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Hugelkulture bed

 
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I'm wanting to gauge everyone's know-how here and see if this is feasible. I'm wanting to build a veggie garden at the house I had previously done six 4x8 beds at my last house and that was plenty. I've read up on and love the idea of h├╝gelkultur. At this house I have several areas I could do a walk in garden with raised beds. But then I thought...what if I just make one really long bed? I have a fence I just put up (split rail style with wire fencing behind so we can see into the woodlot behind us) and this particular section would be probably 75-100 feet. I'd make it 3 feet wide, 3 feet tall (for the h├╝gelkultur plus no bending). The walls I was thinking corrugated roofing or the metal floor decking stuff, and whenever panels overlap there will be a cedar piece going in to the ground, maybe even link up with a cross piece to the other side for stability. I can still do crop rotations as I'd still segregate the particular crops in their respective spaces. One thing I thought of was one long row of corn along the back as well for decor and adding a foliage look to the fence.

think this is feasible? The only perennials will be things like kale, chard, rhubarb, potatoes, etc. the things that don't die off in Zone 8 where I am (Seattle).

Side note: I even thought about entrenching plastic totes with holes in them for in-ground compost bins spaced out every 20 feet or so. Toss kitchen scraps and brown matter in there year round to consistently feed the soil, but wasn't sure if that's even needed for the hugelkulture bit. Maybe it'll help for the first few years as the wood breaks down? And I know that fresh wood is best, but we have a large pile of who knows how old wood already split for firewood and we don't have wood burning appliances, so I'm tempted to throw those in there. I have time to plan, this won't be until next spring.
 
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It seems feasible Kyle. I would be cautious about the siding though. Some corrugated metals (galvanized) & treated woods have nasty chemicals that might leach into your garden soil. I would avoid burying plastic compost bins too. Burying it Ruth Stout style might be a good option to try. I suggest building it taller than your desired final height because when the wood decomposes the height will shrink quite a bit.
 
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Sounds neat! I'd add to put trellises up the back so things can climb up! That would be even neater decor and fence hiding.
:D
 
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Maybe I'm not understanding your explanation, but what you want to do sounds like raised beds, not hugelkultur.  Hugelkultur doesn't have artificial sides - the earth sides are planted, and make use of the microclimates created by sun and shadow.  Also, because they slowly collapse, you want to start with them being at least 5 feet tall.

There's nothing wrong with raised beds!  And if you're planning on filling them first with wood, that's great too!  (I'm scheming as to how to do that in my garden, not least to keep the %$^%$# rabbits and voles out.)  But it's not technically hugelkultur.

Also, while 75-100 feet of uninterrupted beds (whatever they're called) sounds deeply awesome, you'll want to think about interrupting them slightly more so you can get to the back side, or think hard about how you'll get there to weed, check on rust/termites/whatever.

What part of Seattle?  I miss my Crown Hill house a lot sometimes...
 
kyle mende
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For the metals, I was going to go with corrugated corten roofing. So It'll form a nice rusty patina naturally.

Technically yes this isn't FULL hugelkulture since it's not an earthen bed with sod and ground cover, etc. I'm trying to merge the self-feeding principles of it with a neater modern raised bed. I don't plan on using sod either as I don't want grass growing in it. I was going to cover the twigs and wood chips with chicken manure/shavings that I have. That should be plenty of nitrogen for the wood to use for decomposition.

at only 3 feet wide I won't have difficulty reaching the back. As for trellis, the wire fence is right there, so that's my trellis!

I'm technically in unincorporated king county between renton and maple valley. I just put seattle as a general geographical idea for people who might have weather related commentary for this.

I'll read up on this Ruth Stout stuff.
 
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I have done this myself.  Three 4x8 foot beds.  I dug down about three feet, and made the beds 2 feet tall.  I used treated lumber for my beds, after careful research of the potential hazards.  The decider for me was a chef-turned-professor of soils at University of Washington (Sally Brown) who asserts that copper uptake in plants is a minimal risk.  To me, it's better than plastics (human growth hormone analog), galvanized metal (zinc is nasty IMO), regular wood (will rot quickly), or earrthbag (we get SERIOUS rain here).  

I was going to suggest Ruth Stout and trellises as well.  Trellises in particular.  But you have that.

After I dug my holes I laid down chicken wire and stapled it to the raised bed sides.  Then I filled it with a progression of large fresh logs, straw/compost/leaves/etc (aka a mulch layer), large decayed logs, mulch layer, medium hardwood logs, mulch layer, medium rotted, mulch layer, all the way up to sticks, then a foot of soil.  Then I covered that in 4 inches of actual mulch. I also used some bagged topsoil and compost to mix in with the soil I dug up.  I didn't really want to use bagged topsoil but I didn't have any other inputs available and I was under serious time pressure.

