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First of the four hugel bed done and first seeds planted - advice please on more planting and etc.

 
Becky Mundt
Posts: 44
Location: Cascadia Zone 8b Clay
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So today we actually completed the first of the four new hugel beds. Sticks, soil and more soil and more soil and then seeds - red clover, peas, beans to start then a light layer of straw and a floating row cover on top to hold it all in place and keep it warm short term as I figure out what's next...rawnow Paul always says plant it IMMEDIATELY so I did but I also am clear that the idea is to plant it and plant it and plant it and plant it.
I remember seeing several times in hugel talk that the amount of planting was insane. Or something like that...
I'll try to post a pic tomorrow -
It's about 3 feet tall, 10 to 12 feet long - probably 3 to 4 feet across at the base...
We did it all by hand and we are plumb tuckered out.

The next three are in place (wood) and only need the sticks and soil now. Ha ha ha. ONLY. I love how Paul talks about working LESS
in permaculture. Well. yes, if you have petrochemical machinary... but we are doing this all by hand and wheelbarrow and shovel and pitchfork.

Can anyone advise what else to plant into the hugel now, or when? We are in OR with last frost dates typically in May-ish -
Zone 8B - I know the floating row cover will help, (there is a thin layer of straw under it too) but I keep hearing/seeing
"just plant it up and trust and it will be fine" well - uhm, not sure that is true this early?

Also what else would folks say to put in it? I plant to plant out veggies later - chards, broccolis, cabbagees, squashes, herbs
Have a whole boatload of starts and more to come in the greenhouse and south facing big room in the house -

I also have mushroom plugs coming in next month to add in and saved out about 9 rounds of cotton wood for that purpose too.
Thought I'd put them up as a sort of 'betwen hugels' mushroom park. lol

Totally reading and inventing as i go here and appreciate any adn all ideas/input.

My arms and legs are jelly. PAUL - This is freakin' HARD WORK! lol

Cheers!
 
Miles Flansburg
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Good job Becky, sounds like you are doing all of the right stuff. Get those pictures up !
 
mike mclellan
Posts: 93
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
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One of my most successful hugelbeets last year was one we planted to a mixture of pollinator friendly and beneficial insect flowers. They grew like crazy, were full of insects and birds all summer and the perennial currants, gooseberries, and aronia shrubs all did well. I planted four comfrey widely spaced on both sides of the bed. They all took off like rockets. The bed is about 32 feet long and around six feet wide (10m X 2m) in a J shape to allow for some true south and north exposure on one end. I planted some leftover sweet potatoes, three tomatoes, peas and lettuce to boot. It was a "jungle" but I was most pleased how the growth of everything exceeded my expectations.

I do agree with sepp holzer who stated rather emphatically that the bed should be planted immediately. Well done on that point! I found out the hard way on other beds I didn't plant right away upon completion. I had a great crop of weeds! I will be paying the price for that again this spring. Yes , it's a LOT of work to get a large hugel bed started but I look at the five I completed last year and just smile. That part of the work is done for good. By the way, I did get some black medic start in some of the "late planted" beds from preexisting seed in the soil. It's a nitrogen fixing legume so I just trimmed it to get it to release some nitrogen. I would suggest planting some clover in your new beds- hairy vetch (Vicia), sweet clover (Melilotus) are two examples and be sure to inoculate them. You choose in any case so nature doesn't do it for you.

Good luck and have fun! It really will be once your other beds are covered.
 
Becky Mundt
Posts: 44
Location: Cascadia Zone 8b Clay
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Thanks for the responses

Can you please elaborate on what you mean by inoculate the bed? Are you referring to mushrooms?
My plugs won't be here for another few weeks I don't think. I did lay cardboard under the beds since there
are a lot of wild mushrooms here already. I thought that might at least give me a chance to add my
own choices of mushrooms, and since this is cottonwood I have oyster mushroom plugs coming - (among others).

