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Hugelkultur - Good wood , Bad wood  RSS feed

 
Posts: 518
Location: Central Virginia USA
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Herbally Black walnut is used as a fungicide (athletes foot, candida, etc) recently i read an article that said black walnut trees tend to favor grasses, so that suggests to me the alelopathic effect might be greater for plants that prefer fungally dominated soils.

Has anyone heard if brassicas grow well near black walnut, as these tend to favor bacterial soils?

perhaps a hugel bed with black walnut would be ok for them, although again the idea of using anything but odd rotted pieces for a hugel bed is appalling, black walnut is a beautiful durable wood that should be on display, not buried prematurely
 
Posts: 1128
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur urban
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As always, I think it inappropriate to use good construction lumber in a hugelbeet; that's what the irregular bits are for. Some would even argue that good firewood should be sold where there's a market before used in a hugelbeet. I mean, it seems wasteful to put in the ground to rot something that could be sold.

-CK
 
garden master
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I've been to 4 hugelkultur projects belonging to others and to my own. None of them have dumped good, useful wood into the pile. The quantity of wood available on Vancouver Island is massive. The little bit that goes into wood stoves, pales in comparison to the amount that is burned in slash piles. Last week I saw a giant pile of stumps stacked to about 35 feet high. These will be burned during the rainy season when forest fire is not an issue. I estimate the pile to weigh 200 tons. It's 3 miles from my place. I plan to fill several garbage cans with ash. My soil is acidic. wood ash is alkaline.
 
Posts: 73
Location: Nova Scotia
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My neighbor cut down 4 mature pine and fur trees the other day and said I could have the branches if I wanted. Many are 4+" in diameter with green needles on their smaller branches. I was thinking of building a hugel bed and was wondering how I should go about using them in it. I just finished digging a trench for the bed and have yet start to put the branches into them. Part of me thinks that maybe it would be best to let them dry and allow most of the needles fall prior. Stripping the needles will take some time and my avialable time is short right now for this project.

Anyone have any thoughts.
 
bob day
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Location: Central Virginia USA
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there's a lot of theories about the rot ability of pines because of the resin, but one obvious thing is i wouldn't spend too much time on stripping needles whether you choose to experiment with it or not

I buried some pine last year, jury is still out on how good it is, probably chipping them would speed their decomp, but burying is preferrable to burning-unless it's in a rocket stove.

 
Posts: 218
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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All wood is good for some plant or another. Sometimes, often even, it is best for the tree it came from. I have been a ranger in Olympic and Redwood NP and western hemlock, red cedar, and redwoods all acidify and add tannic acids to soil that suppress microbial, fungal, insect and plant growth that are not symbiotic with their own growth. On the other hand, forests with these tree species have the highest biomass (organic matter living and dead/area) on earth, 5-10x that of tropical rainforests. They also have unrivaled soil diversity, as most of the energy in the forest is locked up in difficult to digest wood requiring specialization and there for speciation. We all want a great garden this year, but the longer decomposition takes, the more efficient it is. The temperate rainforests of the NW are the original hugelkultur plots and an abundance of food for large native human populations (largely acid loving berries, hazelnuts, tanoak acorns, salmon and elk) was a result. On the other hand, quick decomposition was encouraged by people who maintained prairie pastures for elk and understory plants like huckleberries and hazelnuts with low intensity fires (the old trees' 1ft thick bark protected them) and any seeds or trees remaining benefited from the fire's nutrients and likely basification of the soil. If this is what you are working with (acidic conifer wood, even spruce or doug fir is tannic), it would seem most logical plant those native trees on the north side of your property if possible as heat/wind breaks and restart the ultimate permaculture cycle, and generally grow acid tolerant plants with islands of less acidic soil. Given how one could simulate small fires with brush burning and ash scattering, the obvious missing link would be animals like elk, salmon and the distributors of salmons' nutrients (pretty much everything alive in a NW forest). This was a little bit rambling but my point is don't discount acidic wood, just think long term!
 
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Hello. There seem to be many plants tolerant of walnut toxicity.
http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fact-sheets/trees-shrubs/landscaping-and-gardening-around-walnuts-and-other-juglone-producing-plants
I guess it would be ok to plant them on a bed that has walnut branches in it.
Does anyone have any experience?
 
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I am so new to this but am an avid gardener. I am getting ready to add depth to all my raised beds so that I can add wood as an experiment to use less water each week. I need to know any feedback to using buckeye as my wood. I know that the fruit and flower is poisonous but want to know if the wood is toxic. Thank you for any replies.
 
