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large Hugelkultur Work In Progress

 
Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Here's my latest Hugel bed project, a relatively large one compared to my others.
All the logs were placed by hand since I didn't have the money to rent a trac-hoe at first.
Later on I rented a trac-hoe to help out with the majority of the digging & covering.
It's been a very time & labor intensive project working by my self but, I know it'll be worth it!

It's arc shaped, kind of like a 'C'
Nearly completed, just want to add more horse manure and top soil since there's quite a bit of clay.

Hugelbed_Large_2013-05-10__ (4)sm.JPG
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Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Question folks:

I know it's recommended to immediately plant every square inch with something upon completed construction,
However, I'm thinking it's rather late in the year for hardiness zone 5, as it's now November 21st.
Being that this is 'Hugelkultur', I'm hoping that I have extended time. What do you think?

Should I plant something now, or should I just heavily mulch to prevent weeds and plant in the spring?

Here's some of my seeds that 'might' be possible to plant now:

- Kale
- Onions perennial
- Garlic
- Ginseng
- Goldenseal

- Hairy Vetch
- Winter Rye
- Buckwheat

 
Miles Flansburg
steward
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Posts: 3561
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Looking good Jason!

If you have the seed you might throw it down and then cover the whole thing with leaves, or what ever else you may have, to keep the erosion down.
The seeds will come up when they are ready.
 
Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Thanks for the encouragement, I went ahead and seeded the bed.
Not sure how successful the results will be but, I had plenty of seeds I didn't mind loosing if my attempt fails.
The main thing is to establish roots to help hold the steep sides from eroding and to prevent undesirable weeds to gain dominance.

It was a light drizzle of rain all day, so the soil was perfect for planting. No watering needed right from the get go!

All seeds (other than lettuce) were planted only on the inside face of the 'C' shaped bed.
The back side of the bed still has a lot of excess dirt pushed up against it which needs shoveled away.

Soil:
The entire bed at any given point has probably at least a foot of soil covering the wood core.
The soil consists of: sod, clay-ish dirt, horse manure, wood ashes, top soil and a light mulching of hay & leaves. Small branches laying over top to help hold down mulch.

Seeds sown: (starting from the top and going down)

- Maca (Yellow)
- Garlic (Stiff Neck)
- Onions (Egyption Walking)
- Beets (White)
- Lettuce (Oak Leaf)
- Vetch (Hairy) at the very bottom and also on the ground in front of the bed.

Rough dimensions of the hugelbed:
~ 5.5' high
~ 16' long
~ 55° steepness (sides are closer to vertical than horizontal)
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Gary Park
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Location: St. Louis, MO
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Just wanted to say excellent work there man! Make sure to come back with update pics of what it looks like over the years and when planted. One question--is the "C" shape oriented to where it catches water during heavy rains?
 
Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Thanks Gary. It's a passion of mine to do my best with the knowledge I attain in permaculture research.

Updated pictures will definitely be coming in the future. I'm looking forward to seeing this thing flourish!

It was relatively warm about a week ago, so I planted some Jerusalem artichokes all over the back side of the bed in order to prevent some erosion I encountered.
The front concave face is still holding up well. I'm hoping it's frozen in place and in good shape all winter.

The 'C' shape is partially oriented to capture rain, as well as capture the sun's southern exposure, and block the prevailing winds with the bed's back side.
With all these elements taken into consideration, I felt I made some minor compromises to each one individually but, I feel I made a wise decision overall.

Time will tell.
Lets observe the progress.


 
Nick Merrill
Posts: 8
Location: SW PDX -- Zone 8
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Very cool. Looking forward to updates.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Tony Flint
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Location: Maple Valley, WA, USA - Zone 8a, 500 ft elevation
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Jason, this is awesome and inspiring. How did the late autumn sown seeds do? Please do keep us updated with how things went and how they progress this growing season.
 
Victor Johanson
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Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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Jason, nice--just wanted to let you know that I shamelessly plagiarized one of your photos for a presentation on hugelkulture I was invited to present at a local gardening workshop last weekend. Thirty five Fairbanks minds were infected with the gospel of hugelkultur, so maybe we'll get some more research underway up here.
 
Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Victor Johanson,

No problem using the pics, glad they were used to help spread the message!
Do you think the presentation went well?

