• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Hugelkulture failures

 
Gilbert Fritz
Pie
Posts: 1033
Location: Denver, CO
15
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello everyone,

I want to start a thread about hugelkulture failures, so we can all avoid potential pitfalls in the future. Our urban farming group in Denver is currently building a lot of hugelkultures by hand. It is a ton of work, especially since our soil is full of giant rocks. (We can't bring in earth to cover them because we don't have any money, and because there is not really any top soil in Colorado. Any top soil on the market is likely to be expensive wood chips or dark colored sub soil.) I don't want to waste all this work, so replies could help me (and others) out a lot. Details would be great; climate, wood type and age, other materials, height, depth of covering, depth of digging (or not) plantings, and management.

And, of course, it is always fun to talk about mistakes — after the fact.
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
88
  • Likes 5
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wouldn't call it a 'failure', but I'd say it's one of the most common 'mistakes': not adding a deep enough layer of soil/compost/mulch over the buried wood.
Mine's two seasons old and things really struggled in the first year as there just wasn't enough depth for their roots.
I've been building it up, but I think it could still do with much more.
Another mistake for me: letting nasturtiums go bonkers on the hugel.
They overwhelm everything, stop moisture from getting in and are prolific seeders, extremely keen to do it again.
Great plants, but they now belong in 'the weed patch' with the borage, Swiss chard and other overly-enthusiastic plants
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
186
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I started building beds 25 months ago. I advertized for some people to move to the land and farm for free while living in my cottage for free. They have done close to nothing. I spent about 5 days in total on a city garden this year and have grown more vegetables than the pair who are supposed to be farming my hugels.

The thistles grew 7 feet high on the mounds this year, so nothing wrong with the concept.

I'm moving to the cottage on a part time basis and it will be available for my kids and their friends and for other visitors to use.
 
Matu Collins
Pie
Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I wouldn't say failure either. I would have made my first ones taller, they shrank a lot. I didn't think about wind enough. I also fell prey to the not-putting-enough-on-top problem which was exacerbated by my failure to water it enough while some of the seeds were germinating. I still got a lot of food, tea, and chicken fodder off of them.

I just put a bunch of rotty log chunks on the windward side of this spiral shaped hugel to start making it taller. Almost immediately some yellow mushrooms I've never seen before popped out the side of one of the logs
20131017_162010.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20131017_162010.jpg]
yellow mushrooms at center
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Pie
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
173
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hey Gilbert:

First of all, failures are FANTASTIC. I learn so much more from my failures than from my successes because I am forced to try to understand what went wrong and try a new experiment (or in my case, SEVERAL new experiments - I have a LOT of experience failing!)

One thing I noticed right away is that you are in Denver - a semi-arid, continental climate zone (Köppen climate classification BSk). Hugelkultur is probably more suited to climates that are more humid than yours. In an extreme example, where I live (Phoenix, AZ), aboveground hugelkulture is an inappropriate technology - it just doesn't work with our extremely dry air and high temperatures unless you use A LOT of water to keep it moist or build it exceptionally huge. Neither of these things is particularly functional or appropriate for desert use.

Now I HAVE (inadvertently) done some inverted hugelkultur beds. By this I mean that when I originally decided to build some infiltration basins (basically sunken beds to harvest rainwater) on my flat, urban property to help break up my compacted clay soil, I also happened to have just trimmed some of my overstory trees (mesquite, palo verde, Chinese elm) and had some big branches that I was going to have to cut up and stack for our green waste collection as I had no way to mulch them. I saw an opportunity to recycle this large branches into the bottom of the infiltration pits thinking they would add places for both air and soil life to congregate and would probably deteriorate over time (things left on the surface of a desert take AGES to decompose simply because of lack of moisture).

Fast forward - those beds did really well, but they did sink further than I thought they would over time. I planted an urban deciduous orchard in one long basin in early 2008. That bed has sunk about an inch a year since installation. It should be at a stasis soon because I think most of the wood should have decomposed by now. Lesson learned - when doing "in ground" hugelkulture, know that it will sink over time as the wood decays (to the approx. depth of the original wood in the hole) and take steps accordingly.

Another observation was that occasionally one of my fruit trees would show a nitrogen deficiency. I'm not sure if this was due to root contact with the rotting wood in the soil, or just because it's easy to have a nitrogen deficiency in the hot deserts. But it's something I've noticed.

That's my 2 cents as a desert rat.
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dale Hodgins wrote:

The thistles grew 7 feet high on the mounds this year, so nothing wrong with the concept.


