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I am wanting advice on trench compost / in ground hugl to improve an area with stony clay/loam

 
Susan Doyon
Posts: 146
Location: Massachusetts
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what I am starting with
We are in south eastern MA , I have an area about an acre that we garden one section gets very wet in spring and very dry in summer it has been roto tilled a few times a ( tractor with 4' tiller ) but that just seems to bring more stone to the surface .
this year we turned in some compost and sand to the top few inches to work toward mellowing the ground
because it is so wet in the spring we can not plant till late but then it dries and gets hard due to the clay content ,
it is the farthest garden from the house so difficult to irrigate

this year I have part of it in squash, pumpkin cucumber and beans ( no beans next year for that part the deer like to play there in the evening and ether the deer or some other critter like the leaves too much )
last year it lay fallow due to time constraints
year before we did some melons but they did not perform well

what I want to do make a partially buried partially raised huglekultur bed that will slowly decay adding organic matter and giving me a place to plant that is more fertile and less clay
I would like to try trenching a 3' by 30-40 ' section and layer wood scrap twig piles wood ash ,compost ,hay , sawdust and leaves ( the things we have available or can get ) then replace the removed soil mixed with some compost and sharp sand . we do not have a working chipper or I could chip some .
( this year I experimented with adding a thin layer of compost sand mix or on some areas straight sand and it has drastically decreased the slugs, snails ,pincers and sow bugs ) so my thought is top layer with a quick draining material and less slimy critters in my hands when I reach for a strawberry or kale )

is there a page that has recommendations for this type soil improvement ? layers ? size ? what to add ? what not to add
My husband is a doubter of this method so I really need to hear and or see photos from those that have successfully done this .
He is content to pile brush and wait 10 years . I think the number of brush piles looks bad ( we have way too much ) and could be more functional as in ground beds with a thick top coat of compost and dirt


 
John Elliott
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If you use the brush that you have to build hugelkultur mounds, I think you will find that being raised up, out of the spring swamp, will help most of the vegetables that you plant. Even if you just use the soil that you dig out of the trench to put on top of the twigs/compost/hay/leaves and end up with mounds that are a couple feet above grade, you will find that the top of the hugels now have enough drainage that new seedlings will not be rotting in the spring thaw.

When the water table gets too high (spring), plants can drown; when it gets too low (summer) plants die of thirst. Having a foot of organic matter in the form of brush or wood chips or leaves under the top 4-6" of soil the plants are growing in is a whole different situation than having it on top of a foot of stony loam. For one thing, when stony loam dries out, you can't squeeze any more water out of it. When the pore spaces of the loam give up their water, that's it. But organic matter (or charcoal) holds water in the plant cells in addition to the pore spaces, so when roots find a twig, there is some water there to extract, unlike when they find a small stone or pebble.

My partially buried partially raised huglekultur bed is dug about a foot deep and built up 18-24" above grade. At a foot deep, I hit the famous (infamous?) Georgia clay, and it can be very slow to drain. But the top of the hugel is very quick to drain, so much so that I have to be careful that seedlings with short, not yet developed roots don't dry out. The sweet spot on the hugelbed is on the side, from grade level up about half way. Anything planted there will take off like it's on steroids.
 
Susan Doyon
Posts: 146
Location: Massachusetts
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Thank you your post helped to start swaying Husband ,,,,,,,,,, coming from a farm family he seems to need to hear things from several others before he will listen to his city grown wife

he seems to be ok with testing at least one bed ( I know we have enough brush for several )

right now the beds are oriented north south
wondering which direction to put the hugel I could go across the end of the plot south east to south west both would have one side more shaded, as in the evening trees would shade the west side

this pic the areas of black out line are the 2 spots I am considering the left one running east west seems would get good light on both sides for more of the day
crop of garden with possible bed lines.jpg
[Thumbnail for crop of garden with possible bed lines.jpg]
 
John Elliott
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Mine are oriented east-west, only because I wanted to have a north facing slope of the hugelbed so I could plant lettuce and it might not burn up so fast in the summer sun. I think there is a difference between north side and south side -- onions do very well on the south facing slope, celeriac prefers the north side, but I am still observing and making notes.

