Last year in December, I dug three feet down and piled various odds and ends, wood, manure, hay, etc. and layered that with soil up to three feet tall, now it's only 1.5 feet tall. I planted strawberries, calendula, a raspberry bush, and a grape vine. Everything made it through the hot, dry Central Valley California summer eeking it out with a poorly managed drip system. This winter was dry as the summer, a horrific feeling for anyone attuned to this area's weather patterns and nature. I became so overwhelmed with helplessness, I just gave up on the hugel, everything, planned on no garden after the governor's drought emergency announcement. Early March brought much blessed rain, and today when I went to weed and clean up the hugel, I noticed all the strawberries were alive, everything was doing great. Even though it's dry again, and I dug about 3-4 inches down into dryness, somehow the roots were able to find moisture. We'll see what the summer brings, but the promise of self water/fertilization seems to be holding even thought it's only a year old. I was a bit skeptical of the hugel because our rains end in April-May and do not pick up again until October. This seems like the only way to go from now on. I do not expect the area to return to normal again. In fact, I am preparing for a much hotter and dryer Central Valley. Anyone know where I can get some date palms?
We have cyclic droughts where I am, 2-3 years of wet then 1-2 years nice, then 2-3 years drought. Sometimes Mother Nature just throws an extra wet or dry year into the cycle somewhere where we don't expect....just to keep things interesting I suspect.
Anyway, I filled in some giant pits that existed on my property, hugelkultur style. Then planted bananas. I've never had to water those bananas, ever. They produce even during the drought years. I've made four hugelkultur pits so far, all successful to date with the bananas. I'm working on numbers 5 and 6. I'm going to try using one for vegetables, though I'm not sure yet which ones. Possibly pipinola, tomatoes, or pumpkins. The other I'm going to try papayas.
Since the hugelkultur pits work for me, it's a way that I can get areas into food production that are far away from my water source. For me, that's a real plus.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
I haven't seen any mycellium yet. It is pretty dry on top because I think some of the bottom clay wasn't buried back underneath. I'm liking the idea of a pit acting like an underground cistern, perfect for our area. Hopefully, we get a lot of rain and that fills up. I'm really amazed at the raspberry plant. That thing was barely hanging on last summer, and it was in some blistering hot part of the yard. I would give it a sip of water occasionally with most running down the side of the hugel (I've got a better watering system now: trench down the middle of the top ridge of the hugel).