------------------------------------------------

Tony Flint,

Though I haven't taken photos yet, there is some life emerging from the hugelbed.
Garlic is noticeable and perhaps some onions? not sure quite yet what's what. Many tiny sprouts everywhere.
I'll take pics soon and post them.

The bed has held it's shape almost perfectly thru the winter, just one small area where some of the wood was exposed.
Not too surprising considering it's on a rather difficult curve. Building arcing beds is quite a challenge with so many logs.


 
Victor Johanson
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Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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Jason Vath wrote:Victor Johanson,

No problem using the pics, glad they were used to help spread the message!
Do you think the presentation went well?


It did go well. There were lots of good questions and I think some folks are planning to give it a go.
 
Allan Hall
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Hi there, I would like to know of your success with ginseng in a hugelculture! I have found no other reference for this! Did you plant on the north/ northeast side of your bed? My worries are that ginseng likes cool ground, and that the bed may heat them too much. Also I worry about disease with this method. Is there a lot of debris in the dirt? Wild simulated ginseng ( looks gnarled and twisted) is worth soo much more than ginseng grown in a garden (looks nice and straight like a carrot).
 
Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Allan, I did not plant ginseng in the bed at all. I wouldn't feel comfortable for the very reasons you mentioned.
Would be interesting to know about though. Maybe someday if I have more money than I know what to do with.

Some updated pics will be coming soon! Just nothing exciting to look at yet.

 
Jason Vath
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Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Ok, here's a little update. Nothing too exciting yet but might as well document the progress.
Garlic looks happy so far!

The back side is loaded with field peas & oats cover crop in order to help turn the clay-soil into something decent some day.
And of course various weeds which I may or may not pull out later.


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Rob Lisa
Posts: 13
Location: North Carolina, Zone 7B
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That is epic work. Great job. I hope it serves you well for years to come.
 
Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Just wanted to testify that potatoes do in fact favor Hugelkultur over traditional ground!
The soil conditions were fairly similar - clay with some manure mixed in.
Potato Growth Compare_Hugel-vs-ground_2014-05-27sm.JPG
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Chris Dean
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Location: South New Mexico Mountains
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That's definitely one of the most photogenic beds I've seen! Great work
 
Victor Johanson
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Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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Jason Vath wrote:Just wanted to testify that potatoes do in fact favor Hugelkultur over traditional ground!
The soil conditions were fairly similar - clay with some manure mixed in.


I can confirm that--some of the ones I grew were more than twice as big:

http://www.permies.com/forums/posts/preList/17/150662
 
Michael Vormwald
Posts: 154
Location: Central New York - Finger Lakes - Zone 5
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Great job!
 
Loren Hunt
Posts: 45
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - Zone 5B
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Jason Vath wrote:Just wanted to testify that potatoes do in fact favor Hugelkultur over traditional ground!
The soil conditions were fairly similar - clay with some manure mixed in.


I can attest to that. We plant sweet potatoes in our hugels their first season (and after too because they are yummy!)
 
Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Alright, here's a fairly recent update.
Plants are much bigger now but, didn't have my camera with me the last time I checked up on it.
More pics shortly.

In these pics there is a lot of Jewel Weed on the back side of the bed.
I have recently removed most of it and layed them on top as mulch (roots removed)
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Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Recent update as of July 11th 2014.
Filling out more near the bottom with Squash family plants.
Potatoes have turned into bushes.

Hugelbed_Large_2014-07-11_3.jpg
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Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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Update for 2015:

Climate: Cold Temperate
Location: Northwestern PA, USA
Average Yearly Rainfall ~42 in.
Hardiness Zone: 5-6

Not quite as impressive as I'd hoped. I didn't give it much attention this year due to my house burning down in January and all the troubles of dealing with that.
I simply couldn't put much effort in keeping down the weeds but, managed to make some use anyways. And of course I never watered this year, maybe initially once for some seeds?


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Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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I found some more photos of this years' growth:

Note: The Fava beans fully matured and I saved seed, I just never took photos during that time as I had way too many crazy things going on in life.

Hugelbed_Large_2015_Progress.JPG
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Hugelbed_Large_2015_Fava Bean Progress.JPG
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Jason Vath
Posts: 146
Location: Hardiness Zone 6
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continued....

Hugelbed_Large_2015_Onion Progress.JPG
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