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Clarifying Hugelkultur for a newbie

 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Okay, I just joined this forum and spent the last several DAYS reading through the giant hugelkultur thread started back in 2005. I also read through several other HK threads, but I would love it if I could get answers to a few specific questions and make sure that I'm understanding everything correctly.

I want to create several hugelkultur beds around my property. Please let me know if these steps are sound:

1. I do not plan on cutting up the sod or digging into the ground for three reasons: one, it's a lot of work and I don't own digging machinery; two, the best spot on my property for vegetable beds is over the buried utility lines (any reason vegetable beds would pose a problem to buried phone/cable lines?); and three, I've read that buried sod turns into great compost. Should I first cover the grass in cardboard or do you think it will even matter?

2. My husband doesn't like the look of the HK beds by themselves, so he wants to build wooden frames. Is cedar absolutely necessary for this? It's so expensive! How high do you think we need to build the sides? I was thinking maybe a foot?

3. I have found a load of old logs and branches in a friend's yard. I also have some shrubs along the house that I don't like and would love to chop down and could then cover the branches and stumps Fukuoka style. So, next I just lay the woody debris down in the frame, piled as high as I'd like or have enough materials for. I gleaned from the posts that how they wood is arranged doesn't much matter.

4. Next I should add brown and green materials such as kitchen scraps, grass clippings, fallen leaves, etc. to fill in the gaps. I was planning on getting the beds built this summer, laying down the wood, adding green material as I acquire it, and then waiting until the leaves fall in autumn to really pile them in. Can there be too many leaves? Do I need to worry about a good ratio of green to brown materials? I've heard of some people using wood chips to fill in the gaps... but there seems to be some concern with burying wood chips as their smaller surface area eats up nitrogen quickly. Is that right?

5. Next it seems most people add moldy hay, straw, chicken or cow manure, etc. I don't readily have access to any of this. But I do live in farm country by the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. It's a big ag school so they have corn/soy fields, cows, etc. all around town. What would you suggest I try and acquire? Does anyone have experience getting this type of material for free from a source like a university? Also I read to be careful that cow manure is cleaned... what do I need to be aware of? How thick does this layer need to be or does it really matter? Is this step absolutely necessary?

6. Next a layer of finished compost, which I'll have to purchase. Again how thick does it need to be? Would it need to be thicker if I didn't do step #5?

7. Next a layer of dirt. So, since I'm not digging to burying the wood, I won't have any dirt. Is this step necessary or can the top layer simply be compost?

8. Lastly, planting. Since I'll be building these beds after the leaves fall, I am wondering what would work best to plant. Would it be too late to get some overwinter crops planted? I'm in zone 5b, so it's typically cool and sometimes cold by mid-October when the leaves are falling. What about a cover crop like clover, alfalfa, or a legume of some sort?

9. In the spring, when I start planting again, do I get rid of the cover crop somehow, just plant into it, cover it with another layer of compost, or plant and later cover with wood chips? I watched Back to Eden and am thoroughly convinced of the benefits of wood chips, but I am wondering if this is more for conventional gardens vs. hk beds. I do plan on companion planting my crops, but I don't plan on doing a full on seed family mix like Sepp does so I figure I'll still have some bare areas in my beds. Wood chips?

Thank you so much for your advice!

 
William James
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Good Questions. Here's my semi-newbie opinions. Someone else can do better, I'm sure.

1. Doesn't matter.
2. No. Build sides to match the material at hand. Shoot for 1 meter, more is better.
3. Do that.
4. There can't be too many leaves. Don't use woodchips.
5. I know your area, and I wouldn't touch manure or corn stocks with a ten-foot pole unless I knew it was pure. You can skip this, manure isn't essential. Find an organic farmer who has biomass to share.
6. Not sure.
7. You want soil. Compost isn't the same. Buy a truckload or dig a pond somewhere else.
8. Good ideas for cover cropping. People seem to like potatoes as a first crop.
9. Do living mulch+compost mulching. Wood chips don't have roots.

William
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Thanks William! That was helpful! So just a thin layer of dirt on top- a couple inches? And I sort of thought the animal compost around here might not be good... too dirty? And living compost/mulch... what is that exactly?
 
Shawn Harper
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Jaimee Gleisner wrote:Thanks William! That was helpful! So just a thin layer of dirt on top- a couple inches? And I sort of thought the animal compost around here might not be good... too dirty? And living compost/mulch... what is that exactly?


