• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Where are they now? hugelkultur updates?

 
Donald Kenning
Posts: 78
Location: Tri-Cities, Washington
13
fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
What got me so interested in Hugelkultur was all the videos floating around YouTube about it. Some of these videos are vintage 2011, 2012, 2013. However, for most we see people build one. If we are lucky we see footage later that growing season. I am just wondering if people who made videos 2 to 5 years ago could have a follow up video.

Paul Wheaton has made several video's (visiting many people who are building them) about these new beds. I am wondering if he or someone can have a follow up vid, showing a compilation of the builds and where the beds are now. I would like to see if they maintain their height, water retention, food production and so on.

I think this video would be very powerful in helping people realize that this is a good long term growing method if they see more than 1 year of production.
 
wayne fajkus
Posts: 430
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bump for a good idea. I'm on the fence about building one. I have a 5 ft tall x 30' long pile of crumbling rotted oak that came with My property. I had to move it off my fence line to repair fence. I can't wrap my head around a hugel bed. I anticipate it would take more water than a bed in the ground unless you can get a lot of water to absorb in during a rain event.

would love to hear some updates 2-3 years later. Good or bad.
 
raoul dalmasso
Posts: 35
Location: Central Italy (zone 8-9)
7
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bump and flag. Show us the old ones!!!
 
Tim Wells
Posts: 119
Location: Essex, England, 51 deg
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am in year 2 of a small 3ft high hugel at my local allotment site on drained marsh land coastal SE UK, drying East winds and seriously depleted stony "soil" with a sandy subsoil 1ft down; which is raising many skeptical eyebrows from the old boys.

Planted potatoes at the base, which cropped well and have come back year 2 to crop again.
Soft fruit on top: lost 50% due to drought (no irrigation), rest is establishing v slowly.
Strawberries are the biggest success and are spreading, however due to the grass and shrub clipping I mulched with, slugs ate most of the fruit.

Some test plug plants of traditional allotment crops: tomatoes, onions, broad beans, slugs wiped out most of the plug plants, tried direct seeding but the soil was compacted and capped with the heavy winter rains so they did not do well enough.

conclusion: strawberries raspberries and potatoes did well for me (no irrigation a little comfrey juice to boost) but slug problems are significant. Some potatoes eaten and many strawberries lost. (They dont allow ducks at our allotment) You really need ducks.

 
Dave Burton
pollinator
Posts: 1026
Location: Greater Houston, TX US Hardy:9a Annual Precipitation: 44.78" Wind:13.23mph Temperature:42.5-95F
108
bike books forest garden tiny house transportation urban
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
raoul dalmasso wrote:Bump and flag. Show us the old ones!!!


Here are some links to the "old ones":

Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article has some great videos from his YouTube channel on it; one may also be interested in perusing Paul Whateon's hugelkultur article thread or listening to his podcast.
 
Donald Kenning
Posts: 78
Location: Tri-Cities, Washington
13
fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I did look at some of those links. The first link are the videos I am talking about. they do not have any follow ups. There was one of the guy standing in front of a bed more than a decade old, which is helpful but does not show him building it. The forum stream is great but is not a video. That comment stream goes on for more than 20 pages.

I think people want to see visual evidence, good or bad, what works and what does not, the benefits at the bed, the benefits round the bed and so on. We can learn from them, especially if some years were failures.

Last night I did find a video done by Alex in Jacksonville. He has hugel beds in his yard that were created 3-5 years ago. He has a 3 part set of videos. Here is a link to part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZxtm2_lj88. However, it does not show him building them a few years ago.

I think that some people may perceive failure if there are no follow ups to videos made. Remember, for some people, these hugelkultur beds are all they know or all they want to know about permiculture. They are not visiting permies.com, they are not interested in homesteading or turning their whole yard into a garden. If they have a successful hugelkulture bed, they may be more open to continue researching the principles of permiculture. Paul wants world domination. I think this step could do more than he thinks in accomplishing that goal.
 
Viola Schultz
Posts: 14
Location: Zone 6 Hudson Valley
books dog hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here are some links to the "old ones"


I'm sorry Dave but I couldn't find any Paul Wheaton's videos that would be relevant to the question of progress/failure of Hugelbeds. Am I missing something?