Here are some pics of that process:



About halfway filled:





Ready for soil now:



Then I built squirrel cages:



and here is the final result:



In five months I estimate it has settled about 12", so I need to add more soil.  It has been a dream in terms of plant growth and moisture control, both flood and drought are mitigated.  I got lots of slugs.  I recommend that you have some form of squirrel deterrent.  Also, I highly recommend you put cross braces every six feet or so.  The heave and contraction of the soil really strains even these modest beds.  They are teeming with insect/arthropod  life (roly polys, slugs, earthworms, fire ants.)  Mulch is a must for weed control.  Hope it works out well for you!  








 
kyle mende
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I'm definitely doing braces, can't have that thing falling over now. I wasn't planning on squirrel protection, as that would be a LOT of wiring. But also, I grow enough for myself, then can have some. I have rabbits, deer, squirrels, and tonight found a racoon eating in my grape vine. I can afford to give some back to nature. Besides, how else am I going to get the wildlife close enough for my arrows? LOL
 
Morfydd St. Clair
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Rob Lineberger wrote:I have done this myself.  Three 4x8 foot beds.  I dug down about three feet, and made the beds 2 feet tall.  I used treated lumber for my beds, after careful research of the potential hazards.  The decider for me was a chef-turned-professor of soils at University of Washington (Sally Brown) who asserts that copper uptake in plants is a minimal risk.  To me, it's better than plastics (human growth hormone analog), galvanized metal (zinc is nasty IMO), regular wood (will rot quickly), or earrthbag (we get SERIOUS rain here).  

I was going to suggest Ruth Stout and trellises as well.  Trellises in particular.  But you have that.

After I dug my holes I laid down chicken wire and stapled it to the raised bed sides.  Then I filled it with a progression of large fresh logs, straw/compost/leaves/etc (aka a mulch layer), large decayed logs, mulch layer, medium hardwood logs, mulch layer, medium rotted, mulch layer, all the way up to sticks, then a foot of soil.  Then I covered that in 4 inches of actual mulch. I also used some bagged topsoil and compost to mix in with the soil I dug up.  I didn't really want to use bagged topsoil but I didn't have any other inputs available and I was under serious time pressure.

Here are some pics of that process:

(clipped pic)

About halfway filled:

(clipped pic)

Ready for soil now:

(clipped pic)

Then I built squirrel cages:

(clipped pic)

and here is the final result:

(clipped pic)

In five months I estimate it has settled about 12", so I need to add more soil.  It has been a dream in terms of plant growth and moisture control, both flood and drought are mitigated.  I got lots of slugs.  I recommend that you have some form of squirrel deterrent.  Also, I highly recommend you put cross braces every six feet or so.  The heave and contraction of the soil really strains even these modest beds.  They are teeming with insect/arthropod  life (roly polys, slugs, earthworms, fire ants.)  Mulch is a must for weed control.  Hope it works out well for you!  










Oh, very nice.  That's what I want for my garden!

I'm sad to hear the slugs do well there.  My probably unrealistic dream is that because it's a limited amount of soil, I can use nematodes to kill the existing population and then copper rails on the sides to keep new ones out.  We'll see.

(Edited to remove 2nd posting of large pics in quote)
 
Morfydd St. Clair
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kyle mende wrote:For the metals, I was going to go with corrugated corten roofing. So It'll form a nice rusty patina naturally.

Technically yes this isn't FULL hugelkulture since it's not an earthen bed with sod and ground cover, etc. I'm trying to merge the self-feeding principles of it with a neater modern raised bed. I don't plan on using sod either as I don't want grass growing in it. I was going to cover the twigs and wood chips with chicken manure/shavings that I have. That should be plenty of nitrogen for the wood to use for decomposition.

at only 3 feet wide I won't have difficulty reaching the back. As for trellis, the wire fence is right there, so that's my trellis!

I'm technically in unincorporated king county between renton and maple valley. I just put seattle as a general geographical idea for people who might have weather related commentary for this.

I'll read up on this Ruth Stout stuff.



Ah, ok, I meant not just reaching across the bed, but also doing maintenance on the back wall.  If it's up against a fence it's your neighbor's problem.

Oh, very pretty there!  I understand the simplifying - I went to HS in Port Angeles, then college on the east coast.  "I'm from a town 3 hours drive west of Seattle."  "There's... land 3 hours west of Seattle?!?"
 
Rob Lineberger
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kyle mende wrote:I'm definitely doing braces, can't have that thing falling over now. I wasn't planning on squirrel protection, as that would be a LOT of wiring. But also, I grow enough for myself, then can have some. I have rabbits, deer, squirrels, and tonight found a racoon eating in my grape vine. I can afford to give some back to nature. Besides, how else am I going to get the wildlife close enough for my arrows? LOL



I hope that works out for you.  I estimate that, without my squirrel cages and upside down planters, squirrels would consume 99.9995% of whatever I grow.  I only suspect that because in the past, squirrels have consumed 99.9995% of whatever I grew.  
 
Rob Lineberger
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Morfydd St. Clair wrote:

Oh, very nice.  That's what I want for my garden!

I'm sad to hear the slugs do well there.  My probably unrealistic dream is that because it's a limited amount of soil, I can use nematodes to kill the existing population and then copper rails on the sides to keep new ones out.  We'll see.



Thanks!  I did end up stapling copper mesh all around the walls of the bed and it helped with the slugs.  Copper rails would probably work well.
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