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Do hugelkultur beds need to be above ground?

 
eric kampel
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Could you make hugelkultur beds in the ground? Dig 6 foot deep trenches and fill them with logs, branches, and soil. That way you aren't creating berms and hills everywhere. Or is there some benefit to them being above ground.
 
John Polk
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A primary reason for building them high is to keep people from walking on them (compaction).

In arid/semi arid regions, it is quite common to go down, rather than up.
By going deep, it is creating an area that collects/stores rain/run-off.
A wicking bed that takes advantage of what little water nature provides.
Such beds are usually a little above surface, but not like the traditional huglebed.

 
allen lumley
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Location: Northern New York Zone4-5 the OUTER 'RONDACs percip 36''
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Erik K.: The first Hugelkultur bed I ever saw was for privacy and was seeded with sunflowers to have an easily removable screen that allowed maximum winter
sunlight.

As the wood rots, it will in the presence of lots of water turn into a giant sponge ! Being buried in the hill - or at - or below ground level, there is little evaporation.
The higher up in the hugelkultur you can place the logs and have them be supplied with adequate run-off water, the bigger the water diffusing Umbrella you
create in the Hugel bed and surrounding area !!

Hope this helps ! For the Craft ! Be safe, keep warm ! PYROLOGICAL Big AL ! - As always, questions and comments are solicited and Welcome ! - A. L.
 
eric kampel
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I am in Montana south of Missoula. We only average 12 inches of rain per year. It is pretty dry here and I don't have irrigation on this property. So that is why I was thinking sinking them in the ground would be better.
 
Rebecca Norman
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I'm thinking the same thing for this incredibly arid place. We find wood and straw embedded in ancient abandoned earth buildings, and they are perfect condition, not rotted at all. Most years we don't get even a single precipitation that soaks the ground to 3 inches. Everything, everything has to be irrigated, unless it's a desert plant or growing along a waterway. So I'm wondering if burying some logs near the site of fruit tree plantings would be beneficial. How deep should we put them?

There's another issue that is the total lack of waste biomass. I'm sure I'd be considered crazy to bury wood -- already it sounds a bit crazy to make a compost heap, since there's almost nothing not already fed to the cows, burnt or put in the compost toilets. But we have a couple of logs brought by a flash flood that are too light and damaged for timber, and we haven't got around to chopping for firewood because we have so many sticks from pruning and pollarding.

Earlier this year when a cow died, the normal thing here would have been to throw it in the river, but I suggested we bury her in the garden. So she's 6 feet under now. There was a horizontal tree root about 7 feet down, so that's where we stopped. Do you think a tree root at 7 feet can use a cow carcass? Is it a Hugel cow...?
 
John Polk
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I think that the soil critters will slowly enjoy your 'Hugel Cow'.
A dead creature is mostly Nitrogen, so without a lot of Carbon added, it will decompose slowly.
But, it will decompose, feeding millions of critters that enrich the soil.
Certainly a better use of it than just tossing it into the river.

 
mike mclellan
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Location: Helena, MT zone 4
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Eric,
The classic answer- "It depends!". I'm over the mountains from you in the Helena Valley. I have a high water table so I didn't want the wood to go anaerobic by burying it virtually on the capillary fringe ( about 30 inches/75 cm). I built mine up to a finished height of around 4 ft (1.3m) They settled some but have maintained most of that height after one growing season and dry winter. With all the rain we've had in the last two weeks it is amazing to see the mushrooms popping up from the hugelbeds. I did irrigate last year and once this year in early May. Won't have to for quite a while, I'm sure. Just consider your water table depth where you place your hugelbeds. Burying isn't a bad idea in our dry climate but it simply didn't fit my circumstances. If you bury yours, can you possibly divert some yard runoff into the wood mass to get it saturated and kick start the decomposition? Good luck with your hugel developments.
 
eric kampel
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I am going to do some in the ground and above the ground and observe the differences.
 
Noah Figg
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Location: DFW Area, Texas
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Hi Eric,

I live in north Texas, where we usually have most precipitation in winter and spring and its mostly dry and hot the rest of the year. I have tried both above ground and below ground types here and the below ground have done a bit better. The above ground ones have stayed a lot drier, receiving the same amount of water.

For the underground ones, I usually just dig parallel trenches along the length of the bed and put wood in there, to not fully disturb all the soil and do less work. I fill over the wood with the original soil and compost if I have any and add some mulch over top. I also have the keyhole walkway a little sunken compared to the bed, so that soaks in some moisture into the middle of the bed. I would say, though, that all of my beds are a little light in the amount of soil, which might have affected things. Anyway, that's what I've seen here.
 
Morgan Morrigan
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Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
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a Kulture Cow !


Yup , should a thrown some branches in with her.

I have found the deeper i bury the wood , the better.

No backhoe, so deepest so far is double shovel.

If i had more biomass, and dirt, i would start at the bottom of hill , and work all the way up it, then plant the whole thing in trees , berries, and grapes....


Typically called 'filled swales" aren't they ?
 
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