That's going to have quite the tap root to it!
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Matu Collins wrote:

I just put a bunch of rotty log chunks on the windward side of this spiral shaped hugel to start making it taller. Almost immediately some yellow mushrooms I've never seen before popped out the side of one of the logs


A Hypholoma?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypholoma
 
Landon Sunrich
pollinator
Posts: 1703
Location: Western Washington
21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Gilbert,

My hugle failure started with this idea to extend my property 'bank' and build an earthen wall

http://www.permies.com/t/26345/hugelkultur/Designing-mushrooms-huglekultur

I failed to get dirt over is. There are several other minor minor things I should have considered.

For one, and if and when I take another crack at it. I will probaley use large firewood sized pieces of wood (including full rounds up to 8 or ten inches in diameter) and leave plenty of fist sized gaps for the soil to fill (where you plant into). That one I nearly have a soil mix for

AS IS I have a very successful pile of oyster mushroom alders growing in direct full summer son. I plan on getting the soil on when I can afford to import (or get the necessary provision to make) good topsoil. I can describe the soil mix I'm making if you like.
 
Matu Collins
Pie
Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It seems like a really common question-"where do I get soil to cover my hugels?"

I was lucky enough to have access to a lot of leaf mould and compost, but soil is tricky. I'm avoiding digging a hole somewhere to get soil to put on the beds until I know where I want a hole. Even then, the soil dug up well have lots of weed seeds, I imagine.

How do people solve this problem?

As for your rock problem, I wonder if you could just turn it around and be grateful for their abundance. Some people long for rocks and have none!

It seems like the best guard against failure is keeping it smallish and learning as you go along.
 
C. Kirkley
Posts: 12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:.
Another observation was that occasionally one of my fruit trees would show a nitrogen deficiency. I'm not sure if this was due to root contact with the rotting wood in the soil, or just because it's easy to have a nitrogen deficiency in the hot deserts. But it's something I've noticed.


I was just watching a video Paul posted about soil in forestry. The guy had mentioned that overwhelming a compost mixture with carbon (specifically wood chips/wood) would completely shut down the composting activity and end nitrogen production. I don't know the ins and outs of hugelculture and can't help so much at this time. I'm checkin it all out now. I know in my aquaponics setup, I sometimes have to use ammonia to encourage the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate cycle for a little added nitrogen. Maybe you could look into that cycle for tips on your mound material.

Being in the desert, a lack of moisture would also kill the bacteria necessary for the cycle. So, the desert may also be the problem.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Pie
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
173
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
C. Kirkley wrote:
I was just watching a video Paul posted about soil in forestry. The guy had mentioned that overwhelming a compost mixture with carbon (specifically wood chips/wood) would completely shut down the composting activity and end nitrogen production. I don't know the ins and outs of hugelculture and can't help so much at this time. I'm checkin it all out now. I know in my aquaponics setup, I sometimes have to use ammonia to encourage the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate cycle for a little added nitrogen. Maybe you could look into that cycle for tips on your mound material.

Being in the desert, a lack of moisture would also kill the bacteria necessary for the cycle. So, the desert may also be the problem.


Yeah - I've noticed that myself with woody compost in the desert. I added some rather woody compost to my first veggie beds back in 2008 here - what a disaster! All the plants were yellowing and not fruiting well. Once the soil microorganisms processed the carbon a bit though, those beds were great. Took a few seasons for me to get into the swing of things though. What really helped were applications of compost tea. Lots and lots of compost tea poured over the recently-watered bed. I had fantastic production then. But - and I'll say this again - I DON'T build above ground beds - they really are crappy here in the desert. All my stuff is sunken into the ground for protection against the heat and for water harvesting.

Now my compost bins are build into my henyard. And the hens perch is over the compost - free nitrogen drops right in. =)
 
Kevin Karl
Posts: 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One mistake that I just witnessed from a friend's property was a mismanagement of the soil horizons as they are excavated. The A horizon soil should be kept separate from the B horizon, and the B horizon soil should always be placed underneath the A. This is a simple yet surprisingly common mistake. There is usually a change of color to indicate when you have hit the B horizon. Not sure what types of soils you are dealing with out there though.

Anyways, best of luck, please let us know how your projects pan out!
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
186
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thumbs up to Jennifer Wadsworth for explaining in detail what has worked for her in a similar climate. The big tall beds in many of the diagrams concerning hugelkultur, completely ignore any ill effect that increased surface area has on evaporation rates. One deep, giant pile with a thick mulch layer, will be better at retaining water than many small ones. One big mound would also be easier to water and it would waste less of that water.