I'm posting the pictures here too. Bummer. this morning I discovered something had already torn open one
end of the row cover and knocked a bunch of soil off one corner - I guess when they hit the wood they said "Well what
the Hell?" and left... We definitely need to fence this whole field where the gardens are going in - everyone around
us tells us that otherwise the deer will eat everything - although I haven't seen any deer over there - our dogs tend to
keep them from coming too close to the house or fields around the house, but ... ahem, guess I'm wrong about that?
Or maybe it was a gopher. Hmm.

Anyhow, there it is.

One more question - if anyone has any ideas - we have three apple, a pear and a plum tree to put in, and I was going
to put them in the top line between the hubels in the bottom of the berm below the swale but it is so heavy with clay
and water here I think I might put them above the swale - I know that's counter intuitive, but until I can get a french drain
dug above the whole area there is just SO much water... and I figure they will set roots deep enough to get water from the swale
even if they are just up hill from it... Or is that a bad idea? Otherwise I think I have to figure out a different place to put them,
as I don't think they will work between the hugel beds as they are laid out - not enuogh space, really.

Thanks for all your encouragement! I am agoing to put in the compfrey root and flower seeds today too.

1st Hugel Ready for Planting.jpg
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ready for Planting
1st Hugel Planted and Covered.jpg
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Planted and Covered
 
R Scott
Posts: 3304
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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That is a LOT of work by hand. Nice job. I cheated and rented a petrochemical machine. It still was a lot of work.

And I had something making it home quickly, too. I think it was rabbits, but could have been raccoons--I think I would have smelled skunks or possums.

 
Becky Mundt
Posts: 44
Location: Cascadia Zone 8b Clay
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R Scott: Did they leave, or did you have to force them out? Or?
I guess I figured the wood is so dense they wouldn't bother it - uh. wrong!

Yeah, I am a little tired. lol
Think I'll do one of them every three or four days at most to finish covering them up.
just hauling all the wood into place was a huge task.

I have about 9 rounds of wood left and might add a few into the existing beds but thought
I'd save some out for a mushroom garden area separately... Not enough for another
whole bed.

In a way I'm grateful!

 
mike mclellan
Posts: 93
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
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I wasn't referring to mushroom inoculation although using a general inoculant is an excellent idea. There was a good thread on that a few weeks ago. I'm using MycGrow (I think) by spraying it into the planting holes of the trees and shrubs when they arrive for planting in a few weeks. Judging from your photos you are a much warmer zone than western Montana. I still have pockets of frozen soil- found more than one today as I divided and replanted rhubarb. A commercial inoculant has numerous species of bacteria and endo and ectomycorrhizal fungi. I was just referring to getting seeds and or seedlings into the new bed very soon after planting. Beat the weeds in getting started with your desired species.

I have had voles make a few holes in some of my beds but most burrow openings look abandoned. Your "visitor" sounded a bit larger than a vole to me. I have some fruit trees planted in the swale between the raised beds and most did fine. However, I'm on silt to silty clay loam and it drains reasonably well. If you plant them on the mounds themselves, I would plant fairly low on the mounds where you'll likely have more soil for starters. Can you turn your slow drainage into an advantage somehow? Small pond or something like that near these beds? Just a thought. Good luck.
 
Becky Mundt
Posts: 44
Location: Cascadia Zone 8b Clay
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Oh, okay. Something new to me again.

Love that. I planted out onions and comfrey in the new bed today - comfrey in the corner of
the berm and bed where they meet. I will just keep planting out - my garage is full of things I brought from the old place -
asparagus, rhubarb, and a zillion perennial herbs flowers and shrubs all in pots from being dug up for the move...

So you inoculate with this stuff as you plant... Hmmm. Will have to find that thread. I have never done that.

But I have to decide on the trees soon. They really should have gone in already. I just hadn't got the sweale and hugels
done so I was waiting. Now I am really uncertain whether to put them above the swale or in between the hugel beds. *sigh*
The berm (buried in the straw along the back end of the hugels) is solid
clay under that layer of straw.

