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questions about planting potatoes in hugelkultur

 
                              
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Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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I'm waiting out a week of drenching rain/hoping for a quick dry out before I prepare a hugelkultur bed to try potatoes and wanted to pick your brains for doing this with potatos.

Mostly I was wondering how much dirt to put back onto the sprouty potatoes at first--or should I lay them on top of the rotten wood/organic matter and put a layer of dirt on top. I have last years maple leaves and compost I was going to mix in with the dirt as I layer it back on top as the taters grow.

THanks!

 
Brenda Groth
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interesting to see what happens..i've heard of growing potatoes in leaves and compost..but rotten wood? not yet..so i'll be watching for results updates.
 
                              
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Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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Unless someone pipes up to tell me I am horribly doomed, I will plan to put the rotten wood in the bottom of the bed(digging it  about 12" deep) then put back about 4" of dirt, mix in some composted leaves and ground eggshell, place seed potatoes(which are sprouted grocery store spuds grown locally BTW), then cover with about 4" of dirt, I'll sprinkle some wood ash on top, and a thin layer of grass mulch, as the leafy sprouts come up I'll cover them up with some more dirt mixed with mulch and old leaves, and then a final thick mulch. That is my plan, and  I'll report back!
 
Brenda Groth
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sounds interesting..i'll be listening
 
paul wheaton
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Leah Sattler
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"Wood ashes can be used very successfully in the vegetable garden (except in the area where you plan to grow potatoes). Mix the ash thoroughly with your soil. Tomatoes seem to benefit especially from soil that has been mixed with a small quantity of wood ash."

http://www.humeseeds.com/ashes.htm

I would leave out the ash......


potatoes prefer a more acid soil than many vegies. what does hugelkultur typically do to soil ph? I'm sure it depends alot on the type of wood....
 
Brenda Groth
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yeah only problem with wood ash is a husband with a head injury that can't seem to realize that you can't just pile it on the lawn..or the garden..a foot deep and expect anything to grow !!!

I tell him, remind him..etc..but to no avail..

it does work nice in the fields..if it isn't too thick.

and i have piles of carbon too (partly burned wood) and need to know how best
to utilize it in my soil..probably another thread.
 
                              
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Location: Coast Range, Oregon--the New Magic Land
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Thanks for all the advice!

Brenda, my hub does not have a head injury and he dumps the ash pot on my flowerbeds in a heap (grrr) I'm going to make a sign "NO DUMPING(this means you)", and isn't it funny how that behavior gets passed down to the boys??!!

I do have very acid soil and have been putting as much ash as I can onto it, and it has been great for loosening up the clay. I have Steve Solomon's book which is written for my area, he says to work in as much ash/lime as possible (I use ash because frankly no extra $ for lime, as well as a personal "goal" of using local indigenous materials).  I've been doing that, using everything from the woodstove and also stuff from a slash pile or bonfire. But I agree, people need to know their own soil ph regarding ash.  ALso actually ash is a very important nutrient for the forests here as well. Too bad Smokey fubared stuff up(okay, get down from the soapbox...)

I am using VERY well rotted wood, I can barely pick up the logs without them falling apart. THe only green stuff I'm putting in there(will be well buried) is grass clumps. I do see people making these beds with green branches and can't understand getting around the nitro tie up issue there(it is noted the surface area of a log is a very different proportion than a branch and it helps the nitro tie issue). Not to mention that even here in my wet forest logs(unless they are something like alder) take a loooong time to rot so thoroughly. ANyways, I'm hoping to get around my questions by using thoroughly spongy rotted wood which indeed soaks up a lot of water and also crumbles nicely into fluff for soil. I've been using fresh(big) bark and wood chips around the chopping block to unsog the mud and it also doesn't let anything grow, except for violets, which is fine by me!

enough rambling I guess, thanks again
 
rose macaskie
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Wyldethang, do huglekulturelogs break down through the action of microbes or fungi' Microbes guzzle nitrogen but i can't believe that things rotted by fungi do because paul stamets, the funguy man, who has a big edible fungi farm and works with them in laboratories, to find out which diseases they might cure or how they could clean up pesticides and such, never talks of fertilising the wood or whatever he uses to feed his fungi. Look up Paul Stamets in google to get a lot of stuff out on him. There are plenty of youtube videos to with him giving conferences that you find if you tap his name into the space you tube gives for you to say what your looking for and then press on search.
      It seems to me very probable that the logs in huglkullture break down through the action of fungi.
 
Leah Sattler
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there is certainly no doubt that fungi has a role in the break down of wood.

so how has this experiment come along? potatoes are something that I would like to become an expert in growing and any tricks to put up my sleeve would be great!
 
Brenda Groth
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i agree about the ash helping the acid/clay soil..as that is what we have..but a lot of the crops i choose to grow here really love the acid/clay soil the way it is..like my berries !!

I do allow ron to throw the ashes out broadcasting them over the fields and lawns..but he tends to PILE rather than broadcast..which will kill even the lawns.

i do NOT allow him to put his ashes in my gardens..i carefully put them in areas that can use them..but there is so much in my gardens that would be sensitive to them that it is really hard to keep him under control..so banning is better.

as for the dead wood..i love it..i have a lot of it here as we heat with wood and the bark and mess is always around to be cleaned up as well as we have a dying aspen forest..it is at the mature stage and they are beginning to die off..apsens do that when they get 20 to 30 years old..so i gather a lot of dead from our forests every year now..we also put wood chips, bark, sawdust on our gardens..but carefully where they are appreciated..my berries are all mulched with some form of wood product whether bark or chips ..etc..and of course pine needles.

 
rose macaskie
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Brenda groth i have started a list of what trees have leaves used to feed live stock here, according to juan oria de al rueda, on the forum with the stupid name, "i gave the name of an author and i gave it wrong."
 