Living mulch is a green manure plant that chokes out the unwanted volunteers (ie: weeds), my personal fav is clover. But I get the impression most of permies use more than one type... Maybe someone else will chime in.
 
Judith Browning
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I keep buckwheat on hand to throw on any bare patches all summer as a weed deterent and bee forage and a kind of living mulch. Otherwise we encourage clovers, vetch and edble "weeds" to fill in the gaps.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Okay, what order do you do this in? If I plant a cover crop on my new beds and let it over winter, what steps do I take in the spring? Veggies first, let them emerge then plant more cover crop on the bare patches? Or sow all at once? Do cover crops not compete with the veggies?
 
Judith Browning
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My experience is with no till raised beds but I think the same green cover crops would apply. We keep something on the beds all of the time, either a living cover crop or a mulch. I planted my tomatoes in a bed of cut back crimson clover but mowed it earlier so the roots would decompose first. the buckwheat I plant is at all different stages but I cut (and lay down as mulch) rather than pull it if I want to plant an area and try to let as much reseed as possible. I'm sure you will get much better answers from someone else pertaining specifically to HK .
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Judith Browning wrote: I planted my tomatoes in a bed of cut back crimson clover but mowed it earlier so the roots would decompose first. the buckwheat I plant is at all different stages but I cut (and lay down as mulch) rather than pull it if I want to plant an area and try to let as much reseed as possible. I'm sure you will get much better answers from someone else pertaining specifically to HK .


So you mow down the bed in the spring when you're ready to plant? Like with a weedwacker? Then you plant and fill in any bare patches as necessary? Then if you want to add to the veggies, you pull it out and use it as mulch? Sorry for so many questions, but it can be challenging to figure out exactly how to do things the first time around. I'm sure there is a learning curve and of course trial and error, but I'd like to try a method that has worked for others first. Thanks for all the tips!
 
Shawn Harper
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What I do is let the clover grow in during winter ( along with my winter crops ) then when I harvest on winter crops in spring I lay down cardboard or stepping stones where I want my main annuals to be in a month or so. This kills the cover crops in the areas needed but suppresses weeds in the other areas. I've heard of others just digging a hole right when they plant, but I like to give the cover crops a chance to start decomposing.
 
Judith Browning
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I actually left your state in the early seventies as a "back to the land, homesteader hippie", ended up here, with an idealistic "One Straw Revolution"/"The Good Life" take on the adventure, even though I didn't read those books until years later. My point is that I am coming from an organic philosophy/lifestyle that seemed to flow into permaculture recently and my methods might not be appropriate for HK.. There are real experts on this site who can give you information as applies to permaculture principles for your hugelkultur. I admire your focus and enthusiasm.
 
Jami McBride
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Jaimee Gleisner wrote: So just a thin layer of dirt on top- a couple inches? And I sort of thought the animal compost around here might not be good... too dirty? And living compost/mulch... what is that exactly?


Yes, a few inches of dirt is fine.

Best to use your own manures whenever possible, next best is a friend's and lastly would be a farmer who uses natural practices. If you have no good sources then yes, skip it.

Living Compost/Mulch or 'Chop 'n Drop' - this is where you cover the dirt with a cover crop usually a nitrogen fixing one, and then (usually in the spring) chop it and drop it back where it was growing like mulch.



Different people use different cycles for developing their H-beds for veggies, some jump right in others like to start slow. Here is one example:

Cycle 1. After creation of H-bed in late summer plant potatoes in bed, and clover or other over-winter cover crop (some even use hay or wood chips 'brown cover' on the soil as a winter cover). Chop and Drop any 'green' living mulch throughout the season as necessary . Harvest potatoes.

Cycle 2. Plant garlic in the fall into H-bed, apply your chosen cover crop 'green' or 'brown' as before (even though some still remains from last season) add a complete new layer over the old if using brown covers. Harvest garlic.

Cycle 3. Plant any cold weather veggies that favor your climate into your H-bed, usually root veggies. Move cover crops aside and allow a few inches of cleared dirt around your new planting to allow it to get established, even if your using a transplant. And redo any cover before winter as in the past. Harvest these cold weather veg over winter as needed. Now in the spring your beds are ready to plant any veggies your climate will support. Move your green or brown cover crops as needed and plant into your soil. Your H-beds have gone through a couple of cycles, the decomposition in them is well established, beneficial bacteria have had time to do their thing, and underground critters are all there. The only thing left is for you to address how your going to add back nutrients on a seasonal basis. Remember, like the many suggestions in the Fertilization section of Back to Eden video.

