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Using cactus in addition to wood in hugelkulture

 
pollinator
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So has anyone here ever used dead cactus in addition to wood when making a hugelkulture bed in a desert region?  Today I've been helping a friend do this with one of her raised beds.  Since she had several fairly large dead or nearly dead cactus in the yard we decided to toss them in on the bottom of a smaller raised bed hugelkulture.  By putting them on the bottom we were hoping that their is less chance of getting  poked by spines when later planting things, before stuff rots down.

I'm guessing based on the dead dry cactus we added that the still fleshy nearly dead one will shrink down really quickly causing that section of the bed to sink dramatically.  Other than that I couldn't see any reason why they wouldn't work,  simply being another form of vegetation.  We did also add some log sections she had as well as many trimmed tree branches and such.  I'm looking forward to seeing how this works in her desert climate to help the garden beds retain moisture.  Thus far I've been happy with how my small hugelkulture beds have been working in my much colder, wetter, northern climate.
 
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I do not have experience with your particular question, but I think that it will work out fine.
 
pollinator
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Very cool idea. I'm immediately curious about using live cactus bits, especially nopal pads. Presumably, if they are buried in wood they're no spine threat and they should only dry into the wood. I've been looking into the theory of "gel water" or "4th phase " water lately and that theory makes things like cactus pads and aloe leaves seem like excellent sources of hydration for biology in an arid environment.

Please report back on the results and let us all know if you try further experiments.

I'm definitely ripping up my nopal next time I build a bed
 
David Huang
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It will be interesting to see what happens.  I'm going to have to try and remember which section has the cactus that wasn't fully dead, and thus loaded with water, to watch and see how it performs compared to the areas with fully dried cactus husks.  What we buried was a fero cactus that was large enough to be a challenge to move around.  Unfortunately I didn't think at the time to take any photos.  Later today we may finish off the last third of the bed and I'll try to grab a couple shots so at least you all can see the scale of the beds, ie. not too large.
 
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I built a hugel mound with cactus pads as a lower level component earlier this year, and I’ve been really pleased with the results so far. Here’s a link to my build process if you’d like  to check it out:  

 
s. lowe
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Trent Alderman wrote:I built a hugel mound with cactus pads as a lower level component earlier this year, and I’ve been really pleased with the results so far. Here’s a link to my build process if you’d like  to check it out:  




Very cool. Please keep.us updated on the progress of the mound, the more I've.thought about it the more valuable I think cactus pads could be for that application
 
Trent Alderman
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You might also check out the results from a little experiment I performed with burying cactus pads in the soil for a month. It might give you a better idea on using cactus in your Hügelkultur.

 
s. lowe
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Very cool experiment Trent. For my money I would go with full pads buried deeper and halved pads higher up. Slicing them only if I needed/wanted them to be in the highest layers.
 
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