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Hugelkultur around existing tree  RSS feed

 
Kevin Swanson
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In my yard I have an oak tree that forms a "y" at the base. This oak tree is on a slight slope and in an approx 3 - 4 ft deep pit with large rocks lining the walls of the pit.

I plan on lining the bed with some green branches, then adding horse manure/bedding, then partially composted grass clippings/leaves, then partially decomposed wood and finally top soil(all of this on top of some non decomposed oak leaves)

Do you think I need to dig the pit any deeper? I don't believe I will get much soil out of the base of the pit because of the tree roots and it seems like a lot of work, for a small amount of soil.
I'm trying to follow Masanobu Fukuoka and "do nothing".

Pictures of pit and materials:
https://picasaweb.google.com/115742062599195378272/Hugelkultur?authuser=0&feat=directlink
 
Mike Underhill
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Location: N. Sac. Valley
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That looks like two acorns that grew right next to each other to form the Y. You may kill the remaining oak of you bury more than a few inches of its base. Odd that it's down in a hole, oaks do not like standing water, esp right at the base.
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome back to permies
As far as I know, changing the soil depth around a tree is very likely to harm it and I imagine burying the trunk is very likely to lead to the tree's death.
I may be misunderstanding your intention though. Another thing to consider when gardening around a tree is they'll hog all the light, water and nutrients.
 
Lori Crouch
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Location: Amarillo, TX.
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If you build up the soil around the tree with material that is destined to rot, the tree trunk will rot right along with it. If you dig down you're going to hit surface roots. With a tree that has had a lot of mulch around it piled too high you can pull that mulch away and discard those surface roots without long-term damage to the tree. However, your trees are depressed into the soil a bit and I would be hesitant to unsettle those roots there; I'm not really sure what would happen. I think a hugelkulture at the base would eventually kill the tree. Maybe a better idea would be to plant some shade loving plants at the bottom and let them protect that area while collecting additional water that may pool there.
 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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if your trying to be following fukuokas path you wouldnt even be moving stuff to create a hugelkulture bed, but instead using plants and natural processes to build soil.

what are you planning on growing on these beds if they were finished?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Personally I advise against piling material around the tree, unless you want to kill it. Make your hugelkultur away from the tree.

 
Kevin Swanson
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Thanks for all of the responses!

I realize that I am not following Masanobu Fukuoka teachings exactly, but I'm trying to work "smarter not harder". I'm building a greenhouse(please no comments on how greenhouses suck, I've read the entire thread if you want to talk about that go to the "greenhouses suck thread). One Y of this tree was going to block a lot of sun, so down she came. I'm going to lop the other leg of the tree down today and build a massive hugelkultur bed in this pit in my yard that is already existing, it just seems the perfect place to try out hugelkultur. I have ample rotted wood, so I am hoping to bring in top soil and cover it, then plant some vegetables and see how they do.

I'll post my progress here.
 
William James
gardener
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Location: Northern Italy
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I'm wondering if the benefits you'll get out of building the hugelkulture would really outweigh the benefits you get from that tree. Trees do a lot of things you might not be aware of.

More pointedly, is this tree is going to suffer death and dismemberment because you feel like making a hugelkulture and can't find a better place to put it? Your desire for and placement of a huglekulture should be figured into the design, so it's not just a question of Huglekulture vs. Tree, or "well, that's a nice spot. Too bad there's a tree there." And out comes the chainsaw.

More constructively, you may think about giving the tree a proper radius and building it around the edges, or figuring out how the tree roots and an above-ground huglekulture would interact positively.

I also have a tree that I would like to chop down, but I came to the decision after at least a year of thinking about it, and still, possibly for the better, I was thwarted by my friend whose house, and tree, it is.

William

 
Jordan Lowery
pollinator
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if you dont bury the crown of the tree, and if its a big enough tree. it doesn't have to be that big either. chances are its roots will invade the hugel bed and you will loose a lot of the beds benefits. and end up with a bigger tree.

and no offense but chopping trees and moving logs and soil is a lot harder than building soil with plants.

good luck
 
Mike Underhill
Posts: 53
Location: N. Sac. Valley
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I would rarely advocate removal of an oak tree, but that particular tree is severely compromised. It sounds like you have other hardwoods on the site, so you're not eliminating the ecological functions of those from your site - you're just changing the function of this part of the property. I would consider incorporating the in-ground stump within the HK bed, if it's in the right spot for you. Seems like it would be a convenient conduit down the the water table for the stuff that'll be growing in the bed. Good luck!
 
Kevin Swanson
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William James wrote:I'm wondering if the benefits you'll get out of building the hugelkulture would really outweigh the benefits you get from that tree. Trees do a lot of things you might not be aware of.

More pointedly, is this tree is going to suffer death and dismemberment because you feel like making a hugelkulture and can't find a better place to put it? Your desire for and placement of a huglekulture should be figured into the design, so it's not just a question of Huglekulture vs. Tree, or "well, that's a nice spot. Too bad there's a tree there." And out comes the chainsaw.

More constructively, you may think about giving the tree a proper radius and building it around the edges, or figuring out how the tree roots and an above-ground huglekulture would interact positively.

I also have a tree that I would like to chop down, but I came to the decision after at least a year of thinking about it, and still, possibly for the better, I was thwarted by my friend whose house, and tree, it is.

William



Hi William,

The tree originally had one leg of a Y cut out of it due to it shading my greenhouse location, so it was more like "This tree is in the way for my greenhouse, out comes the chainsaw(cuts first leg of Y)... hey this is a good spot for the garden bed and that neat hugelkultur stuff I've been reading so much on permies.com about(out comes the chainsaw, there goes other leg.... This is our first spring in this home and the previous owners did not have a garden, so a bed was going to be made somewhere.

Robert
 
Kevin Swanson
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Mike Sawley wrote:I would rarely advocate removal of an oak tree, but that particular tree is severely compromised. It sounds like you have other hardwoods on the site, so you're not eliminating the ecological functions of those from your site - you're just changing the function of this part of the property. I would consider incorporating the in-ground stump within the HK bed, if it's in the right spot for you. Seems like it would be a convenient conduit down the the water table for the stuff that'll be growing in the bed. Good luck!


Hi Mike,

Thank you for your constructive response! Before reading this I had already cut down the other leg of the Y. AND I was already thinking that it will be perfect to leave in the hugel bed and thought it might be good at bringing some water and nutrients to the surface... I wonder if the oak will sprout and perhaps I could coppice it! What do you think about me planting a dwarf fruit tree in the center after the oak rots?

I'm also planning on using the largest part of the tree trunk to grow some mushrooms. Going to purchase some mushroom plugs and follow instructions..

Thanks@!
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Aah, so the plan is to take down the entire tree and use the pit as a hugel experiment? That's a whole nother thing than what I was imagining!
You'll get plenty of conflicting ideas about cutting trees, but as far as I can tell, that oak's in a less than ideal spot for a tree and you've got plenty of other trees around, right?
 
Kevin Swanson
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Eaxactly! I've got about 2 acres of existing forest with plenty of oaks and other species. At some point I would like to use the rest of this forest to produce food... but I am having trouble on how to transition it from a hardwood forest to a forest garden without negativley impacting the existing system. I'm reading the second volume of edible forest gardens, but the thing is huuuuuge! Anyways the discussion on converting will have to take place in another thread.

Thanks for all of the replies. I will take photos of the progress and post back. What would be a good cover crop poly culture to put with my vegetables in the hugel bed?

 
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