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Hugelkultur bed with a twist...

 
Jamie Wallace
Posts: 82
Location: Lantzville, Vancouver Island,BC Cool temperate, Lat. 49.245 Zone 8a
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I built my first hugelkultur bed this year with a good quantity of well rotted logs that were placed in a shallow trench. The soil I placed on top was a mixture of clay subsoil and compost. It turns out the compost material was not fully finished and is showing temperatures that indicate it is still active. The interesting part of this is two fold:
1) The active compost is creating ideal situation for seed germination.
2) This compost pile lost heat during the winter and some of the kitchen scraps I added to this were not cooked down, so I have about 20 winter squash seedlings germinating. Perhaps (in my cool temperate climate), this would give us a jump on the season so to speak. Long season crops like winter squash can be challenging to germinate in our cool springs, this bottom heat overrides this issue.
I thought this might be of interest to a few.
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The compost I thought was finished is still active
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Potatoes along the base, garlic, strawberries, peas, figs, soon to have blueberries added
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Numerous winter squash seedlings...
 
Josh Pasholk
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Location: Southern California
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That looks great! I love the winter squash "volunteers".
 
Jamie Wallace
Posts: 82
Location: Lantzville, Vancouver Island,BC Cool temperate, Lat. 49.245 Zone 8a
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Thanks Josh...yes its just starting to get going and the squash is a bonus.
I counted over 30 this morning, 20 on the south side, 10 on the north.
Good fun....last year we grew over 1800 lbs of winter squash.
 
Josh Pasholk
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Location: Southern California
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Omfg, that's a lot of squash! I am just starting out and I haven't had any success with winter squash yet, but I'm working with very limited space and resources.

Alas, one day..one day.
 
Jamie Wallace
Posts: 82
Location: Lantzville, Vancouver Island,BC Cool temperate, Lat. 49.245 Zone 8a
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Here's an image of last years crop Josh. Lots of sun, lots of compost and we were fortunate to receive a good warm fall to max ripening.
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Our squash exploding last year...
 
Josh Pasholk
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Now that's a squash surplus!! Wow, I can't wait until I have that kind of abundance conning from my yard.
 
Roland Deschain
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That's an impressive hill. I'm just starting to wrap my head around hugelkultur and I'm wondering about using it for a raspberry or blueberry hedge. Does it get too hot to plant berry bushes the first year, or do you think it would be alright to plant them when I first build the mound?
 
Jamie Wallace
Posts: 82
Location: Lantzville, Vancouver Island,BC Cool temperate, Lat. 49.245 Zone 8a
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Hi Roland
It is my understanding that the top of a hugel mound will be drier and warmer than normal, the lower you go down the mound you go the more available water. My plan is to plant some blueberries along the lower portion of the mound as they are moisture lovers. My answer to your question would be yes, but I would love to hear what others think. As a side note I'm not sure where you are located, that would play into this as well...warm drier climate would yield different results.
 
Jamie Wallace
Posts: 82
Location: Lantzville, Vancouver Island,BC Cool temperate, Lat. 49.245 Zone 8a
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I thought I would post an update on my mound. I have at least 60 volunteer squash along with an assortment of intentional plants including tomatoes, arugula, strawberries, small fig layers, sun chokes, fennel, Orach (sp?), garlic, peas, kale, watermelon...most if not all are looking good. I had some sprouting seed potatoes I laid on the ground at the base of the mound and have been hilling them up, looks like one row is an early variety the other mid or late. The mound is still sitting around 90 f which seem to be inhibiting some small sections of seedlings...having lots of fun and noticing how little work it takes versus some of our other growing areas.
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Potatoes are happily growing at the mound base.
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Started potatoes by placing on hard compacted ground and hilling or mulching ontop
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North-east side of the mound
 
Jamie Wallace
Posts: 82
Location: Lantzville, Vancouver Island,BC Cool temperate, Lat. 49.245 Zone 8a
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Okay
Things are getting weird. First my hugel mound was cooking....still seems to be...now the small potatoes mounds are heating up as you can see in the attached image.
The potatoes were placed onto some hard, compacted ground and I've been placing a soil/compost blend over them as they come up. Yesterday they looked a bit stressed...i put my hand in the ground and it was warm, I confirmed this with a compost thermometer. I guess the active mound is influencing the small potato hills?
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Potatoes at the base of hugel mound
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WTF?
 
Brian Knight
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Location: Asheville NC
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Whats the update? Your temperature didnt seem high to me but Iam from the south.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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With those temperatures a hot compost would quickly do its thing and burn out unless more material were added. Your mound is a solar collector.

My slash piles are the hottest part of the property. The sun is responsible. I know this because it is high in carbon and low in nitrogen. It's also very acidic. I'm not losing volume as would be expected in a hot compost.
 
Jamie Wallace
Posts: 82
Location: Lantzville, Vancouver Island,BC Cool temperate, Lat. 49.245 Zone 8a
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The bed is still in the 100-110 F range. The squash love it, the potatoes at the base hate it. I lost most of the first row, these were close enough to gain some activity/heat off the hugelkulture bed. Never seen anything like it, the stems were completely cooked and very small potatoes were trying to form. If I planted 100 lbs I'll get maybe 25 lbs back. Live and learn.
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Volunteer squash seedlings are now dominant
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Queensland blue volunteer
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Land of the squash
 
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