I just had my excavator guy out and we built a couple large hugelcultur beds. There's not much except silty sand and rocks here, but I've got plenty of pine trees. Oh, and no manure available at this point.
We dug two trenches about 100 feet long and five feet deep in order to generate enough fill to cover it over. They were in the shape of a "V", the top one being perpendicular to the slope and the second going downslope a bit. The wide part of the "V" faces west, creating a sun trap. Plus the thing slants downhill to avoid a cold pocket.
Then, we dug two 20-foot deep "debris holes" where the two met.
Next, it was time to start taking out the pine trees. When I look at the "forest", I see more like a desert. A pine desert, where the only thing that will grow is ferns. They are pristene, because nobody, not deers, not rabbits, not eve bugs, will eat them.
Because the soil is so sandy the roots are very shallow, so Rick just pushes them over with the excavator bucket and they come down. He gets alongside and picks up the now-horizontal tree and I jump in and cut off the root ball. The root ball goes into the debris hole and the log, branches and all, goes into the trench.
Repeat about 50 times and we now have a couple hundred feet of logs, neatly stacked, and a really deep hole full of debris.
Since there is no organic material to speak of, we just covered the sandy, silty dirt back over the trees and that's what's there now.
So now what do I do? I need to build soil. What's the best way? I was thinking of putting inoculated hairy vetch and perhaps some rye grass to get things started this summer. I did a smaller-scale version of this down the hill a ways and the soil seems to be coming, but it's taking a while.
Does anyone have any thoughts on what I should do to make these beds kick ass?
Couldn't get the fourth picture on that last post. Here's the completed "V". Rick is on the downhill leg, with the cross-hill leg to the right and under the intersection is the massive debris holes. The area between should be nicely protected from wind from the north or the south.
Part of the motivation for making this so large is to act as a privacy berm, as the hill is near the road. I wish I had some organic material to put in with the sand, but I just needed to get rid of the pine trees to give the land some light and air.
Time for a mushroom hunt. All that wood will need fungi to decompose it. Any mushrooms you can find, put them in the blender with some water and sprinkle it liberally over all that wood. Take a look at some of the posts in the fungi forum and you can get an idea of what kind of mushrooms work best.
If the wood is covered over with dirt, try and inject the mushroom inoculate down to where the wood is. Rain will help a little to get the spores down into the ground, but you don't want to make it too difficult for them to find the wood.
Thanks, John. Actually, about a third of the logs in the two beds were cut down last year and spent the winter in a wet, swampy area. They already have tons of mycelium, so I think it will spread soon.
As far as manure, I'll get as much as I can and put it on the top or maybe till it in a few inches. But I was wondering about the hairy vetch. will this grow in the sandy soil and at least give me a start for next year?
But I was wondering about the hairy vetch. will this grow in the sandy soil and at least give me a start for next year?
It should. I have common vetch volunteering in the garden, and it seems to like the hugelbeds. What really does well is clover. I notice that the clover at the base of a hugel grew twice as big as the clover in a regular area of the garden. You should have enough time in the growing season to throw some clover seed on top and see how it does.
Clover it is, then. We have had a very wet June, and ground I cleared of pine trees two years ago is going crazy with clover this year. The clover is actually choking out the plantain this year. And the berries are back. Amazing what happens when you clear out a pine desert!
look around and see what was growing in the soil that got excavated..my hugel bed was full of seeds of clover and alfalfa, which popped up all on its own all over my bed..I've been dropping it as a mulch around my plants as I pull it, but it is very prolific..can't pull it all..so it will build your soil and hold the erosion back if you have that..or whatever might grow on it's own
Bloom where you are planted.
Willie Smits: Village Based Permaculture Approaches in Indonesia (video)