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hugleculture fertility misconception.  RSS feed

 
Cris Bessette
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Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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I built some hugleculture beds last year and they did horrible. Straggly, sad little plants.

I think I got convinced that hugleculture was practicallly magic and things would grow like Jack's beanstalk. It finally dawned on me that the rotting wood was sucking the fertility out of the soil- not putting it into the soil.

Being that this is about permaculture- how long does it typically take for hugleculture beds to "stabilize" and start needing less inputs?
If I don't have access to manure, how do I get the fertility higher now without resorting to chemical fertilizers?





 
Isaac Hill
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Depending on how rotten the wood was to begin with, it should stabilize after 1 or 2 years. With new wood, it will definitely suck out a lot of Nitrogen from the soil the first year. Fertility is not just Nitrogen however.
 
Jonathan Hontz
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Location: Denver, CO
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Start throwing all your kitchen scraps on the hugelkultur bed to let them decompose in place. If you have a compost pile, empty whatever is in it right now and use it as a top-dressing on the bed. Urine is also a great fertilizer, but it depends heavily on the diet of the urinator and your social situation, etcetera. The hugelkultur is basically just like a huge compost pile itself, with a gigantic amount of "brown" material in it. Find anything listed as "green" material in the multitude of lists devoted to composting, and that should give you plenty of ideas for things to add.
 
josh brill
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Our beds have been going strong since day one. We used fresh and old rotting wood, with brush and leaves on top. The surface area of the wood is so low compared to the total mass of the mass of the pile that nitrogen drain should not be a significant player. If you start with bad soil that is lacking in nutrients piling it on top of a bunch of wood it wont magically make it fertile. An inch or two of compost will go along way.
 
Jordan Lowery
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how did you build it? details will help a lot.

materials used, type of wood, age of wood, soil used, mulch, what plants?

i get great use out of my hugel beds the first year, the second year and on are fantastic. i plant legumes and root crops the first year.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I had good results from buried wood beds the first year - plants in them survived the drought when the rest of the garden died. This year, the second year of the beds, they are doing spectacularly compared to other gardens I've had.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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From day one for me too. I think green material is key. I added LOTS of fresh grass clippings, when I cut down the canna lillies and elephant ears at the end the year I added those to the pile. This winter (we are a mild climate) I planted winter rye. It has grown super lush and I am now pulling up the clumps and turning them upside down on top of the bed - they will rot as the rye will die as soon as it gets hot.
 
Cris Bessette
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Jordan Lowery wrote:how did you build it? details will help a lot.

materials used, type of wood, age of wood, soil used, mulch, what plants?

i get great use out of my hugel beds the first year, the second year and on are fantastic. i plant legumes and root crops the first year.


I guess I should have put that info in the first message.

I put my beds in the middle of where some regular old garden rows were, but it is in somewhat clay soil that is pretty
worn out. I used dead sticks and rotten wood I gathered in the woods around my house, maybe four or five wheelbarrow loads per 5 foot long
bed. The tops of the mounds I covered with wheat straw and leaves, and a little bagged manure from the store.

Last growing season on the hugles I put a mix of different things like corn,squash,carrot,nasturtiums in one, various chile pepper plants in another,
a little tobacco in one, etc.

Being a single guy, my kitchen scraps don't amount to much, but I do have plenty of room to grow a green manure crop.

 
Jordan Lowery
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well from the sounds of it you planted the wrong crops for the first year. all of those are hungry crops. which in the first year of a hugel bed wont do perfect. legumes do best the first year. followed by whatever you want the second year and so on.
 
Travis Philp
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You can grow heavy feeder crops in a first year hugelbeet but you have to build it a certain way.

I had great success in first year hugel beds with sweet bell peppers, eggplants, and radish. I'd say it was the best yield that I've ever had from those three crops. The only fertility I added aside from the wood was a handful of horse manure for each eggplant and pepper plant. Nothing for the radish.

I built the bed using wood that had been cut that year. It was mostly twigs and branches no thicker than an arm, and piled dark loamy soil on top. The bed ended up being about 2.5 feet high.
 
Terri Matthews
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According to ruth stout, who pioneered deep mulch, You start out with organic matter. Then the bacteria break down the organic material. Then SOME of the organic material is tottaly broken down and THEN fertility is released.

Her basic technique was to add more straw every year to replace the organic material that was totally broken down.

My understanding of hugleculture is that the outside of the wood is decomposed before the inside, and the slow rotting of the wood from the outside in is taking the place of the yearly addition of straw. Is this correct?

In that case, fertility will be released after at least some of the outer wood has been totally broken down. In that case, since you consider your doil to be poor to start with, I can see that you might have poor results the first year.

It has been suggested that if you have compost that you might put it in. This would tend to fertilize things to give a jump start on your hugleculture bed, and your intent was to have wood that replenished the organic matter every year.

Mind, I do not have a hugleculture bed, this is only my understanding of the process. My advice is free, and as it cost nothing there is the risk that it is worth nothing!!!
 
Thelma McGowan
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Location: western Washington, Snohomish county--zone 8b
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Cris--How was the water retention for your hugel beds?
 
Cris Bessette
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Thelma McGowan wrote:Cris--How was the water retention for your hugel beds?


The water retention seems to be pretty good. It was a very dry growing season last year, and they seemed to do pretty good in holding water at least.
 
Cris Bessette
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Jordan Lowery wrote:well from the sounds of it you planted the wrong crops for the first year. all of those are hungry crops. which in the first year of a hugel bed wont do perfect. legumes do best the first year. followed by whatever you want the second year and so on.


Maybe I just expected too much from a first year bed, I do have some soybean seed, maybe I will plant that on these beds this year.
 
Cris Bessette
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Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
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Travis Philp wrote:You can grow heavy feeder crops in a first year hugelbeet but you have to build it a certain way.

I had great success in first year hugel beds with sweet bell peppers, eggplants, and radish. I'd say it was the best yield that I've ever had from those three crops. The only fertility I added aside from the wood was a handful of horse manure for each eggplant and pepper plant. Nothing for the radish.

I built the bed using wood that had been cut that year. It was mostly twigs and branches no thicker than an arm, and piled dark loamy soil on top. The bed ended up being about 2.5 feet high.


My soil is basically Georgia red clay with a good bit of gravely rock. I've tried adding organic material in the last few years, but I think I was trying to stretch my resources to far. This year I will make a much smaller garden and more intensely "upgrade" the soil in this smaller area.
 
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