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Reducing slope with hugelkulture?

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Hi there,

I have a 50 acre property that has a creek onsite that floods each year. Our driveway is built up and goes over the floodplain. The driveway is about 1/2 mile long. The slope from our driveway to the plain is quite steep - like 50-70 degrees. Please see the attached photos.

We'd like to build up the slope to get it closer to 20 degrees to make the slope easier to mow, trim, and maintain.

Most of our acreage is swampy forest with a LOT of deadfall. To save money, I thought instead of bringing in loads of gravel and topsoil to build up the slope, I could borrow from hugelkulture principals to make soil. That is, build up the slope with large logs (deadfall), brush, and wood chips, and then cover with about 3" of topsoil. I understand that as the branches decay I'd have to keep adding topsoil (or more layers of chips and topsoil), but that would still be less money I think than having to get loads of gravel/topsoil brought in.

I like the approach too because it allows me to get rid of all the brush from harvesting firewood, pruning, and thinning each year.

What do you think? Would this work? One worry is that because of the floodplain, the logs/chips/soil would float away. My plan to minimize this was to pack things in good with my tractor loader bucket, and then also compact with my tow-behind roller. I'd also try tying logs together in a truss-like fashion to frame the slope in before and fill the cavities with brush/twigs and wood chips.

Any other conditions/concerns I should be aware of? Can I use just logs & wood chips and skip on the branches/twigs?

Thanks so much!
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Location: Toronto, Ontario
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With that amount of slope, and on a flood plain, terracing is the tool you'll want to look at, I think. You're right to be concerned about your hugelkultur additions getting saturated and going downhill to visit the neighbours.

What if you modified the idea slightly, whereby you identify the keyline and contour lines, and then lay logs along them, but stake them down with lengths of thick branch pounded in just downhill of them? Just that would cause sedimentation during flood and rain events. You could then proceed with the slash and the topsoil covering, although I would be cautious to get it overseeded with local pioneer species that like to hold on to soil, just in case.

Let us know how you proceed, and take more pictures! Good luck.

Michael Weichert
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Hi Chris,

Thanks for the quick reply. I think the staking is key actually. I have a pile of 3/4" pine stakes from the sawmill that I use to mark the edges of the driveway in the winter. I might just use those. The property only floods for about 2 weeks of the year.

Aside from using the large logs for structure/integrity, any issue with just using wood chips as opposed to using brush/branches/twigs?

Any idea how long it would take for the piles to decompose?

Thanks again.
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