It was like shoveling glue to get it out but it turned to rock once it was out of the swale for a couple of weeks.
I covered it with straw in hopes it would soften up in the wet again. Holy cow, it's FULL of worms. I have no idea how they live in this stuff.
Doesn't seem to have any air in it at all - so thick and like GLUE to the touch (or under foot - steals the boots right
off your feet).

I want to put in a pond at the far end of the whole thing, where it slopes off downhill a bit and maybe figure out how to
pull it up for irrigation in the summer. I know it would be better to put it above it all but in this location I have a fenced
pasture above and don't think it will work out well to put the pond in there. Either way,I think I will have to put in a french drain
above the swale across the lower pasture, as the garage area is being completely inundated with mud and water as it is now.
Maybe drain into the swale and then out at the far end...


The water is MUCH worse on the other side of the property where I am planning to put in the food forest.

But over there I think I CAN put a pond in up above and another down below with a rock channel for run-off from the top to the bottom as
needed - I have to get the water from just slashing down the hillsides - I have gullies everywhere and one end of my chicken/duck
paddocking area is a veritable swamp when the rains come - the gullies all dump right there - so another swale will be needed
and probably another french drain as well.

Trying to go slow enough to learn the property before I do too much - it's our first year here - and we've already learned
plenty...

(Yeah, like that upper field on the other side of the property is knee deep in water in February... And was bone dry
and hard as rock last September... Extremes which need dealing with, clearly.)

We are starting by running the chickens and ducks through all of it on rotation to tear it up and get some organic
matter into it. Unfortunately it was all just weedy grasses and no diversity at all - and not enough animal traffic to keep it healthy.

Not so great for them this winter, but it will be by later in spring when all the seeding I've done in each of their previous
paddock areas since December start to come up for real.

I laid down all their old straw from the place in town we moved from, then oak leaves and whatever I could scrounge and seeded it all
in clovers and vetch and peas and about a half dozen other legumes and grasses - then I threw some old row covers over top to keep
the wild birds from eating it all before it could come up - just starting to see some new green now. YAY!


 
R Scott
Posts: 3304
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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I didn't do anything with the critters yet. I think they moved on by themselves.

Your beds are further along than mine. I have the wood and some of the dirt, but I didn't beat the rains and SNOW so I still need to finish putting on the topsoil. But at least I got them done enough to collect that water.

In my defense of using petrochemicals, I did try to do 300' of beds for my first attempt. DON'T do that--start small. Even with equipment that is a lot to build without practice.
 
dj niels
Posts: 177
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Nice pictures, and nice work on the hugelbed. I am assuming you are in a much warmer area than my area, since we are still waiting for the snow to melt off the garden.

It sounds like you have got your mound mostly planted, but you could take a tip from the polyculture pages in gaia's garden and sow a ground cover of mustard, lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, and other cool weather crops, and thin them out later to make room for the cabbage and broccoli, etc. Edible cover crop. Peas could also go in now, I would think. Any of the cold-tolerant crops should be ok, especially if you are using a row cover. I know when I was growing up in Seattle, we always figured we could plant peas on Washington's birthday (Feb 22), even though the last frost date wasn't until May sometime. A long, cool spring is great for salad crops.
 
Becky Mundt
Posts: 44
Location: Cascadia Zone 8b Clay
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Thanks for the kind words
Yes, I want to add the kale, lettuce, chard, collards and other cool weather crops _ am goign to keep going out every day this week and add more seed - I had not thought of mustard but I do have some brown mustard seed I did the clvoer and peas and some beans as the first day's seeding - I have added onions and comfrey and I also will put in garlic tomorrow even though it should have gone in in fall, it's sitting here waiting for me to put it in so I will. I have elecampagne and a bunch of other stuff started indoors which will go out when it's a little warmer... the row cover should mean we can do that before the last frost -

I don't know yet how to put what our location is on the profile but I'll have to figure it out I guess - we're in western Oregon.
 
