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Hugelkultur tree wells...

 
Blayne Sukut
Posts: 18
Location: South West Idaho
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Howdy folks from southern Idaho... Been coming here and reading on and off for a few years so decided to join in... I had a food forest yard I spent many years developing started before I ever heard of permaculture or Sepp etc. but went through a divorce and gave it to the ex wife... So I am now remarried and starting over with a blank canvas so to speak on a small scale. I am putting in some ponds and hugelkultur beds also fruit trees berry bushes and lots of herbs and veggies etc... I did a search and didn't see anything on making tree wells out of hugelkultur's so thought I'd post what I am doing...

Since the trees are small I thought what a great way to do double duty make the tree well a hugelkultur and plant veggies herbs melons berries etc while the tree is small and not shading out the beds at the same time the bed acts as a tree well trapping moisture and holding it in for the growing tree roots to reach out to. By the time the bed completely breaks down the tree is large and no longer in need of it so much yet it will still trap moisture like a swell as the yard is on a slight slope....

The wood is in the ground about 10 inches to a foot, and above ground about 2 feet then covered with soil and mulch and I am slowly planting stuff in the mounds... all comments and feedback welcome...

Here's some pics:



 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 453
Location: North-Central Idaho
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Looks pretty good to me. This seems like something that would naturally go hand in hand. I'm sure you thought of this, but if you can get a southern aspect to the wells and maybe do a dry stack wall on the inside you might be able to gain a climate zone or two and plant some more marginal species (some hardy types of figs or something). Would be pretty interesting to see what you could come up with. I've only got about 90 days of growing season (without any season extenders) up here where I'm at, but I plan on incorporating some of these techniques in order to diversify my harvest. Good luck to you and keep us posted.
 
Ghislaine de Lessines
Posts: 196
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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What a great idea! I planted some fruit bushes today. I made a bit of a well out of the turned over sod on the downhill side since I planted on a slope.
 
Jamie Wallace
Posts: 82
Location: Lantzville, Vancouver Island,BC Cool temperate, Lat. 49.245 Zone 8a
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Hi Blayne
Very interesting technique. I think your approach is going to yield some great results, particularly as you new tree establishes over the next few years. The only item I would comment on is mulching the newly planted tree.
I have always been a firm believer of mulching tree circles particularly with young trees. Great work Blayne...
 
Blayne Sukut
Posts: 18
Location: South West Idaho
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Jamie Wallace wrote:Hi Blayne
Very interesting technique. I think your approach is going to yield some great results, particularly as you new tree establishes over the next few years. The only item I would comment on is mulching the newly planted tree.
I have always been a firm believer of mulching tree circles particularly with young trees. Great work Blayne...


Yes I did mulch the new trees I just took that picture right after planting that tree and had not mulched it yet.... Thanks for all the comments everyone always appreciate feedback keep it coming...
 
Blayne Sukut
Posts: 18
Location: South West Idaho
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Yeah Dave or just make full size hugelkultur tree wells

Here are some more pics a little later..

[URL=http://smg.photobucket.com/user/hawkiye/media/TreeWells2_zps7b4ed11f.jpg.html][/URL



 
Dave Dahlsrud
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Location: North-Central Idaho
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I liked the idea so much I had to try it myself. I incorporated a tree well into my newest hugel. My prevailing winds are from the southwest, so I set this one up to block the wind, shed the cold air coming down the hill, and retain moisture. This is just a work in progress, I plan on doing some dry stack stone on the interior of the well and plant some nice companions in there as well. The lower portion is already planted and mulched. Just thought I'd share.
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Blayne Sukut
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Location: South West Idaho
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Looks good Dave should work... Where abouts are you? I just sold some property up in Kooskia it was kind of bitter sweet but had to happen... Love the area up there though...
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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Location: North-Central Idaho
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Thanks, I'm up on near Cottonwood Butte about 45 minutes west of Kooskia. My in-laws had a place near Kooskia, beautiful country 'round there. To bad you had to leave.
 
Erica Wisner
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Location: Okanogan Highlands, Washington
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I like the thermal mass / climate zone idea. However, what size of wall are you considering?