I also built my first hugel a few months ago (don't have videos, only a few pictures but I've tried to follow the established 'standard' procedures except the shape of it, which is a trapezoid). I can hardly wait for Spring :0) Anyhow, I also was hoping to find how these hugels are doing after a couple of years and have a hard time finding it. Hopefully, people will post here soon.
 
Cris Bessette
gardener
Posts: 764
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
33
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would really like to see this as well, considering the hugel beds I've made are performing pretty dismally after 2-3 years.
The ones I see that seem to work are the ones with massive inputs of manure or other organic "green" material.

I think all the "brown" material in mine is locking up the nitrogen, and I have no source for large amounts of manure / green manure.


 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1693
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
113
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cris Bessette wrote:I would really like to see this as well, considering the hugel beds I've made are performing pretty dismally after 2-3 years.
The ones I see that seem to work are the ones with massive inputs of manure or other organic "green" material.

I think all the "brown" material in mine is locking up the nitrogen, and I have no source for large amounts of manure / green manure.




My growing mounds do quite well (they are 6 years old now) I do add new layers every year by chop and drop method of the current crops. I also use kale and 7 top turnips as winter crop on them which in the spring I chop and drop.
I don't add manures but I do add a layer (2-4 inches deep, depending on what is left over) of finished compost every spring
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1239
Location: Maine (zone 5)
63
forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My first Hugels are about 3 years old now. They are build on contour and a few of them also act as swales. Production has been comparable to the cultivated raised beds in the same area. HOWEVER, the hugels have required no irrigation at all. I just seed them in the spring and then mulch as the season goes on. Never had a plant wilt yet. As a comparison, I almost always have to irrigate at least a little bit during the seedling stages of crops in the raised beds. The soil in the hugels is much more fungal as well. It's the only place in the garden area where tree seedlings regularly appear. Apples, cherries and oaks just pop up among the other plants. Bonus
 
Bill Bradbury
pollinator
Posts: 684
Location: Richmond, Utah
32
  • Likes 7
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I started building my first hugels about 10 years ago, well before I had heard of sepp holzer. It just seemed to be the way that nature grows a forest, so I planted a forest into them. The cottonwood trees are now 60' tall, with a full accompaniment of edible/medicinal trees and bushes growing under them. This was so successful, that I started building them everywhere on my little 1/2 acre that now supports at least 150 trees and shrubs. Then a client asked me to landscape her 1 acre yard in this manner. Where there was flat barren ground, there is now a contoured orchard with a mix of native and landraced fruit, nut and nitrogen fixing trees with perrenial grasses and this year mushrooms erupted from the wood chipped pathways. Now I have my third fully hugeled property started and people are getting really interested! They come by and we talk plants and water, people and medicine, animals and the wild. I am hoping to naturescape(the name I made up for what I do) at least 1 property per year.
 
Viola Schultz
Posts: 14
Location: Zone 6 Hudson Valley
books dog hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
your replies are encouraging, especially since they seem to be coming from the experienced people around here -- did the mounds get much smaller after say three years and if they do, do you just add compost/manure on the top of the shrinking bed? Or do you try to go to the starting height by doing some rearranging and adding more brown material and so on? Sorry for all the questions from the enthusiastic novice at permies and thank you for your time.
 
Viola Schultz
Posts: 14
Location: Zone 6 Hudson Valley
books dog hugelkultur
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cris Bessette wrote:I would really like to see this as well, considering the hugel beds I've made are performing pretty dismally after 2-3 years.
The ones I see that seem to work are the ones with massive inputs of manure or other organic "green" material.

I think all the "brown" material in mine is locking up the nitrogen, and I have no source for large amounts of manure / green manure.



Cris, thank you for you honesty, lol -- may I ask how did you distribute that massive amount of green manure/nitrogen sources? Did you put it on the wood/branches whatever you used for carbon or on the top of the hugel? Or something in between. Did the under performing hugels get any manure/nitrogen laid on the wood/brush?
That was my biggest problem actually since I was getting mixed reports from the forums here, with some saying just to turn the turf upside down and cover it with some manure
 
Paul Ladendorf
Posts: 38
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I don't know, I'm not feeling it with this idea. Just seems like way too much work for the payoff. I've read people saying they still have to fertilize/feed the bed. People have suggested that feeding isn't necessary but I had a hard time believing that rotted wood is going to provide all of the needed minerals. If you do have to feed, the main benefit is the watering. I can set up a drip system in a half hour that uses very little water. Ok, maybe I'll have to do more composting than with hugelkultur beds but I would have to do it any way.
 