Devon Olsen
Posts: 1062
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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i know how you feel on it being a lot of work, i made a 12 ft long section that was 6.5ft high and about 8ft wide at the base last spring... decided it was a much better idea to finish it up with machinery lol

one problem i had is that i didnt plant enough seeds, mainly due to not having enough money to, but i got plants, and the ones that did grow were phenomonal in size and stature in comparision to the same plants located elsewhere, but i should have planted a lot more seeds so that i actually got a decent amount of plants covered up

the part that i dug by hand was the only part i had enough straw to mulch, and this had the best germination rate in comparision to the parts of the bed that werent mulched so thats a good move on that part

my advice would probably be to keep planting after the first plants come up, just to make sure the bed gets covered in growth
 
Gerard Bonneau
Posts: 8
Location: Cheyenne Wyoming
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Hi Devon,

I see your project is in Cheyenne. I am NW of town, and would love to see first-hand what you're doing. I'm new to all this permie stuff, (there seems to be an entire foreign language being spoken here, and I've had to google lots of definitions just to understand what folks are talking about) Anyway, I'm interested and would like to know more. I don't have to tell you how tough our climate is, but I long to make my patch of prarie produce more food, and maybe even fiber and building material down the road. If we (you and I) can help each other, that would be great.
 
Devon Olsen
Posts: 1062
Location: SE Wyoming -zone 4
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Miles Flansburg
steward
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Gerard, welcome to permies! I went to visit Devon a while back, he is doing some cool stuff there in Cheyenne!

Sorry for hijacking your thread Becky !
 
drew grim
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Location: pleasant garden, nc (zone 7A)
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We just finished our first bed this weekend too. we also hand dug the whole thing, i slept really good that night. you can see it there in the background. Its about 4 feet tall and about 16 feet long. do you guys usually import dirt or just use what you dig up? how deep do you go? I tried for a zero purchase on this one, but honestly could have used a little more dirt. I used leaves for the mulch and rotten logs from the woods. Is there an opinion on how to place logs in? is it better to put logs standing on end or laying down? sorry kind butted in hope you dont mind @becky
20130315_164339_resized.jpg
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Devon Olsen
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every which way is usually preferred for diversity purposes, but theres a thread on this site comparing side ways to vertical and without the mix, the vertical performed a bit better DURING THE FIRST YEAR, there havent been any results on the second year yet as that thread came about last year

i just use onsite dirt, i try to dig a bit deeper than the planned height of the bed because it takes quite a lot of dirt, particularly for tall beds, i am however digging out a pond so im not sure quite how deep youd have to go to use dirt entirely from beneath the bed, but youd be filling with quite a lot of wood/organic matter

you might like the idea of grains/legumes as well as perennials like sunchokes (helianthus tuberosus) or chinese artichokes (Stachys affinis) or just some older varieties of wheat from the kusa seed society
 
mike mclellan
Posts: 93
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
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For Drew,
Importing soil depends- like most things in permaculture. For me, I'm on a very high water table ( capillary fringe about 28 inches or 70 cm down) with static water table right at 48 inches (120 cm). Using buried hugelbeds just made no sense to me. Because of the high water table, I didn't want to dig out soil down to near the capillary fringe to get enough soil to cover my beds so I had "topsoil" delivered. Turns out it had a similar texture to my soil on site and grew a terrific crop of whatever was planted. Now it's up to me to put in motion the conditions that will improve that soil. And yes, having hefted every log on six piles averaging 30 ft. long now, it is a lot of work. Now that it's done, it's pretty easy to kick back and work with what nature provides. Never ending fun, right? Peace to all.
 
Vladimir Horowitz
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Location: N. Idaho, zone 5
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Hey Becky, nice work on the hand dig hugel, I did a good sized one last year and it is indeed a lot of work! Anyways, I just wanted to point out to you that attempting to grow mushrooms on logs that have been cut for more then a few weeks will really lower your success rate. It doesn't take long for the spores in the air to start colonizing fresh cut surfaces, so you will have more competition. It might still work, but plugs aren't cheap and you could be wasting them, so best to store the plugs in the fridge until you can acquire some fresh logs to use....
 
