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Drought: can Hugelkultur be mostly underground?

 
Nathan Funke
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I have been wanting to experiment with hugelkultur ever since I first heard about it. I live in southern California and one of the biggest issues we face as gardeners is water. I have been looking over my property though and don't really see a place where I can fit in a giant 6 mound. So my question is, is it advisable to try and bury the stacks of wood underground so that only a small mound is raised with the rest of the wood below the normal ground level. Would that make sense? Can anyone with more experience with this give me some advice?
 
John Polk
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Yes. That makes a lot of sense for areas that get all of their rain from autumn through spring.
Your buried wood will soak up and hold much of your winter rains.

As the dry season progresses, your soil and plants can draw from that reserve of water.
To the neighbors, they will look like simple, raised beds.
A 6' high mound, on a suburban lot would get a lot of stares. A raised bed, hardly a glance.

sepp holzer, one of the pioneers for revitalizing hugelkultur, complains that most people do not build them high/steep enough.
He contends that they should be too high for people to walk on them.
BUT, he lives where it rains every month of the year.

What works best in his climate, will not work best in your climate.
 
Nathan Funke
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Thanks John,
Thanks really good to know. My biggest headache in SoCal is that it seems like every other year we're getting drought warnings and restrictions on water usage and what not. And on top of that the cost of watering has always been a steep one. I really hope this will help me get an edge. I think this and collecting my roof runoff rain water will really help with that. Still looking for ideas though so let me know if you can think of any.
 
John Polk
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Yeah. I grew up in SoCal (Santa Monica).
Most coastal regions get around 40" per year which is plenty, if you can keep it.
A 1600 sq.ft. house will shed 40,000 gallons with 40".

A good mulch will help keep it from evaporating into the sky. No bare soil.
If you do need to irrigate, drip systems save water by putting it where it does the most good.

Buying water sucks. They charge you so much per 100 cu.ft., and then charge you again for that same quantity for cleaning it up. Their pricing presumes that all the water you buy will end up going to the sewage system eventually. Not to mention the summer restrictions they put on watering a lawn or garden. Living at the edge of a desert, where everybody wants the greenest lawn in the neighborhood.
 
Paula Edwards
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Yes dig the timber in. I had bad experiences laying it on the top as written in the huegelbed thread. I would start with one or two beds only and keep modifiying. Mulching with stones is good in dry climates too. And yes to the water tank the biggest you can fit in. Try greywater use too. With the huegelbeds, doesn't they dry oout easier as they stick out of the ground?
 
Tyler Ludens
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My entire kitchen garden is buried wood beds, and this past year of high temperatures and severe drought, it was the best garden year ever.


 
Brenda Groth
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what I have done in some areas is just when I've harvested DUG items, I would claen out the loose soil..add wood..put the soil back in..works like a charm.

original permacultures books never mentioned hugelkulture, so NO it doesn't HAVE to be done

the wood in the soil helps to HOLD moisture
 
Alex Ames
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Location: Georgia
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geoff lawton uses sunken beds in the desert so they can accumulate water. This might as well
be a hugelculture bed, it should work pretty much the same.

There is another thing about digging holes to bury wood in, is that your soil is right there at the
job site and it can be amended and put right back on top of the wood. Piling up a giant stack of
wood creates a need for a soil layer that you may or may not have on hand. If you have to go
and bring in soil, then the work that you have to do digging might be worth it. Paul likes tall beds
like his hero does but he also likes to minimize outside inputs. Use what you have and can control.
 
Paula Edwards
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Exactly right. The only thing what let me try doing something on the TOP of the soil was the hard work. I had to work all the time with the mattock to get the rubbish like concrete pavers, pieces of walls, road signs, rubble or even asphalt out and broke several handles. Yes there was dirt in between all that crap. I know that 1 1/2 meter below all that there is swamp, hence water. The more I build up the more the water runs off the land and the farer I'm away from the water.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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