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Hugelkultur ideas in my woods

 
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We have cleared some understory in our woods to give some open forest floor to "play" with. I have a few goals here, one work on moving water along countour to meet with stream on downside of property. We have heavy clay soil, very little loam so when it rains which is frequent - we are in Ohio, the water just flows like a river across surface. I have plans to develop soil over time via wood chips and leaves. Another goal is to integrate natives, some understory edible vines, fruit trees/ bushes, medicinal and culinary plants/ shrubs. We are probably going to have some chickens in a mobile pen to scratch through woods. This area will also be where the little ones can run around, have a tree fort etc. I have a mass of wood from felling dead ash trees and some pruning of live elm, maple, poplar that i plan to use for chipping and hugelkulthur. My question around hugelkulter is with my water flow on surface it would seem i want to build so beds follow contour, i also want to have them sort of act as boarder to area in pics. As you can see my wood piles are significant, what is too much wood? I am very open to ideas on best practice for wooded area beds, anything i should be thinking about before i start applying soil? I have 20 yards of soil/ peat moss mix on site to use and probably half a truck of leaf hummus, peat and leaf good to add to mix? The green leaves should i be keeping out of the ground and lay on top of soil? Thanks for your time!
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master pollinator
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Location: 4b
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Arb, it really just depends on the time frame you are looking at.  More wood, less soil and green matter = longer time to break down and be really productive.

I'm not at all a hugel expert, but I can tell you what I'm doing.  Most things on my land are experiments in various stages of completion.  As far as on contour, I am building a small hugelkulture-ish thing on contour on an area of my land that is relatively flat.  I'm building it at the edge of a kind of plateau before the land starts to drop more dramatically.  I believe I remember Paul voicing concerns that on contour hugels could create a long frost pocket, but the area I'm doing it on, I don't think it's a concern.  If you were doing it further down a slope, I could see that being the case.  

I personally think that any way you mix it, all that organic matter is good.  
 
gardener
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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Mine was built off contour. It is not small at 100 ft long. It was built to use up trees and extra topsoil from a pond contruction. It was built by Zach Weiss who is certified by Sepp Holzer. The first thing i noticed is it was not built on contour.

I doubt too much wood is a concern. What is a concern is air pockets as big diameter logs are stacked(pyramid). Soil layers should be added during construction.

Last thing is don't position it where it can act as a dam. The whole thing can wash out. Maybe that is the reason mine was not built on contour. I do not remember.
 
gardener
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Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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In the USA, going on contour generally doesn't work so well. On contour builds hold all the water until it soaks in at the spot it gathered against the hugel or swale/berm, the water doesn't move along.
By building off contour, you alleviate the "stagnation of water movement", the water can slowly travel and seep into the soil all along the construct, this also helps prevent any "man made spring" from a water plume developing.

On flat land (less than 1/2 degree of slope) the on contour will work ok, but you would still be better off if there was some water movement along the full length.

 
pollinator
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Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama), Zone 7B
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I am not sure what is off contour.  So if i have a slope right in front of me and facing downhill.  Would an off contour swale be high on one side and slightly lower on the other and continue high on the second side and sloping lower on the other.  I did a drawing since i am more of a visual person.
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wayne fajkus
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Location: Central Texas zone 8a
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Dennis, the conversation is about hugels. You are speaking about swales. Swales are generally on contour.

Your drawing does look like something they put in my project. It's a terrace. Used to carry water to a pond slowly so that a lot of it soaks in prior to reaching it.
 
Arb Hill
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Thank you for the insights.
 
Posts: 43
Location: Aroostook county maine
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Let me know how you make out . Im kinda in the same boat clay soil. I tried building a hudgel, hut the inlaws came to visit and nicely explained if i put something up to draw termites anywhere near a tiny house they helped finance i wouldnt be allowed in ghe tinyhouse. So it along with most of my crops were torn down. Kinda really bummed about the whole thing. Especially since i hace 28 chickens, but i ramble. Im going to see how you make out and maybe try again further into the woods next year.
 
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