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Short-ish Hugel-ish Build

 
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I love the concept of hugel, have been dying to try it, but I live on a high, wind-swept prairie ridge, and logs of any kind are a treat. So, we use what we have! I did have one old birch log from down the road, lots of old hay bales, and some smaller twigs begged off a neighbor.  We also have an endless supply of manure from our sheep, chickens and horses.
The mound is built cross-wind and also across the slope, which should give me a sheltered lee side to plant veggies, and also get well saturated during spring runoff. The lee faces mostly north, but summer is hot and exposed here, so I am thinking a little shading effect won't hurt a thing.
The finished mound is approximately 30 feet long, 6 feet wide at the base, and 4.5 to 5 feet tall. The base is the birch log, hay bales, and twigs, the middle is raw straw and manure, and the top layer is well composted manure (also FULL of composting worms, which contrary to everything I have read, thrive in my manure pile, multiply exponentially, and survive our zone 5 winters with aplomb, presumably in the warmth of decomposing manure!).  I also made it a crescent shape, with the hopes of a sheltered oasis in the center. I expect the hay base to decompose pretty quickly, so this hugel will likely be much shorter by the end of the summer!
I am seeding the windward side with sunflowers and native wildflowers, and the lee will be primarily squash, tomatoes, and nasturtiums, and whatever else catches my fancy!
Seeding the wildflowers now, and just waiting another 2 weeks for my last frost date to get this thing really humming. It's a giant experiment!!! Fingers crossed!!!
IMG_20221109_130647467.jpg
Starting the base
Starting the base
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Bales and twigs
Bales and twigs
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Raw manure and bedding
Raw manure and bedding
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Building it up
Building it up
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Compost on top!
Compost on top!
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Side view
Side view
 
gardener
Posts: 1251
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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hugelkultur forest garden fungi foraging ungarbage
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Love your work J! We all don’t have the perfect place and logs for a textbook hugelkultur. I like how you used what you had. I’ve seen videos of Paul teaching somewhere in California. They had zero logs but lots of sticks. Everything turned out just fine and I know yours will as well!
 
pollinator
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hugelkultur forest garden food preservation medical herbs wood heat
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That's a really nice hugel mound. You have some great starting materials so it should do well. One thing we did with our keyhole hugel bed was broadcast various seeds along the whole surface after planting the perennial plants. This way the seed can grow where it likes best. We were surprised by where some plants migrated to on the slopes.

Garlic chives love it hot and dry so we put them on the top of the south facing slope. They have died out there and resurfaced near the base of the slope. Apparently they like the sun but prefer a little more moisture and less heat. Some plants refused to grow on the south facing slopes and only grew on the north sides (allheal for instance). It was a fun experiment and I learned a lot about plant preferences.

Pepper plants love the south facing slope as long as they have enough mulch to keep their roots from baking.

Good luck with the growing season and let us know how it goes. I always like to hear about what works, and especially what doesn't work. In many ways that's more useful.
 
J Duncan
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[quote=Robin Katz]That's a really nice hugel mound. You have some great starting materials so it should do well. One thing we did with our keyhole hugel bed was broadcast various seeds along the whole surface after planting the perennial plants. This way the seed can grow where it likes best. We were surprised by where some plants migrated to on the slopes.

Garlic chives love it hot and dry so we put them on the top of the south facing slope. They have died out there and resurfaced near the base of the slope. Apparently they like the sun but prefer a little more moisture and less heat. Some plants refused to grow on the south facing slopes and only grew on the north sides (allheal for instance). It was a fun experiment and I learned a lot about plant preferences.

Pepper plants love the south facing slope as long as they have enough mulch to keep their roots from baking.

Good luck with the growing season and let us know how it goes. I always like to hear about what works, and especially what doesn't work. In many ways that's more useful.[/quote]

Thanks Robin; I agree, knowing what doesn't work can be super helpful.  I just did exactly what you described and broadcast the wildflower seeds over the whole windward side to see what likes it where.  I hadn't thought to do that with herbs, but I might give it a try once I have my veggie plants in.
 
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Location: upstate NY near MA/VT
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Love your hugel mound. What we do here is hugel over time. As we clear brush here on our mountainous 150 acres, within the 22 fenced acre horse yard, we build piles of brush. Then we scoop poop part of the year and pile it on top of the brush piles. The sun makes it thru the clouds on occasion (northeast) and eventually we have green oasises within the steep mountain forest. Within these we begin to see little plants grow that have not been here before. It's kind of cool. These mounds also divert the river torrents of rainfall and allow us to landscape as it were. Love the hugels. Jules www.heartsinhandhorsemanshipllc.com
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J Duncan
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End of season update;
Almost everything I tried on the windward side of the mound failed.  It's essentially a moon scape except for a belt of flourishing fodder turnips right at the base.  The lee side I planted primarily in squashes (and a cardoon), and as I had hoped, they absolutely flourished in the shelter and nutrients the mound provided.  It kept me and my neighbors, family, and random victims, er, visitors, in zucchini all summer, and the winter squash is abundant (will post a pic once I harvest it all!)

The mound itself has shrunk by almost 50%, not a surprise since so much of the base was hay.  I will mound another layer on top and on the windward side when I muck out our barn this winter, while attempting to leave the leeward side in more mature soil for planting in the spring.

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