 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Jami McBride wrote: Move cover crops aside and allow a few inches of cleared dirt around your new planting to allow it to get established, even if your using a transplant. And redo any cover before winter as in the past. Harvest these cold weather veg over winter as needed. Now in the spring your beds are ready to plant any veggies your climate will support. Move your green or brown cover crops as needed and plant into your soil. Your H-beds have gone through a couple of cycles, the decomposition in them is well established, beneficial bacteria have had time to do their thing, and underground critters are all there. The only thing left is for you to address how your going to add back nutrients on a seasonal basis. Remember, like the many suggestions in the Fertilization section of Back to Eden video.


Thanks! What do you do for fertilizer? I thought that not much fertilization was necessary with hk's...?
 
Jami McBride
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Not much fertilizer or water is needed, and if your using green or brown cover that would be your fertilizer.... get it that is what I meant.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Anyone else have any comments on my hk plans? I greatly appreciate the input!

Where do you all buy your clover seed? And what veggies do you think I could successfully plant this fall after completing the beds? I'm in zone 5b.

I know my husband really wants wood frames for these beds, but I so love the look of rock borders... I don't have any large rocks, any ideas of where to acquire them without spending too much?

And lastly, I don't see much mention of keeping out animals in any of these threads or films for that matter. Since I live in the middle of a housing complex, rabbits and squirrels find gardens, berry bushes, etc. and decimate them. I assume I'll need to surround all my beds or nothing will be left. Typically, I've built three foot wire mesh fences around my beds, but I would love it if there was some other way... what do you all do?
 
Eric Markov
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Jamie,

I just did hugelkultur for the first time this year, growing veggies in them now, squash, cukes, tomatoes, and eggplants.
Didn't use any compost and use woodchips and leaves as mulch.
Only fertilizer I use is a liquid organic brew I make at home for free, beautiful golden-yellow color, but does smell.

Getting great results, see: http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com/

About squirrels, ouch, they will be a major problem. After a couple years of trying to scare them away, trap them, .... only the addition of 2 cats worked. A squirrel will easily climb any fence (assuming tree squirrels).

 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Eric Markov wrote:Didn't use any compost and use woodchips and leaves as mulch.

About squirrels, ouch, they will be a major problem. After a couple years of trying to scare them away, trap them, .... only the addition of 2 cats worked. A squirrel will easily climb any fence (assuming tree squirrels).


Wood chips, huh? I'd heard this wasn't a good plan b/c of nitrogen consumption. But it seems to be working fine! Also, you use woodchips for mulch Back to Eden style... what made you decide on this route vs. a green manure/cover crop/living mulch route?

As for the squirrels, I did find that they seemed to be deterred by the wire fence I made at my previous house. It was pretty flimsy, so I'm not sure they could climb it, maybe that's the trick. I always wanted a nice sturdy fence with a gate for easier access, but perhaps my cheaper method was actually a better method? I'm just curious what others figured out. We won't be getting cats any time soon... we're all allergic, unfortunately, though I appreciate the natural effectiveness of this method! I hear cat pee deters rabbits, too!
 
Tyler Ludens
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I also put wood chips in my buried wood beds, and so far no problems. I included a lot of nitrogen in the top layers, though, in the form of sheep and chicken poo and bedding.
 
Jami McBride
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Jaimee Gleisner wrote: We won't be getting cats any time soon... we're all allergic, unfortunately, though I appreciate the natural effectiveness of this method! I hear cat pee deters rabbits, too!


You can always have a couple of barn cats, we do. They will do the job and you don't have to fuss with them. They need a shed, barn or box on a porch for sleeping, they will drink out of any of your current animal water sources. I recommend you toss them a treat or some cat food now and then just to keep them a bit tame. When we get new chicks and the new cat shows to much interest I spray them with vinegar/water to teach them these fur balls are off limits. So far it's worked like a charm, no in-house predation. This early spring we had two barn cats, one boarder collie and a few ducklings all sleeping in the same small shed. Now they are all outside of course.

As far as wood chips and other small carbon materials inside your beds goes just strike a balance as Tyler has done with manure. No manure then you should probably stick with larger wood than chips inside. It's all about balance.
 
Eric Markov
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Jamiee,

Did use cover cropping one winter, but it didn't make enough difference in my clay soil. I'm in CA zone 9, with no summer rain. So watering a cover crop at residential water rates is too expensive.
In a previous small garden I tried a living mulch of clover and it worked quite well.