Christee Thoman
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Location: Lawrence Kansas
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Sounds like we are mostly doing the same thing and started round about the same time!!! I read that onion (or allium family) and peas do not like each other and something about aster not being liked in the pea guild! Hmm I dunno thought I would share that much! Happy to see your pictures!!
 
janet jacobsen
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I have made several hugelkultures in the past 3 years. I dig only about 4 inches (I'm making them myself and I'm not a spring chicken) then I mix this soil with composted material from my compost heaps. I also walk into the woods near by and get a shovel full of soil from several places in the woods and add this to the mix. After finishing I toss kale and/or lettuce because they sprout so quickly and hold the soil in place so gravity doesn't pull the soil off. Once these sprout I add onions/strawberries/borage/spinach/swiss chard or whatever else i want. My peas grow in a separate hugel bed with my carrots; I covered it with pine straw to keep out the weeds while the plants got started. My asparagus, tomatoes and ground cherries are in a traditional raised bed. The wood in the hugles is a mixture but mostly pine as I'm in north Louisiana and that is what is growing all around me; pine does well but breaks down quickly and I lose about a foot of height the first year but then I have the great soil that has been produced and less irrigation is required after the first year. The work is worth it!
 
Devon Olsen
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Jaimee Gleisner
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Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Hi everyone! I made my first hugels last fall, so they're about 5 months old. All hand done as well! I tried to get a cover crop going before winter, but failed to do so. Now I have 4 large bare beds. I transplanted out cool weather crops, but there is a whole lot of bare dirt. What would you all suggest to cover it? I can get free wood chips, but don't have access to large amounts of anything else. I would have to buy it and I'm low on funds after buying all the compost, dirt, plants, and seeds to fill in he beds! How long does it realistically take for a cover crop like clover, rye, vetch, etc. to truly cover the beds?

Aerial view of the beds last fall


Transplants on the beds this spring

 
dj niels
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Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Jaimee, your beds look very pretty, even without anything growing much yet. As was stated above, sowing a polyculture mix of mustard, lettuce, and other quick-growing plants can help get the coverage quickly, and those plants will be ready to thin them out as other plants begin to need the space.

I built a small hugelbed two weeks ago, that I planted with a mix of cool-weather crops, along with a few transplants. I am still waiting to see the first seedlings begin to appear, but spring is still being contested by winter (we have had several warm days, but yesterday it snowed again, briefly, before it all melted away again.)
 
Jaimee Gleisner
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Location: Urbana, IL Zone 5b
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Thanks DJ! So would you recommend taking a packet of mustard greens, a packet of cool weather lettuce, a packet of arugula, several handfuls of clover, field pea, and rye, (what else) mixing them together in a bucket and just throwing them over the beds and watering them down? Or do I need to really try and plant them in?
 
janet jacobsen
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For seeds like lettuce that are very small and don't need much soil over them I scatter the seeds then scatter a little soil over them. For something that is larger and supposed to be planted deeper I push them down into the soil. I think most of the cover crops seeds are small so you can mix, toss and, if you want to be certain it is covered, toss a little soil on top of it then lightly water (you don't want to wash the seeds down to the bottom of the hugel).
 
dj niels
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Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Toby Hemenway, in Gaia's Garden, warned against mixing different kinds of seeds in one container. He said the heavier ones, like radishes, would be tossed farther, and the lighter ones, like parsnip or carrot or lettuce, would fall closer to the sower, so the plants wouldn't be mixed as well. I do tend to mix lettuces in a small container with a sprinkler top (like an old spice jar), but usually I sow each type of seed separately so I can control where they fall a bit better. I often just put a small pile of seed in my hand and pick up a pinch at a time and throw it in different spots.

With peas, chard, beets, etc, that are larger, I poke the seeds into the soil; usually I soak pea seeds for a day, or even let them start to sprout.
 
janet jacobsen
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Good point. I don't think I ever have mixed them but not because I thought it through, just because I'm too lazy to do it.
 
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