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Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread  RSS feed

 
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nice to hear about the mushrooms and eucalyptus
 
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Aome St.Laurence wrote:nice to hear about the mushrooms and eucalyptus
I was actually surprised to see the caps emerge. Not only are they basically in the section under the eucs, but it is covered with pea gravel and the soil under those tiny rocks is the seriously depleted "top soil" that is the foundation, and it gets a lot of water in that spot during rains... so, this is a terrific sign.
 
Aome St.Laurence
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Paul is, and has provided, a wealth of resources I've had the opportunity to connect with some of what he and his followers have offered...yet I can not say I've been totally involved with posting much...there are so many threads of conversation...it would be all my time to keep up on them....how does it do it? amazing!!!
 
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Location: Southern California (God Help Us)
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geoff lawton and I are looking for pictures or film of any hugelkultur beds 2-10+ years after they were built to see the results.

Preferably, we'd like to see examples without any irrigation and would like to know the climate / average annual rainfall for the area.

Can anyone point me in the right direction? I've been looking for a week or so online and it seems I can't really find any slam dunk examples that really provide all necessary details (time started, time filmed, avg rainfall, irrigation used (if any), climate zone, etc.)

Again, we are looking for well-documented examples, not just pictures of amazing looking beds. Thank you very much!

PS Geoff and I aren't in contact. He just commented yesterday with this request here: (hehe) http://permaculturenews.org/2015/11/06/dont-try-building-hugel-swales-this-is-a-very-and-i-mean-very-bad-idea/
 
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Hugel in the making. There is one on the property right now but I am too far away to snap a picture. Hopefully I have enough time to bury this wood before the snow!~~ The dead area stringed off is where two hugels are going. Going to refind contour again now that I discovered the water level method.
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Can I cheat and just post this:

http://www.permies.com/t/13237/hugelkultur/Hugekultur-Attempt
 
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Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
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chicken forest garden hugelkultur
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Here are some pictures of our newest hugle bed. I used some dead poplar as a base dug into a trench and covered with lumpy layers of manure, wood chips and topsoil scooped from the "swale" around it. we are utilizing a variation of hugle/swale to compensate for the inherent uneven drainage of our land. Situated on the edge of an ancient Moraine, we have pockets of sand, clay glacial clay, silt gravel and rock on a slightly undulating but otherwise nearly flat piece of (recovered industrial agriculture) land.
this will be planted in sea-buckthorn, Hazels, northern pecan, osage orange and herbal and nectary plants with hosta and comfry ground cover. Kind of a hugle super guild.
All this was done with a small 24 hp tractor with a front end loader,
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this is the initial trench
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Then the trees are added, covered with manure, woodchips
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and scooped up topsoil
 
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Hi everyone. I'm from Wales in the UK and am new to this site, but was inspired by the things you have going on here and have just taken on a large allotment plot and have started doing my first Hugelkulture bed. I'll try posting some pics to show what I've done so far. My back is in half due to having to lug large chunks of wood in a Barrow a couple of hundred yards to my plot, but its keeping me fit and its funny when the other people look at me stupid because I'm digging holes and dumping wood into it. I'm using soft woods, most of which have been cut over a year so hopefully shouldn't take long to start breaking down. I'm infilling with some wood chips, rabbit manure mixed in with wood shavings and straw as well as leaves and will top off with more rabbit manure and kitchen green waste.
Thank The Freak
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Neil G Jay
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More pics
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Location: London, United Kingdom
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This place inspired me to try hugelkultur last year so I might as well post the log I made (elsewhere) at the time; these ideas spread more if people show their results and updates.

It's in the cold temperate climate of the South of England. Soil is very clay-y and we are pretty sure the site was a marsh 100/200 years ago. The site can get water logged and doesnt have any real incline, but the water does flow away to the top of image 1. This combined with rules about building things near the plot boundary meant that I decided to build this perpendicular to the slight contour rather than across it. I also put a little pipe/drain on the uphill side (bottom of image 1) in order to encourage water to flow into the wood and wick it up.



1. I dug out the top layer of soil. I dug this area 7 months ago and covered it in a nice amount of well rotted manure. It was then mulched with layers of newspaper with hay on top, which kept out most weeds, only a few strands of couch grass remained.
2. Digging out continued and it flipping rained. Argh. I had to bale it out. Once that was done I turned over the bottom layer which is very clay-y sub soil. Pretty much pure clay I reckon.
3. I dont know why but I sprinkled on 2 barrows full of leaves and humus-y detritus that was under the logs. I wanted to fill in the gaps in the clay a bit.
4. My attempt at laying the logs with as few gaps as possible. This is before I chuck on all the corkscrew willow which is really not conducive to straight lines.