For anyone who has plenty of water, a pond that experiences algal bloom can provide a nitrogen boost with every watering.
 
mike mclellan
Posts: 93
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Failures/mistakes? I made plenty. I chose above ground beds as I live in an area of very high water table. Burying the beds didn't make sense as the rotting wood would very likely have gone anaerobic, creating its own mess, short and long term.
I don't feel the above ground beds were a mistake in spite of our dry summers. I did get some effective microclimates going above ground. Heavy mulch of wood chips helped keep soils from drying out quickly.

I built too many beds at one time to effectively manage them in their first season. Some got a lot more TLC than others. The TLC beds produced far more. TLC included MORE WATER and keeping them weeded. Yes, weeds have their place but I had planted quite a bit of desired vegetation that really didn't need the competition in young, undeveloped soils. Put together only as many beds that you can effectively manage and get started that year.

I didn't water enough to get things going. IF i had to do it over, I would have heavily watered the log core before covering it. I had a "cap" of well rotted horse manure and grass. This all should've been soaked first before I added the soil. I know that one goal of hugelkultur is to reduce or eliminate watering but on the east side of the Rockies, it is dry, like Denver, so water that bed heavily and often the first year. This year didn't need nearly as much. I noticed the soils developing some darker color already.

Plant every square inch with something. sepp holzer made it clear when I heard him last year that he seeds his hugelbeets. I didn't plant enough and nature "helped" out. What a weedy mess! Yes, they helped start the soil building, but I could've written a book about all of the weeds that showed up. Again, sweet clover (Melilotus) showed up in abundance this past year (year two) and took the place of many of the first year residents. This year I planted a LOT of flowers for pollinators in areas that didn't get planted to desired species or where perennials didn't survive and many more vegetables. I should've done that right off the bat.

Pay attention to the spacing of your beds. I built a pair too close together. It gets "interesting" when I try to walk between those two in mid-summer when everything is growing into the walking space. Leave at least five feet after the beds are finished. I got lucky on the spacing of the other beds. Better to be lucky than good!

Overall, in spite of my mistakes, I was pleased with the productivity of the hugelbeets this year and expect them to do even better next year. Nature is amazing how it can build mini ecosystems like a hugelbeet can be.
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Pie
Posts: 964
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
75
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:
Fast forward - those beds did really well, but they did sink further than I thought they would over time. I planted an urban deciduous orchard in one long basin in early 2008. That bed has sunk about an inch a year since installation. It should be at a stasis soon because I think most of the wood should have decomposed by now. Lesson learned - when doing "in ground" hugelkulture, know that it will sink over time as the wood decays (to the approx. depth of the original wood in the hole) and take steps accordingly.


How do woody perennials such as trees cope with sinking soil like that? Is it a big problem, or not really?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Pie
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
173
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Rebecca Norman wrote:How do woody perennials such as trees cope with sinking soil like that? Is it a big problem, or not really?


Right now there doesn't seem to be an impact. If I had it to do over again, I would do two things:
--Instead of planting the trees near the bottom of the swale (or in some instances, at the actual bottom/low point) I would plant them slightly up one of the sides of the swale essentially on a little terrace with no wood underneath. I think this would stabilize the trees better.
--I would fill the swale more and not have it so deep knowing the wood would degrade over time and the top area sink accordingly. I left about 8 inches originally to backfill with woodchips. I probably put in about 6" by volume of branches in the bottom of the swale (if they were all packed in tight - which they weren't) So the swales have sunk an additional 5" now (approximately the volume of the wood put in - I'd have to guesstimate this - not an exact science!).

Otherwise I'm pleased with the outcome. Here are a few pics. Unfortunately I didn't think to take pics of the tree trimmings in the hole as they were just a last minute thought to get rid of them. But imagine the lower 1/3rd of the trench filled with branches.
Imported Photos 00049.JPG
[Thumbnail for Imported Photos 00049.JPG]
Swale to capture rainwater runoff from neighbor
Imported Photos 00051.JPG
[Thumbnail for Imported Photos 00051.JPG]
Closeup of french drain gravel and perforated pipe
Imported Photos 00096.JPG
[Thumbnail for Imported Photos 00096.JPG]
Swale backfilled with dirt with placeholder pots where bare root fruit trees will go
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Pie
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
173
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here's what that swale looks like over time (it was originally dug in 2007)