Also wood chips are dense compared to leaves & hay, so its faster to get organic matter in to the soil.

For nitrogen, I simply fertilize with urine. Whenever a plant isn't green enough it gets a dose and its free and easy to procure!

In Back to Eden, they mention using blood meal works well.


Jami,
Vinegar on your chicks! What a great idea, I'll remember this in case we ever decide to get some.




 
Tyler Ludens
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Eric Markov wrote:
Vinegar on your chicks!


I think the vinegar goes on the cat!
 
Jami McBride
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Yup, that's vinegar and water in a spray bottle, set on stun, and sprayed at or near the cats necks so their face registers the smell.

Blood meal is a great. So it comes down to how much you want to use readily available materials, for your area, or how much your willing to buy and bring in.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Jami McBride wrote: Blood meal is a great. So it comes down to how much you want to use readily available materials, for your area, or how much your willing to buy and bring in.


We are vegetarians, so that one is a no go for me. I would love to use mostly available materials, but living in suburbia this is more of a challenge. Today I was driving home and passed a house that had a downed tree in their driveway. I plan to walk over there later and ask if I can have it. This is the sort of thing I have to do to get supplies around here!
 
Jami McBride
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Awh, you can also call your city and put your name on their list for leaf pick up and city tree trimming (assuming you don't live in a desert lol).
call your local power company get on their list for tree trimming for power lines.
call all local private tree trimmers and get on their list when they are next in your area, and save them a trip to the dump.

As we all know, you don't get to pick and choose when your asking for free materials, so sometimes with the leaves they won't be perfectly clean. This is especially true of late October and Halloween (a few candy wrappers), and some have a fear of contamination of leaves collected off city streets, I never did because it was much better than my other alternatives. Now that I live in the country I can be more selective.

If you get on the lists you will have nice large piles of materials to make a good start on your projects. And getting started from where your at is the most important thing.
 
Jami McBride
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Also, I should mention that 'buy and bring in' is not permaculture, and so that is mostly what we all are trying to avoid
It's very much a journey and so there is no condemnation on anyone at any time, it's all good.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Jami, thank you for the ideas. I have already called the city and they aren't giving away logs right now b/c we have an ash borer infestation. I called the electric company and they will dump chips when they are in my area, but I have no idea when that will be. It could be tomorrow or in several weeks. I also called five tree trimming services and only one offered free trimmings, but business is slow right now and he didn't have any to offer. The rest chip them and sell the chips. Sigh...
 
Nila Jones
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For the look of stone walls without the cost, I used chunks of recycled concrete ('urbanite'). They are normally free -- I got mine just by noticing, when ever I was out biking around, when people were jackhammering up chunks of sidewalk or foundations for repair projects. You could also call a paving contractor and ask them for some. It saves them the price of the dump fee, if they bring it to your house instead .

 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Nila Jones wrote:For the look of stone walls without the cost, I used chunks of recycled concrete ('urbanite'). They are normally free -- I got mine just by noticing, when ever I was out biking around, when people were jackhammering up chunks of sidewalk or foundations for repair projects. You could also call a paving contractor and ask them for some. It saves them the price of the dump fee, if they bring it to your house instead .


Is there any concern about contaminants on this type of material?
 
Jami McBride
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The simple answer is yes, even from old concrete. Everyone's comfort level with this type of stuff is different.
A better idea if you have to have stone boarders, is dry stacking of rocks, but you really need a rock source. So most will use logs or cord stacked wood, if they do not have a source for rock.
 
Rick Freeman
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I'm using Fedco's mix with rye-grass, black medic, and fava bean. I'm thinking about mixing in some birdsfoot trefoil next time. The black medic and fava are both in the pea family and fix nitrogen.

Jaimee Gleisner wrote:And living compost/mulch... what is that exactly?
 
Paulo Bessa
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I am doing that here in Iceland, but I must say that the process of recocering and enriching the soil is rather slow. You must be aware of that.

I agree the first good crop to grow is potatoes, probably followed by carrots, and then probably onion family. Squash also tends to grow well during this first stage. As well as peas and sunchokes. My experience is that the soil is going to have some nitrogen robbed for the decomposition of the wood, leaves and compost, and therefore does not support a good growth for brassicas, beets and other stuff. Def grow green manure together with the first crop, so you have a quick green cover to the soil.

