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Hugelkultur - Good wood , Bad wood  RSS feed

 
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Hi Marjie. Welcome to the forum --- Alder is one of the best woods you could use for a quick start to the beds. It has lots of nitrogen. The alder that I cut in the fall of 2011 was used the same week and did not sprout. Some cut in the spring did sprout but ultimately died on its own. I would put the slower rotting stuff on the bottom and cover it all with alder.

I've never heard of using drain rock. The beds should wick moisture from below. Drain rock will interfere with this. In drier climates, it is common to bury all or a portion of the bed so that it doesn't dry out so much with exposure to sun and drying winds.

Block walls aren't normally used. If you insist on containing the beds with blocks, consult YouTube and a professional builder. There will be outward pressure. Rocks are a more natural material. There's usually someone in the neighborhood with rocks to give away.

Vermiculite is meant to store water, just as the wood waste does. I would leave it out and instead use more wood and some clay if you have it.

Alder stumps are one of the quickest to rot. They often rot beneath the surface and then topple over one day. I wouldn't spend a nickle on building anything meant to be permanent, on top of a dead alder stump. In a very short time it will be unsafe. Cedar stumps can stand for decades. The big stump could be left as a wildlife tree. Birds of all sorts like to eat the bugs that quickly devour alder.
 
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Hi Dale: Thank you sooooooooooooo very much for your information! Very happy that Alder is a good wood and that this wood can be used green. Since mine was cut in Early Spring, I could experience some growth, which will soon die out. Please tell me about the Chinese Elm wood? I have a massive Chinese Elm in both my front yard and my back yard. I had the Elm in front trimmed last year. As I said before, I have limbs from that cutting and will use these at the bottom. Curious ~ Are the Alder and the Elm good for fire wood? I do have a fire place and that would be good to know! Soooooooooooo back to my original question ... Is the Chinese Elm a good wood for the Hugelkultur Garden? What about Walnut or Eucalyptus logs? Are they good woods for these gardens?

Since California is a very dry climate ... I will attempt to dig down for at least 2 feet. My back yard would not accommodate big machinery .... Will need to use my own muscle!! Is my idea about using wood pallets around my block retaining wall, at least the back wall, for some vertical beds a good plan? There was at one time a 2 1/2 foot slope under the back retaining wall. My father and I hauled tons of rock from the Canyons in CA and we fashioned a rock (using cement) retaining wall of about 2 feet height to hold the soils for planting. I could attempt to dig out the soils and fill with the Chinese Elm logs and then the wood pallets would be filled with the Alder.

I will have to rethink using more cinder blocks after hearing your advice! I love ROCKS! I have some banana trees that I had gotten about 3 months ago. I was told to keep them in water until March and then plant them. I am hoping they have not died out! I was thinking to make them their own planter containers. I could dig down in my yard ... perhaps 3 feet ... Fill with last years Chinese Elm ... Then the Alder ... Shore up the sides with wood pallets or rocks ... Reverse some sod ~ Compost ~ Soils. In Simi Valley ~ We have only CLAY SOILS!! I plan on having Composting Worm Beds as well.

I should have gotten advice from your forum before jumping in to build the Hugelkultur Garden for my daughter. She wanted a waist high garden .... And the Cinder Blocks were handy for that. The blocks were reinforce with re-bar for strength. I am hoping that the blocks do not leach out chemicals into the soils of the garden? Sooooooooooooooooooooooo When I go back to Texas ... Do I need to take apart that garden to dig out the drainage rocks that we mistakenly used? Might be a good idea to do that! They do get quite a lot of rain around Dallas ~ She lives in Arlington. I do want her to have successes with growing her organic veggies! Working on her to become a Raw Vegan! lol At least getting more healthy foods instead of fast food into their young lives!! I found Composting Worms and the man was so great to build us a worm bed for them. My daughter is already using the soils that they are creating. I would imagine that adding the worms directly into the Hugelkultur Beds would be good? We also installed a Roof Rain Water Collection System with two barrels, which fill after a 30 minute rain. She is using these waters for her gardening. She gets the rain! Ours in CA is much more infrequent! lol I will try posting some pictures!

YOU LIVE in a paradise!! I grew up in the rural area near Tacoma, Washington! I grew up barefoot in the mossy covered rain forest of the Great Northwest! I love the flora in the coastal areas of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia! My fondest memories are foraging and exploring the depths of the forests ~ we followed the creeks way back into the woods ~ so we never got lost ~ we would find our way home for dinner time! lol I have created Washington in my back yard in California! Tons of Ferns, Blackberry Bushes, Hugh Varieties of Clematis, Honeysuckle, Tons of Vines! .... No Dogwood Trees though! I am missing the Dogwood Trees so much!! Happy to meet you in this forum! I have many relatives in British Columbia, Alberta and Sask! My mother gave birth to nine children in Canada before returning to her native country and meeting my father ... I was her tenth and last child!! We returned to Canada every year to keep the family together!! Lots of memories!! Lots of reunions!! Thank you again for your help!! Marjie alias Mug!
 
Dale Hodgins
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Hi again. Elm burns better than alder. Most woods burn better. Save all of your nice elm wood that is between forearm thickness to basketball thickness for the fire. Put all scrap and stuff that is hard to split into the bottom of the bed. Fast rotting alder goes on top. Bark rots well and has more nutrient value.

Walnut can be a very valuable wood. Contact woodworkers. I would trade my maple scraps for a pile 1/10th the size if it was nice millable walnut.

With all of your other woods, save the nicest firewood and put the rest into the lower bed.

Some pallets are chemically treated.

Blocks sometimes contain fly ash from coal.

I wouldn't rip your daughter's bed apart. Give it a couple years.

I'm 3rd of 10 children.
 
Marjie Paton
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Hi Dale: Thank you again for answering my questions. I am looking forward to getting started! My back yard is a mess at this point! Waiting for my Tree Trimmer to return to cut up some of the logs and contain the brush. Sad to hear the the Alder Stump would not make a good human perch! lol Just might need to save it for the birds!!

Do you think the drainage rock in my daughter's garden will effect her results when she plants in the Spring? Will the rocks stay there forever creating a barrier between the soils and the logs? Do they break down over time?

I really do appreciate the time that you have given to me to answer my many questions!! I will attempt to attach a few pictures of my daughter's garden in Texas. They are still getting snow and freezing temperatures. Spring should be soon! I bought her a 6' X 6' green house ~ frame and vinyl tent style that needs to be set up. This should help her get her seedlings started. Have you seen the Non-GMO seeds from: www.mypatriotsupply.com They are called Survival Seed Vault. I bought her enough to last her life time for only $40.00.

Our mother's both had 10 children! It must be those cold snowy nights in Canada! lol

Take care and sweet dreams! Mug
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Marjie Paton
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Hi Dale: Thank you again for answering my questions. I am looking forward to getting started! My back yard is a mess at this point! Waiting for my Tree Trimmer to return to cut up some of the logs and contain the brush. Sad to hear the the Alder Stump would not make a good human perch! lol Just might need to save it for the birds!!

Do you think the drainage rock in my daughter's garden will effect her results when she plants in the Spring? Will the rocks stay there forever creating a barrier between the soils and the logs? Do they break down over time?

I really do appreciate the time that you have given to me to answer my many questions!! I will attempt to attach a few pictures of my daughter's garden in Texas. They are still getting snow and freezing temperatures. Spring should be soon! I bought her a 6' X 6' green house ~ frame and vinyl tent style that needs to be set up. This should help her get her seedlings started. Have you seen the Non-GMO seeds from: www.mypatriotsupply.com They are called Survival Seed Vault. I bought her enough to last her life time for only $40.00.

Our mother's both had 10 children! It must be those cold snowy nights in Canada! lol

Take care and sweet dreams! Mug
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Dale Hodgins
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Marjie, how thick is the rock layer and what type of rock ? What size and are they all the same size ? Was any landscape fabric used to keep the rocks clean and prevent soil from filling the voids ? Is there a really high water table at your daughter's place or some other reason why it was thought that a drain was needed ? I'm trying to find out if it's drain rock which will drain the beds and prevent wicking. Did someone advise you to use the rock. If so, I may need you to give him a slap for me.

Send pictures or a diagram explaining what is in each layer. We'll figure this out. I'm hoping that if it is meant to be drain rock, that it was done wrong. If soil can get in amongst the rocks, the bed could still wick. I guess we should also determine whether there is much moisture to bring up. Is the soil at her place usually dry ? What is her annual rainfall ?
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In the photo of the concrete blocks, I see rebar. Were those holes filled with concrete ? It will do just about nothing if it's just there, filling air space. A much better way to strengthen a wall that is not to receive concrete is to use larger scrap pipe, like the posts from chain link fencing or old electrical stacks. Hammer it into the dirt, then fill all voids with gravel. This would make the wall much heavier and tie it together, making it less prone to being pushed out by the weight of the bed.
 