Our two climates are quite different, so I hesitate to generalize. I think you will have to learn by observing what does well where.
 
Susan Doyon
Posts: 146
Location: Massachusetts
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I will go look ( there is so much to read here , that I think I have barely scratched the surface !)

we are having a horrid dry summer soil is dry 10" down in the areas I checked yesterday , much dryer than I remember seeing . But I know Georgia has lots of dry each summer . usually we have more consistent rain than this year .
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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Well I have Kansas clay, so I am somewhere between John and you for climate.

What tools do you have? Tiller, tractor, loader, plow?

My best working beds are mini-hugels raised beds. They are 3' wide at the base and 12-18" tall. Made with a tractor. I ran a subsoiler on contour in a couple passes to get as deep as I could. I filled those riplines with wood and compost. Then I spread manure and compost on the whole bed (could have added sand, too). I then used a hiller attachment on the tractor to make them into hills. The size is based on the size of my tractor. Here is a video of similar to what I used:



I built mine mostly from fenceline scrap, but the best price I found for the parts online was www.agrisupply.com

What I have are hills about the same size as in that video, but with woody cores and only a tire track width walking path in-between. They are being managed as semi bio intensive after being built, trying to avoid compaction. We heavy mulch the walking paths during the season, then use hillers to throw that partially composted material on the bed for over wintering and start composting in the pathways again.

We have only started doing it this way, so far it is awesome but we will see if the "compost in the path" method will work--it is a huge labor saver if it does.
 
Susan Doyon
Posts: 146
Location: Massachusetts
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we have a tractor , and a bobcat I just showed that video to husband I Love that disc setup , Ken says they started using that set up to toss dirt on plastic
but it looks like a great way to toss dirt into hills your idea would work here also as my main wish is get more organic matter into the soil

now I have some thing to add to the wish list ( the disk set up ,

So far I am thinking tractor and tiller to loosen things and bobcat to open the row ( we have a bucket with grabber teeth for moving the wood )

it is hot and muggy so may not get done till fall today we removed stones and weeded and , even in this dry weather the weeds are growing
I like the idea of adding some manure to add nitrogen in with the wood

 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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My hiller is made from a couple of these: http://www.agrisupply.com/disc-hillers/c/4500013/

and an old ferguson cultivator--the hillers go into the same shank holders as the cultivator shovels fit in. It was cheaper to buy an old cultivator off craigslist than ship the whole frame from agrisupply (but I live in farm country so it is easier to find old fenceline equipment that hasn't been scrapped). The agrisupply keulavator frame does the same thing if you can't find/build something locally.

Here is a video of a guy using that and a tiller in one pass:


I wouldn't bother to do that, just because I think a tiller is a one-time use on these beds. But it shows you what can be done.

Yes, the same discs are used to set plastic row cover:


Just don't start with naked clay like the bayou guy did, use the opportunity to incorporate organic matter. Doing it in the fall will give the beds time to soften the organic matter and just turn nice. And plant cover crops for more nitrogen. It also gives you time to tarp them to germinate all the weed seeds you just brought up from all that dirt turning.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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Hi Susan,

Your in ground hugel will take about 12 months for it to operate perfectly, but even then it should be than just leaving it as is.

Looking forward to your future post about it even though it is a bit late in the season for it to really store water. We should be getting a storm tomorrow, plus a bit of action from Authur.
 
Susan Doyon
Posts: 146
Location: Massachusetts
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now that we have hit the hot and dry part of summer in MA , I think the bed will be a project try to do it this summer and fall as it cools to have ready for planting in the spring in the fall I can stick in some of the excess strawberry plants to prevent erosion.
We have so much dead brush around not lots of large logs as Ken has a wood stove in the old milk room so he splits wood for winter use . but we have piles of brush and branches etc that I hate the look of and I worry about the brush being a fire hazard , I also think the brush piles are encouraging wood chucks to stay too close to the garden . last year most squash was eaten as it formed and we got none of my favorite Argonaut for winter storage !

I want to use the punky wood and brush that we have all over the propery Ken says we are not allowed to bury wood in MA but I do not think that includes composting beds Hugels really seem like a massive sheet compost covered with dirt to me .

this is the property the first pic I posted the other day was just the garden this is the upper hay field and overhead view of what we are working with ( winter view looks barren ) the G is just above the little area the gardens are in

I hope to get Ken on board to trying the huglekulture , He still treats me as a silly city girl because I grew up in the middle of Boston . I would like to add 1-2 each year , I really think it would do great at adding organic matter into the garden area and making the yard look cleaner and neater at the same time while decreasing the danger of brush fire
farm pumpkin 024.JPG
[Thumbnail for farm pumpkin 024.JPG]
hay field
Kens yard boundrys G.jpg
[Thumbnail for Kens yard boundrys G.jpg]
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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It is illegal to bury wood in most states: http://www.dnrec.delaware.gov/dwhs/SHWMB/Pages/WasteManagementFAQs.aspx
But how does one define wood (2inch diameter, 9inch diameter, dry/green),
And how does one define bury do you have to dig a hole/trench and place it below the original soil surface, what if you leave it at the surface and then import some soil (onsite or offsite) and cover it.

Is there any exception to the rules: there is the rule does not apply to farms.
If you live in a city can you plot of land even qualify as a farm: in boston you can, newly minted section 89 recognizes urban farms, but you might have to register.
 
Susan Doyon
Posts: 146
Location: Massachusetts
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that is great to know we are already classed as a farm even though no cows for years ) , will you be at the farm work group the 13th ? sounds like you are on top of things .
I should talk with town hall and see if we have a set of on site composting rules ( I am looking at a 1 foot down dig for this Hugle as a partially covered compost pile of mostly carbon materials !)

Must sleep I get on this site and I just keep finding more topics to google !

 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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You are allowed to compost and exempt from composting oversight if the following applies.

1. leaf and yard waste;
2. wood wastes;
3. clean newspaper or cardboard;
4. clean, compostable (i.e. thin) shells, and clean bones;
5. non-agricultural sources of manures and animal bedding materials.
6. less than 20 cubic yards or less than ten tons per day of vegetative material; and
7. less than ten cubic yards or less than five tons per day of food material.

http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/agr/programs/compost/guidetoagcomposting2011.pdf
pg 5 or 2


If you go down to city hall it might do more harm than good. Then they might want to start checking up on you. Or say that you haven't made more than certain percentage of your income from farming or sold X amount of money from the farm so you dont qualify as a farm. It is a fine line.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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S Bengi wrote:You are allowed to compost and exempt from composting oversight if the following applies.

1. leaf and yard waste;
2. wood wastes;
3. clean newspaper or cardboard;
4. clean, compostable (i.e. thin) shells, and clean bones;
5. non-agricultural sources of manures and animal bedding materials.
6. less than 20 cubic yards or less than ten tons per day of vegetative material; and
7. less than ten cubic yards or less than five tons per day of food material.

http://www.mass.gov/eea/docs/agr/programs/compost/guidetoagcomposting2011.pdf
pg 5 or 2


If you go down to city hall it might do more harm than good. Then they might want to start checking up on you. Or say that you haven't made more than certain percentage of your income from farming or sold X amount of money from the farm so you dont qualify as a farm. It is a fine line.


Wow, their exemptions make sense. Almost any small farm or homestead can meet those. I am shocked.
 
Susan Doyon
Posts: 146
Location: Massachusetts
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right now our farm exemption is for the woodlots so we have a 10 year plan we are not required to produce income each year we are in the regrowing phase so we just need to thin and maintain we have a forestry report done so we have a lot of black walnut trees growing that I hope will mature down the line into some good lumber . ( one of the few things easily grown in the salvage area thanks to my kids and husband playing with a spud gun about 12 years back .
that was a great link thank you so much

 
Susan Doyon
Posts: 146
Location: Massachusetts
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finally got the bed started rather than try to post all 22 pictures here I made an album on my facebook page it is my business page so it should be easy to see

It is coming out great

building a sunken compost bed
sunken compost bed

 
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