Dale Hodgins
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denise broglio wrote:I am so new to this but am an avid gardener. I am getting ready to add depth to all my raised beds so that I can add wood as an experiment to use less water each week. I need to know any feedback to using buckeye as my wood. I know that the fruit and flower is poisonous but want to know if the wood is toxic. Thank you for any replies.



Welcome Denise. It rots quite readily. This usually means that the wood is not naturally poisoned. Also, grass and other plants grow beneath them.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I sure hope this is good wood. I dropped about 80 young cottonwoods today and cleared a large area.
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we have a bunch of beds made of of different woody compositions ranging from hawthorne to river birch to dogwood to aspen and to cottonwood.

I have dug into the different beds to check out what the wood is doing and boy howdy was that informative. The cottonwood was by far the most spongiest-soggiest-delicousness. THis makes sense to the primitive fire specialist because they know that the highly porous nature of cottonwood (particularly the roots) makes it a good insulator for the coal generated by the contact of the spindle and fire board. Cottonwood trees can suck up gravel!!! Now it may bloody well be my imagination but i feel like the bed with the highest concentration of cottonwood kicks the most but on our project.

in the attached photo it is the mound on the left.
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Dale Hodgins
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My cottonwood stores more water than the other more dense woods. My alder is by far the fastest rotter and the best supplier of nitrogen. I have cleared all other species from the perimeter of the gardens. Fresh leaf fall lands where needed.
 
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How about ivy in a hugel bed?

A tree that came down in our garden was covered in the stuff.
That tree is already in the ground, but is there anything stopping me using the ivy in the next bed?

It's such a lot of bio mass, seems a shame not to use it.

Btw, it just common ivy not poisonous and apologies if this question came up before. I did have a look.
 
Dale Hodgins
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English ivy is extremely difficult to control and kill. Far worse than willow for me. I would leave it out. Any materials that may be contaminated should be set aside for a season, to ensure that it is dead.

I advertise for ivy eradication. $50,000 per acre. Nobody has taken me up on the offer yet, but I figure that's a safe bet for a serious infestation.
 
Ben Perryman
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Wow. Im sure an acre of the stuff would be an impressive sight.

Its on maybe 8 trees here. Its not a very big place (sub 1 acre) so has been easy to get under control.

To follow-up Dave, if i let the ivy i have in a pile go brown and dry this summer, do you believe there is a chance the ivy could re-grow if i included it in a bed?
 
Dale Hodgins
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Dale here, not Dave . A whole year without signs of regrowth, should be sufficient. I would burn it, if it were mine. Even a light burning and quench might create some biochar.
 
Ben Perryman
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Oops, sorry about that Dale. Thanks for the thoughts.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I buried these Douglas fir stumps, 18 years ago. It took 10 years for them to break down noticeably.

 The yard gets really dry in the summer, but this big mound  grows an abundant supply of brambles in the worst drought.
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Dale Hodgins
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I have been very busy this year and didn't plant anything on this mound. Garlic and shallots have done well in the dry conditions. Here they are in the first week of June.
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Just bought a farm with a little treeline containing a couple big black cherries. I'll have my garden on one side of the line and grazers on the other. They'll need to come down cause I don't want the toxic leaves in my pastures or my garden beds. Does anyone know if I can hugel with the wood? I don't think it will grow mushrooms, and I could save it for firewood if nothing else. Or can I...?
 
Posts: 3
Location: Story City, IA
books food preservation forest garden
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This may be a really stupid question, and I'm pretty sure I already know the answer to it, but I wanted to double check here.

My husband and I recently built a privacy fence around part of our yard for our dogs, and we have some left over pine (pickets, 2x4's and 4x4's).

I read earlier in this thread that pine works well for HK beds, but this is treated pine. Is that safe to use? If not, is there anything in the garden I can use the treated pine for? (Like a compost bin?)
 
Dale Hodgins
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I wouldn't use treated wood near anything edible. Your best bet may be to take it to the dump and never buy this sort of product again.
 
Posts: 40
Location: Southern Thailand
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Para rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis) are okay to use. These are common in Southeast Asia, and are said to originate in the state of Para, Brazil.
 
Posts: 96
Location: Nevada County, CA
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To begin springtime, Ive decided to take down two young pines in the middle of my hillside. Not so much for their unfriendly chemical tendencies, but because in the warmer weather they explode into fusiform gall rust - big orange spore gobs rupturing from the branches.

