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Hugelpots : buried wood pot culture

 
Eric Markov
Posts: 100
Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
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While this isn't true hugelkultur, it is interesting to see how roots form around branches and stumps in containers.

Just looked at the roots of 6 vegetable containers that I used different organic soil mixes in.
I've been using branches, stumps, leaves and compost in different arrangements to see
what grows best.

http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com/2012/09/eggplant-stump-branch-pot-comparison.html

http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com/2012/09/pepper-containers.html

 
Brenda Groth
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good idea, Sepp suggests patio planters with buried wood in them..and even upright wood for mushrooms and vine training
 
Judith Browning
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I was about to give away some really large pots when I kept running across threads that mention burying wood in the potting soil. Now with these examples I am cleaning up our leftover bits and pieces of too far gone firewood, throwing in some leaves and not quite done compost and setting them under the bat flight pattern at the edge of the house. Hopefully I'll have something to plant in by late winter. Maybe I'll throw in some clover and vetch seed in a few weeks. I have always made my own potting soil with sifted compost, sand and sifted garden soil but never wanted to make enough to fll anything more than seed starting flats.
 
Eric Markov
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Judith,
Based on my observations, I'd recommend putting rotted wood in the top third or so of a pot, don't put rotted wood in the bottom, instead put dry unrotted wood, vertically in the bottom of the pots.

 
Judith Browning
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Eric Markov wrote:
Judith,
Based on my observations, I'd recommend putting rotted wood in the top third or so of a pot, don't put rotted wood in the bottom, instead put dry unrotted wood, vertically in the bottom of the pots.



I probably didn't read your blog carefully enough...easily corrected...by unrotted do you mean green fresh cut? If you had to estimate what percentage of the pot could be taken up with wood? Your plants look wonderful. I don't usually grow things in planters so this is a bonus if it works at all...these are probably twenty gallon black plastic pots. Thanks. .....

I should add that I am unable to watch videos on my kindle...just read text and look at pictures...so I missed some of the visuals I think.
 
Devon Olsen
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Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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i want you to know that i am loving your videos a little more every time you excavate the roots to show us
 
Eric Markov
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Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
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Judith,
Use dry wood, not fresh. You want the wood to be able to absorb and wick excess water down. In the stump pot probably half the volume was stump.

Devon,
I'm totally enjoying this. Should have done it years ago. For a fun picture only a gardening geek could love, just posted a picture of a bean root growing through a worm hole.

http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com/2012/09/worm-hole-roots.html