5. Inexplicable side view of the logs.
6. chucked on 3 bin bags of shredding. My logic is they will help fill the gaps. If I had mown grass I would have added that here as it is good nitrogen to feed the rotting down of the wood.
7. All the lighter brush/twigs on top. Starting to worry how the hell I am going to make a mound that doesnt fall over. You can see at the bottom of the photo I have started piling on the first layer of rubbish soil+clay I had spare
8. a 1/3 of the sub soil is on. My back wants a new owner.



9. 2/3 of the sub soil is on. Now I have realised how utterly stupid it is to pile the dug out soil on the sides with no way to tip a wheelbarrow onto the middle. I dont really want to stand on the thing and compact it so I have to do some ridiculous things like lifting a wheelbarrow onto the bed and tipping it over. I also added a line of bricks to help raise it a little bit and give a neat (ish) edge for mowing and delineating the bed.
10. Top soil is now being loaded on top. I have also used about 5 wheelbarrows of turf/turves that we had spare. I used this at the bottom at the sides (above the bricks) to help build stable sides. Grass side down.
11. Side view of this stupid mountain range I have just built. My back wants to die.
12. Started planting and moving all my herbs and wild strawberries over. Herbs that like dry or very well drained conditions go on top (marjoram/oregano/rosemary/sage/thyme/horehound). Strawberries and mint on bottom as they dont mind more moisture. Everything else in the middle.

13. All moved and sown and mulched. I covered the thing in a packet of escarole (endive) and chicory with the idea being their very long tap roots will grow down and nail themselves into the thing and hopefully keep it together. Watered the hell out of it.



I will post an update in the Spring, but so far it's done well and just settled a little bit. Feel free to point out any mistakes or if you have any criticisms/advice.

observations:

-strawberries at the base are thriving.
-The thyme at the top died off and the Rosemary hasnt grown much. I put them up there as they like drier conditions but it hasnt worked completely. In Autumn I put in some newer plants and mulched them heavily in case the issue was lack of moisture.
-Oregano/marjoram has thrived on top and is spreading out sideways.
-The (ornamental) curry plant looks much healthier than in its old spot
-Nettles have come up in a few places. In my pre-permaculture days this was a bad thing but now I just leave it and will chop and drop if they crowd over the other plants.
-Foxes love to dig in one specific spot. I put a cage of chicken wire around it and planted a bay. My logic being the bay will make strong roots to stabilise the slope and minimise impact of any future furtive foxes
-Didnt see a single escarole/chicory out of the seeds i broadcasted on. I think I probably should have covered them more with compost. The seeds worked elsewhere. It's also possible it dried out (meaning no germination) as this was done in summer. Might re-sow at start of Spring when it is still wet
 
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Location: Ballston Lake, NY
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I just have to say this is awesome I have been pondering a way to use huge mounds of composted horse manure and wood shavings we stashed on my father's horse farm. My plan is to plant the area far from a water source where the mounds have been composting for a few years. The soil there is very clay rich and rocky with full sun most of the day. I think adding the vegatative matter to this semi composted material on top of this ground will be just the ticket. I welcome any suggestions.
 
Neil G Jay
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Nice beds Dave, they look really well built. I reckon they'll do really well as time goes on.
Demian- if you can get your hands on a load of logs/wood then you'll have a gold mine. With all the manure and wood chips piled onto wood and a load of topsoil over everything you'll be onto a real winner there. The initial effort is hard but afterwards it's just plant seeds, a bit of tendering then reap the harvest.
Regards Neil
 
Demian Digges
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Location: Ballston Lake, NY
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Yes I have a huge pile of dead wood there too its our old waste dump for the farm the location was too far and inaccessible in the winter. I have tried growing in just the manure and chips with limited sucess too nitrogen rich for most plants I think. Topsoil is going to be my issue we no longer have a dump truck so it will be multiple trips with the bobcat combined with digging in a bit to retrieve what I can on site. Just happy to figure out the water issue. I'm planning on setting up rain barrels to supliment if needed.
 
Neil G Jay
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I don't know your location, but if you have any semi decent amounts of rain dig down into the clay level and it will retain water at the bottom of the bed. Or another option would be to dig a ditch/swale around the bed, and you could then either fill it with with Woodchips or leave it open like a moat if evaporation isn't a big issue during the summer months.
Regards Neil
 
Dave Green
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cheers Neil, Ill do an update at end of summer to show how its going
 
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Is there a post or doc somewhere with details on how to do a hugelkultur bed?
I built one, covered it in horse manure and ... the soil is dry, dry, dry. All the water just falls right through. Does it take a few years? Do I need to mulch? Help?
 
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Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Unfortunately a fair amount of early literature and commentary on Hugelkulture seems to imply a huge pile of wood with a layer of soil on top. More recently [in the world domination gardening series and likely on this forum] Paul's made a point to emphasize that soil should be incorporated throughout the construction phase.

All isn't lost though, if you have the ability to irrigate the mound. Innoculate it with some good forest soil [or prepared fungus from some commercial source] and keep it damp by artificial force during the summer's warmth and sow a ton of summer legumes into it. The soil food web should work its magic and next spring the pile should have collapsed a fair bit and be far more functional

EDIT: and yes, mulch is great. It *can* temporarily boost pest populations until the predators catch up but it's still great for the soil.
 
Posts: 209
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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I have built 8 hugel beds of varying styles on my property, all around 3ish feet tall with 18-24"logs at the base with soil from a french drain (that will become the lines for ponds) and composting. Bokashi really helped get the decomposition going along with mulch, the fungus is happy in the older ones (2yrs). I have clover and peas as cover crops as well as strawberries, greens, and this winter planted 100 pinot noir grape canes on the southern, sunniest beds. The other beds are in sunspots in opening between mature deciduous fruit and ornamental trees, along the contour lines to allow for an eventual series of ponds. I have about 4-6 feet of drop over 300 horizontal feet N-S, with a big open former lawn in the south and fruit trees in the back around a massive redwood snag (10ft thick and 50ft tall). We get big rains (5"+ in a day is common a couple times each winter), then long dry summers, so both flood control and passive irrigation are key goals.

Do you think that wood (from a neighbor's cutting their 120yr old forest "for the view" ugh) could have been better used in one massive bed in the sunniest lowest spot on my property?
 
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I recently watched Paul's interview on the summit with Nathan Crane and in it he said raised gardens will give you and extra two weeks at both ends of the growing season. I understand that in spring the raised bed thaws quicker but I would think that in fall the raised bed would also freeze quicker. Can someone explain why I don't understand this? Thanks
 
steward
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In fall, the coldest air flows along the ground, like invisible molasses.  When I was in Wisconsin I could see the frost damage lower on a berm, plants higher up were spared.  This is where the idea of a frost pocket comes from - if the cold air is flowing downhill, and encounters an obstacle it will billow up a bit.  Plants in that area will freeze first.
 
Posts: 507
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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I went out and shot a couple videos of my hugelkultur complex that include the hugelkulur greenhouse, a three year old berm, and a berm in its second season.  The older berm is really going gangbusters now!  It's pretty cool to see the difference that a year's worth of aging makes in these systems.  Here's the post so you can see the difference for yourself, if you want:

Hugelkultur Video Update Aug 2016
 
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paul wheaton wrote:
so she piled
on straw and a light scattering of soil, planted potatoes into it, and
harvested a couple bushels of spuds in addition to dissolving the "problem".

Keith


How would potatoes grow in a pile of logs and brush covered with dirt? This must be assuming that the dirt applied to the pile would be quite deep...12 inches minimum? Or must you wait for the brush to start to decompose? I ask because it seems as though the potatoes would be expected to grow amongst a network of voids and empty places. Plus, when harvesting you would need to dig the potatoes from amongst the buried debris.
 
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Location: St Andrews, NB
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hiya! (first time poster, long time lurker)

I started my first hugel beds this year, they have turned into a mecca for rodents.....I set some traps and I did notice some good snake activity later in the summer, but I'm kinda worried about my fruit trees this winter (zone 4b eastern canada) I'm gonna hardware cloth around all my trees, but that is a different topic.

has anyone else noticed this in their hugel beds? I feel like if I tamped the soil down around the wood more there would have been less space for critters, but that's all hindsight.
 
steward
Posts: 1679
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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Hi Mike;

Welcome to Permies! It's way more fun joining in than lurking.

As for rodents in hugelkultur, it seems to be par for the course. But as the wood breaks down, and the materials naturally combine and compress, the problem will sort itself out. I have buried wood beds - 4 feet deep, 4 feet wide-ish - and I can see holes doing down into them, which I assume are made by rats or mice. I'm not worried about it.

From all I have read and seen, it takes these beds about 3 years to really hit their stride. In that time, there will undoubtedly be infestations of various critters, but as the organic material breaks down and soaks up water, it will become less attractive to them. I also think that above-ground hugelkultur beds are much more attractive to rodents than buried beds. But the same principles apply - in time it will become more compact, the spaces will fill in, it will become more moist, and it will be less homey for the critters.

For mine, I'll be poking more organic material down any holes I find, making sure lots of moisture gets in there, and waiting for things to sort themselves out.

Hope this helps.

Cheers
Tracy
 
Mike Humble
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Location: St Andrews, NB
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thanks tracy! that sounds like a good plan for riding it out. and I love cortes! I spent some time there a couple years back visiting an ex that lives on quadra, just lovely!
 
Posts: 34
Location: North East Ohio
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Dar, when you first start with a new hügelkultur, it's easiest to plant them on the bottom, on the edge. The plant will grow up the hügel and potatoes are on the sidelines.

Mike, did you use a lot of woodchips?
 
Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1679
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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Mike Humble wrote:thanks tracy! that sounds like a good plan for riding it out. and I love cortes! I spent some time there a couple years back visiting an ex that lives on quadra, just lovely!


Good! Glad I could help. I moved to Cortes about 2 and a half years ago, and find that it is indeed paradise. I love it here. Especially right now when my family and friends up north are freezing their butts off! Very glad to be down here. 

Good luck with your projects!
 
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I did not read through all of the 27 pages so far, but has anyone considered the shapes of the mound? It seems that they are almost always rectangular, and rarely U-shaped or round. Could there be some shapes that could exploit water, sun, wind, etc. even better? Especially when combining mounds in different shapes?

Just spitballing something below. Could put a shallow waterhole in the middle for insects, and the shape makes it easy to put several of them in a big clump of mounds.
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master steward
Posts: 4157
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Anders, welcome to permies!

Paul Wheaton loves to see innovation so give your ideas a try and be sure you post some pictures here and tell us what you observed when you get it all done !

Here is a video that Jesse Grimes did that shows a hugel with a different shape than a rectangle.

 
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Location: alsace france
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My first attempt at a hugelkultur bed

 
Posts: 89
Location: Wealden AONB
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Hi Anders,
I have built different shaped hugel beds. I'm not one for square.
My first was in a great big arc to give me some privacy from the neighbours (local school), the school kids tend to migrate to the field edge when they want to misbehave. This bed is made up of brambles and sloe, I had a massive bramble patch that I cut back to open up my woodland. It's topped off with the spoil from a pond that I dug out, so lots more dead and very rotten wet wood.
The second, that I am building now, is circular. It's in a small woodland shaw. There's a pond in the middle and a spring fed flow of water adjacent. The ground is usually quite wet. There are a lot of willows of varying ages. There are a large number of dead upright and fallen willows. Once I felled the dead trees a lot more light comes through. Enough that I can build a small woodland food forest. I'm lucky that there are already some wild edibles - notably brambles, nettles, elder and dog rose. The surrounding soil is very poor and shallow but there is an amount of leaf litter that I can use. I can also add green material from the nettles and sedges / grasses that are growing nearby. I'm also clearing the bottom of the pond as well, it's become quite silted from all the falling leaves (not to mention tree) over the years.

There is enough wood for more hugels in this small area though I need to clear the space first, the ground is full of nettles. I'm sure that if I did't pull as much root as possible then I'd just end up with a massive nettle hugel. I'm hoping that as the ground is naturally boggy that I'll not have to worry about watering though it is close to the pond if I need to. Being semi shaded any loss of water should be minimal. This will be another circular hugel to make best use of the shape of the clearing. I do need to fell a rather dense dead willow or two here to let in more sunlight. Because I don't wish to disturb the roots of the living willows, these are being built at ground level up. I may end up with a small mountain if I use even half of the dead wood available.

This is one of those permaculture things where the space told me what I wanted to do.
 
Posts: 491
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Anders Spælling wrote:I did not read through all of the 27 pages so far, but has anyone considered the shapes of the mound? It seems that they are almost always rectangular, and rarely U-shaped or round. Could there be some shapes that could exploit water, sun, wind, etc. even better? Especially when combining mounds in different shapes?

Just spitballing something below. Could put a shallow waterhole in the middle for insects, and the shape makes it easy to put several of them in a big clump of mounds.


I think it's a fantastic idea. I was considering this sort of thing as a deer repellent measure as they don't like being closed in and vulnerable to ambush.
 
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Hi Paul,
I see this post on Hugelkultur is very old,  but wondered if you could give me some advice. I live in the CA sierras and recently lost some huge ponderosa pines to the pine beetle. Can I use the pine logs and slash? Do I need to add lime or anything to cut acidity? ALSO, Can I snug the pile of logs up against a steep bank I have and just put supporting wood around the remaining three sides?

Thanks!
Nan
 
This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. Now it's a tiny ad:

The permaculture playing cards make great stocking stuffers:
http://richsoil.com/cards


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