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Sooo... you designers out there --

Here's my situation:
1.About five recently cleared acres (the other 25 are still in forest), with a lot of available duff and beetle-kill spruce in the early stages of decay.
2.Good drainage, very gently rolling topography, no muskeg or marsh but property contains part of a natural kettle pond with a peat deposit at one end.
3.Prevailing winds, NNE in winter, SSW in summer.
4.Plenty of rain, though fairly dry from late May to early August. Snow from mid-Oct to mid Nov through late April or May.
5.Zone 4 in Alaska very near the coast of Cook Inlet.
6. No permafrost.
7. The sun moves from almost due south in the winter to almost due north in the summer. From solstice to solstice, the summer sun is mostly from the north. We have very long days.

I am impressed with "hugelkultur" although I had never even heard the word until very recently when I joined the permies.com bulletin board.  I plan to put a small market farm on this land and move to it permanently in two or three years. I want to start to develop it before I move in. Since I need to get rid of a lot of duff and slash, the hugelkultur raised beds seem to be just the ticket.

My questions are:
1. I understand that the raised beds should run crosswise to the prevailing wind. That would make them run more or less east-to-west. However, to make the best use of the summer light, the crop rows should run generally north-south. I'm afraid that with the prevailing winds blowing generally north-south also, beds that catch the light best would create channels that would be terrible for plants, while beds that break up the winds would put a substantial part of the land in shade, especially the south faces during high summer. How can I solve this dilemma?

2. Wood, and everything else, rots slowly up here. Animal manure should help with the composting process, but it is still slow. Is this kind of land management effective and appropriate in cold climates?
 
Burra Maluca
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Bump...
 
                                                  
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I gather that "bump" means something like get outta here. Okay. 'bye. I'm gone.
 
tel jetson
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sarrathefletcher wrote:
I gather that "bump" means something like get outta here. Okay. 'bye. I'm gone.


"bump" is used to bring an old post back to the forum's attention because somebody thinks it's an important topic.  I don't believe anybody wants you to get outta here.
 
Burra Maluca
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Sarah - 'bumping' a thread brings up back up to the top of the page so people find it again as they are listed in order of the latest post.  Tel's right, it was because I thought it *was* important and had been overlooked.  I'm really sorry if it casued offense.. 

I feel a bit out of my depth trying to offer any advise as my climate is so totally different and I haven't made any hugelculture beds yet, but surely someone can offer some advise?

Anyone?
 
osker brown
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Location: Southern Appalachia
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What part of Cook Inlet?  I used to live in Homer.

I'm a bit confused about the sunlight coming from the north.  That's not possible.  At that latitude the sun is at a relatively low southerly angle even on the summer solstice.  Check the tree shadows on the summer solstice, go around and look at all commercial greenhouses in the area, they all run east-west.  Every house built by a competent builder, for that matter.  To make best use of the summer sun you would want an arc shaped bed pointed due south.  I had a south facing solar room with windows on three sides that worked very well.

If you're working with mostly beetle kill spruce, your wood is going to be quite acidic, and probably not suitable as a base for the popular garden veggies.  Do you have a lot of Alder?  That would work well as it's nutrient rich, small branch sizes (breaks down faster) and can be managed as a coppice.  What about blueberries or currants on spruce hugel beds?  What about chipping the spruce and growing conifer eating mushrooms on it (there's a species of chicken of the woods that grows prolifically on spruce up there)?

peace and stay warm!
 
Marla Kacey
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Location: Wyoming Zone 4
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I'm no expert; just making a self educated guess.

I looked at a solar chart (at solarearth.com I think), and it looks like you have at least 6-8 hours of sun just south of straight up (zenith?)(if you are at latitude 59o).  So, perhaps running your beds E-W wouldn't hurt some shade tolerant plants.

The height of your beds and the spread of any plants on top might also effect the south side plants.  Too bushy on really tall beds might keep the south side in constant shade.  Less bushy on flatter beds might provide more light to the south side.