orchard 042008 w pipes.JPG
[Thumbnail for orchard 042008 w pipes.JPG]
2008 - I cut the trees to 15" high - you can see the french drain overflow pipes
IMG_0188.JPG
[Thumbnail for IMG_0188.JPG]
2012 - every year I trim the trees to 6-8 ft usually twice
002 (2).JPG
[Thumbnail for 002 (2).JPG]
2013 - looking pretty overgrown - this is mid-summer
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Pie
Posts: 964
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
75
food preservation greening the desert solar trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks! Very pretty!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Pie
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
173
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks! I get quite a bit of fruit off this fruit hedge or "fedge". Unless the birds get it first! It's hard to take a picture of any more because its gotten quite jungle-y! It really cools that side of my house (south side/sun facing) in the summer - it is noticeably cooler along that area.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Pie
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
173
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
mike mclellan wrote:Failures/mistakes? I made plenty. I chose above ground beds as I live in an area of very high water table. Burying the beds didn't make sense as the rotting wood would very likely have gone anaerobic, creating its own mess, short and long term.
I don't feel the above ground beds were a mistake in spite of our dry summers. I did get some effective microclimates going above ground. Heavy mulch of wood chips helped keep soils from drying out quickly.


Mike - excellent thoughts on the high water table - hadn't even considered that since my water table here is 80 ft down (one of the highest water tables in metro Phoenix because I'm near the bottom of the watershed). I'm finding this discussion really interesting as to what works in other dryland situations. Thanks for responding.
 
Gilbert Fritz
Pie
Posts: 1033
Location: Denver, CO
15
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hello Everyone,

Thanks for your comments. This is becoming a really interesting thread.

Mike Mclellan, your comments made me feel a lot more certain about my own hugelkulture experiments. We have a little more rain then you do, and more of it comes in gully-washers which could deeply soak a hugel bed. We also have a high water table. I am building my beds about five feet high, but I am also digging down about a foot at the base, because we are on a steep slope, and this gives it a terracing effect, which should help to trap water.

So, to summarize, it looks like the mistakes to avoid are: not covering the woody core deep enough (which should be easy to solve later); letting six foot thistles ( or other unwanted plants) go crazy on the hugel; not planning for wind on an exposed site; not thinking about a dry climate, and either building a sunken hugel, mulching it really deep, or a really big hugel, to avoid the mound having more exposed surface area then moist center area; not putting nitrogen sources in to supplement the carbon in the first years; not keeping the top soil ON TOP; biting off more that one can chew and thus not getting it all planted; and putting beds too close together, so as to create an access problem.

Does anybody else have any suggestions to add to the list?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Pie
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
173
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow Gilbert - great summary. Some of these may just do the trick for you!

It might be fun, if you have the space, to try a few different "experiments" - trying things that you think are most likely the issue and some things that you think aren't necessarily the issue and just keep tabs on the beds over the years and see what happens. You will become the GREAT HUGELMEISTER of Denver!

Seriously though - the more arid West needs solutions that WORK. We'll only find solutions when good people are willing to experiment and keep trying even in the face of failure (or what occurs as failure). I really do look forward to following your work as you continue on with your wonderful project.

 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I too would not call mine a failure, but the tall one I put in was difficult to reach the top of and also with our drought I did definately have to add some additional water to it this year, even popped a soaker hose on the top .

had really good lettuce and cabbages on this particular new bed this year but it was really too dry for a lot of other things
 
Leila Rich
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
88
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I live in a windy place, and we're having an extra windy spring.
I've noticed that plants are way more exposed on the hugelkultur (even my tiny partially-buried sandy/deserty version)
I'll be investigating tough perennials for each end, since the gales take turns at being Northerly, Southerly or sometimes for a change, a Nor'Southerly...
I'm pretty free with the windbreak cloth, but it's not practical with this bed.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Pie
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
173
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Excellent insight, Leila. Contrary to what many contend, I don't think hugelkultur is the answer in ALL climates or even within favorable climates that are faced with more extremes (high heat, low humidity, high water table, overly wet, overly windy, etc).

I really commend everyone here for experimenting and finding what works and what doesn't and the little tweaks that make all the difference between success and failure.
 
Jim Dickie
Posts: 21
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I've never understood how the massive amount of labour required to build a hugel would be worth it, unless you live in a drought prone area. It certainly would be a waste of time in my neck of the woods (Canadian Maritimes). We usually have far too much water in the summer, especially over the last 5 years.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3304
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
32
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jim Dickie wrote:I've never understood how the massive amount of labour required to build a hugel would be worth it, unless you live in a drought prone area. It certainly would be a waste of time in my neck of the woods (Canadian Maritimes). We usually have far too much water in the summer, especially over the last 5 years.


In your case, they are a self-watering raised bed with slow-release fertilizer.

But yes, they are a LOT of work--like 5+ years of garden earthwork all wrapped up in the first year.
 
mike mclellan
Posts: 93
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
6
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Greetings Jim in the maritimes!

