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Covering hugel mound with fresh-ish manures?

 
Jeremy Droplet
Posts: 25
Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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I've started building my first hugelkultur mound on my property and I'm concerned about having enough soil to cover it. I've got lots of fallen deadwood, logging slash, and otherwise copious amounts of woody debris in various stages of decay I'd like to put to use. One of my biggest issues is that I lack an abundance of topsoil on this property. This is a mostly sloped western facing lot in the foothills that sees quite a bit of rain annually. Since all the marketable hardwoods were cut from this hillside a few years ago, erosion has been allowed to strip the top soil down to a depth of only 5-6 inches. Beneath that layer is an endless subsoil of typically rocky Maine clay. One of my highest priorities is to build soil quickly with lots of cover crops, biomass crops, nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators from the top down. In the mean time, I'd like to be able to cover several of these mounds and get them planted this year. Finished compost is an expensive off-site input I'd rather avoid (especially in the quantities I need). What I do have access to however, is a mixture of cow manure and spent bedding from a neighboring dairy, and mixed horse manure/bedding from several other local farms. Ideally, I'd bring this in and compost it a bit before putting it to use, but I'm now wondering if I can just use this somewhat fresh material directly. My concern is that the material is too "hot" for most plants. I also worry that the combination of high N manures on top of the the high carbon woody piles will create a thermophilic situation that could kill my seedlings. What plants will tolerate planting in these types of manures directly? Is there anything else I should be concerned about? Should I be using nitrogen scavenging cover crops to speed the process? I don't necessarily need these to be in food production this year, but I'd prefer to get them covered and growing some type of useful crop as soon as I reasonably can.

As far as the manures go, I can get dump loads that are at least several weeks old and have been left to age in the sun and rain. The stable beddings are also typically a month old and have been standing outside uncovered.

Here's a photo of my first small pile.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3305
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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It might be a little hot, but the wood will absorb the nitrogen instead of it just washing away.

My main concern is if they give persistent wormers--they can kill earthworms and activity in the pile.

I would get every load of it I could. I would pile it into swales (compost windrows on contour) high on the property and let it wash nutrient down over time.
 
George Meljon
Posts: 278
Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
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Jeremy Drolet wrote:I've started building my first hugelkultur mound on my property and I'm concerned about having enough soil to cover it. I've got lots of fallen deadwood, logging slash, and otherwise copious amounts of woody debris in various stages of decay I'd like to put to use. One of my biggest issues is that I lack an abundance of topsoil on this property. This is a mostly sloped western facing lot in the foothills that sees quite a bit of rain annually. Since all the marketable hardwoods were cut from this hillside a few years ago, erosion has been allowed to strip the top soil down to a depth of only 5-6 inches. Beneath that layer is an endless subsoil of typically rocky Maine clay. One of my highest priorities is to build soil quickly with lots of cover crops, biomass crops, nitrogen fixers and dynamic accumulators from the top down. In the mean time, I'd like to be able to cover several of these mounds and get them planted this year. Finished compost is an expensive off-site input I'd rather avoid (especially in the quantities I need). What I do have access to however, is a mixture of cow manure and spent bedding from a neighboring dairy, and mixed horse manure/bedding from several other local farms. Ideally, I'd bring this in and compost it a bit before putting it to use, but I'm now wondering if I can just use this somewhat fresh material directly. My concern is that the material is too "hot" for most plants. I also worry that the combination of high N manures on top of the the high carbon woody piles will create a thermophilic situation that could kill my seedlings. What plants will tolerate planting in these types of manures directly? Is there anything else I should be concerned about? Should I be using nitrogen scavenging cover crops to speed the process? I don't necessarily need these to be in food production this year, but I'd prefer to get them covered and growing some type of useful crop as soon as I reasonably can.

As far as the manures go, I can get dump loads that are at least several weeks old and have been left to age in the sun and rain. The stable beddings are also typically a month old and have been standing outside uncovered.

Here's a photo of my first small pile.


I think the seedlings could really shoot up in the manure. I have never tried it directly, but lots of N + sprouts isn't really a bad thing is it?

If you're covering with the straw or hay there, and you're not that concern with this year's crop or growth to begin with, is it so bad if the seedlings fail? The straw cover will provide a great environment for the hugel to get working for next year.
 
Dale Hodgins
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I think the wood will absorb most nutrient. With fresh manure, you're pretty much guaranteed that a grass and weed cover crop will develop. Buckwheat or some other desirable cover could lock up nutrients and shade out the weeds.

In my porous mountain soil, manure laid at any distance would see nutrients leached straight down. Then the water would crawl along the bedrock until it gets to the river. This would fertilize the trees which often form a mat along the rock, but most garden plants cannot reach deep enough to benifit.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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