Marjie Paton
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Hi Dale: Thank you soooooooooooooooo very much for your concern! We were not given any advice what so ever! We used the drainage rocks simply from my experience with like potted plants! Silly reason and should have wrote to you sooner! lol The sacks just said drainage rocks ~ a little larger than gravel ~ We used about 5 sacks ~ might have been 3 or 4 inches deep. We put a 4 inch layer of compost before the logs were added. No fabric cloth .... Thank goodness! The rocks were somewhat different sizes. Sooooo I am sure some of the compost sifted down in between the rocks. Hopefully that would help the wicking process.

I will have to ask my new Texas, Friend, Bernie about the ground water ~ not sure how far under they lie! We could dig down under the blocks and use a hoe to pull out some of those rocks ... Would need to wait until I return ... I am that hard headed to try and resolve the rock issue! Arlington, TX does get quite a lot of rain fall. I will ask Bernie for a figure.

You are sooooooooooooooo sweet to be concerned! Would love to see your property some time in the future! We will be having a wedding in Pierceland, Sask in October ~ I hope that I will be able to attend ~ an excuse to see my family again! These family members are very awesome!! Great Canadians!!

Are you on Facebook? You most likely do not have time for facebooking!! I am Marjie Paton on Facebook lol Take care and sweet dreams!! Mug
 
Dale Hodgins
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Hi Marji. I don't think the rocks will be a problem. The best thing to do now is plant stuff. Keep adding good stuff to the top of your bed and the worms will distribute it.

I'm not much of a Facebooker.

Does your soil in the bed contain some clay ? If not, add a little. It helps water to move around.
 
Marjie Paton
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Dale: Again ~ Thank you for your help! I will tell my daughter to add some clay! Not sure what type of soils they have in Texas. Simi is ALL CLAY! lol I will keep you posted on my California Hugelkultur Gardens!! I might be keeping the Tall Perch for the Birds!! lol You are soooooooooooooooooooo kind!
 
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Hi, I'm planning some hugelkultur beds and am in Seattle. I've read this thread and understand not to use cedar. What about cherry? I read that black cherry is bad, but I don't know my trees well enough to know if the cherry trees around Seattle are black cherry or not... Saw one cut down recently that I could get the trunk wood from...

Also, what about laurel branches? I have a laurel hedge that needs pruning.

Thanks for any advice!

Anne
 
Marjie Paton
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Hi Anne: Dale is the expert and he is soooooooooooooooooooo very attentive and kind to be concerned with us ... new to this type of gardening! I am fascinated ... completely fascinated and looking forward to good results! I love the Tacoma / Seattle Area! I was born in Tacoma in 1947 and was raised in the rural area of Clover Creek. I miss the forests in Washington! I have lots of family in that area! We just had a family reunion and hoping to plan more for this summer!

If you do facebook ... send me a friend's request to Marjie Paton .... We can keep tabs on our Hugelkultur Gardens and how they grow! Take care! Mug
 
Dale Hodgins
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Marjie, I'm not the number one expert on this stuff. I just know what rots and what doesn't. Pretty soon others will be telling us to get a room. Cherry can be quite valuable for other uses when it's good. It rots pretty well. If this one is one with a rotten core like many cherries are, I would use it. Laurel is fine. You have to be careful about burning or ingesting laurel. It contains cyanide. Crushed laurel can kill grass. Seems like the perfect thing to put in the hugel wherever grass clumps are spreading. The poisons break down and are harmless.

I plan to run some grass killing experiments with pureed laurel. It can take really heavy pruning. Laurel is very Hardy.
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:I think a lot of the facination with bigger wood has to do with trying to make beds that will last a long time without having to be rebuilt. This is something that doesn't concern me at all. I want my beds to break down. The quicker the better. There's an endless supply of wood waste available both on farm and off and as it breaks down it will make good soil. I'm charging for wood disposal so quick breakdown frees up space for further cash flow.

