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Newbie has question about Hugelkultur?

 
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Hello - I would like to make a couple of raised bed gardens this spring and have been reading about the Hugelkultur method.  I have lots of branches, leaves, etc. that I could use to fill the bottom layer of the beds, but my question is can I start a garden in the top layer this spring or do I have to wait another year so that the bottom layer rots first?  Please advise.  Thanks!
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Location: mountains of Tennessee
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My suggestion is use whatever branches, leaves, or even entire green logs you have this year on the bottom. Add soil into every possible crack & onto the top. Then start planting. A large percentage of nitrogen fixers for the first couple of years is recommended. The amount of wood & other organics & how fresh it is partially determines how long it takes to completely break down. A full scale hugel will take 20-30 years. That's basically the point ... do a lot of work up front & very little in following years. Good luck & welcome to permies.
 
pollinator
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Location: Monticello Florida zone 8a
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I planted right away on both of of mine. They're doing great.
 
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Location: Ontario
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My first-year hugelkulture beds have been especially good for squash, strawberries, beans, and chickpeas. But it's really important to get soil in all the cracks or it will fall through eventually and stymie your planting plans.
 
pollinator
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Location: NW California, 1500-1800ft,
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Go for it. Your first year will be about as good as the soil you have on top, so if that’s great it will do great (following instructions above), if it is horrible clay, it will only be slightly better than that if nothing is added on top. Regardless it will get better every year thereafter for as long as the wood you added took to grow.
 
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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My experience was that crappy soil in barely-adequate amounts was actually worse than no hugel in year one, but with good soil and plenty of fertility things are very happy right from the start...
 
Barbara McIntyre
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Thanks for all the responses!! Another question... is it okay to use oak leaves or are they too acidic?  What about pine needles or branches?  Thanks.
 
Mike Barkley
gardener & hugelmaster
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I use large amounts of oak leaves everywhere in the garden. No problem. Have never used pine in a hugel or traditional garden simply because we don't have much pine. I think it might be ok. I would try it but starting with small amounts first. The tree we have here to avoid using is black walnut.

This hugel is mostly oak wood with a small amount of maple. https://permies.com/t/117821/permaculture-projects/chicken-hugel
 
Barbara McIntyre
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Thanks to all for the tips!
 
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