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Hugelculture from the ground up?

 
William James
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Location: Northern Italy
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I'm sure this has been asked before, so sorry for my laziness. It's probably not a difficult one.

Would it be possible to load the land with branches and sticks and then progressively load onto that compostable material and build the hugelculture from below? I'm currently making a dividing line to limit access to the land with many truckloads of branches. In the spring the grass and other more-easily-digested material will be coming by the truckload as well. My first plan is to get chickens (already far along as a plan) and have them work it over as one of their duties. The second potential for all the green material is to dump it on top of the branches. My thinking is the green stuff will squash the brown stuff, putting in more in contact with the soil, so more decomposition. And the green stuff will filter down and eventually build up around the woody stuff.

Seem like a workable plan?

Thanks,
William
 
Miles Flansburg
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William, so you won't be covering it with soil?
 
Jay C. White Cloud
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Hi William,

I may have missed your point so let me know. I can tell you what I did back in about 1976 on my first major foray into what now is called permaculture and hugelkultur (back then it was...well the way it had always been done so I guess you would call it "traditional.")

Besides the "mounds" for the garden (what we called it) I took all the organic material from clearing 4 acres that could not be turned into timber frames, lumber for projects, basket making supplies, fire wood, etc. and chopped it all int 1 meter lengths. The root balls of trees got yanked out of the ground and set side by side (stump facing into the property-roots out) as the start of all this. Then laying down in front of the stump side, I started mounding this organic matter, then compost. Then dug up "starts" of wild rose and planted these 0.5 meters apart on top of this mound, which was close to a meter high at this point.

So from the out side of the property line, garden and some animal pens, you saw a tangle of roots (I like roots!!!) and then the wild rose grew up and over this so in some spots the new hedge was almost 3 meters high within 3 years. The goats didn't even test the confines of this type of hedge row, which I believe meets all the criteria to be called "hugelkultur." The gardens worked wonderfully as well.

Regards,

j
 
Morgan Carey
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Hi Jay,
I have read many of your posts with interest. You seem to be very knowledgable, experienced, and passionate so I'd love any insight you can provide. I'm a recent transplant to Rome, Italy from Los Angeles, We're on a small piece of land with 40 olive trees and a dozen or so pear, plum and cherry trees. We have chickens and our neighbors have horses and goats. Everyone here burns the prunings from their olive trees and I'd like to incorporate into Hugelbeets. If I make beds six feet high composed of firewood, olive and fruit tree prunings, goat and chicken manure and cover with manure and mulch with straw do you think that is a feasible scenario?
 
William James
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@Miles
No, unless gets dropped from the back of a truck next to the pile, I won't be putting soil on top. The idea is that soil will build up from the bottom in time with the organic material that gets deposited on top, along with the decaying branches.

@Jay
Yeah. That's pretty much what I'm thinking. I figure that most of what is in the pile will eventually decay, but something will get a root into the ground and take off. If I want the newcomer, I'll leave it, if not, it gets chopped and dropped onto the pile. Since that spot isn't exactly high priority, I can wait for the magic to happen. It's functioning fine even now as a hedge, getting much higher than the little trees I planted just beyond.

Thanks for the comments,
William



 
William James
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There's also a question of rotten-ness of the wood.

In my climate (cool temp) and my soil (heavy clay) I have the feeling that the more rotted the wood, the better the result. The wood currently being put down on the land is brand-spanking-new, as it just got done with the chainsaw. Exposing that to the elements for a long time before it touches the ground is going to get it closer to rotted than if I piled earth that I don't have on top. Plus the space we're talking about is about 100 meters and about 1 meter high. It would take a lot of soil and a lot of heavy machinery to get that covered.

That's why I'm thinking building from the ground up might be best for this situation.

William
 
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