Beds can always be topped up. They don't have to be completely re-done just because some wood has rotted. If I determine that a bed has become wood poor, I can always load the finished soil onto a truck and dump it where needed or it could be clawed to the edges so that a new base could be dumped in. So far I have about 30 man hours into my 150+ cubic yard beds. Properly equiped the construction of hugel beds doesn't need to be a Hurculean struggle.

Back to Good Wood , Bad Wood --- For me there are definately good and bad woods for my purposes. A good wood for me to put into the soil must firstly be wood that I don't want to use for some higher purpose.--- Cedar logs have value for me for framing any outdoor structure since it is by far my most rot resistant wood. Douglas fir is the strongest and most valuable construction wood on my place. I would never toss a good fir log into a grow bed. Gary oak is something that fetches $10 per board foot for the best boards. The scraps make great firewood. So only bark and rotten stuff will go to the beds. ----- There are massive quantities of quick rotting maple, cottonwood and alder available. Much of it is low grade stuff with no market value. This stuff is not alleopathic, so for me it's good wood. Any useful cedar , fir, or oak trees are bad wood for my Hugelkulturs and cedar is bad period since I'm not willing to risk problems when I have such an abundant supply of rotty stuff.

Cedar Rotting --- I shingled a roof from a cedar that had been lying dead on the forest floor for more than a century. There was surface rot with bushes and ferns living there going 10 inches deep but no roots penetrated the heartwood. To me this made this tree good wood for cedar shakes and bad wood for gardening. Second growth cedar is not nearly so rot resistant.



This is fascinating to me - it reminds me of the Weston Price studies of the health of isolated indigenous cultures in the early 20th century compared to those exposed to 'civilized foods' in the next generations - so the old growth cedar has much higher capacity to defend against 'new growth' than the new generation cedar. This ties right back to the power in the soil - the rich undisturbed naturally active soils before interference can sustain such power - the newer disturbed and altered by interference (chemicals, compaction and various other forms of action upon them) soils do not produce trees with such strong tendencies. This is also a mirror image of the idea of the gut flora of humans being like soils and the mirroring of the depletion of soils and the depletion of our gut flora, leading to candida albicans infections, IBS, and all manor of popular/prevalent disorders among human populations. it all maps together as one phenomenon.



 
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Mariah Wallener wrote:I read in the other Hugelkulture thread someone saying "don't use conifers". Well we're surrounded by them here, and it's a bit depressing to think I can't use all those Douglas Fir logs we have piled up and rotting. If they've been outside for two years do you think they'd be okay? What about the cedar? I think we have a few scraps in the log pile and at this point I doubt I could tell them apart from the fir. I would not use fresh cedar, but if it has been out in the elements for a year or two?

We do have Red Alder and Bigleaf Maple around but I don't think we have enough to make an entire bed. Doug Fir grows like a weed around here so it's in plentiful supply.



Also DeMott:

We have mostly conifers here too; and the climate is dry enough that things don't rot quickly until buried.

I used "buckskin" pine and random slash for our hugel beds, meaning wood that had some grey rot and the bark rotted off, but still could be hauled around as logs rather than falling apart into duff.
I also used horse manure in the beds at the same time, as I wanted to plant the first year.

I did not notice any particular plants having problems. The potatoes grew like crazy on the shady side, maybe up to twice the above-ground plant as we got last year in conventional heaped rows. A bit more potatoes below-ground too, I think. They did tend to be easy to find right under the mulch, not down in the logs, but I didn't dig too hard so maybe they are waiting for a revival this year. Tomatoes bore well (I know they do like acid); beans, onions, rhubarb.... I guess I do like acid-tolerant plants, comes from growing up gardening in the Pacific NW, so much easier to work with what's happy here than to fight it.

As far as plants that do prefer neutral to alkaline soils ... our water is alkaline, so they don't have it too rough. Brassica salad greens did OK, arugula was great, didn't see much action from the carrots but I think they got shaded out more than anything else. Radishes did great. Can't remember if I planted beets or not, so the fact that they didn't grow should not alarm us.

I am a big fan of growing to suit the available resources, rather than altering the landscape until it resembles some other landscape where the food you like actually grows.

I agree that rot-resistant wood, especially from newly-cut trees, is much better reserved for a higher purpose, however.

I would not worry about sprouting willow in my particular case - I've been trying to get some started by the pond for two years now, I would LOVE to have the problem that trees volunteer in my garden.
I could use the shade. Trying to get trees started without irrigation timers may be folly.