In my case, I had a huge amount of wood on site already from a variety of sources. Stacking five piles only took between three and seven hours each. Cutting the wood for them required about three days of paid and/or unpaid self labor. I did the work during the winter when I could do little else to "develop" the gardens. Covering them took longer as I had to haul soil a wheelbarrowful at a time to two of the beds. Where the dump truck could back right up to them, covering the beds was fairly quick. All in all, the work was mostly upfront. Planting the beds is ongoing but it would be in almost any developing system. In our dry, lee side of the Rockies climate, those beds will likely take 20 or more years to fully break down. Then I will have mound full of decayed punky wood, humus and likely hundreds of thousands of miles of mycelia. Perfect for water holding in our climate. The perennial plants I planted once. Those that have made it the first two years will likely continue if I don't screw up too much. Many are suckering and should contribute in the long run to my food wants/needs.

I built two smaller woody cored hugelmounds this summer from numerous branches from tree trimmings ( I didn't want the stink and noise of running the chipper and I don't need the chips). The cores of each took about 90 to 120 miinutes to lay down and the soil covering slightly longer. Woody cores were laid down ( final height about 8-10 inches high) and then stomped on and about four to six inches of soil was added to cover them One bed is 24 feet long ( about 8m) and the other about 20 feet (6.5m). One grew 65 pounds of spuds that weren't even planted until late June. The other went in later and is sitting under winter rye/hairy vetch cover for the winter. To my mind, for the site where I put them, they were far LESS work to set up than trying other techniques to create fertility on highly disturbed soil where I put them. The payoff will last for many years.

In the maritimes, I would guess that keeping plants watered wouldn't be near the issue as it is out west here, both in the US and western Canada. I would think, though, that using rotting wood in a system in your climate would still create many benefits tied to fertility as the woody material decays. I went to school in CA in the redwood country and can testify first hand how downed trees create their own mini ecosystems. Likely it's much the same out your way. It may turn out that you'll find yourself with too many stems, trunks, and branches at some time and creating a woody cored hugelbeet will be the easiest way to utilize them and capture the fertility in them. Anyway, that's my personal take on why I used woody cored hugelbeets. Happy permaculture!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
Pie
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
173
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Jim Dickie wrote:I've never understood how the massive amount of labour required to build a hugel would be worth it, unless you live in a drought prone area. It certainly would be a waste of time in my neck of the woods (Canadian Maritimes). We usually have far too much water in the summer, especially over the last 5 years.


Like Mike said, yours would probably turn into some pretty wonderful self-watering beds that let the plants on them self-regulate how much water they need - keeping excess moisture to the bottom of the beds and not drowning out the plants.

As for the amount of time - while I don't build hugels, I do dig infiltration pits, sunken beds, French drains, swales and the like - they take time and effort to set up initially. Once the work is done - they need only minor adjustments for the most part. Granted, I've made my fair share of mistakes, large and small, and those require a rework. But that's just experience and is bound to happen when you're just going at it with your own knowledge and trying things out. Over time, my systems have proven to be much LESS work - which is great, because I am getting blinder and blinder!
 
Danny Smithers
Posts: 43
Location: Florissant, CO
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator

Gilbert wrote: Does anyone else have suggestions?


Gilbert, I am a couple hours south of you and am currently in the process of designing my own site. I am planning to incorporate hugelkultur into my own design. I don't have much hands on experience building them myself at this stage--I've only experimented with one small bed--but I have been researching them lately. The one thought I have for you is about the height of your bed. According to the Sepp/Paul style that they present in the hugelkultur video [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sso4UWObxXg] Paul pushes the 6'-7' height of the bed to achieve a no-irrigation need--and they did this in a climate similar to our own. It sounds like you are shooting for a 5' bed. While obviously there is no perfect formula to achieve a no-irrigation bed (and plants don't watch YouTube videos), it seems like adding on a couple more feet to your plans might be beneficial when it comes to water retention. Good luck and I look forward to hearing how it turns out.
 
Allen Herod
Posts: 18
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't have a success or failure story(yet). I am about to start building beds on my 20 acres in middle Tennessee. I have read Sepp's book cover to cover and then some so I have some basis for the following... ROCKS are a great thermal mass and can be used to your advantage by planting things near them that are susceptible to being damged by frost and cold weather. They will soak up heat during the day and put off heat thru the night. Anyone took advantage of this? Or (since this is a failure thread) possibly planted the wrong thing next to rocks and destroyed it with heat?
 
Matu Collins
Pie
Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I used some rocks this year and I think it helped with speeding up some slow growing heat loving plants, and giving a little protection from the wind. I was not as observant of the wind pressure until I built my hugelbeets.

I also used rocks to tuck weeds under. I'm spending this off season scoping out nice big rocks to bring home for the garden.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic