I am planning my first experiment in the spring and was wondering if anyone had already tried this little variation.
Several years ago my grandfather lived with us. He loved to garden and would spend time in our forested backyard. His sight was failing, so when we needed to remove some storm damaged trees my mom had us cut the stumps to 5 or 6 feet tall. So we have 10 or 12 of these giant stumps in the back yard.
I got the idea after looking at some pictures of Sepp Holzer's soil sausages. And I think i have seen live trees used to support the weight of the soil wraps.
I was thinking of taking the Holzer soil sausage concept and wrapping tree on the inside of the sausage... Making it kind of a tall mini vertical hugel. A few of the stumps are 20+ inches in diameter. Others are smaller than that. The trees I am using are all decaying. We cut them seven years ago. And they are hardwood. I probably should have put the soil sausage over freshly cut trees years ago, but am wondering if I can get a little benefit from the wood decay and water retention.
Sounds promising. It makes sense to me. If you plant stuff in the stumps and hill up the topsoil and mulch, won't the new root systems just follow the root system-shaped paths of rotting compost that was the old root system, and with less expended energy than through almost all soil conditions?
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
When I ended up with a hugel that was too much wood and not enough space for topsoil/mulch, I took a large spade bit and drilled some holes that I could fill with good soil. This gave the seeds a spot to anchor while they developed roots to infiltrate the wood. If you drilled into the stumps at a downward angle, it might help. I admit I haven't seen the Sepp "soil wraps" you're referring to, so I'm not sure how you are going to keep things where you want them through wind and rain while the plants get established.
The soil sausage, as I understand it, is a sheet of landscape felt with soil in the middle. I think the goal is to make a tube of soil. So I am hoping the landscape felt would hold the soil and plants in place and I wanted to wrap the tree stump. The trees are still standing upright. The soil could flow out the bottom --- because I want a six foot tall soil tube. So I need to figure out how to keep that in place at the bottom.
Usually the soil sausages help with small space growing because it gives more vertical spaces to plant.
In the spring I will post photos so folks can see what they look like.
I didn't even think about the plants being able to use the stump to easily push the roots downward. The soil is mostly clay so that is a total benefit what I am very curious about is the stumps are pretty small when compared to some of these hugels. Is one single trunk going to have noticeable benefits? My plan is to do 1/2 with the trunk inside the soil wrap and the other 1/2 without. Cause I would like to see them side-by-side.
I would really like you to consider something like burlap that is biodegradable rather than landscape cloth which is not. I've also seen willow whips used essentially as a giant basket full of dirt to clean sewer water in Spain, so you could build sausage shaped baskets around your stumps and the stumps would stop them from tipping over. If the gaps were big enough that you were concerned that the dirt would leak out, layers of newspaper or straw on the inside would help but still be biodegradable. What are you planning to plant? Annuals, bienials, perenials or a mixture? Woody perenials like blueberries would grow roots right into the old stump and help stabilize everything. Peas or beans would both fix nitrogen and provide much more instant green, root mats and food.
These are just thoughts - I'm hoping to stimulate other ideas and contributions.
In my mind's eye I was seeing landscape felt --- definitely not the weed block stuff. I did want something that was biodegradable. An actual natural felt...My mom swears they sell it at Home Depot, but I haven't seen it. All I see there is that non-bio degradable stuff. I almost wonder if I may need to order it from a textile place. If I can't find a true landscape felt I was thinking my second choice would be burlap. Bigger holes in the fabric, but I could a double barrier of burlap. And the straw would really help too. Thanks for the suggestion.
I want to do a mixture... mainly perennials for food and support plants. The stability to help anchor it to the stump is key. I think it would be fun to see a blueberry bush growing at a wonky angle... N-fixers too.
I only have it on paper so far, but am jazzed to see what it might look like when it gets set up. The woven basket whips would be a very cool look...
Any idea on how long the burlap might last left outside season after season? It would be great to get something that would really last. Suppose I could grow some bamboo???
Part of the idea of hugelkultur is to have the roots stabilize the soil, replacing the need for the burlap by the time it does biodegrade. However, what you're planning is much more like a giant raised bed and normally the walls of the raised bed are of something more long-lived than burlap. If the burlap were buried, I suspect it would biodegrade fairly rapidly. Since it will be on the surface, I think it would last longer. I'm thinking that if some parts looked like they were starting to fail, you could re-wrap using wide strips sort of in a spiral so that you can avoid perennials that are established. Depending how important looks are, there's no reason you couldn't consider second-hand material like old flannel sheets, as your wrapping material. I often find that sheets wear out in the center, but have perfectly usable material at the edge for at least 30 cm wide by about 180 cm long. From my experience, wool would decompose even more slowly and sometimes Thrift shops have old wool blankets at a reasonable price. Re-using or re-purposing is usually kinder to the environment than buying new.
Bamboo is wonderful stuff to grow, but I haven't tried to weave it. I believe they split it into strips in order to weave it. If you know someone who wants their patch thinned, it would be fun to experiment with, but to grow your own will take several years to get your patch established. You also have to be *very* careful what bamboo you plant as some are much more aggressive than others. I particularly like phyllostachys dulcis as it is very edible (pick extra shoots in the spring and use in stir-frys). I also grow what I believe is phyllostachys nigra but I haven't tried eating it. It is more of a "clumper" than the dulcis, but dulcis is just so yummy that I figure if it grows where I don't want it to, it's dinner!