Brenda Groth
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this forum has me thinkinig about making a list of every plant that i can remember that grows on our property..computers would make that easier..i tried in the past ..pre computer.

being a potato thread..i checked on my potato plants this morning and they are HUGE..and the blossoms are HUGE...i'm hoping for a great potato harvest this fall..(don't want to jinx it by sneaking any early ones out ..i can't force myself to dig any yet)

wondering how the hugel potatoes are doing?
 
rose macaskie
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paul Wheaton i read about huglekultur once and remember that you had to dig a trench for the wood as well as putting a mound of earth on top of it. I remember thinking of the enormouse effort and of how i was to persuade myself to take up such a task. Is that description the real and necessary one for success or is it possible to do well with bits of wood on the surface as is mentioned by someone  in some forum here or do you only have to bury it but not so terribly deep? rose macaskie.
 
paul wheaton
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Many people choose to dig down in order to get the soil to put on top of the wood. 

Myself:  if I don't have a big trackhoe to reshape the land and it is just me and a shovel, then I prefer the idea of laying down the wood and digging down next to the beds to throw on top of the beds.  The stuff next to the beds will become the path.  I don't need good topsoil for the path!
 
rose macaskie
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i haven't tried any sort of hugelkulture yet. I have tried putting wood, more precisely sticks and sometimes wood chips on top of the soil, as a mulch,  to shade the soil, and to reduce the evaporation of moisture from the soil and these sticks certainly don't fill up with  water as a sponge does as hugelkultur wood is said to do. As a mulch it seemed to me that they help, it works , but on top of the earth it does not convert into a water holding unit as the wood buried in hugelkulture is described as doing. What i wondered is, if you want wood to behave as it seems to in huglekulture what quantity of success  can you attain burying it at different depths, do you have more probability of it working at some depths or is it really not necessary to bury it very deep etc.
      It would be easier not to dig a trench for it though i can probably persuade myself to try it if i just propose trying a small area at a time. rose macaskie.
 
paul wheaton
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You can put your wood at many depths.  And, of course, you can use it as a mulch too. 

I would say that if you are in a very dry area, it may be wise to have a mound four feet high with lots of wood inside (60%?).  Especially really big chunks of wood.  Then, on the rare time that it does rain, the wood will be filled to capacity and will be able to hold water through most of the summer. 

As the years pass, the pile will shrink as the wood decomposes - thus, sort of tilling itself a little on the inside.  And an excellent maze of mycellium and tilth will be developed.
 
Matt Baker
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I also heard, I think it was from you Paul via 'Mighty' Sepp, that if you don't have wood you can plant potatoes into your hugel bed and just leave them in there as a nutrient, carbon and water sink/source. Anyone tried it?
 
David Miller
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The trouble with leaving potatoes is that they'll re-sprout right through what you intentionally plant. If you don't mind 'volunteer' potatoes everywhere then go for it, but they will compete for moisture unless you can kill them.
 
Zoe Wroten
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Location: New Hampshire, zone 5
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I grew potatoes in a small hügel bed this year, mostly just piling mulch on top of them. The potatoes grew great, huge foliage, nice flowers, and would have been a nice potato harvest if some small rodents hadn't decided that the woody part of the bed was a perfect home for them...they ate the insides of my potatoes and left "shells". Maybe I need to pack down the wood/branches more so there is less rodent space? Everything else on that bed is fine (alpine strawberries, eggplant, cauliflower, beans, sweet potatoes {so far}). Anyone else have this experience?
 
Matt Baker
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Dave: Good point. I guess it is probable that the potatoes will keep sprouting like a weed. This is a surmountable problem I'm sure if the leaves were chopped down continuously as mulch. It may be worth the extra effort if they were to add significant organic matter to the soil, that is, if the rats don't eat them first.
 
Paula Edwards
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I would mind volunteer potatoes as they need to be rotated. Potatoes are one of the most important crops and I would not like to risk getting a disease by not rotating them.
As for wood ash, one of my gardening book recommended to coat the cut surfaces of the seed potatoes in wood ash. I did this, but my potatoes didn't come up so far, so I don't know weather it works (If they will not come up I know it didn't)
 
Matt Baker
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I'm thinking that if you're planting potatoes in your hugelkultur beds to build up the organic bits that store your water and nutrients, in lieu of wood, that you would want them to die; to do that you would have to smother the plant by denying the leaves a chance to photosynthesize until they give up and the tubers graduate from potato matter to organic matter.

My understanding is that if you are growing potatoes in a polyculture including a sufficient diversity of other plant families, e.g. brassicas, grasses, legumes, herbs, you don't need to worry about crop rotation - One of may reasons to plant stuff in a polyculture.
 
Paula Edwards
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It would be interesting if there are studies on the build up of diseases in polycultures. I do rotate my annuals and I am still planting mixes beds, i.e. potatoes with peas (maybe that is not an ideal combination). Potatoes is such an important staple that I would not risk getting a diesease.
 
Matt Baker
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I'm not aware of any studies on potatoes in polycultures. I think the question of when crop rotation is warranted is answered with, "it depends". My theory is that if you were growing potatoes among a diversity of plant families that disease wouldn't be a problem. I'm thinking of the way sepp holzer grows his crops, i.e. 30+ species in close proximity. I haven't had a chance to grow potatoes in the same spot for more than a year myself so I can't comment from experience. I think that potatoes and peas are a good combination but personally I'd throw lots more plants into the mix as well.

 
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