But tree-of-heaven I would definitely stay away from, it is a nasty-smelling sucker to try to remove once it starts crawling under the driveway and such. I would burn it, it's a reasonably dense wood and I have a rocket heater.

As far as harvesting new wood in a sparse landscape: I am trying to 'responsibly' divvy up the old slash piles and leave some shallow hugels to help the forest regrow, especially the ones with lots of ant colonies and such. Hoping to get my own back by getting some berries going in the forest over time, with better water storage to help them bear through the summer.

The high-and-dry ones that are partially rotted go for my garden. The nearly-intact or recently-downed trees may be divided between building projects, firewood, and redistribution into the woods (I can't quite see burning the super-rich lichen colonies on some of those branches).

I will also be looking for off-site sources like power-line trimming work, as I like the results I'm getting with hugels so far.

-Erica
 
Dale Hodgins
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Becky Mundt wrote:

Dale Hodgins wrote:I think a lot of the facination with bigger wood has to do with trying to make beds that will last a long time without having to be rebuilt. This is something that doesn't concern me at all. I want my beds to break down. The quicker the better. There's an endless supply of wood waste available both on farm and off and as it breaks down it will make good soil. I'm charging for wood disposal so quick breakdown frees up space for further cash flow.

Beds can always be topped up. They don't have to be completely re-done just because some wood has rotted. If I determine that a bed has become wood poor, I can always load the finished soil onto a truck and dump it where needed or it could be clawed to the edges so that a new base could be dumped in. So far I have about 30 man hours into my 150+ cubic yard beds. Properly equiped the construction of hugel beds doesn't need to be a Hurculean struggle.

Back to Good Wood , Bad Wood --- For me there are definately good and bad woods for my purposes. A good wood for me to put into the soil must firstly be wood that I don't want to use for some higher purpose.--- Cedar logs have value for me for framing any outdoor structure since it is by far my most rot resistant wood. Douglas fir is the strongest and most valuable construction wood on my place. I would never toss a good fir log into a grow bed. Gary oak is something that fetches $10 per board foot for the best boards. The scraps make great firewood. So only bark and rotten stuff will go to the beds. ----- There are massive quantities of quick rotting maple, cottonwood and alder available. Much of it is low grade stuff with no market value. This stuff is not alleopathic, so for me it's good wood. Any useful cedar , fir, or oak trees are bad wood for my Hugelkulturs and cedar is bad period since I'm not willing to risk problems when I have such an abundant supply of rotty stuff.

Cedar Rotting --- I shingled a roof from a cedar that had been lying dead on the forest floor for more than a century. There was surface rot with bushes and ferns living there going 10 inches deep but no roots penetrated the heartwood. To me this made this tree good wood for cedar shakes and bad wood for gardening. Second growth cedar is not nearly so rot resistant.



This is fascinating to me - it reminds me of the Weston Price studies of the health of isolated indigenous cultures in the early 20th century compared to those exposed to 'civilized foods' in the next generations - so the old growth cedar has much higher capacity to defend against 'new growth' than the new generation cedar. This ties right back to the power in the soil - the rich undisturbed naturally active soils before interference can sustain such power - the newer disturbed and altered by interference (chemicals, compaction and various other forms of action upon them) soils do not produce trees with such strong tendencies. This is also a mirror image of the idea of the gut flora of humans being like soils and the mirroring of the depletion of soils and the depletion of our gut flora, leading to candida albicans infections, IBS, and all manor of popular/prevalent disorders among human populations. it all maps together as one phenomenon.

Interesting postulation concerning old growth vs. new growth cedar. I don't believe that any of it holds true. Older trees develop the oils that protect the wood. Younger trees have a much greater proportion of sap wood. Trees that come up in a clearing grow quicker and with less oils than those that struggle slowly under a mature canopy. If my cedars were allowed to become 500 years old, the wood from them would develop the same rot resistance. There has been no great change in the mountain soil around my place. Although there are plenty of roads, most spots have never been driven on. The firs surrounding me are being managed on an 80 year rotation. Logging does disturb the soil, particularly on sorting grounds and by roads but not nearly as much as would happen during a single season under the plow. Then nature takes it's course for another quite long stretch without serious disturbance.

