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First Keyhole Hugelkultur - Italy

 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Hi everybody,

This is my first keyhole hugelkutur. It is 5 meters square and this picture shows it 1 pic for month from august 2013 to January 2014. It has produced some 15 kg of brassicacee (white and red cabbages, cauliflowers), chards and lettuces. Right now (last pic) there is the only survivor cauliflower, some chards, celery, fava beans and a lot of onions and garlics (just sprouted). For more pics: ortomontano (Italian language)

 
William James
gardener
Posts: 1010
Location: Northern Italy
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Hi Raoul,
Nice job.

The only suggestion I would make is that the wood you used seems small. Referring to this image on the website:
http://ortomontano.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/02.jpg?w=300&h=225

The good thing is that will break down nicely and provide all the benefits of hugelkultur. Potential bad news is that because you don't have bigger pieces, over a longer period of time you won't have the benefits. My little sticks broke down and were gone within 2 years.

As for bigger pieces of wood:
I've found that in my ground the word "Rotting" is very important when describing wood. The more rotting it is, the better the hugelkultur is going to preform. If you have to wait for the fungi to come to the mound, you could be waiting a long time (especially with wood like black locust, which is what I have).

Good job mixing hugelkultur and keyhole beds doing synergistic gardening. Ottimo, direi.
William
 
Morgan Carey
Posts: 22
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Hi Raoul,
I am in Rome, my wife Ilaria and I moved here in August. Where are you? Congratulations on doing your first Hugelkulture. I was wondering about your choices of crop and also the height which seems very low. Have you read sepp holzer yet? We'll be doing some Hugelbeets in the Febraio.

Morgan Carey
www.victoriousgreen.com

 
Scott Stiller
Posts: 280
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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Very nice design! I made make one in this shape as well.
 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Hi guys, thanks for your comments!

William: under the layer of branches there are actually some bigger logs and tree roots. I did not have to wait very much for fungi: in the fall I have had 2 different families of small mushrooms colonizing the hugelkultur here and there.

Morgan: I live inside the Sibillini national park, I have read Sepp's book and I know that a hugelkultur should be pretty tall. The top of the mound at the moment is 1 metre (shrinking), but I have built an half-sunken bed, so the total height of the hugelbed is 1,5 metres circa. About the crop choice I don't know yet... probably a 6+ species mix of lettuces - green beans - carrots. I will experiment some companion planting and I will plant seeds in it continuously from March\April until November. Any suggestion about good plant guilds and best crops for hugelkutur?

Thank you for your interest
 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Keyhole hugelkultur update

Here is the current situation of my keyhole hugelkultur. Current population: 6 tomatoes, 3 cucumbers, 18 peppers, 1 chilli pepper, 2 melons, 30+ lettuces, 2 dwarf zucchini, 500+ dwarf beans, 4+ celeries, 2 sunflowers, Swiss chard, mint, basil. Harvest, sowing and transplants are continuous, so the population of the hugel is always different. In the picture: the system seen from different perspectives (high resolution picture here).


 
alex jackson
Posts: 32
Location: Italy
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Nice to see some more people on permies from Italy. Great key hole by the way. Looks and sounds very productive!


http://permaital.blogspot.it/
 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Thanks Alex, sorry for the late reply. Yes, the keyhole looks pretty productive despite being in its first year. Here we are still waiting for a proper summer so I had not big harvest of summer crops... yet. Anyway I harvested 5+ Kg of lettuces and broad beans (plus some garlic, chards, celery ecc which I did not weight) since the end of May. Not astonishing, but still not bad for only 5 metres square.

Happy to see more permies in Italy!
 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Keyhole hugelkultur: second semester (February – July 2014), one pic per month. In its first year this hugelkultur has produced 25 kg of vegetables from 25 different species and from 8 different plant families (Brassicaceae, Apiacee, Fabaceae, Solanaceae, Cucurbitaceae, Asteraceae, Amaryllidaceae and Amaranthaceae).

 
Tim Wells
Posts: 119
Location: Essex, England, 51 deg
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Hi, looks very productive compared to my results. I wonder how you defeated the slugs? Are slugs/ snails a problem? I guess it is a much drier climate the UK. Caterpillars/ white butterfly problem for your brassicas?
My similar hugel was planted with plug plants also.
Slugs ate 80% of plants.
I didnt irrigate.
Only strawberries and soft fruit established well.
Now the bindweed has established.
 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Hi Tim,

The first things I transplanted in the hugelkultur (August 2013) were mostly Brassicas. In this very summer we have had a white butterfly population explosion (Yes, swarms. Many.). This meant to me almost daily inspections and egg destruction raids (eggs hatch in a couple of days) for a month or more.

Slugs and snails can be very problematic here as well. At the beginning I used beer-traps and similars, which I did not like. Then I used an organic agriculture slug killer (ferric phosphate), which I definitely did not like.

Voles ate all but 2 of my 50+ onions.

At the moment I am not undertaking any kind of pest control. I can occasionally kill some red slug and I usually move snails in other places in my garden (by the way: cornu aspersum are a crop themselves). The good thing is that it seems that I do not need pest control. I do have slugs and many other herbivores feeding on my crops, but they do not do sensible damages. I also have an increasing population of spiders and other insects never seen before. It seems to me that the system has reached a kind of (dynamic) balance, and I believe that it is an emergent property of the poly-cropped ecosystem. Things were different last year, when I had less plant species in the system. Just a simple observation: I transplanted some brassicas last week and I have been observing cabbage butterflies trying to land on my plants without succeeding. They are not able or not willing to land (and then lay eggs) on brassicas surrounded by plants of different families (in my case mostly Solanacee and Fabacee). I am not sure, but I suspect that this year I will not have many caterpillars and eggs as I did last year.

I did not irrigate; I did not have to weed, I just pull out some weeds while harvesting\sowing. The only works have been sowing, transplanting, harvesting and mulching.
 
Tim Wells
Posts: 119
Location: Essex, England, 51 deg
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any updates ? what are you sowing / planting up now?
I plan broad beans and spring cabbage, garlic and onion sets
 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Tim Wells wrote:any updates ? what are you sowing / planting up now?
I plan broad beans and spring cabbage, garlic and onion sets


I am going to transplant a new generation of brassicas (for February harvest) this week. I transplant at least a dozen new lettuces every moon as well.

For overwintering plants I have planned a couple of sowing sessions for peas (or broad beans), garlic and onions at the beginning of November.

 
Jen Van
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Newbie here... What are the benefits of the keyhole design? Does it work on a slope?
 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Jen Van wrote:What are the benefits of the keyhole design? Does it work on a slope?


I opted for the keyhole shape for several reasons:

1 The round shape fits perfectly between the 2 existing trees, and the keyhole is the most economic way (in terms of space) to have the most "not walkable" land for crops.
2 I have placed the hugelkultur on a slight slope. The hole of the keyhole looks uphill, so the entrance harvests excess rainwater from the lawn (you can see it in the 3rd pic of the 2nd semester update).
3 It is pleasant to see.

 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Keyhole Hugelkultur, third semester (August 2014 – January 2015), 1 pic per month. Production in 6 months: 20 Kg. Total production in 18 months: 45 Kg.

 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
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Keyhole Hugelkultur, 4th semester (February 2015 - August 2015), 1 pic per month. Production in 6 months: 7 Kg of vegetables plus 30 garlic heads. Total production in 24 months: 52 Kg.

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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