My impression was the first limitation climate imposes on most trees is nothing to do with root or trunk survival - it's winter and frost damage to their buds and blossoms.
This means the critical area to protect would be the branch edges of the tree, not the trunk or roots. (assuming you're working with trees that are reasonably hardy for your climate).

Might pay to consider ways to get that climate protection up high enough to buffer the lower branches of the trees, like an old-fashioned English garden wall. (This can double as deer protection, and serve other functions too. Some ancient walls even had chimneys or channels so you could light a fire on one side and heat the wall up extra for those critical frost-protection windows.)

Radiant heat moves approximately perpendicular to surfaces (it moves in all directions, but the sum of "all directions" from a series of points in a plane has its greatest intensity perpendicular to that surface). So a round or parabolic wall around a tree can roughly focus any available warmth on that tree. Might even look at the weird patterns you get with poor telescope mirrors for ideas about how to focus that energy in a curve around the wall-side branches, instead of into the trunk itself.

But straight walls, or serpentine walls like Jefferson favored, get you the most height for a given tonnage of masonry. Which is a consideration, as most people are not happy stacking more than a ton or two of masonry per day. Cinderblocks or hollow pavers might offer some interesting options for the smoke-channel idea, though the wall would have less total mass for passive heat storage. Could fill half the channels and leave half open for heating, or something.

If you want to do earthen walls, factor in a roof to protect the wall from rain / frost action. It will need a stone / frost- and damp-resistant footing up to about 18" above ground level.

Oh... and if you're building a masonry edifice anyway... maybe include a couple of bee-blocks for orchard bees?

Nice pics - keep 'em coming. Would love to see the planting beds as they come up.

-Erica W
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 453
Location: North-Central Idaho
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Great insight on the way the heat will travel and keeping those branches protected Erica. My idea on the dry stack stone on the inside of the curve would be roughly 18 inches or so vertical wall, then strategically placed stone on the face of the hugel mound (I'm thinking 70% stone 30% soil for growies), and probably more stone on the ground (maybe 85% coverage or so) like a stone mulch. This area receives morning shade as well so it should heat up slowly, hopefully mitigating frost damage. The tree is an apricot that is zone appropriate, so I don't worry too much about that, but I would really like to get some actual fruit off the thing at some point and with my 90 days frost free I wanted to try to take some steps to provide fruit set and ripening....plus it's just fun to experiment and see if I can make it work. Who knows maybe a fig next, or avocado, or......
 
Blayne Sukut
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Location: South West Idaho
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Remember though heat rises so even a thermal mass at trunk level could keep the leaves and branches warmer as it radiates out and then up and hovers under the canopy same thing with a pond in front of the tree or even filling the tree well with water if a freeze is expected... I often would fill the tree wells with water when frost was coming in early spring and it always kept the blossoms from freezing... Blocking the tree to branch height would have to be done carefully to ensure the tree had adequate sun through out the day...
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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Location: North-Central Idaho
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I'm figuring the hugel walls will be about four feet high when I'm done. I'm going to try to keep the branches up above that height and spread out to the edges of the tree well. I'm hoping that this will hold enough heat to keep things ripening nicely and not frosting up too soon.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 453
Location: North-Central Idaho
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Just a quick update on my project....finished up the dry stack, backfilled, planted, and mulched the interior of the hugel - tree well. Wall ended up being about 30 inches tall, came out pretty nice and stable (not bad for my first try)!
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Jamie Wallace
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Location: Lantzville, Vancouver Island,BC Cool temperate, Lat. 49.245 Zone 8a
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Great job Dave....nice stonework.
 
Blayne Sukut
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Location: South West Idaho
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Looks good Dave keep us posted on how it works out....
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 453
Location: North-Central Idaho
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Quick update 2015: EPIC FAIL!!! The tree went into winter just fine, but never came out in the spring. I think the area was getting too wet and drowned the little tree. I think the idea is sound, but the execution was poor. Uphill of the tree well I made some Emelia Hazlip style beds with sunken paths...not on contour and the low spot was directly up slope from the tree well so when the paths filled with water it would overflow into that area (is this a type 1 error or can it be fixed?). Bad call on my part I suppose. I'll do a little work to mitigate the problems latter this summer, and plant something that like the moisture a little more. We shall see.
 
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