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question about effect of burying wood

 
Junior Stailey
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If you were to drive vertical stakes of wood every foot or so, would any hugelkultur effect take place in a garden or field? I am trying to increase the water holding capacity of a hayfield.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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My understanding is that the wood would hold a bit more water and add some biomass, but you'd have to drive tons of them in. Also, be sure that they are totally covered in the soil, otherwise you get a wicking effect which will draw water out of the ground, drying it out further. This same effect could also help bring water from deeper in the soil up closer to the surface, but I'm not sure how far it would migrate from the stake outward. If it's a small area that you intend to do this on and you have the wood on hand I say "Go for it". Be sure to let us know your results. I think the labor may not be worth the end result though. Any stake that you could drive in by hand would likely rot out in a couple years and you'd have to repeat that process again. The wood is so small that it won't last long enough to have a consistent results.
Being that it's a hay field, you might want to consider planting something in there with a good long taproot like Daikon Radish. They get huge and if left to rot in the soil, will add tons of water and biomass to the field as well as aerating the soil.

 
John Elliott
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Craig is right that for a field, you would have to drive in tons of them. That's why I reserve this particular technique for the root zone of already established trees and vines. And it works great! My kiwi vines were just surviving until I drilled some holes with the garden hose and crammed them full of wood and biochar. I did that while they were dormant last winter and this year they really took off. I think I did 2 or 3 holes for each kiwi vine, so that wasn't a whole lot of labor. The only thing about the hose drilling techniques is that you have to not watch what you are doing, or you get a face full of mud. On my semi-dwarf apple and plum trees, 4 or 5 holes spaced at the dripline seems to do a lot of good.

I haven't noticed the wicking effect though, here in Georgia, even logs that are sitting on the ground are soaking wet when you roll them over and rarely dry out. But we do average over 4 feet of rain a year.
 
nancy sutton
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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Great idea, John, and glad to know it works :) I'm making holes also, but with my trusty post hole digger :)

With my sandy soil, I'm also stirring biochar in the bottom of the holes, along with bentonite clay (cheap kitty litter:). And then in go vertical, shortish pieces of solid wood...( there is a gardener here somewhere who used wood in his vegetable planter pots and later dug them up to see what the roots were doing. The ones that handled drought best had roots traveling robustlly up and down vertically-, vs horizontally-, placed wood chunks.)
Organic kitchen scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, etc. goes on top of that, and then soil to fill in, etc. I'll be planting these with 'singular' veg's... like squash, cabbages, brocc, etc. ... or maybe two per hole.

Now I'm going to make drip line holes for my dwarf fruit trees...how deep are your holes? diameter?
 
John Elliott
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nancy sutton wrote:
Now I'm going to make drip line holes for my dwarf fruit trees...how deep are your holes? diameter?


The garden hole nozzle is a little over an inch in diameter, so maybe an inch and a half?? Usual depth is 2-3', although some may be only a foot, if I hit something like a root or a rock. Mostly though I hit the clay Georgia is famous for and I get lots of milky white kaolin coming up out of the hole.
 
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