Cris Bessette
gardener
Posts: 764
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
33
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Viola Schultz wrote:
Cris Bessette wrote:I would really like to see this as well, considering the hugel beds I've made are performing pretty dismally after 2-3 years.
The ones I see that seem to work are the ones with massive inputs of manure or other organic "green" material.

I think all the "brown" material in mine is locking up the nitrogen, and I have no source for large amounts of manure / green manure.



Cris, thank you for you honesty, lol -- may I ask how did you distribute that massive amount of green manure/nitrogen sources? Did you put it on the wood/branches whatever you used for carbon or on the top of the hugel? Or something in between. Did the under performing hugels get any manure/nitrogen laid on the wood/brush?
That was my biggest problem actually since I was getting mixed reports from the forums here, with some saying just to turn the turf upside down and cover it with some manure


I think there is a misunderstanding- I DON"T have those sources- I should have said "the hugel beds I've HEARD of that work use massive inputs of manure/green manure"
NONE of the four I've built are doing well.

When I built mine, basically I dug small ditches, filled them with rotting wood and humus type stuff I harvested from the forest around my property. I then pushed the dirt back over the top.
For the last 3 years or so I've been piling them high with leaves in the fall, and then in Spring planting various types of garden crops in them to see what does ok.
Everything is showing obvious signs of lack of nitrogen- small, wimpy plants, light green leaves,etc.

I know the "fix" is obviously getting some nitrogen in there, but I'm trying to be permaculture and resist bringing in stuff in from outside my property- bagged manure/commercial compost mixes,etc.
I've thought about getting a mulching/clip bagging lawn mower as grass is my biggest green asset. I've been using a manual push roller mower for some years now, and don't really want to go back to noisy and smokey mowing....

 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1693
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
113
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cris Bessette, I think what happened to your mounds is atypical. I notice in your build description that you did not mention filling in the holes between the logs with any type of leaves, compost, mulching (grass clippings, kitchen waste) materials, etc.

My people built and still build growing mounds as a way to dispose of animal and vegetable parts that have become of no use (spoilage) except for fertilizer.
When you build a growing mound, the wood goes in in layers, each layer is separated by the above mentioned materials, once you have built the mound to the height you desire then you cover it with any dirt that had been dug out for the logs.
Using non rotting wood will slow the process since only rotting wood will suck up any available moisture and release it back slowly.

To add nitrogen at this point into your mound is pretty easy if you have coffee grounds, vegetative kitchen waste, meat kitchen waste (bones, gristle, trimmed fat, etc.).

One way to picture a mound is as if it is a giant compost heap that is used as a planting bed after it has been piled up.
You can fix your mound, the slow method would be to just make additions to the exterior and let the additions work their way in, the fast method would require pulling the dirt off, making the additions, then put the dirt back on.
I always mix materials into the dirt before I put it on as the cover when I build a new mound.

This is an example of how I build a Nakota growing mound: I have a slope that I am in the process of putting in Swales to control rain runoff that has been an issue with my roads destruction. This slope is abundant with downed tree branches.

I scoop out dirt to shape the swale (grow mound) I want to build.

I then lay in the large, rotting wood that is closest to this new mound in progress.

Next I gather the leaves, dead grasses, dead blackberry canes in this area and stuff these into the open spaces of the log pile.

The next layer is smaller diameter wood, followed by a second stuffing of the materials listed in the previous step.

I continue this process, each layer of wood is smaller diameter than the previous layer.

Once I get the mound to a good height, I gather more of the leaves, dead grass and canes, chop them up somewhat and mix these with the dirt I removed in the first step. This mix is what I cover the mound with.

Since I am building water retaining swales, I also pack down the bottom portion of the cover dirt, and lay on a layer of straw like material to prevent rapid loss of the cover dirt to rain runoff.

I will then sow this new mound with cover crop seeds that will sprout when the weather is right for them. At this point of the year (December) I have annual rye grass that will be sprinkled liberally over the new mounds as each is completed.

Hope this helps you out in getting your growing mound to function as they should.

* Added Note* I have noticed that there are a lot of people that have the conception that a growing mound should not need any attention after it is constructed. This is a misconception, a growing mound is just like any other growing bed, it just needs less watering because of the rotting wood holding more moisture than a "regular" growing bed. When you have harvested the last of your crops you compost the left over materials, with a growing mound, you just chop or pull these leftovers and let them lay on the mound to deteriorate. Mounds are a way to get more planting area in a given flat space. If you approach building mounds as a way to dispose of materials that other folks might send to a land fill, then you will have good mounds.

By the Way, that reel push mower is awesome! Just get friendly with a yard rake and dump your cuttings on your mound.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1239
Location: Maine (zone 5)
63
forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So here's how I built mine.

1. Layout contour lines and mark them with 2-3 inch thick stakes about 3 feet long. Pound them in two feet if possible. The remainder is what holds the rest of the material from sliding down hill.

2. lay out logs, branches etc along this line with the larger stuff on the bottom.

3. Dig a 3 foot wide ditch on the uphill side of the mound, setting aside the sod if it's present. I dug down about 2 feet. These ditches are the foot paths and also where water collects during rain/thaw events.

4. Use the soil from the ditch to fill in the spaces on the wood mound.

5. turn sod upside down and add to the top of the mound

6. mulch with whatever is available. I used green grass cuttings, leaves, straw and compost.

7. Cover crop with whatever I had around. I save every seed from anything that has them and I call that my cover crop mix.

8. Harvest


I have photos of all of this but I cannot for the life of me get them up here. my connection is too crappy apparently.

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
186
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Cordless electric mowers can bag a lot of material for little cost and no fumes.

I have put in a lot of input as compared to returns so far. Mine are muddy slash piles created using an excavator, with lots of coffee and hedge clippings on top. I'm creating soil and that takes time. Because of the massive amounts of materials required, I use the machine for earth moving.

Some of my inputs are landscape waste that I charge to dispose of. For me, this was my starting point. I decided 12 years ago to buy a place close to the city, so that I could profitability improve it.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1693
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
113
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That's a great methodology Craig.

Do you wait to the cover layers to add your leaf/clippings etc.?
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
Posts: 1239
Location: Maine (zone 5)
63
forest garden hugelkultur
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I just make sure that as I go along there aren't any large air pockets. Sometimes I cram in a chuck of sod if it looks like place where water might eek through. Kinda like a cork.

In one case I laid out the logs and brush but didn't have time to finish it due to an unexpected surgery. The grass grew up between the branches and filled it in quite nicely while I recovered. You really couldn't see the wood, just a hill of grass and sticks. So I just finished it up by piling on the soil, compost and mulch. I figured that the green grass would be nitrogen pathways throughout the mound as it decayed. It worked quite nicely. That mound is roughly 40 feet long, 3 feet tall and 6 feet wide. In the first year I was harvesting about 15 gallons of greens (packed tight) per day in the growing season as well as a hundred pounds of squashes, all the herbs I could need and quite a few beans. At the seasons end I pulled no less than 35 gallons of sunchoke tubers too. Most of this crop was fed to my chickens and pigs to supplement their diet.


You can see some of the work I did in this thread. hugel swales by hand

And here: from grass to gardens
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1693
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
113
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
That is wonderful Craig, I notice your slope is less than the one I am currently working on but we are using almost the same design features.
 
Cris Bessette
gardener
Posts: 764
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7A
33
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Bryant RedHawk wrote:Cris Bessette, I think what happened to your mounds is atypical. I notice in your build description that you did not mention filling in the holes between the logs with any type of leaves, compost, mulching (grass clippings, kitchen waste) materials, etc.


* Added Note* I have noticed that there are a lot of people that have the conception that a growing mound should not need any attention after it is constructed. This is a misconception, a growing mound is just like any other growing bed, it just needs less watering because of the rotting wood holding more moisture than a "regular" growing bed. When you have harvested the last of your crops you compost the left over materials, with a growing mound, you just chop or pull these leftovers and let them lay on the mound to deteriorate. Mounds are a way to get more planting area in a given flat space. If you approach building mounds as a way to dispose of materials that other folks might send to a land fill, then you will have good mounds.

By the Way, that reel push mower is awesome! Just get friendly with a yard rake and dump your cuttings on your mound.



Thanks for your response. yeah, I just piled the dirt back on top of the wood, there was nothing besides that and some extra rotted wood humus.
Grass clippings are probably my best bet for green stuff- I'm a single guy and have only tiny amounts of kitchen waste, and that goes into my kitchen herb bed.
I do chop and drop post growing season vegative matter in the beds.

I actually bought a clipping collector bag for my reel mower, but it dumps more clippings on the ground than ever makes it in the bag... grrr....
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1693
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
113
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I hear you on the inability of those "catches" for push type reel mowers. My wife succumbed and selected a "mulching" mower which I suppose is fine, but now I don't have clippings to use unless I go rake them up. I get lots of exercise raking now.
 
Matu Collins
Pie
Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would like to see update videos on the famous hugels in the original videos too.

I have had some success and some weak results. worst results were in a hill where I covered the bed with only leaf mold, no soil or compost. My best success has been with wood buried below the surface, rather than in mounds, although the microclimates that the hugels provide are helpful in some cases.mixing charred logs in with punky logs was a good tactic.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1693
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
113
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Matu Collins wrote:I have had some success and some weak results. worst results were in a hill where I covered the bed with only leaf mold, no soil or compost. My best success has been with wood buried below the surface, rather than in mounds, although the microclimates that the hugels provide are helpful in some cases.mixing charred logs in with punky logs was a good tactic.


Bio char is indeed a good and probably advisable addition to any mound. Bio char introduces lots of good things to any soil, including it will almost certainly give mycorrhizal organisims good places to grow and so begin their symbiotic relations with plant roots.
 
Donald Kenning
Posts: 78
Location: Tri-Cities, Washington
13
fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Wow, There are a lot of comments on this string. Thanks for your inputs, they are great.
I do want to point out that the question was mainly to see if the more famous builds could
have follow ups. Now, this question may imply that I am not convinced that Hugel beds
work. I know they work. My suggestion is that Paul, Sepp or anyone else that has a build video
follow that with a performance vid at year 2 to 5. Maybe a 10 minute vid to cover 4 to 6 of the most
popular build videos. If the bed is a success or failure it should be shown. Within the video, you can
have a narrator (Paul?) list possible reasons why the build was a success or a failure. Showing visual proof
of concept seems much more powerful than written theory when it comes to people on the fence and newer
hugel builders. Videos of this type do not exist as far as I can tell.

Also, I have consistently heard Paul say that the 1st year will suck. That should be stressed in the performance
video. When I speak of "performance" I mean by whatever factors people measure this by. I do not want to see
another video showing all the plants on the mound. Performance should be pounds of yield, weed pressure, nitrogen
capture, ph estimates, mix of plants grown, cover crops used, guild consideration, water storage, or whatever
criteria they choose of significance.
 
David Goodman
gardener
Posts: 496
Location: Zone 9a/8b
21
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am also looking for hugelkultur updates. It's certainly a lot of work to set up... need to know if it will be worth it.
 
Matu Collins
Pie
Posts: 1967
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
69
bee books chicken forest garden fungi trees
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
With one of my hugels I had a phenomenal first year. Squash sends to like that first year, I've heard from others as well. I had a great yield of healthy productive squash plants. When a few weeks of drought hit and a neighboring farmer had a whole field of unirrigated squash die, mine on the hugels wilted a bit one day, then overnight without any rain or irrigation they perked up and stayed fine for weeks longer.
 
J. Humphrey
Posts: 3
Location: Zone 7a
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I suppose I'll share my hugel experiences since folks are interested. I set up some large and medium diameter cottonwood (I think cottonwood and willow are my favorite wood for hugels, I suspect sycamore as well although I haven't tried it) that had already been rotting a year or two and covered it in leaves, grass/plant clippings, manure, and whatever else I could think of at the time. I made sure I had plenty of nitrogen sources with the wood. I then covered the hugel with manure/topsoil mixture then covered it in woodchips. I was worried I did not have enough soil to start with but it did really well the first and second seasons. I will post pictures if my iPad cooperates.

The more I read about hugels here on permies the more I think sunken or ground level beds are best for my climate. Although the summer here is hot and dry, it is not as arid as it is out west so I believe the above ground mound will do just fine. Unfortunately I only grew on it two years before I moved so I cannot speak to its long term productivity, but the first two years rocked. Tomatoes (roma), squash, beets, cukes, purslane all loved it. All the plants on the hugel were bigger than the same plants in other beds, especially squash and purslane. I think ground level beds would make it easier for taller plants, my tomatoes were falling over by the end of the season. It did require a little water (very little) during the dry summer but nothing compared to any other bed I've grown in. Woodchips helped a lot, however I ended up adding a lot of straw because the chips and soil started to run off the bed. I suspect perennial plants can also help stop this.

A gigantic snake eventually made its home inside my hugel bed and had some babies. I can say that a hugelbed provides good shotgun shelter. Today I'm much less likely to shoot at an animal but at the time I was working for vets and was ballistically active.


 
Victor Johanson
Posts: 355
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My first hugelbed finished its third season this fall. The first season was incredible, the second quite good, but this year was weak. Part of it was the weather; it was cool and rainy. Fortunately the season was long (for up here); that compensated to some degree. But the hugelbed did appear nitrogen deficient at the top, so I'll be amending it some. I'm having to prevent grass from encroaching and taking over. It has also become a vole condo; it's either their typical cyclic population explosion (although I've never seen this many before), or else I'm furnishing quite the paradise for them. I've refrained from intervening so far, since they've inflicted minimal damage, but it will be interesting to see if they end up getting out of balance. There aren't that many predators in the immediate vicinity (and our last cat died the other day, but she wasn't catching many anymore at 17), so we'll see if the bounty draws any in--maybe owls or weasels, foxes, etc. One thing I've tried to do is provide enough abundance so that the voles aren't compelled to chew my fruit trees all up to survive. I think that if there's enough for all, it will be advantageous to have them around, tunneling and aerating the soil. Cold soil is one of our challenges too, and these burrows could theoretically help ameliorate that. I want to see if sepp holzer's vole acceptance will work for me.

I still think hugelbeds are advantageous for me because they thaw quickly in spring and warm up well compared to the flat ground. The first one is 5x20 feet and about four feet tall, and I built another identical one last year (which also didn't produce that well). I think a bigger one will do better, so am planning one at least six feet tall next year to test that theory.

They look cool, too!
 
Victor Johanson
Posts: 355
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
12
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Here are a few photos from early last season; this is the first hugelbed I made, and it was in its third year of production. The entire surface erupted with fungal fruiting bodies, so decomposition appears to be proceeding apace. Nitrogen was a bit deficient, and yields were down compared to previous years, so it will be interesting to see if this breakdown will translate into healthier plant growth going forward. The other photo shows one of the many vole entrances; there are probably more than a dozen on this mound. So far causing no major damage, and they're hopefully contributing to the maturation process (as well as providing plenty of future bumblebee habitat).
Hugelmushrooms1.jpg
[Thumbnail for Hugelmushrooms1.jpg]
Hugelmushrooms2.jpg
[Thumbnail for Hugelmushrooms2.jpg]
Volecity.jpg
[Thumbnail for Volecity.jpg]
 
Vida Norris
Posts: 114
Location: Ontario Canada, Zone 5b
9
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Victor! Your hugel looks so beautiful! Love the different textures and heights. Looks like a piece of art really!

Funny I just saw this thread today after I took a picture of the hugel beds sleeping under a ton of snow. They look pretty cool though. This is winter number 2 for these guys.


 
Mike Hamilton
Posts: 82
Location: north end of the Keweenaw Mi.
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi all
The first year was awesome for bed #1 most of the plants around the bottom of the bed did very well and the crop was great
Tomatoes broke the sticks that the plants were tied to so looking at using stock panels[concerned about the galvanize coating]or build wood tee pee's instead
beans did great on the other side
the top was a battle with drying out so looking at seeding it with white clover and strawberry's we did get good early radishes on top but the fall crop got covered with snow before we got to them [160'' so far this season 300'' average]

planted apple trees in line with the hills at the ends
the rabbits worked over the first set of 3 but left the second set alone [chewed the bark]

I think the success is due to the 3 year old compost that was the final cover to the hill

Hill #2 is covered with dirt but only 1/2 got covered with compost due to early winter

worms are doing fine in the basement and the castings are being used as tea for the indoor plants

that's all for now

Mike

 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
186
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This big slash and mud pile, was made 3 1/2 years go. It is broken down enough now that it absorbs water very well. The cottonwood and alder is quite spongy.

At 14 feet high, it's a little unmanageable. I will use the material from this one as the top for several other shorter mounds.
20150118_134434.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20150118_134434.jpg]
 
George Meljon
Posts: 278
Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So often people start a topic online and I end up dying for an update, so I like this thread.

My hugels mainly have deep sub soil on top. I did that wrong. I also did a lot of digging when it was wet in a clay loam soil. The result was huge 60 lb blocks of clay piled up. Further, I did not cover with a cover crop, or any thing at all, for a full 6 months.

Really these mistakes should have ruined everything, but in fact I have seen excellent aerated soil where the old 60 lb blocks were. I have also seen squashes take off, along with green beans and chard.
The aerated soil came after covering with hay. I cover grass with hay and that works out.
It is indeed a ton of work especially with limited time and resources. You need to get the digging 97 percent done with the excavator. Often I would only get 80 percent which has left hours of shovel time, months of bare soil, and seasons left unplanted.
Have the wood staged and ready the day the excavator is there and bang out the design to completion. It is a heavy machinery project, especially with any length involved.
So now my on contour Hugels are almost ready to rock with all kinds of unanticipated microclimates!
I'm sorry I don't have the full start to finish look of the project, but I second the calling for it!
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
186
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The excavator is only at my property occasionally. Therefore, I have soil piled high, so that I'm able to shovel it down, into holes that inevitably crop up as the mound settles.

A grid of small branches turns slopes into rock sifters. The machine spreads a thin layer of soil which filters through. Rocks larger than a baseball remain on the surface or roll to the bottom. The bouncing rocks shake the sifter.

I envy those with clay.
 
nancy sutton
gardener
Posts: 582
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
12
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Seems to be some problem with not enough nitrogen. While waiting for green mulches to provide theirs, there is a quick, natural, free source of 'instant' nitrogen available... daily ;) It might help with the wood decomposition, also. There is one or more threads on this source here.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Pie
Posts: 6139
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
186
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I assume that you mean urine. I pee on mine. I've also added 5 tons of coffee grounds. If the top foot has adequate nitrogen, that's probably enough. If the entire mound were infused with nitrogen, the wood would quickly decay.
 
Julie Ashmore
Posts: 16
Location: Near Molson, North Central WA State, Zone 5a
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I appreciate you posting this question, Donald. I've often thought the same thing -- so many videos about building HK beds, but how did they turn out over time? My main beds were built from November 2012 through May 2014. I have not noticed that the first year is crappy; in fact the first year has been great in every HK bed so far. This may be because I make a point of stuffing the interstitial spaces with horse manure, clippings, leaves and compost. I just added a post to my blog today that shows quite a lot of growth activity happening while snow and ice are lingering on the ground. I've heard skepticism that HK would really extend the growing season since wood supposedly doesn't produce that much heat during decomposition. However, when combined with manure and other nitrogen sources, I have to say that it really seems like we do have growth earlier in the growing season. I am in North Central WA State and have shoots coming up through and near snow and ice. Seems like it's working really well to me! http://woodforfood.blogspot.com/2015/02/despite-snow-and-ice.html Also I have noticed marked increases in yields for pumpkins, potatoes, greens, and tomatoes since using HK. Most but not all of my beds are below ground level. Please feel free to comment on the blog and/or here. I'm curious how many other people are seeing green growth while there is still snow and ice in the garden, i.e. how common or unusual this might be for some of the species shown in today's blogpost.
 
Robert Jordan
Posts: 32
Location: Dublin, Ireland
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great to see all these comments, hints and tips on Hugels. Thanks everyone. I'm in Ireland and was in the garden centre today, briefly. I asked the guy but he'd never heard of Hugelkultur. Ah well. world domination will take a while longer.
Can anybody tell me if Eucalyptus will work in a HK bed? We trimmed a tree last year and while it burns wonderfully, I have a few severely knotty bits that won't submit to the splitter. I have a spot, about 8x4 feet (2.4x1.2 Metres) so I'm planning to dig a foot deep and bury those bad boys along with some older willow knots and various prunings (jasmine, rose and woodbine) under a Hugel mound. Thoughts please? How much soil / compost goes on top layer? EB
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic