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Larger Scale Hugelkultur and Other use of Woody Material Questions in Hot Semi Arid Environment.

 
Posts: 125
Location: Qld, Australia. Zone 9a-10
forest garden hunting trees
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Someone is asking me for advice relating to the best way to used cleared tress and shrubs (mostly small regrowth). The work will be done with a bulldozer and on a limited budget.

In an ideal situation I'm thinking a system of hugelkultur (sort of), swales, strategically leaving some pioneer species and dams. While I understand how these things are beneficial, I'm having trouble explaining the benefits of doing this to someone who likes to just do things how they are done 'normally' and lacks any biological education.

The area is around 20 acres of smallish regrowth in a fairly hot semi arid area with very poor soil. The overall aim is reducing fire danger, restoring pasture, growing useful trees and increasing water supply.

The standard practice is to clear and burn, which while relatively easy is a waste of resources IMO.

So my question are:

Do you think there are better uses for the cleared material than a hugulkultrish approach? (plenty will be available for bio char, timber etc. but this is not practical for the majority of the material)
Are there basic explanations of how hulgelkultur style use of woody material can work on a large scale? Preferably in video or with pictures.
Has anyone dealt with a similar situation, if so what did you do?

I see the potential to improve the soil and achieve the other goals mentioned. If I cannot convince them of the benefits of a less conventional approach, it will only be a short term solution that damages the soil and will need to be continuously repeated.

Thanks,
Chris

 
pollinator
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In a hot semi-arid situation I have found buried wood beds to be better than hugelkultur.  It may be possible that really large (6-10 foot tall) hugelkultur would work in this situation, but from my own experience, small hugelkultur does not.

https://permies.com/t/52077/Buried-Wood-Beds
 
Chris Wang
Posts: 125
Location: Qld, Australia. Zone 9a-10
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Tyler Ludens wrote:In a hot semi-arid situation I have found buried wood beds to be better than hugelkultur.  It may be possible that really large (6-10 foot tall) hugelkultur would work in this situation, but from my own experience, small hugelkultur does not.

https://permies.com/t/52077/Buried-Wood-Beds



Thanks, that was a quick reply. In an ideal situation buried beds would be good, but this would probably cost too much. I was thinking maybe something more like just having the woody material in rows and covering it with soil approximately on contour, possibly partially below ground. However it needs to be fairly cheap and quick.

To start with I really need to find a really good simple explanation of how using the woody material benefits the soil and plants. My primary problem is explaining the benefits, I'm really bad at explaining things and teaching. It needs to be suitable for a biologically illiterate person, not hours of lectures by Elaine Ingham or similar.

Also after trying to explain this to the land owner, it also needs to be converted into instructions for the dozer operator. Complex solutions are not going to be practical.
 
Tyler Ludens
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It holds moisture, basically.

 
Chris Wang
Posts: 125
Location: Qld, Australia. Zone 9a-10
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Tyler Ludens wrote:It holds moisture, basically.



Yeah, I have mentioned this to them already. I really need some sort of fairly simple propaganda. Preferably in the form of a video or pictures that shows this and the other benefits, supporting fungi and other soil life, increasing soil carbon, not wasting nutrients etc.

Something like this video, but more related to the use of woody material to improve soil being better than burning to ash. Also if there are any more detailed case studies of a similar nature.

 
pollinator
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I would think on 20 acres, there would be some trees worth saving. The roots help prevent erosion, the shade helps soil get established.

But as for the dead wood. Renting a chipper and putting 6 inches of mulch around the trees worth saving woud help reverse the dry/erosion pattern.

The larger dead wood could be used in small dotches on contour with soil back on top, planted with native grasses and then wood chips around the plantings.

If I were explaining it to someone unfamiliar, id use the back to Eden narrative. Nature doesnt leave soil bare. Man does that and it leads to erosion and desertification. To reverse that process requires intentionality, shade, moisture retention. The wood in the ground acts as a sponge. The wood chips on top provide protection for the world, bugs, young plants from the sun.
 
Chris Wang
Posts: 125
Location: Qld, Australia. Zone 9a-10
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J Davis wrote:I would think on 20 acres, there would be some trees worth saving. The roots help prevent erosion, the shade helps soil get established.

Yes, I agree 100%. The operator understands this to some extent (as in high value trees, but not pioneers), however basic propaganda to support how this works would be greatly appreciated, especially regarding pioneer species.
But as for the dead wood. Renting a chipper and putting 6 inches of mulch around the trees worth saving woud help reverse the dry/erosion pattern.


This is not financially viable, but otherwise it is a good idea

The larger dead wood could be used in small dotches on contour with soil back on top, planted with native grasses and then wood chips around the plantings.

If I were explaining it to someone unfamiliar, id use the back to Eden narrative. Nature doesnt leave soil bare. Man does that and it leads to erosion and desertification. To reverse that process requires intentionality, shade, moisture retention. The wood in the ground acts as a sponge. The wood chips on top provide protection for the world, bugs, young plants from the sun.

I have tried to explain this, but it is not being absorbed by their brain very well. My communication skills are a bit retarded, which is why I need help from you guys.



Thanks JD.
 
pollinator
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If you take soil poor in organic matter (<2%), and make a bed with that soil and 1/3 wood (which is 90% carbon), you get close to 30% carbon in your soil, theoretically. Carbon is the primary component of organic matter, which you want to be upwards of 10% of your soil in most cases. Some of that 30% will gas off in breaking down the wood, but the slower the decomposition, the more carbon and nitrogen efficient it is, and hugelkulture is a essentially slow compost pile that grows most plants while it decomposes, and does so with much less water.
 
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Even in arid land you can get wood into the ground using nature rather than diesel. Plant support trees. Support trees are so called because they dont necessarily give food or firewood but enhance the environment thru giving shade and biomass so you can then plant trees that you can live off. The nitrogen fixing legume trees are good as they can grow fast. Rather than hauling in heavy machinery, haul in some water and kick start some shade trees.
 
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Chris Wang wrote:To start with I really need to find a really good simple explanation of how using the woody material benefits the soil and plants. My primary problem is explaining the benefits, I'm really bad at explaining things and teaching. It needs to be suitable for a biologically illiterate person, not hours of lectures by Elaine Ingham or similar.

Also after trying to explain this to the land owner, it also needs to be converted into instructions for the dozer operator. Complex solutions are not going to be practical.





Does this help?
 
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