I often deal with cedar that is between 500 and 800 years old. There is naturally some variability in rot resistance. Almost all of it has to do with speed of growth. This can be seen in the growth rings. I've salvaged cedar that has 75 growth rings per inch in some portion of the log, while other portions had 5 rings per inch. The quick growing stuff is more prone to rot. I've used poor grade cedar like this that was put on a cedar in the 1500s, when the tree grew in a clearing. Trees put on wood fast whenever the canopy is opened up by the death of competing trees. Once the gap closes, many can coexist for centuries while growing at a much slower rate and putting on higher quality wood. It's the nature of the trees and of competition for light much more than any change in the relatively new mountain soils that are mostly rock flour with a naturally thin organic layer.
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Marjie, I'm not the number one expert on this stuff. I just know what rots and what doesn't. Pretty soon others will be telling us to get a room. Cherry can be quite valuable for other uses when it's good. It rots pretty well. If this one is one with a rotten core like many cherries are, I would use it. Laurel is fine. You have to be careful about burning or ingesting laurel. It contains cyanide. Crushed laurel can kill grass. Seems like the perfect thing to put in the hugel wherever grass clumps are spreading. The poisons break down and are harmless.

I plan to run some grass killing experiments with pureed laurel. It can take really heavy pruning. Laurel is very Hardy.



Thanks Dale!
 
anne hoff
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Is pine usable in a hugelkulture bed? I'm going to pick up some half-rotted birch someone has for me, and she said she also has rotting pine.... Plus I picked up some logs I thought were deciduous and only later saw some little needles on them, so maybe some kind of fir? Yes or no to that? Thanks in advance for advice!
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Marjie, I'm not the number one expert on this stuff. I just know what rots and what doesn't. Pretty soon others will be telling us to get a room. Cherry can be quite valuable for other uses when it's good. It rots pretty well. If this one is one with a rotten core like many cherries are, I would use it. Laurel is fine. You have to be careful about burning or ingesting laurel. It contains cyanide. Crushed laurel can kill grass. Seems like the perfect thing to put in the hugel wherever grass clumps are spreading. The poisons break down and are harmless.

I plan to run some grass killing experiments with pureed laurel. It can take really heavy pruning. Laurel is very Hardy.



Not just heavy pruning... ours bounces back from cutting at ground level. Typical hedge trimmings from laurel contain lots of "green" so I guess would make a pretty good nitrogen rich compost. The heat and speed it composts at suggest so too.
 
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Mariah Wallener wrote: I would not use fresh cedar, but if it has been out in the elements for a year or two?



I'm using juniper (what we call "cedar" here) aged a couple years; so far, no problems.



Juniper is supposed to be longer lasting than cedar. In nevada, and I'm sure wherever else it grows, there are 70+ year old juniper fence posts in the ground holding up barbed wire fences.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Evergreens cause soil acidity. Here on the coast, that can be a problem. Dry areas usually have alkaline soils and less abundant sources of wood waste. Rotted pine might help those soils get closer to desired ph.

I'm surrounded by wood waste. I can be picky. If you only have access to juniper or mesquite, try them out. Rotted cores have probably lost much of their acidity.
 
Marjie Paton
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Hi Dale: Sorry ~ I did not respond sooner! I will need to take a picture of my back yard! Huge wood mess right now! Soooooooooooooooooooooooo much work to do inside and outside of my home in California! Needing 20 strong men to help me!!! Wish you were closer!! lol You have been very awesome!! Hoping to visit my Canadian Relatives in October! Will be visiting a friend in B.C. before going to a Wedding in Sask. I would be spending a couple days with her ~ She would be interested in your Hugelkultur Magic too! Another Nature Lover! Really do appreciate you so very much! And your sense of humor as well. Loving your kindness sooooooooooo much!! Hope we keep contact! Get a Facebook page!! lol Mug
 
Jesus Martinez
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Dale Hodgins wrote:In the dozens of hugelkultur threads, crucial information about toxic woods that should not be used is often burried by the quantity of it all.

So let's restrict this thread to the discussion of woods that are likely to be problematic.

In coastal B. C. Our worst offender is cedar. It takes forever to rot and it prevents many other plants from sprouting. In the east black walnut and black locust are known to adversely affect other plants.