Soil is also very important. My experience of adding only organic matteris is that seeds seem to germinate best if there is a top layer of soil. I can imagine that plants grow better if there is also soil in layers in between the organic matter. Second, birds like to mess with organic matter if they see it. Therefore always cover your compost and leaves with topsoil. Dig somewhere.

I agree with the concept of not importing materials, except nearby wood, leaves and organic matter. The process is going to be slower.

The only trouble I have is that with time, the piled huegelkultur tends to sink down again, and even erode on its sides. Iceland has a violent weather in the winter (extreme winds and heavy snow). So building a pile of organic matter tends to flatten over time. I think it is better to build this here in spring and quickly cover it with some green manure.

The other point is that I think it is better to grow perennials over annuals. Annuals will tend to rob organic content over time, so that's a lot of investment and effort to still going on with same pattern of adding fertilization, after some years. Which perennials? I am trying to replace the niche of every annuals: celery with lovage, onions with chives and walking onions, perennial brassicas and leaves, berries, perennial roots (the roots is another problem because you have to dig the beds again!)

Jami McBride wrote:Also, I should mention that 'buy and bring in' is not permaculture, and so that is mostly what we all are trying to avoid
It's very much a journey and so there is no condemnation on anyone at any time, it's all good.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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What about HK keyhole beds? Is this possible or not really b/c of the inability to really shape the piles of wood?

Do any of you fence your HK beds? If so how? If not, how do you prevent rabbits and squirrels from eating all your crops?
 
Geoffrey Haynes
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Regarding the shape of the beds, I was reading in the book on permaculture by Nicole Faires (which by the way is quite good) that if you don't have long pieces of wood (i.e. logs), you are not restricted to having long straight beds. I think she mentions using curved beds, even if it's not what you would call a keyhole design.

What I am wondering about is orientation (when it comes to long straight beds). Many sources say to keep them on a contour, except for sepp holzer, who says it's better to offset them, so that water supply does not get trapped, preventing it from reaching the lower beds. Although I think here, the answer is in the question - it's something to experiment with, and then there's the climate considerations. Like the importance of E-W alignment to capture solar radiation, and prevent cold northerly winds (for cold climate northern hemisphere zones).


I just built a couple of beds in a Canada Hardiness Zone 1 location (I think it may be USDA Zone 2). Don't know if we can post photos here. I built two very different ones. The second involved a lot of pine boughs. Was wondering if it's important to have all the gaps filled in with dirt. I am suspecting too much air space may delay decomposition. What do you think?
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Thank, I'll check out that book! You can post pictures in two ways: using the Img button on the tool bar and pasting a url for a static image you have uploaded online already OR by attaching the image using the attachments tab at the bottom of the reply box and uploading an image from your computer. I'd love to see your beds!

We were planning to orient our rectangular beds at 90 degrees to the wind as Sepp advised, but I really prefer the look of curved beds. Again, my big problem is pests... rabbits and squirrels and I am just wondering if I can plant enough food to feed them all and ourselves or if I'll have to be surrounding my beds with wire fencing. Curved, especially keyhole beds, would be harder to fence.
 
Geoffrey Haynes
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Let's see if this works...

This is the bed I created using a pre-existing well pit that I wanted to fill in (that was squarish and a few feet across). Lots of spruce boughs, covered with compost dirt, and some grass clippings (with lots of clover content for nitrogen). I added the odd strip of cardboard, to see what happens. It may stimulate growth on the surface (by holding moisture and adding fungus), but I am also thinking it may prevent moisture from seeping through.

It still needs some more dirt (and I worked on it more since this photo was taken).
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Hugelkultur Bed - Mercoal
 
Geoffrey Haynes
Posts: 15
Location: Kimberley, BC (East Kootenays), Zone 3b
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On the right you can see the other bed I was working on - straighter, oriented somewhere between contour and E-W (which differ by about 45 degrees). It's about 8-10 feet long and maybe 2 feet high at this point.

The area around here has poor quality soil - a couple inches down there is a layer of coal, which was laid down as a fill at a time there were residences here. There has been a lot of trees blown over by a windstorm, and I wanted to use this opportunity to create better soil, and provide microclimates to grow some different things. (This is by a cabin that my family owns in Western Alberta, about 15km from the Rocky Mountains).

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Geoffrey Haynes
Posts: 15
Location: Kimberley, BC (East Kootenays), Zone 3b
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Hi Jaimee - finally got those photos up and working... thanks for the tip.

