I was listening to a Paul-cast with Geoff Lawton, I forget which number it was, but Geoff mentioned that it took more microbes to digest the wood. More microbes, the better is my understanding.
I do not put cedar in the middle, outside or top of my beds. Strictly in the trench I dug for sod, top soil. The cedar gets as much contact with the ground as possible, to be buried under birch trunks. The cedar is out of touch with any plants, roots (I build big beds). In the long run, i believe I'm adding more microbial diversity to my beds without adding harmful qualities. Plus I'm filling the trenches with water soaked wood, so I don't need to bury as much birch (higher beds, more surface area to grow).
Don't overlook cedar when raising big beds.
My uncle always said, "Raising beds is better than wetting them".
I'm using a lot of juniper, which is called cedar here, in my buried wood beds. Not seeing any problem so far. Most was aged several years, not fresh. Personally I think it is fine to use whatever wood is available (not treated lumber, though).
Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
posted 8 years ago
Didn't realize juniper was cedar, thanks. We do have large juniper shrubs here. It does take a long time for them to break down.
There are actual cedar treesCedrus species that aren't native to my region, but the local juniper Juniperus ashei is called cedar for some reason. So I'm not totally sure if Frolf means Cedrus or Juniperus....
though i would personally never build a bed entirely of cedar, juniper, or pine, or anything else allelopathic i tend to agree that the biodiversity of wood and things that break it down to be more positive than any problems fro mthe wood itself, i would readily use cedar or any other wood in my hugelbeds if it was mixed in with lots of other wood
that being said, my beds that i have most recently built were almost entirely cottonwood, with some pine and other woods i had laying around thrown in here and there, and didnt have much diversity to them:)
I agree that beds of mixed wood are probably best but you can do beds of all pine. Holzer does it, I have done it and there don't seem to be any problems as long as the wood is not chipped and is composed of logs.
I can find citations for allelopathic effects of juniper litter, but not wood. Do you know of any web resources listing the effects of juniper wood (and other woods) and how to identify those effects in plants? I guess what I'm asking is, how would I know if the wood is having a detrimental effect?
I think it is more accurate to state that allelopathic wood is problematic in high surface area applications for example if the wood were chipped. There is little chance of harm with bulk material because there is less surface area so noxious compounds are released in far lower concentrations and over greater lengths of time than what would cause problems.
I used cottonwood, cedar elm, pecan and live oak. Mostly I used whole tree trunks that I dragged up from the riverbank and laid in the trench. I had read that there were a few types of wood that weren't suitable, but I figured I was safe with what I had. I'm about out of the very large timber now, so the rest of my Hugel beds will likely employ more pecan than anything else, and that mostly large limbs. There's an abundance of that around the farm and surrounding properties, so I think I'm set for at least a little while. I'd like to find more whole trees to use, however. I think I'll wait on cedar and the rest until I hear something more definite from the folks who are using it.
Purely an armchair muse/plan still, but my friends have some Madrone tree trunks and branches that fell, they are quite big, trying to convince them, to leave the Madrone as it fell, and use it as the bottom edge of a hugel. In my mind it would rot much slower and help hold the pile up in it's spot till the full settling of other wood had set in. The spot is very steep and at the edge of a bulldozer flattened out spot. The Madrone tree broke off right there and seemed to be begging to be filled in with a hugelkultur to stop erosion off the artificial edge. I also saw the pictures of a bed made with Iron wood around the edges of a city plot, which gave me the idea of using the less desirable/ slower to rot woods as sort of planter edges to hold contents in place. Anyone know if I'm off base? I don't know if Madrone is one of the unhealthy woods, I do eat the berries and they are wonderful. The spot would be destroyed if the wood were pulled up the edge for cutting into firewood, and many of the branches that were sticking into yard were already harvested for firewood.
On cedar; I'm thinking now about how many cedar planters I have used in the past, and also redwood. I'm not sure how great they were, some plants did seem stunted except for trees and herbs.
aka Wilde Hilde (Vill-dee Hill-dee)
AKA Wilde Hilde
S.Oregon High Mountain Valley 8b
"Ensnar'd in flowers, I fall in the grass."-Marvell
Just speculation here: Cedar is anti-fungal and anti-microbial. Wouldn't it then serve to be counter productive to introduce a species that would hinder soil health. Agreed, it may slow down and budget decomposition. But, I am not sure that is the point. I don't believe HK beds have an expiration date. Thoughts?