 
William Roan
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Hello Eric Markvo
Thank you all who helped me find your posting again.
Your study is amazing, shall we call it the “Markvo Vegetable root Excavation”?
You have presented three videos and I’m surprised that our fellow permiesers let it drop from view so quickly. I think you present some very intriguing information. In the art world what I would like to do is called, “Painting on someone else’s canvas”. So with your permission let me start painting.
Using the following video as a guide, I decided to put your findings to a test, to study the biomechanics of your experiment.
http://www.permies.com/t/16774/permaculture/Hugelk...ltur-Vegetable-Root-Excavation
Creating a carbon sinks
I took three 3500ml glass beakers and three one gallon plastic pots, cut the bottoms off the pots.
For the first study I used an 18 inch, freshly cut cedar log with the bark still placed. The plastic pot slid over the top portion of the log and filled half the pot with the wood log. The setup was placed into the glass beaker, with the plastic pot located at the top of the beaker. There was a one inch air space around the inside of the beaker and the log.
The second study I used a bundle of dead dried cedar branches some with bark on and from the same tree. Again cut 18 inches long and about inch dia. I packed as many sticks into the bottom of the plastic container as I could. Two rubber bands bound the bundle at the bottom so the shape conformed to the same shape as the first setup.
Third carbon sink I used a bundle of rolled up newspaper, rolled hand tight and forced into the bottom of the pot.
Each study was placed in their own beaker and topped with enough potting mix to be level with the top of the plastic pot. I started watering daily with 100ml of water for about two weeks. At first most of the water run through, to the bottom of the beakers. By the next morning the bottom of the newspaper beaker was completely dry and the soil in the pot was also dry. The branch beaker was damp at the bottom, but with little standing water. Using the most expensive and sensitive devise at my disposal, the finger probe. I found the soil located just above each branch end was extremely wet, like water plugs, but the soil between was dryer then the plugs.
The solid log had a one inch high water plug located above the log end, about the same diameter as the log and there was a small amount of water pooled at the bottom of the beaker.
Third week I increased the amount of water delivered to each pot study, up to 200ml. less water seemed to pour through to the bottom of each beaker, but what did was soaked up completely by the newspaper study within 12 hours, again soil is dry at top.
The branch study, the barkless pieces look like wet columns from top to bottom, with about a ½ inch of water pooled at the bottom of the beaker. Again there are the water plugs found just above the ends of each branch.
The solid log has the most water pooled at the bottom, about an inch, since I doubled the water amounts delivered this week. The outer bark at the bottom 3 inches is saturated with water and doesn’t seem to be able to draw up any more water. The bark is holding tight to the wood log.
As fate would have it, a plastic pipe on the new autoclave located above my office broke over the weekend and flooded a small part of my office, the lab next door and all the rooms located below. Industrial sized dehumidifiers were brought in to dry out the rooms. The study is located 10 feet away from a dehumidifier, running 12 hours over night. The two wood carbon sinks are holding its water, but the newspaper sink is still dry at the bottom, on the sides and the soil itself.
Following Eric Markov’s example I took the newspaper study apart, to see what was happening. The inner core of the newspaper roll is a solid column of water, with the outer ½ inch completely dry. There is no water plug located above, extending into the soil.
Observation and predictions
It’s too early to draw a conclusion from the “Markvo excavations” and my small study. But we can make an observation, Eric found plants grown above a solid vertical log with no bark, will produce a matt of roots at the top, with in the water plug. The roots will grow down the sides of the log and grow another matt below.
There is very little root penetration into the wood itself.
The pooling water at the bottom gets the soil extremely wet and slimy.
Plants grown above branches with the bark still on performs best when the wood is situated vertically. The root in one study seemed to have found the niche between the bark and the inner log.
Question: Did the root actively search out that sweet spot on the log or did the seed just so happen to be planted above the exact spot where that branch end was buried? Is there a chemical or fungus that is growing between the log layers that is attracting the root?
Paul claims in his pod casts that a Hugelkulture doesn’t start performing well, until the third year. Does it take buried horizontal logs with the bark on, two years for the bark to breakdown and open up, so the roots can find that sweet spot?
Would a newspaper roll buried vertically attract a plant’s roots or does it lack a chemical or fugal stimulant?
Thank you again Eric for your intriguing experiment.
Your thoughts Biology Bill Roan

 
David Goodman
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As an experiment, I've been taking very large pots and filling it most of the way with paper waste from the house. Junk mail, uncoated paper plates, cardboard, toilet paper rolls, etc. Then I spray down all the paper and turn it until it's sopping... and then squish in some nice chicken manure and wash that through. Then I fill the top 6" or so of the container with good potting soil and plant in veggie seeds and transplants.

I figure I'm doing a few worthwhile things:

1. Reusing "waste"
2. Saving money on potting soil
3. Creating a reservoir of water in the pot
4. Growing food!

Thus far the seedlings are doing well. I'm very curious to see how they do over time.
 
Rion Mather
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You know I am a huge fan of your hugelpots. I use the pots for all of my indoor plants. Keep up the good work!
 
David Goodman
gardener
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You know, I have to say... that's truly brilliant stuff. I just linked to you from my own site.

I'm a big fan of experiments like this. I was urging one of my fellow Master Gardeners yesterday to stop saying "I don't have enough space" and just plant a little closer and mix more species together. Fear not - just start planting and see what happens!

Some folks would say you're crazy for putting rotten wood and stumps into your pots. But the eggplants beg to differ. And I'd rather listen to an eggplant than an egghead.
 
William Roan
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So I have my paint brush loaded up and I would like to explore another layer of Eric Markvo’s video.

http://www.permies.com/t/16774/permaculture/Hugelk...ltur-Vegetable-Root-Excavation

Eric dug a trench and filled it with wood of various sizes and states of detreiation.
I would assume that he planted his seeds or plant starts and let the plants have at it. At some point in the season a gopher came in and dug a tunnel through the Hugelkulture. Then something happen that drove the gopher away from the Hugelkulture bed. I am basing this observation on the video footage showing the plant roots growing into the tunnel. If the tunnel was still an active tunnel, I would expect the roots to be eaten or broken off as the gopher passed through the tunnel, while making its daily rounds.

Question: What would cause the gopher to vacate its tunnel?

