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Hugelkultur with prickly pear?

 
Matthew Hammell
Posts: 5
Location: Australia, NSW
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Hello permies, i am interested in your opinions on this
I have a large prickly pear cactus which is growing out of control into places it shouldnt
rather than see it as a problem i would rather see it as a resource
i was considering making a hugelkulture bed usuing large amounts of this cactus instead of wood
Has anyone tried this or see a reason why it wouldnt work

Im interested in what people have to say on it

 
Marc Troyka
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This question came up recently from someone else. Nobody could come up with any good reason of why it couldn't work, but so far I haven't seen any reports from someone who actually tried it.
 
William James
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In the end, Hugelculture = lots of carbon with soil on top.
How you make that happen is irrelevant. There may be variants in how each hugelculture functions, but there are a lot more factors that come into play here.

Unless I am missing something...

Has anyone had any huge mistakes with hugelculture?

William
 
Rick Larson
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Location: Manitowoc WI USA Zone 5
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Besides, experimenting is fun and exciting!
 
greg patrick
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Location: SoCal, USDA Zone 10b
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Prickly Pear (Nopales) is an incredible edible. I'd rather eat the plant than bury it. Or else build a fence around it and put your goats on it; They love it! To me, burying prickly pear is pure waste, and no better than burying the kale and strawberries.
 
William James
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1. I would like to see it very dry before I put it in contact with soil.
2. I second greg's motion: your problem is that you haven't thought of a way to benefit from the presence of a very valuable resource. Putting it under ground might be make sense if you had so much prickly pear that you actually had to pay people to remove it for you (+ an absence of animals who would eat it) or if you had absolutely no other source of carbon on your site. If growing and leaving some potatoes in the ground constitutes as a carbon+soil hugelkulture, throwing away high-value food for animals or people and only getting a hugelkulture in return seems like a bad investment. Especially because you have to go out an pick and dry the damn stuff, making it labor intensive. Hugelkulture is great, but it's no substitute for things like ready-made food or cash.

William
 
Matthew Hammell
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Location: Australia, NSW
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I appreciate all the input
Lets say you have forrests of the stuff, enough to feed all the people and animals with plenty left over and no other source of wood,
the question is, would it work?

Why would you want it dried out first?
 
William James
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Matthew Hammell wrote:
Why would you want it dried out first?


Wet cactus expresses its mushy-ness when it comes into contact with soil microbes. Dry cactus would be more woody and take longer to decompose. It's the time of decomposition that is the benefit of hugelkulture. Since things take longer to decompose, it means there is constant decomposition. More fungi are acting on it, and you lengthen the microbial party until well after midnight, like 5-7 years after midnight for logs, shorter for cacti parts.
W
 
William James
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Matthew Hammell wrote:
...the question is, would it work?


Yes. It would work.

Anything that has a high carbon content is going to break down slowly, just like wood. Find a carbon:nitrogen chart and if you stick to anything that is high on the carbon side you can put it under soil and gain the benefits of hugelkulture.

Hugelkulture is soil on top of carbon. Nothing more or less.
W
 
William James
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Matthew Hammell wrote:
Lets say you have forrests of the stuff, enough to feed all the people and animals with plenty left over


I think you still would want to put this to the higher use value of human/animal food. Such as: selling it as food, giving it away to increase your social capital, community kitchens, medicine.
The sky is the limit if you're still putting it to such a high order use. I seriously doubt you could come to an "end" of the uses.

When you put it underground, unless you have no other options (that would include all other sources of carbon ... including potatoes and other high-carbon things you can grow much more rapidly than new cacti), that cactus is put to a function that is very low (building soil).

That's where Greg is coming from when he tells you it would be a pity to put it underground in nearly every case imaginable.
But in the end it's your cactus and you can do with it what you want.

all the best,
W
 
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