Another consideration might be the strength of your winds.  Perhaps a really good windbreak on the north side would protect N-S running beds.  (I get 60-80 mph winds even in the summer sometimes.)  A good windbreak would probably be a good idea anyway.

Hope this helps some.

 
Marla Kacey
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SunEarthTools.com - having trouble editing my original post.
 
                                                  
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Maria KC wrote:
SunEarthTools.com - having trouble editing my original post.
-------
(The quote button did not show on this, which is why the nonstandard format.)

This is a TERRIFFIC website. Thank you so much!
 
Travis Philp
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Question 1: I've struggled with this one myself. What about running the beds on a diagonal instead of straight east-west, or north-south? Just a thought

Question 2: This method works well for cold climates. I'm in central ontario canada which is zone 5, and our hugelkultur beds perform well.

 
                                                  
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Travis Philp wrote:
Question 1: I've struggled with this one myself. What about running the beds on a diagonal instead of straight east-west, or north-south? Just a thought

Question 2: This method works well for cold climates. I'm in central ontario canada which is zone 5, and our hugelkultur beds perform well.




Hey, I found the quote button. Only it's not a button.

Question 1 - I don't know that diagonals will really help. Someone did suggest a windbreak to the north, which is probably a good idea. I have a while before I have to have a plan on paper, so I'm going to play around with serpentine forms, interlocking C's and so forth. This might become too elaborate, but I'd rather make mistakes on paper than on the ground. Paper mistakes are a little easier to recycle.

Question 2 - that's encouraging. Our area was just moved from zone 3 to zone 4a, because of the last decade of significantly warmer temperatures. Which is why I have all that beetle kill spruce.
 
                                                  
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osker wrote:
What part of Cook Inlet?  I used to live in Homer.

I'm a bit confused about the sunlight coming from the north.  That's not possible.  At that latitude the sun is at a relatively low southerly angle even on the summer solstice. 


At noon,  yes, the sun is south of true zenith. However, it rises northeast, or northeast by north, and sets decidedly in the northwest or northwest by north. Even in the tiny night in between sunrise and sunset during high summer, there is a lot of ambient light coming from over the northern horizon. In deep winter,  the sun makes a very small arc in the southern sky.

look at all commercial greenhouses in the area, they all run east-west. 


Not a lot of commercial greenhouses in the central Kenai Peninsula. The ones I know in Soldotna and Kenai are closer to square in configuration.

To make best use of the summer sun you would want an arc shaped bed pointed due south.


That sounds like a good idea, well worth considering. Thanks.

Do you have a lot of Alder?  That would work well as it's nutrient rich, small branch sizes (breaks down faster) and can be managed as a coppice.


Not much alder on my land, and what is there is in a low swail that feeds the kettle pond. I really don't want to disturb the woods around the pond very much, although coppicing probably wouldn't hurt. Kettle ponds, for the unfamiliar, are deep glacial gouges that go down into the water table. They have steep sides that go about 20 or more feet up to the level land above.  While there is some aquifer movement through the pond, there is no outflow stream, just seepage into the next kettle pond. Disturbing the sides could silt the pond up quickly, which I don't want to do.

I do have a bunch of cottonwood, and birch that is very burly and knobby. I'm keeping the harvestable birch for custom lumber because I also do fine woodworking, and stressed trees yield beautiful wood. Cottonwood is not much good for furniture making, so it can easily go into the beds.

Standing beetle kill spruce will be harvested for lumber first, and only used for plant beds if it has become too punky to make safe structural lumber. I expect to use all the lumber myself.  Fallen beetle kill will have to go into some kind of compost, or else be burned. 

 
What about blueberries or currants on spruce hugel beds?  What about chipping the spruce and growing conifer eating mushrooms on it (there's a species of chicken of the woods that grows prolifically on spruce up there)?


Blueberries and currants are definitely in the plan already. I am really interested in mushrooms also, will look into that.

 
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