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New Hugelkultur bed/Ollas

 
Mark Hilliard
Posts: 7
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I built my first hugelkultur bed today! I'm 40 miles NW of Lubbock, TX. This is the second year of our record drought and I'm trying something new. I've used drip for many years and last year I decided to make 'ollas'. I teach art at the local university with ceramics being my specialization. I put ollas in a new raised bed with high carbon and the plant roots did wrap around the olla like you see in various photos on some permaculture web pages. I think they will do better in the coming year.
I plan on adding a swale uphill from my hugelkultur bed and several more on the downhill side since I have some slope, about 10" over 70 feet. What type of garden plants should I put in for my first crop? I know it will be nitrogen deficient just like my raised bed from last summer. I had 7 peppers, 3 cucumbers and pinto beans in that bed. It was planted 2 weeks after my traditional garden and it made cucumbers first! It was watered with ollas and sprinkled with a hose to try and keep the 'composting' action going.
Thanks for any advice you might have about the first crop on a new hugel bed. If you're interested in some ollas, let me know. I have a blog- http://www.runningwaterpottery.wordpress.com/ or see me on Face Book under Mark Hilliard. I'll have the new bed photos posted on the blog in the next few days.
 
Chris Dean
Posts: 108
Location: South New Mexico Mountains
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Someone else might have advice on what you should plant--I just wanted to say it's a great looking olla! I love the hook lid idea. What do you charge for them? Any problems shipping?

I want to put ollas in my next hugel bed. Seems like a perfect way to maximize water usage. How far apart are you spacing them?
 
Mark Hilliard
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The capacities are approximate.
1 pint............$11 or two for $20
1/3 gallon..... $15 or two for $26
1/2 gallon......$18 or two for $30
1 gallon.........$23 or two for $38
1 1/2 gallon...$28 or two for $48

I'm planning on letting my new hugel bed 'mature' for the first year and see what it does without any ollas. I put about 100 lbs of cow manure into it so maybe it won't be too deficient on N until I get some organic materials built up. I made a raised bed last year out of an old stock tank and it was hugel'ish' in that I had about 12-15" of wood chip mulch in the bottom. I planted pinto beans around all the peppers and cucumbers to fix N. This stock tank was six feet in diameter and I had 9 of the 1/2 gallon ollas in it. It did OK considering it was a brand new, immature bed, in full exposure to the sun and wind ( including the metal sides) in the second year of this drought. As it matures, I expect better results but I have no benchmark from which to assess its sucess, considering the drought, new bed, etc. There are several others in my area who put them into new, raised beds and they have similar feelings about the ollas performance in new beds. You might contact Ogallala Commons and see if they've posted anything on their website or the Local Llano blog. I can get those addresses if you like.
As far as shipping, they do just fine. Our local Pack Mail, owned by our University Economics Professor, does a great job in getting things shipped! I even haul them around, layered in blankets, in the back of my truck when I make local deliveries. I've not broken one yet! I'm sure I will at some time but thus far they're quite resilient. In this drought, I put the seeds close to the neck so the roots grow straight down to the flared belly of the olla. I tried onions placed a foot away, last March, and they failed. For transplants I recommend planting a little wider, but still close, even with an olla on either side of a large plant such as a tomato.
 
Mark Hilliard
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I've posted photos of my bed on my blog, http://www.runningwaterpottery.wordpress.com/. I'll post a few here too.
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The trench
 
Mark Hilliard
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I'm learning how the forum works.
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Trench full of limbs
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Bed finished
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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looked like a lot of your material buried was bark in large chunks..i have done that here in Michigan too, filled some trenches with barks and wood chips, they seem to be doing quite well
 
Mark Hilliard
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I made another hugel bed today; a little different than the first. This new one is 20" deep rather than the 16" on the first one. I read that someone suggested that the bed be moreso underground in arid environments such as mine in the High Plains/Texas Panhandle. It has some 4" limbs in it, and since it's deeper, more limbs overall so I put in an extra five gallon bucket of manure. I also mixed soil into the layer of cotton burrs in the hope of not having a high carbon layer up toward the top of the bed.
I also made some little trenches in front of the bed that will direct rainwater into the bed...if we ever get any rain. This summer will be year 3 of our drought. In the photos below, you see the first bed I made last week. I'm standing on the high ground looking north toward Runningwater Draw, a tributary of the headwaters of the Brazos River, now dry from all of the springs having gone dry from underground pumping to grow cotton. I have about one foot elevation loss over 70 feet so I figured I could use a hugel bed to capture some water and some fertility before it runs off into the dry river bed about 100 yards away.
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First bed is in the foreground.
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This is the second bed, below the first.
 
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