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building demonstration Hugelkultur Bed

 
Bram Granger
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Hello,

I'm a trainee in the Lewis County Master Gardeners program here in Western Washington. The program has three demonstration gardens that are open to the public. At one of these gardens I would like to create a large hugelkulter bed. Photos will be taken of the construction of the bed and there will be informational pamphlets made up in a container beside the bed for the public to take home and read and possibly be inspired to create their own hugel bed. Since this is not only my experiment, but also a demonstration to share new knowledge with the public I want to make sure to create a functional bed that is truly self composting and irrigation free. Here is what I was thinking of doing. Any advice or knowledge you have gained from you own experiences is welcomed.

- My Hope is to make a bed that is close to 7 feet tall so that is can possibly last the whole summer without watering. I planned to dig a trench about 2 feet deep therefore my bed would only be 5 feet above ground.

- Alder is my wood source. I cut down a few trees last year and they have been laying in the woods exposed to the elements since that time. All the limbs were cut off at the time I fell the tree.

- I thought I would use the large diameter logs for the lower 2/3 of the bed and as I near the top use the smaller diameter limbs and branches which I assume will decompose at a faster rate.

- Next I planned on putting the sod onto the bed upside down. Hopefully the grass will provide some more nutrients and Nitrogen to the mix. Maybe I'll even add some fresh grass clippings on top of that.

- The rest of the soil from the trench will be added to the pile at this time followed by a layer of compost. (Maybe I should mix the compost and soil a bit then add it to the bed?)

Other ideas or options:
- I've thought of inoculating the logs in the bed with some variety of mushroom.
- I have access to a large pile of oak and maple leaves that I could possibly incorporate into the pile.
- I have straw, would that be beneficial to add?
- I've thought about planting cover crops on it the first year to help build up the soil and balance the Nitrogen levels. Maybe I could even plant one round of buckwheat, chop and drop it, and then plant some squash, pumpkins etc.

Does anyone see any major no nos in the plan I described above? Are there more things I need to incorporate or take away? Should any compost materials and/or fertilizer be added between the logs as the bed is being made. I don't know much about mushrooms, is it a good idea to inoculate my logs? I thought maybe it would help speed up the decomposition process. What about planting the first year? Is the cover crop idea a good one? If I were to plant veggies are there any recommendations?
 
Lloyd George
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sounds good, you might want to document everything carefully, as the University might be interested in data from the project..ask your extension agent if they know of anyone who would be interested.
 
Bram Granger
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True, I didn't think about the universities interest in the subject. Maybe it will be a stepping stone for them to begin researching more sustainable ways of gardening.
 
Lloyd George
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thing is, alot of Master Gardener programs seem to be persnickety about what information you put out...which has kind of turned me off to it a bit...but, however, comma...I bet someone in the U. would be interested.
 
Amy Hagstrom
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Location: Western Washington/Cascade foothills
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Bram, did you make any progress on this? I'm thinking of doing the Master Gardener program for Snohomish county, but am hesitant about it being too much "their way or the highway." I was reading their manual and they push a lot of fertilizing and fighting pests chemically if needed, and of course lots of watering. Not necessarily as a sustainable and eco-friendly approach as I would like, though I do know they push organics and doing things naturally to some degree. The program does have its definite good points, so I'm still debating getting involved. Thanks.
 
Bram Granger
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Amy,

Yes I did build the hugelkultur bed in a demo garden. The program was very receptive to the idea, and encouraged me to spread the word to others via public presentations.

My experience with the master gardener program has been great. Yes they did educate me on pesticides, herbicides, and other practices I am not interested in using, but it was all done in an education light. It's good to have knowledge of even those things you dislike.

I would recommend this program to anyone (at least the one in Lewis County). It's has been a great source of knowledge and experiences.

Bram
 
Blair Buchmayer
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Location: PNW, Seattle area
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Where is this bed located? I was interested in trying to come and see it!
 
Bram Granger
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The bed referred to above is located at the MG Demonstration Garden at Fort Borst Park in Centralia, WA. It's not much to look at right now, just a mound covered with leaf mulch for the winter. However, if you are interested I will be giving a presentation on the subject of Hugelkultur at 9 am March 16th at the Centralia College. Admission is free and open to the public. After me there will be several other speakers presenting other topics related to small farms. Also, in April there will be a Hugelkultur workshop at the Salkum library located in Salkum, WA where we will be doing a power point presentation followed by the construction of an hugel bed. Again, this is free and open to the public and free.
 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Way to go Bram! I was a master gardener in Wyoming many years ago. Learned a lot and tried to not recommend chemicals to the folks I helped.
 
Jeremy Baker
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Not sure about the mushrooms but have you inoculated the earth mound with other organisms? ; Earthworms, dirt from another location. I would be curious to discover how much water it could soak up eventually. Is a chinampa a underwater Hugelcultur? I like the idea of building islands. It's empowering.
 
dj niels
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Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Hi Bram, sounds like a great project. I have not tried growing mushrooms, but my understanding is that it is best to only inoculate fresh-cut logs, so as not to conflict with spores and growth of wild fungi, which could have a negative impact on the desired edible species.
 
Dennis Lanigan
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Location: Philomath, OR
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Awesome Bram! I have friends who live in Lewis Co. that I am trying to get into hugelkultur. They have a huge seasonal flood plain that dries out in the long summer and have a hard time growing things. This will give me a chance to get them interested. Thanks!
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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