild strawberry like opportunists)
Patches were mulch is imported from type two to influence composition (stress tolerators that can't survive my system without help... sage, lavender etc.. or late summer perennials like ecinacea.
Patches where I do nothing..

More random thoughts here:
3 years ago