Please list the worst offenders in your region. If there is a comprehensive list somewhere, please direct us to it. Thank you, Dale



The worst for me is salmon berry. The stuff will grow through 4 ft of soil from just a cut branch and it will sprout from its roots when pulled as well. The best bet for them is to chip or burn them.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I'm replacing about 1/4 acre of salmon berries with hugel beds and stumps for growing mushrooms. Materials are dumped on top of a mat of canes and roots. They make good forage and green manure. Luckily young shoots cut easily. Total elimination is unlikely. My best soil lies under those berries. I want it back. I may need to get pigs.
 
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I just got branches from my neighbor trimming his Weeping Beech - any thoughts on these in a hugelkultur bed? They have a willowish look, so I'm wondering if they would sprout the way some folks are saying willow does if not aged.... I'm also eyeing some wood from a tree that was taken down but I think it might be a type of juniper, and it seems that's a "bad wood" unless (or even if) aged?
 
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A note on stumps.

My beds contain hundreds of cottonwood, alder and maple stumps. Stumps that are buried in spring are far more likely to send up shoots. At that time of year there is a lot of stored energy waiting to fuel spring growth and new leaves. After the tree has put on new leaves, these reserves are depleted and the soil is drier. Few sprouts from cottonwood and none from alder.

Broad leaf maple is my worst sprouter. When I process maples, the stumps are piled in the sun for the summer, with no soil covering. This kills them. They can be safely buried in the fall.

In the community garden, one guy used willow stakes for his peas. A month later those poles and many new shoots were growing like mad. The garden had to be left for a season with no water and all little roots had to be sifted out. Willow is the worst wood I can think of !!!

This 1000 sq ft bed is my largest now, and the only one in production. About 400 sq ft of potatoes, with a few tomatoes. Deer ate the rest. Snakes have moved in and are seen on the south slope every day by 10 am.

My powdery mountain sub soil is about 20% rock, 10% pebbles and 70% rock dust. The top foot contains some rotted wood and leaves. I put about 1000 lb. of coffee waste on it this week. I doubt that coffee workers envision the fruits of their labor being spread on different mountains, thousands of miles to the north. I've used about 3000 lb. of coffee so far this year. Time to gather sea weed soon.
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This website is a good refrence for this subject.
"Potential Allelopathy in Different Tree Species"
http://warnell.forestry.uga.edu/service/library/index.php3?docID=160&docHistory%5B%5D=2
 
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So black locust not very good hugelkultur material? It's really dense and I cant see it rotting very well. What about a dead possibly diseased mulberry we cut down?
 
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Again, and I haven't heard much response on this subject, I think it depends on how long you want your hugelbeet to take to decompose, and what you are going to plant in it.

Allelopathy is the prime concern, in my opinion. Acidity from dead wood and duff can be dealt with; buckwheat apparently tolerates it quite well, as do potatoes and blueberries, for instance, as well as many culinarily important mushrooms.

Wood that decomposes too fast will leave your hugelbeet with minimal structure, essentially a big pile of soil. This is great if you're processing wood waste into soil for transportation to another place, but not if you want it where you build it for a decade or two, soil structure and moisture-wicking properties intact.

-CK
 
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I think quantity of materials is likely more important than quality. I'm using everything that I have except cedar and willow. Cedar poisons, willow becomes a noxious weed. The quantity needed is amazing. I've seen quite a few videos where they only use a thin layer of small wood. If a pile is 90% soil, water retention will be minimal. I don't mind if my beds rot out in 10 years. This would mean that I have made some areas of deep soil. I don't see deep beds as a place to grow trees. A decade down the road, I may want to bring in a few hundred stumps to cover with the old bed. I'm betting that this material will always be available and that people will pay to get rid of stumps and other wood waste.
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I've found a firewood guy who wants to locate at my place. He gets his wood from a large timber lease that lies between my place and the city. Wood would be brought in large rounds. Splitting and stacking would be done on a gravely area just above a hot slope. This wood is rejects from logging. Rotten cores, lost bark and other debris will be dumped into new hugel pits. He produces a few wheelbarrow loads every day. I'm looking for a lawn service guy or a tree guy to live at my place. It includes a dump site for clean wood waste.
 
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Today was a very productive day. I struck a deal to have hardwood stumps delivered to the farm in 30 cubic yard containers. They're clearing lots on wetter ground, close to the river. Normally, stumps must have all of the dirt shaken off, so that fewer rocks go through the tub grinder. I'm encouraging them to toss them in with lots of nice soil attached. Brambles are often cleaned up with a generous amount of soil. Quick and dirty saves machine time on their end and gives me better soil.

