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the potential use of unconventional materials in earthwork construction

Posts: 99
Location: zone 6a, north america
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greetings everyone. yearlong lurker, first-time poster. first, want to extend a brief thanks to the permies crew & collaborators for the creation of such a valuable resource here. i've turned on so many people to these forums who have come away inspired & educated. you're having a profound effect in ways far grander than some of you may realize. this is truly a special place, thank you all for sharing.

please forgive me if my first post is from somewhere out in left field (hopefully not too far out to be considered an insurgent heretic first time out), however i've been noodling on a potential solution to a problem some of us are facing when constructing earthworks in the hugel style (whether beds, mounds or berms) and wanted to run it by the experts to see how crazy it really was.

here's the issue :: once one has a slash pile of smaller branches set up above the larger logs, some -- whether (a) they live in an urban/suburban area, (b) are building on top of the ground vs. digging a pit, and/or (c) want to construct at the heights that Sepp recommends -- are finding it difficult in procuring enough organic matter to fill in the gaps between the branches. and those who have enough, but in the current form of leaves or other raw fast decomposing matter, are concerned about the large amount of shrinkage in the first season as that raw material composts.

now here's the crazy idea :: (assuming that, for the purpose of this discussion, the materials are completely safe and non-toxic) could potentially other unconventional materials that would otherwise go into the wastestream or be "recycled", say glass bottles & organic textiles (old blankets, pillows, sweaters, etc.), also be used to fill the gaps between the branches in the slash?

the rationale behind it :: (1) to help those who have easier access to "trash" than organic matter build their mounds without having to buy & haul soil in, (2) to provide medium-term (textiles) and longer-term (bottles) stability to the mound, (3) to create underground water & air pockets/reservoirs (depending on directions they are placed), (4) to slow down the leaching of nutrients and (5) to add more texture/edge for the roots and the microbes.

thoughts are welcomed, even if it's to say that it's way too crazy to give it a second thought and stop wasting our time with such foolishness.
thanks for reading either way.

Posts: 304
Location: Montana
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Alternative material is fine but it must be natural. Glass bottles are not a good idea as they will not break down. You want uncontaminated organic material. Cotton, cardboard, paper, compost, food waste, these are all good material for hugelbeds. No plastic, glass, or anything else that is un-natural that would not break down. Also be careful of contaminants, you don't want persistent chemicals in your food!

If you are having trouble providing enough material to cover your hugelbed there is also another option. Dig a whole in the ground as the start of your hugelbed and place your woody material in the whole. Then cover the woody material with the earth you dug from the whole. This should give you more material to work with and make covering the mounds a bit easier.

Judith, Johnny, Zach, and Chad - Team Holzer AgroEcology
Posts: 3301
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
forest garden trees urban
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I use urine soaked cardboard board. I also have been kidnapping logs and brush from abandoned lots and public right of ways. I have refrained from actually purloining soil-so far...
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