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How to get dirt for Hugelkultur?

 
Adam Briggs
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Well, I have a problem. I really want to get this permaculture and hugelkultur thing off the ground! Pun intended!

But, I have a bad back. So, I can no longer shovel dirt or lift large objects. So, obtaining dirt is now trickier.

Plus, how can I get dirt? We are low income so I don't want to buy any if I don't have to.

Any ideas?

I AM EXCITED though, but sad too, because the electric company is coming by to cut off some HUGE branches from our trees because they are interfering with the power lines. I'm going to use those logs for good in creating the hugelkultur beds!
 
R Scott
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Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Big machinery. scrape your own topsoil off before you put down the wood and then use it to put it over the top.

Yes it costs money. But a day of a trackhoe rental is way cheaper than back surgery.
 
Tyler Ludens
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If you can hook up with some local permies through Meetup, Landshare or if you have a local permablitz group (or want to start one) you might be able to get some folks to come help in your yard for experience. Lots of folks want to work in the soil but don't own property.

http://www.landshare.org/ (mostly in the UK so far)

http://www.meetup.com/

http://www.permablitz.net/regional-groups (mostly in Australia so far)
 
Adam Briggs
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Thank you both for your thoughts and comments.
 
Julia Winter
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bee bike chicken food preservation hugelkultur urban
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Building a hugelkultur berm is going to require power of some sort--either human power or machine power. As was already said, you can use the soil at the site to form the top layer, but obviously you've got to dig up that soil and then pile it on top of the wood/etc at the end.

What have you got to offer the able-bodied folks in your circles of acquaintance? Do you bake? brew? grow excess yummies that you can share?? Can you edit a document or build a website? Do you know how to throw a party? Building a hugelkultur bed/berm can be a fun party for the right group of people, given decent weather. . .

Craigslist will sometimes point you to people with heavy equipment, but then the question is what do they charge and what can you spend?
 
Adam Briggs
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Julia Winter wrote:Building a hugelkultur berm is going to require power of some sort--either human power or machine power. As was already said, you can use the soil at the site to form the top layer, but obviously you've got to dig up that soil and then pile it on top of the wood/etc at the end.

What have you got to offer the able-bodied folks in your circles of acquaintance? Do you bake? brew? grow excess yummies that you can share?? Can you edit a document or build a website? Do you know how to throw a party? Building a hugelkultur bed/berm can be a fun party for the right group of people, given decent weather. . .

Craigslist will sometimes point you to people with heavy equipment, but then the question is what do they charge and what can you spend?


We can provide many services! Great ideas. Barter with services!
 
Holly Brown
Posts: 10
Location: Palm Beach County
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We are lucky enough to live in a county where the local SWA (Solid Waste Authority) gives away free compost (it is really black gold!) and mulch (not so pretty, but it works). So you can check out that sort of option. I also read somewhere recently (forgot where) about how someone topped their hugelkultur off with horse manure, let it sit for a while, and then planted. Horse manure should be free, you just have to live close to a horse-owner and be willing to come and get it. Check Craigslist. You may want to ask about whether they have given worming meds to their horses recently, though. I will probably try to do this for a hugelkultur I started for my parents this summer. It was so big, that my Dad didn't want to buy that much dirt to cover it, so it is still bare. DH and I can cover it when we visit at Thanksgiving, they can let it sit and plant it in the spring. HTH, let us know what you figure out.
 
Laura Jean Wilde
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Location: LAKE HURON SOUTHERN SHORE
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chicken forest garden hugelkultur
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I agree with Julia trade services with someone with even a small Garden tractor size excavator or bucket. It will do a great job of replacing the original topsoil. if you can be patient, you can add your own kitchen scraps and yard compost and if you have a few. chickens, add their manure. just a note tho... if you have chickens you'll need to fence them out of your Hugle beds or they will flatten them. personal experience!
 
Jordan Lowery
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Ever think hugelkultur may not be for you.? There are many more ways to make fertile soil. Did you know natural humus holds more water than any wood ever will, and stimulate the soil life more.

If your insistent I reccomed the group effort, find people who want to learn, explain your situation. This type of stuff happens all the time around here. With great end results.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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you don't say where you live..there might be someone that can help you out if you state where you are from...i know I have given a lot of materials to other permies in our area.
 
James Colbert
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You could exchange the food grown in the hugelculture bed (some of it) for the labor needed to create it. Perhaps create a small CSA and allow people to help you make the beds and then offer them CSA shares in exchange for help building and maintaining it. That way everyone wins.
 
Charles Kelm
Posts: 170
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
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People are always trying to get rid of dirt on Craigslist. Just make sure it's not infected with something.
 
Morgan Morrigan
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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you want to dig a hole where you are making this anyway, to trap water into your wood.

the "hegel" (hill) part of this, was actually to create a DRY place to plant, in a wet woods., and get blow downs consolidated in one place.
you want the wood to break down quicker, and to trap and hold water in the winter, so you wont have to water till late summer.
consider putting in a peice of soaker hose or drip tube with drywall screws all the way thru it, then backed out just a little to make drippers too.

think of a pit, instead of a hill.
you could call it a wicking bed, but that is a different type of raised bed planting system

hydropit ?
 
Todd Parr
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Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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I think Julia's idea is dead on. I would be happy to help someone in your position in exchange for teaching me how to can vegetables, making me dinner, or sewing a new zipper in my jacket.

Then again, maybe we just think alike because I'm from WI too and we make good neighbors
 
Frances Nokes
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Tyler Ludens wrote:If you can hook up with some local permies through Meetup, Landshare or if you have a local permablitz group (or want to start one) you might be able to get some folks to come help in your yard for experience. Lots of folks want to work in the soil but don't own property.

http://www.landshare.org/ (mostly in the UK so far)

http://www.meetup.com/

http://www.permablitz.net/regional-groups (mostly in Australia so far)


Great info here.
For Canada, try this:
http://landsharecanada.com
See you there!
Cheers,
Frances
 
Paula Edwards
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I have the same priblem not because of my back but because our topsoil is non existant. You might get someone in with a machine to remove the topsoil , the topsoil in a separtae heap. You best call a landscaper because they often have very small machines that won't wreck your garden and soil too much. I did this for fruit tree holes, fantastic (digging here is next to impossible). The machine was really tiny.
If you want more soil you could call an excavator for dirt but ask exactly what you get, you want soil not fill!
But then comes the next part and you will still have hard work: get in the woody stuff, cut it up heap the soil on the top.
 
Calvin Mars
Posts: 32
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Fall leaves, wood chips from the dump, coffee grounds from your local coffee shop, get a worm bin. If you drop blobs of wormipost on the leaves and coffee grounds, the eggs in the blob will turn into worms that will work it into soil. Feed the worms paper and kitchen scraps.

You might consider growing large plants that do well in marginal soils to feed to your worms. Mullein, sorghum, lambs quarters, etc....

A thick layer of straw would work. Just start your plants in compost and nestle them into the straw.

I'm trying an experiment right now in which I put oyster mushroom stem butts in bags of coffee grounds. If the bag gets infected with green mold I'll put it outside on the bed. Otherwise I'll let them flush and then move out the leftover mycelial mass to by hugelbed when it's almost spent. Either way there's a chance that the oysters will naturalize. The oysters will break down the wood, thus creating soil.

 
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