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Hugelkulture Year 1, My Results

 
Posts: 6
Location: Zone 5a Northwest Montana
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I'm grateful for all who've shared ideas and info here and so am sharing my experience/results in the first year of using techniques I learned on this forum.  

The garden is in NW Montana Zone 5a.  Long term goal is a food forest on ~ 1/2 acre of sandy soil with good sun exposure.  Challenges included low water retention and limited humus.  Also fenced in the area to keep deer out.  Area flanked by large birch to the west, small spruce to the east, and a tall fir in the center.  

2 Years ago, planted 2 apple trees (Liberty and Honeycrisp).  This year, sheet mulched around them to kill native grass and overplanted with white dutch clover.  Added daffodils and chives around base.  Both trees produced better than ever this year, with larger and more abundant fruit.  The pollinators loved the clover all summer long.  Will be planting clover as groundcover instead of lawn going forward.

Hugelkulture beds:
Bed 1: using tractor, dug a 70 foot long x 5 foot wide trench 18 inches deep.  Final constructed depth with edging is 40".   Laid down layer of dead birch trunks and branches.  Added layer of fresh horse manure, Added layer of dead leaves and old corn stalks. Topped with layer of native sandy soil and watered all in thoroughly to remove air pockets.  Then another layer of dead birch, 1 year old horse manure, sandy soil and watered it in.  Edged the beds with planks cut from a big spruce tree downed in a storm.  Topped the beds with 2-3 year old composted horse manure.  Dressed the top 6" of compost with addition of sand and clay, along with azomite.  Perrenial plantings added this spring: chokecherry, elderberry, jostaberry, currant, hazelnut, asparagus.  Annual plantings this June: pumpkin & winter squash, lettuce, swiss chard, carrots, radish, cucumbers, onion, potato, broccoli, brussel sprouts, basil.  Other plantings: buckwheat (early season), marigold, alyssum, sunflower, nasturtuim, and clover.  Mulched with wheat straw.

Bed 2: using tractor dug a 20' x 5' x 18" trench.  Laid down dead birch logs. Covered with 2-3 year horse manure compost.  Transplanted raspberry bushes from another location.  Planted clover.

Bed 3: another raised bed lined with spruce as in Bed 1 but without trenching, and much smaller (16' x 4' x 18").  Core of bed is dead birch and fresh horse manure.  Topped with composted manure and amended with clay, sand and azomite.  Planted determinate tomatoes, onions, basil, beans, sage, petuniia, marigold, alyssum.  

Results & Lessons Learned:
This was a cool wet summer which positively affected results despite late planting due to delays in constructing the hugelbed.  

Bed #1 kept moisture very well.  Only watered it a few times in August.  I planted too densely and with too many flowers which crowded out the onions and many carrots but there were very few weeds.  Other than potatoes and brassicas, everything else was interplanted.  The profusion of plant life made it challenging to find the veggies sometimes: I'll plant fewer flowers next year and train cucumbers up trellises.  All season long we had lots of honeybees and bumblebees.  Cabbage butterfly did nominal damage to broccoli and brussel sprout leaves: sprayed them with neem oil to contain the damage.   Nasturtiums had no bug damage whatsoever.  Grasshopper damage minimal (we encouraged birds in the garden with feeders and water and they helped limit the hopper damage I believe).  The wheat straw mulch sprouted wheat which was a bonus crop (actually used for crafts) Very pleased overall with the results!

Bed #2.  Due to late transplanting, was concerned how raspberries would do this year.  They flourished, producing 8 gallons of juicy berries.  I expect they'll do even better as they get established.

Bed #3.  Very pleased with production and lack of pests.  Tomatoes and spring onions did exceptionally well.

My sincere thanks to Paul Wheaton and all the contributors to this forum for teaching me so much and helping me get this food forest off to a wonderful start!  May your harvests be plentiful!



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Site for Hugelbed #1
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Hugelbed #1 June 2 2019
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Hugelbed #1 July 7 2019
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Hugelbed #1 July 29 2019
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Hugelbed #1 Sept 23 2019
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Hugelbed #3 Aug 3 2019
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Hugelbed #3 Aug 14 2019
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Hugelbed #2 Aug 3, 2019
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Hugelbed #1 Sept 23 2019
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Hugelbed #1 Aug 28 2019
 
gardener
Posts: 1772
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Great job and thank you for sharing! I really enjoyed looking at the pictures and reading your descriptions of the beds and how they turned out. I really liked the diversity of your plantings and having flowers mixed in with the vegetables.

So what are your next plants? Any new beds planned or fruit trees?
 
Posts: 166
Location: Athens, GA Zone 8a
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I'm absolutely in love with the look of your Hugelbed #1 Sept 23 2019!
 
Brenda Ash
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Location: Zone 5a Northwest Montana
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Hey thanks Daron for checking this out.   Hoping to add apricot and plum trees next year. We made small 4x4 raised beds too which were planted with flowers this year but will have veggies too going forward.  The elderberry bushes went nuts this year in Bed 1 so as the perennials fill in that bed, the small flower beds will have edible companions.

Unlike previous gardens, I'm trying out No-Dig with this one.  Chopped the annuals off at soil level, cut them into chunks and dropped in place. Have 1 year old horse manure to layer on next, then a few bags of leaf mold from last spring.   Covering with plastic for the winter for earlier planting next spring.   We don't have a slug problem here but voles have moved in.  My dog is out hunting them in the garden now :-)

Also forgot to mention that I "planted" michorrizae found in soil around dead birch stumps with the new fruit and nut bushes.  Not sure if this will help but it sure won't do any harm.
 
Brenda Ash
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Location: Zone 5a Northwest Montana
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Diane Kistner wrote:I'm absolutely in love with the look of your Hugelbed #1 Sept 23 2019!



Diane, I loved it too!  So lush and crazy...no straight rows anywhere.  Picking felt like an adventure, playing hide and seek with the fruits and finding yummy surprises everywhere LOL!  Thanks for your sweet comment
 
gardener
Posts: 1460
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Wow!  That is just a riot of green goodness bursting forth from that bed.  Obviously something amazing is happening there.  Thank you for taking the time to post all those pictures!
 
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I have to say Wow! also. Thanks for the great description and pictures. I am doing a raised bed and some lower type beds also for next year. This post gives me support ahead of time.
 
Brenda Ash
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Location: Zone 5a Northwest Montana
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Ron Haberman wrote:I have to say Wow! also. Thanks for the great description and pictures. I am doing a raised bed and some lower type beds also for next year. This post gives me support ahead of time.



Ron, happy to hear that!  The upfront effort constructing the beds is no small task but well worth it in my experience.  Despite late planting this year the beds really put out.  Next spring will be interesting to see how quickly the beds thaw.  Will be covering a good portion with tarps and other sections open to snows to see what works best.  Am hoping to get a hoop cover over Bed 3 before winter hits. With luck will be planting spinach in April!

Good luck with your new beds!
 
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