Perhaps Eric’s continued digging in the garden, fungal or bacterial growth in the buried wood, a moister underground environment, hard objects that the gopher doesn’t like to dig around. It’s possible the roots give off a smell or chemical, while growing in mycelium fungus that the gopher doesn’t like. In some areas the roots grew between the inner bark and the log, it might be the gopher couldn’t find the hidden roots. Maybe the gopher simply gave up on the Hugelkulture area because there was nothing growing in the area when the tunnel was dug and it relocated to a more promising location.
Has anyone else gardening in gopher prone areas, discovered a decrease in gopher populations since they established a new Hugelkulture?
Comments.
Thanks BiologyBill
 
Eric Markov
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Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
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Hi all,

Biology Bill,

Paint away, liked reading about your experiments.
You asked "Did the root actively search out that sweet spot on the log or did ...":
A true soil/plant scientist should answer this, not me. The plant was close but not right over the branch.
My assumption is that the bark created air pockets that would get an air flush during watering. The roots liked these bark/wood/soil interfaces because there was fresh oxygen and water there and also as you mentioned probably fungus or chemicals from decomposition there.

Try out the vertical newspaper roll and let us know. I'd guess though that it would swell and get mushy underground and close off air pockets so roots wouldn't like it as much. (But seedlings in a corn cob mix did well and corn cobs get really mushy when wet, so ? ? ?)

About horizontal logs, from my own limited one season observations, I'd say that once a log rots, roots can and will get into it for the water and nutrients. But big thick white roots did not form in the horizontally rotted branches (or even in vertically rotted branches) that I buried. Smaller white roots did go into the rotted branches. I believe this is because the rotted branches didn't offer an air flush and thus didn't have as much fresh oxygen as the vertically buried bark covered branches.

About the gophers: yes in active tunnels I did notice that roots did not dangle, instead there were big thick white roots along the walls, (not dangling in the air).
Gopher probably vacated because I poisoned some with gopher bait (milo seed laced with strychnine) also 2 cats.

The hugelkultur wood did provide some protection from gophers, but they do get around!



Vidad,
Let us know how your "paper waste pots" do!
It might not offer enough oxygen to the roots, depending on how soupy it is. You might try pushing a rod/rebar/thin stick into the pot soil all the way to the bottom and then pulling it out again and doing this at several locations. This can create aeration columns (maybe cover the top to prevent the insides from drying out). I plan on trying this next year in a thick compost mix. Just compost and maybe 10 aeration columns in an 18 gallon tub.


Rion,
Using wood for indoor pots! Wow, I never even considered that. Will have to try it this winter, when the fall garden prep is done.



In this picture I set a gopher trap and 2 weeks later pulled it out. I was surprised by how fast the roots invaded the tunnel and the gopher who was caught. Sorry if this is too squeamish.


 
Rion Mather
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Eric Markov wrote:
Rion,
Using wood for indoor pots! Wow, I never even considered that. Will have to try it this winter, when the fall garden prep is done.


Hey, Eric. I started 2 Juliets in Hugelpots and they are doing surprisingly well. I also have 2 huskies that are producing tiny cherry tomatoes. I also have started eggplants, new zealand spinach, strawberries, and herb plants all indoors. This is all more about experimentation than producing, though a snack here and there would be nice.
 
Troy Santos
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Location: Southern Thailand
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Gotta resuscitate this thread I'd love to see more investigation like ... so-called successes and so-called failures. Someday, after a bed matures, I'll do one of these hugel excavations. Eric, I'm super impressed with what you've done, and want to express appreciation. Cool cool cool.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You asked "Did the root actively search out that sweet spot on the log or did ...":
A true soil/plant scientist should answer this, not me. The plant was close but not right over the branch.
My assumption is that the bark created air pockets that would get an air flush during watering. The roots liked these bark/wood/soil interfaces because there was fresh oxygen and water there and also as you mentioned probably fungus or chemicals from decomposition there.


Roots will actively seek out "sweet spots" they do this through the interception of chemical signals sent out by mycorrhizal fungi, micro organisms and other plant roots.
The growing tips will turn towards the bio-communication routes and thusly seek out the nutrients they need.
These roots will also send out signals that they have found a rich source and other root tips will follow these signals to reach the advertised source of nutrients.
If the first root(s) are from the same plant and another species roots are invading, there will be allopathic interaction compounds produced to slow the growth rate of the competition plant roots.
If there are pathogenic organisms present or proceeding towards the feeding roots, they will usually produce compounds to inhibit the pathogen as well as compounds to warn other roots to do the same.

O2 is normally sought out in two forms, dissolved and free oxygen, most roots desire a combination of the two types for best growth. Most plant roots can store some of all nutrients/O2 for later transport up the phylum paths to the rest of the plant.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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