This question was asked of when I told a family member about hugelkultur, who unlike me only has access to straw and some branches off of a pine tree farm near her. Like she said the straw absorbs water when it rains and is fiberous.
So could straw be subsituted even if it doesn't last as long as the trees whhen buried?
Hugel 1 has straw only on top to keep everything warm and most and to keep the bermuda grass from growing on it.
Hugel 2 has one layer of straw near the top.
Hugel 3 has alternating layers of straw, eucalyptus waste and freshly cut Leyland cypress branches.
My advice is to not make your straw layers too thick, as the thing becomes structurally unstable. Rather thin (a couple of inches) alternating layers of straw and your different materials are the way to go if you are using straw. I am not sure about straw's effects on growing plants.
Going out to fix those tomorrow by stamping the year-old straw down, putting in some more, and managing the surrounding soil. I used them as a border with mixed results. They looked good in the beginning, towards the end not so nice-looking.
I'm thinking of two things here:
-Straw might have more edge, which means more things are happening, which means faster breaking down.
-Wood stays pretty stable, while straw, even if baled and compressed, tends to move a bit.
I'm also thinking that straw tends to dry out pretty fast, so water might be an issue. With wood the hope is that the wood becomes an emitter of water rather than something that needs watering.
If you have a lot of rain, straw might be something that can provide a lot of "sponge" that plants would like. When things are dry, straw stays damp at best and (at worst) dries out completely and is kind of useless.
William James wrote:
Elliot Everett wrote:Hugel 3 has alternating layers of straw, eucalyptus waste and freshly cut Leyland cypress branches.
Doesn't eucalyptus have anti-fungal or anti-growth properties?
So they say. My first two beds have only very dead euc litter (they are "dirty" trees that shed high amounts of leaves and sticks). Previously, I made a test pile of only euc litter, bermuda grass and cow dung in the shade. While it doesn't get hot, it does break down and there is white fungus. I have my doubts regarding all the negative press about eucalyptus and tend to think there are other non-science factors involved.
My first hugel was completed in our fall (4 months ago) and there are some garlics growing now. There were potatoes, but the ants got them. Damn ants.
Elliot Everett wrote:Damn ants.
Yeah. That would be another consideration.
If your place is prone to ants, straw is going to love those ants, and vice versa. It can become a lovely place for an ant resort.
My first thought was, "hey, great, free aeration of the soil." My second thought was "nothing grows here!". That's when I gave the ants an eviction notice with my shovel and told them to hit the road.
look at our bale garden presentation did we use hugelkultur before hugelkultur became?
i would say ye, and now with our new beds (corrugated roofing sides) we use hugelkultur because we have teh remains of trees to recycle.
we find in gardening we do what suits us, if it has a anme so be it, to use it simply makes common sense to do waht we do.
happy gardening whatever it is called.
Elliot Everett wrote: I have my doubts regarding all the negative press about eucalyptus and tend to think there are other non-science factors involved.
I live in Ventura County, CA; we have a lot of eucalyptus. I've spoken with university extension reps who relayed info from studies on euc mulch - apparently, the allelopathic compounds produced by the trees break down fairly quickly. I was told that no significant inhibition of growth was seen using euc mulch. Apparently, the fact that the trees are continually dropping fresh material is why other plants are inhibited in the area of continual leaf / bark drop - not to mention the intense water-thieving ability of the euc root system.
I don't know if any studies focused on levels of allelopathic compounds in euc WOOD compared to bark & leaves. However, it makes biological sense that the tree would not produce or store such compounds in its wood, since it primarily drops leaves & bark, and it would be biologically expensive to make those compounds & store them in wood where they would do nothing useful. So, I would theorize that even if the compounds tend to break down more slowly under ground, there would be a lot less of them in a hugelkultur bed, since one uses large wood, preferably, rather than leaves & bark strips.