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Mixed results for planting trees and perennials on hugelkultur beds

 
Angelika Maier
Posts: 709
Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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I have got really mixed results planting fruit trees and perennials on huegelculture beds. I think I won't do that anymore maybe there was something wrong how I did it.
What are your experiences?
I planted some clumping bamboo on a hilled bed, some of them died and others were slow to establish even when we had wet summers. It was maybe a lack of fertilizer there.
I had an olive tree which first did very well and then suddelny died, maybe it was when the climate got drier and there was too much drainage. This hill was surrounded with big stones and I think that maybe the root system reached the woody material and then couldn't get through to find water because it was completely dry.
Feijoas did well, but it is really difficult to kill a feijoa. These are together with other perennial plants on a big hill, but I find that the soil on the topremains infertile. I should mulch more there when I come finally around.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I just started planting trees in hugelkultur - so far 2 figs and 2 feijoa. All are currently mostly dormant (one feijoa looks a little dead) so I won't really be able to report on them until Spring. I put a lot of old sheep manure in the piles, so I hope I won't have any problems from lack of nitrogen....

I guess we'll see!

 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Did you dig down at least 4 inches before placing wood.
Then manure, compost, dirt,
Then mulch to keep in moisture?
 
Angelika Maier
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Location: cool climate, Blue Mountains, Australia
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Sometimes yes, sometimes no. The feijoas are really evergreen and should not look dead, maybe they are dead?
 
Judith Browning
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Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I've always understood that tree roots (or I guess any plant) would die if they hit a pocket of air in a planting hole. Could it be that there are open soilless areas in your HK around the logs?
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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My small hugel is built to hopefully deal with my dry, sandy environment.
This thread may have ideas: dry climate hugel thread
I've grown a load of random seed on my experimental hugel, but no perennials until I've stabilised the soil with winter carbon crops.
 
Elliot Everett
Posts: 29
Location: Coastal Uruguay. Wet winters, hot and dry summers. 1000 mm annual rain.
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I have found with my experiments that existing bushes really started to take off after I put hugels next to them. Anybody else experience this? So I might put trees right up next to the hugel and plant other stuff (veggies) on the hugel itself.
 
Victor Johanson
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Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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Elliot Everett wrote:I have found with my experiments that existing bushes really started to take off after I put hugels next to them. Anybody else experience this? So I might put trees right up next to the hugel and plant other stuff (veggies) on the hugel itself.


This seems to be the method used by sepp holzer and others; instead of planting trees on hugelbeets, they're situated adjacent.
 
mike mclellan
Posts: 93
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
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Angelika,

I, too, have had mixed results with perennials planted directly into new hugel beds. Mine are only one year old and so far I would say that the asparagus crowns (15/20 survived) and stawberries ( about 50% survival) have done the best. I planted small (6-8 inch- 15-20 cm)seedlings of Amalanchier alnifolia I got bare root. All but one survived and put on what I would consider acceptable growth. I planted two bare-root fruit trees directly on the south facing ends of two beds. One, I think, was DOA so it's hard to judge. The other (Chazy River pear) took several weeks longer to leaf out than similar species planted in native soil next to the hugel bed. Once leafed out, it did reasonably well with a few cm of leader growth. I figure it put most of its energy into sending roots out "hunting". I tried Polana raspberries in one of the beds and 5 out of 20 made it. HMMM! Three of four fruit trees I planted in soil between the three parallel beds survived and have good looking buds now.

These three beds all run north-south, are composed a wide variety of woods with about 40% Russian olive. These were topped with fairly fresh horse manure and then straw from the grass I cut that was growing under the beds. These were topped with twigs. The bottoms of each bed were "rounded off" with twigs and smaller branches. Each bed got the same kind of topsoil (hauled in) to a depth of about 8 inches. I got a huge menagerie of weeds which I take the blame for as I didn't plant the beds with ground covers/nitrogen fixers immediately as I did in the beds described below. Sepp says plant those hugel beds right away and he's NOT KIDDING! The beds were about 42 inches high (105 cm more or less!) and about seven feet wide (2.1m) . I used no machinery in building them above ground. We have a fairly high water table and didn't want a stinking mess if I'd dug pits and then filled them. My biggest error, in retrospect was not watering them heavily at first and planting them as soon s soil was added. All were mulched with wood chips about 1/2 to 1 inch depth.

I have two other beds, both substantial size nearer the house. I sure discovered Mollison's stressing the zonal part of permaculture planning. These received a lot more attention and I lost very few plants. These two beds, both are oriented north-south 20 feet to the house on the closest one and about 30 from the other. ONe bed is letter I shaped and is "nested" inside the other J-shaped longer bed. Both were constructed of large chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) stems about 5-7 inches in diameter, some large diameter blue spruce (Picea pungens) and largely of Russian olive (Eleagnus angustifolia) of varying diameters. The larger branches 5 cm and thicker were thrown in the piles and the smaller were chipped and spread on the ground nearby. I had 4 of 10 Red mammoth raspberries survive, 100% of the Lonicera haskaps ( tundra and borealis) survive, 5/5 white currants survived, 2/3 jostaberries, 3/3 red currants, 4/4 mixed gooseberries, 2/2 Aronia viking variety all survived. I planted 3 comfrey and they thrived! I planted one bed with a pollinator mix from Johnny's of Maine and had flowers like no one's business. The other bed got three starts of bee balm and all were doing well at freeze up. I interplanted two different lettuces and spinach in both beds and had lots of greens well into the fall. Had enough mustard ( Brassica painintheassicus) show up but pulled them and mulched with them. They must be biennial because some survived the November cold and looked hale and hearty in early December before being covered with snow. I planted several false indigo (Baptisia australis) and leadplant (Amorpha canascens) as permanent nitrogen fixers. I think I lost one out of about ten between the two beds. I also had a welcome visitor in black medic which I let grow everywhere it wanted. It was quite a cacophony of color and such but the desired perennials did well. I feel the soil is off to a much better start in these two beds than the three farther from the house.

These two beds got covered with soil I had to haul in and in some places was quite thin-usually on the top of the beds. They were mulched with about the same amount of chips as the beds farther from the house. I will say that I got several large mushrooms in these two beds later in the summer which to me was a good sign that decomposition was already going.

Any new hugelbeds I construct will:
Be watered heavily before soil is added.
Be Planted with a mix of flowers and veggies immediately after soil is added.
NOT be planted to perennials for the first two or three years until I can tell that the wood is really breaking down inside.
Be Mulched as I did the older beds.
Be Kept weeded with a chop 'n drop philosophy (G'day, Geoff).

Thanks to all who share on this site. I have learned a ton from you. I hope this helps someone. Definitely learn as you go.

 
Balint Bartuszek
Posts: 56
Location: Hungary
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I read somewhere that it benefits to train trees to their environment. So they put down deep roots if they are in a dry climate for example. (no irrigation, if possible)
I was wondering if there is benefit to putting a hugelculture next to a few years old tree opposed to planting a tree after a hugelculture is already there? So the tree do not get dependant on the raised bed, since probably the tree will last longer than the bed.

Ideas?
 
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