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biochar/nitrogen ratios in a hugelkultur

 
Amy Saunders
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I've been reading lots, trying to find the best way to meet the needs of my land, but I decided to ask here, as your knowledge seems to be more practical than theoretical.

We bought this land in August, so I'm still not very familiar with it, but we live in zone 5, mountain foothills, about a 5% slope from West to East, but very flat within that plane, 14 inches annual rainfall, clay-ey alkaline soil, somewhat thin on top of rock. We only own enough water to irrigate (from a well) our 1-acre yard area.

I'd like to work first on the yard area, making it less thirsty and more productive. Currently we only have shade trees and lawn, I will add lots of fruit trees and garden plants to the already irrigated areas.

My questions, though, are about a pond area. It's 50'x100', man-made, with a pond-liner and pump system, rock-lined, about 5' deep, with the removed dirt forming a berm around the perimeter. It is currently dry because water is so expensive and the pond is unproductive. The former owner said it was costly, high-maintenance, and a mosquito-breeding ground. Also, I have very young children, and I would worry with a pond that close to my home. My plan for it is to make it a giant hugelkultur vegetable bed. I can get pickup loads of carp for free. I can get 3x3x8 bales of moldy hay for cheap (not animal quality, this is gargbage hay) and I have an unlimited supply of horse manure, plus we have cows/goats/chickens so we have their manure. I've been told, on here, that the carp is high in nitrogen and would require lots of carbon. I have two 55 gallon drums of commercially-made charcoal, would that work? Some of it was the kind loaded with starter fluid, but it's been sitting for more than five years, would that evaporate out? I was thinking of mixing the carp and charcoal. Two pickup loads of carp, with two drums of charcoal. In that large an area, it would probably only barely cover the ground (of course I'd pull up the pond liner and rocks), covering that with a couple tons of moldy hay, and filling it back in with the dirt in the berms, but leaving it slightly swaled on contour, to efficiently catch water.

The west, downhill, side of the pond is lined with shade trees, but I'd like to plant fruit trees among them, and around the pond perimeter, along where I intend to swale, would that be okay? Will fruit trees grow well with hugelkultur beneath? How deep does the hugel material need to be? We don't have a source for wood. Firewood is very expensive. All that grows naturally around here are pinyon trees, scrub oak, and sagebrush. Even getting those will be difficult, as our land was cleared to grow alfalfa years ago.

Thank you for all of your help!
 
james Apodaca
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Check out John's videos at growingyourgreens.com he mentions the difference between bio char and char coal in two recently uploaded videos. (the 11 minute video has more visuals, the hour long video is an interview but equally informative).

While I'm as frugal as possible regardless of how long it's been sitting, i (personally) would make the recommendation to NOT use charcoal as an additive in any garden bed.

If you have the land area to safely devote to the process i would make my own with excess yard waste from the neighbor hood.
 
Amy Saunders
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james Apodaca wrote:Check out John's videos at growingyourgreens.com he mentions the difference between bio char and char coal in two recently uploaded videos. (the 11 minute video has more visuals, the hour long video is an interview but equally informative).

While I'm as frugal as possible regardless of how long it's been sitting, i (personally) would make the recommendation to NOT use charcoal as an additive in any garden bed.

If you have the land area to safely devote to the process i would make my own with excess yard waste from the neighbor hood.


Thanks, James! That was a great video. I will definitely think on this some more. I wish that my neighbors or I had tree waste. Can you make biochar out of spoiled alfalfa hay?
 
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