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Not Really Hugelkultur but sort of

Posts: 2
Location: Southeast Ohio
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I have an awful area under a huge oak tree, next to our driveway. We planted it as a lawn ten years ago, and it just keeps eroding away and getting dryer and deader. Now we have an area, lets say 15 feet by 30, where nothing grows. It actually gets a lot of sun, as it's a southern facing slope and the oak doesn't shade it a lot. The dirt is awful, dry clay with oak roots peeking up out of it.

I have several piles of old wood, small logs or large sticks between 4 and 8 feet long, from a Honey locust tree we cut down 5 years ago. I'm thinking of putting these logs around in this area, mostly perpendicular to the water flow, and then covering it (partly) up with several inches of wood chips. Then, planting, barely in the dirt and mostly covered by chips, the toughest perennials I can find.

Plants I have or can get easily: Lots of (damn invasive) strawberry plants, yarrow, comfrey, oregano, thyme, violets, goldenrod, ironweed, Dame's Rocket (lots), butterfly weed, maybe Coltsfoot. I'm willing to buy seeds but not spend a lot on live plants as I don't have high hopes for them. I have some chicken litter (wood shavings), a little lawn clippings, and leaf collection time is imminent.

Does this plan have any chance of success? It's not a steep slope, by the way, not at all. I'm in Ohio, Zone 5/6.
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
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Any chance? Sure theirs a chance it will work.

Some things I would think about and I'm sure others will weigh in here...

Plant roots need space and your wood is not going to rot instantly. I would think 4-6 inches of soil would be minimum - preferable with lots of little pockets and channels where it is deeper and goes down farther into your wood pile. I would plant on or near these deep spots.

I also might think about orienting your sub soil long logs perpendicular to contour (which would be parallel to water flow) - it seems to me that the water will work via capillary action to 'fill' logs placed in this way with moisture and speed the decomposition process. I could be dead wrong here. It would also make sense to orient your hugle (umlauts?) in a manner to catch the most light possible even if it conflicts with contour.

Cover cropping with fast growing annuals would provide a quick subsoil matrix to hold the soil (less erosion) and create a space for beneficial biota to thrive and flourish

Just a thought.
Margaret Pinga
Posts: 2
Location: Southeast Ohio
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The reason I think they should go at right angles to water flow is mostly to stop the erosion. Erosion is one of the biggest problems here - no point trying to improve the soil just for it to wash off again.

I was taking a look at the logs... they have been sitting out in the weather for five years now, and they have a lot of big cracks and holes. I feel like they'll soak up water ok if they're somewhat covered, and in contact with the soil. The wood chip layer is new, true.

But basically, I'm envisioning the logs less as actual hugelkultur, and more something to hold the sheet composting on the ground, at first. What to use for greens/nitrogen though? I can go out to the hay field and cut wheelbarrowfuls of green hay maybe?
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