Have you had a problem with rabbits/squirrels in the past? Don't know what kind of squirrels you have. The Red Squirrels I am familiar with don't disturb plants - they are more interested in pine cones, and whatever humans leave behind. Rabbits will eat clover, and bark in the winter... are you familiar with their preferences? Certainly you could plant some vetch or clover around the edges. Let me know what happens. I imagine if you grow things like garlic or potatoes it wouldn't be a problem. In fact my book (by Faires) says that garlic repels rabbits.
 
Jaimee Gleisner
Posts: 60
Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Geoffrey Haynes wrote:Have you had a problem with rabbits/squirrels in the past? Don't know what kind of squirrels you have. The Red Squirrels I am familiar with don't disturb plants - they are more interested in pine cones, and whatever humans leave behind. Rabbits will eat clover, and bark in the winter... are you familiar with their preferences? Certainly you could plant some vetch or clover around the edges. Let me know what happens. I imagine if you grow things like garlic or potatoes it wouldn't be a problem. In fact my book (by Faires) says that garlic repels rabbits.


Here in suburbia we have a lot of rabbits holing up in various yards (including under our deck) and they decimate lettuce beds, fruit bushes, etc. We also have a huge squirrel population (just your typical grey squirrel) and they not only eat bright fruits, but they dig in beds that aren't covered. So I had to cover my potted veggies with screens to prevent digging and then they started to take off with my nearly ripe tomatoes. I had to surround them with chicken wire. Argh.

I had a permie friend over to my property today and she helped me to think through some of my ideas. I feel more settled now on just planting the type/shape/size beds I want and worrying about the animal pests as they come. If they start taking off with my tomatoes, then I'll build better tomato cages.
 
bill archer
Posts: 58
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Finally got the logs, twigs, all the hay and compost I could find and all we have left are apples from the trees, hundreds of them. Is it OK to fill the pockets with apples?
Also.. It looks in some of the pictures like dirt is being used, is regular dirt OK? Is manure/soil a must? Just trying to get by as cost effectively as possible as we've built a pretty sizeable bed and purchasing the manure/soil to top it with 3ft will be expensive.
 
Geoffrey Haynes
Posts: 15
Location: Kimberley, BC (East Kootenays), Zone 3b
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That sounds ideal, bill. Rotten apples will provide organic matter and nitrogen.
I just used dirt in the first beds I built. I topped them with clover/vetch mulch, because that's all I had access to. Where I am living now, I went and got some composted manure for $2 a bag. (Sometimes it is given away for free). Straw is a little harder to come by around here.

I really think permaculture involves creative use of whatever resources are at your disposal, so it sounds like you are doing fine.

One tip, from what I've been told, and read.... if you have a choice of manure, chicken or sheep manure is best. Horse and cow manure is still fine though. A friend of mine is looking for llama manure.... don't know what the advantage is exactly.

Finally, some more questions that have arisen in my mind as I built 3 more hugelkultur beds (since my previous posts)... Anyone want to tackle these?


- What is the difference between using coniferous (pine, spruce, tamarack) and deciduous (poplar, birch)? Any direct observations?

- If using newish wood (much of it from blow-down trees earlier this year), is the extra nitrogen consumption a problem? Can this be compensated by planting nitrogen fixers?

- Does it help to incorporate things like strips of cardboard inside? I've heard that we want to encourage fungal growth in the beds.

- Is there much of a difference in the length of the growing season? It's been said by people on the west coast, and Pacific NW, that the growing season begins earlier. Does this apply to colder climates, or does it take a while for the bed to thaw and composting/decomposition to kick in?

I will share some more pics soon!

 
bill archer
Posts: 58
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Geoffrey Haynes wrote:That sounds ideal, bill. Rotten apples will provide organic matter and nitrogen.
I just used dirt in the first beds I built. I topped them with clover/vetch mulch, because that's all I had access to. Where I am living now, I went and got some composted manure for $2 a bag. (Sometimes it is given away for free). Straw is a little harder to come by around here.

I really think permaculture involves creative use of whatever resources are at your disposal, so it sounds like you are doing fine.

One tip, from what I've been told, and read.... if you have a choice of manure, chicken or sheep manure is best. Horse and cow manure is still fine though. A friend of mine is looking for llama manure.... don't know what the advantage is exactly.


I will share some more pics soon!



Thanks for this great info. Looking forward to seeing the pics!
Here's where I am so far.
http://photobucket.com/maranathahkbeds
 
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