The price --- $120 per bin. They pay me $120 per bin for disposal. I think there's room for 50 bins in the next year. This will create a nice bed for a giant hugelkultur and some will become mushroom logs.
 
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Today was a very productive day. I struck a deal to have hardwood stumps delivered to the farm in 30 cubic yard containers. They're clearing lots on wetter ground, close to the river. Normally, stumps must have all of the dirt shaken off, so that fewer rocks go through the tub grinder. I'm encouraging them to toss them in with lots of nice soil attached. Brambles are often cleaned up with a generous amount of soil. Quick and dirty saves machine time on their end and gives me better soil.

The price --- $120 per bin. They pay me $120 per bin for disposal. I think there's room for 50 bins in the next year. This will create a nice bed for a giant hugelkultur and some will become mushroom logs.


You're setting a good example for us all, Dale.
 
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Thank you Roger. My situation is unique, both with a well situated property and my experience in waste management. I bought 8 miles from the city with a view to gleaning the resources available.

The free materials sourcing that I do can be scaled down to fit into small town gardens as well. In all but the driest places, there are tree pruners , grass cutters, and firewood guys who need to get rid of waste materials. Coffee shops and restaurants need to empty their bins.

My friend Felix, ( my first weekly vegetable delivery customer ) has heated his home with free wood, in the heart of the city for 20 years. A good relationship with a few carpenters, landscapers and a demolition guy, (me) has kept a steady supply of clean wood arriving in his driveway for years. People need to get rid of stuff. By only dealing with those he trusts, he never gets any garbage dumped with the wood. This simple technique is transferable to hugelkultur and other gardening methods. If Felix were in need of soil, a few calls and a designated section of driveway would make it show up. An open driveway and the right connections can work for anyone in need of these resources.
 
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Has anyone found a good use for tree of heaven wood? Cordwood building, animal housing structures, coppiced for fire wood or tool handles? Just realised the line of trees that came down might not be good for hugelbeds....
Also wondering if paw paws might be ok planting since they can grow near walnuts, can't seem to find out what kind of substance TOH produces that makes it alliopathic...
Any info would be helpful since I'm anticipating having to deal with these guys for a while..
Curiously enough they seem to be crowded along a stone wall that doubled as a trash heap for the last owners, I've heard they pull mercury from the soil so I'm wondering if I should even try to remove them from that area.
Any thoughts are appreciated...
 
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Question about using newspaper under wood chips - Paul's post 14877 says newspaper and cardboard too toxic to use as layer under wood chips, to use straw or hay - we have a new HUGE pile about to use - just back on 1/3 acre in northern idaho - if we will be putting a few inches of wood chips over the newspaper, is this still the case?

a little background:
old in years, new to permaculture, so willing and don't know shit…….
barely know how to use computers (never done even this before! - not sure this will go somewhere to get answer!)
once we figure stuff out and get our place going, hope to spread this wisdom to our huge tribe in spokane and coeur d'Alene
so so appreciative of all paul's work that we've been learning from in this last year
thanks much
pam
 
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I use plain brown cardboard to smother weeds when eliminating grass with "no till potatoes". I lay it on top of ground that doesn't get wet, since I spot water only where there's a potato. I've moved the same cardboard several times and it has faded but hasn't rotted. This use is unlikely to poison the soil with much from the cardboard.

I slope the sheets toward the crop, by heaping mulch beneath. Any light rain that occurs during my dry summer, is directed to where it can do some good. The cardboard and mulch absorb very little water. It dries when the sun comes out. After two seasons, I'm using the same sheets. It is stored under cover during the winter rain.
 
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Would creosote work?
 
Dale Hodgins
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I hope you mean creosote bush. Creosote from chimneys is a highly toxic substance and should not be used on any edible plant.
 
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Can I use Palm tree logs in my Hugelkultur bed? We took down several queen palm trees in our yard and I saved the logs.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Palm is a good rotter with no problems in the toxicity department. It may rot faster than you would like. It is much more dense on the outer trunk. The middle is soft and will probably decay much faster. Given a mix of Palm wood and wood from a hardwood tree, I would use the real wood, that will last longer, at the bottom of the mound. The palm wood will be soft and absorbent much sooner. It would be a good ingredient for near the top of the mound. This area will shrink and settle and can be topped up in the future. Although palm may not persist for decades, your hugelkultur will be ready to use right away.
 
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