Since recovery is unlikely (the rust touches near the trunk), these guys are likely headed for less moldy pastures by spring.
Now, my question - would they be unwise to use in a hugelbed? I would probably sink them a foot deep and build at least 4 feet upwards with lots in between, but Im wondering if those spore ruffians would stick around and muss up the others? There are no other nearby pines so Im not worried about further contamination.

Hopefully this ancient (and awesome) thread is still alive!
 
pollinator
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Looks like their intermediate host is oak, so I wouldn't worry about burying them in a hugel, personally. The fungus should be quickly killed by earth-dwelling fungi.

 
Ian Rule
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Awesome, thanks! Ill let you know if I die.
 
Posts: 79
Location: New England USA, Zone 7a
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Interesting comments. I posted this question in the urban thread, but didn't get much advice... I know ailanthus is bad, but HOW bad is it? Especially if it's not freshly cut? I have giant stumps in my front yard (a clump of 4 that are all 3-5 feet across) that are almost 3 years old. Can I make a hugelkultur over them with other wood, like ash? Can I use a few old-ish (also 2+ years old) ailanthus logs inside my hugels? Or am I really poisoning my garden if I do this?
 
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Gum trees?

I'm out here in rural eastern Carolina (just south of Raleigh, NC) and started my first hugel bed the other day.

I'm not really sure if I'm doing it correctly, but considering what I have I think it's going to be "okay."

The wood layers on my hugel bed are sections of gum trees separated by a thick matting of pine needles and a layer of dirt. It's dug about two feet into the ground and about three feet above ground.

I topped it off with a thick matting of pine needles, a heavy layer of soil, and then one more heavy matting of pine needles.

Do you folks think that I'm going to have trouble like this? I gather that the pine needles will raise the hill's acidity, but am I missing anything here?

 
Posts: 13
Location: Palominas, az
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The only "spare" wood in my area is mesquite. I just cutbdiwn a bunch of them to make room for fruit trees.
Of course they are all sprouting now.
Could all this mesquite be used to make a mound?
 
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I have a ton of hackberry trees that I could use for my new permaculture bed. I've done some research and could not find whether this would be good for that or not. I did find out that it rots fairly easily. The logs that I have are a year or so old end have already begun to dry anyone know anything about hackberry trees?

 
Posts: 102
Location: Friday Harbor, WA
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Hi, hugel fans! I'll be starting construction of my hugel beds in the next week or two and had a few questions before I dive in.

There are a number of big, woody plants that I'll be taking down around my property and replacing with food-producing trees. I'm wondering about their suitability for use in hugel beds.

Two big rhododendrons--any reason why their wood wouldn't be suitable?

A blue spruce and a Doug fir--I've read mixed opinions about conifer wood in hugel beds; I might just have to try it in one bed and see if it produces a noticeable difference.

And the big one I'm worried about: an English ivy plant that has fully matured/turned into an upright shrubby tree thing. It absolutely must come out, since its location really isn't working for me. I'm concerned about its use in the hugel bed, based on what Dale said above.

Does anybody have experience with fully mature English ivy wood in hugels? Danger, Will Robinson? Or does all the re-sprouting occur from roots and branch tips? If I only use the wood--no leaves, tips of branches, roots, etc.--would I be okay? Or would it be best to stack the wood somewhere and let it age for a year before using it?

I've got tons of dead, dried Himalayan blackberry cane I can use, which should be safe. Not going to put any crowns or green canes into the hugels, though.
 
pollinator
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I would not go against Dale on this stuff. Pretty similar climate, similar species. Buyer beware.
 
Libbie Hawker
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Tj Jefferson wrote:I would not go against Dale on this stuff. Pretty similar climate, similar species. Buyer beware.



I wasn't planning to! But he seems to be discussing the immature phase of English ivy, with the viney tendrils. I was just wondering if anybody has experience with the wood taken from its mature phase, which looks a lot like a laurel tree. It's got an upright trunk, branches, the whole shrubby nine yards!
 
Dale Hodgins
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I wouldn't use anything known to be seriously invasive, unless it is turned to charcoal. Large ivy can be used for firewood.
.......
I have been seriously neglecting the beds at my farm. I built more last summer, when more trees were brought down. Nothing was planted in the existing beds, since I got busy working at other things away from the property.  The current plan is to let them sit and rot a bit. The snakes and lizards do fine without me.

Meanwhile, they do make excellent garbage cans for the vast amounts of organic waste produced in maintaining roads and ditches.
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