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Wood chip berm or hugel bed?

 
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Last April we chipped down a fallen dead willow tree using an excavator mulcher. The resulting winding “berm” of chips/mulch was left standing for a full year now. It is about 3 feet high off the ground.

After raking and cleaning up the fringes and creating a more uniform looking berm, I would like to make this into a Hugel bed. However, being a relatively new permie, I am uncertain as to how to proceed forward as basically now all I have is a pile of wood chips branches and raked up sticks and oak leaves. The lower chips have started to break down wonderfully as it sits atop rather boggy ground, and has lovely white string fungi developing beautifully.

As we would need a lot of soil to put over the top of it, and don’t want to invest so much into it now given that this might only be temporary, I would like to simply put some plantings and seeds in pockets near the new young willow trees popping up along the mound to add some color and make this more attractive than just a heap of chips. I’d like to consider planting some squash, wildflower, and sunflower seeds along with transplanting some wild plants found on our property. Suggestions?
   

 
pollinator
Posts: 320
Location: Quebec, Canada
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hugelkultur forest garden trees urban
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You could easily plant squash - lots of varieties and cucumbers.  No trellising is needed.  Winter squash is easy to store for the winter so it is hard to overplant it.  Create some pockets to hold some topsoil for your plants.
 
Deb Harold
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Thank you, Michelle, for the good suggestions!
 
pollinator
Posts: 689
Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
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hugelkultur dog duck
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Potatoes would love it in that pile of woodchips. You could also dig down to where it looks like soil/compost and start planting starts or seeds there, like Paul Gautchi ("Back to Eden" videos), and likely go without watering for the summer. I generally build hugel beds with my neighbor's abundant brush and wood (and you need to use unchipped wood for hugel beds due to how keeping surface area-volume ratio low is key to reducing nitrogen lockup from the high carbon wood) and then mulch with wood chips. I'd say your effort required would go in the order they are mentioned, but I think the latter are worth it for the benefits of increased planting area due to the geometry of steep hugel beds, their drainage/absorption qualities, and the long term increasing fertility of them. Given you have the wood already chipped, its up to you to choose but I think you have a good start. Also, those willow branches can be soaked in a bucket of water to use on starts to help their root growth and vigor.
 
Michelle Bisson
pollinator
Posts: 320
Location: Quebec, Canada
45
hugelkultur forest garden trees urban
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Since you plan for this woodchip berm to be moved in the future, once moved, the ground will be free of weeds/grass underneath it so you might like to plan now what you will plant there in the future.  The ground will be great for a garden bed.  I often will pile whatever mulch material I have available and put where I will want a future planting bed.
 
Deb Harold
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Thank you Ben and Michelle; these are more great ideas and tips.
 
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