I think much confusion can come from oversimplification.
Cedar contains oils that have anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties, which have posed problems in cases where these woods are chipped and applied to the soil in a high surface area situation where these oils can leach out quickly.
I think that if the cedar stays in large chunks, especially with outer bark intact, then the oils will stay pretty much in place. You might see some leave with water exchange, but that would be about it, I think. Which means you have, in a mixed cedar bed, big wooden wicks that will outlast the rest of the wood in your bed and keep the structure that allows them to perform that function that much longer.
Also, cedar mixed in with wood that rots faster will provide structural integrity throughout the bed, so as to maintain void spaces and slow natural compaction due to settlement.
Finally, there is a finite concentration of these oils, whatever the wood we're talking about specifically. Rain washes things away. If the wood is wicking moisture and releasing it, every rainfall dilutes the soil concentration of oils, and more will leach out of the wood, until there's nothing left. My guess is that if you build a hugelbeet even with only allellopathic woods, lets say pine, for now, and then planted it with acid-loving plants, both natives that you'd find in the understory, like blueberries, and a crop of potatoes, which are also acid freaks, but much more tolerant of a higher pH, and any other berries that would handle the conditions, and to guess at a few I would suspect serviceberry, raspberry, blackberry, mulberry, and currant, I would suspect that without the addition or mulching of acidic material, the pH would neutralize, perhaps not within a single season, but relatively quickly to the point of stressing the blueberries.
It might be different with juglone and walnuts, but I think that allellopathy is more of a concern with living plants that are continually producing their chemicals of choice. Otherwise, the rain just washes it away.
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I love how this forum keeps coming up in the searches when I am thinking about applying something new to my garden. I have a LOT of red cedar trees around me, also alders, maples, and some pines. I was motivated by what happened when a pile of branches (of red cedar) accumulated on our lawn. Our lawn is ridiculous, the previous owners I know took some time trying to maintain the grass, but we don't. The grass is CRAZY and there is soooo much of it. We have just about an acre or so of yard btw. So, what happened was under those branches, it was all brown, in less than a week or two. Super handy for me as the long grass sometimes makes me fall as it is harder to judge how deep it is.
Anyway, so I have two little 5x10 garden beds, and one of them was pre-populated with some potatoes when we moved in I recently discovered. This is fine, but I realized that I probably would like another one, for my "chosen" crops. My husband suggested we just "till" the lawn, well part of it, and just grow in the dirt. I don't like tilling, but other than that I think it is a great idea! We even have some OLD firewood that doesn't burn very well that I can easily just pile up and start a hugelkultur pile of dirt to plant in.
So that was a long story, I'm basically writing because the initial area that was flattened by the cedar branches, is now where I have a table, that I love and want to keep there because it is convenient. The area where I want to create THE PILE is covered with very thick grass. I do already have a tarp on it, but I'm thinking that it might make sense to pull some of those cedar branches (which were thrown in what we plan to someday make a pond) and then put a base layer of those cedar branches, I figure it will help hold back the grass while I'm establishing the garden with old firewood first, the cut grass, dirt from digging out the someday pond, etc.
Do you all think it is a good idea to use the cedar branches or fronds (is that the right word?) at the bottom most layer of my hugelkultur pile? I also have things like wood chips that I recently acquired that I was told are mostly maple and pine...so there will probably be some of those too. Reading this thread I think it will be just fine, but felt like adding to it just in case that was a bad idea...I am a bit of a newbie as my 8yo son would say!!
Kristin Bennett, From the thread it sounds like cedar on the bottom of the bed is fine with other woods above that. Also as far as grass is concerned I watched a youtube from Oklahoma Gardening channel that cut the grass out and put it upside down on the hugel as one of the layers. Depending on the type of grass you might want to bury it deeply in the hugel. Where are you located?
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