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Clarifying Hugelkultur for a newbie  RSS feed

 
Posts: 16
Location: Kimberley, BC (East Kootenays), Zone 3b
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Here are two of the Hugel beds I made in late August.

Because they are in someone's yard, I made them relatively flat, so that they look like raised beds. I dug down at least a foot when I was creating them.
You can see the difference between them - both were planted with clover and alfalfa, but the first was topped with manure (and perhaps more heavily watered).
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Posts: 58
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Geoffrey Haynes wrote:Here are two of the Hugel beds I made in late August.

Because they are in someone's yard, I made them relatively flat, so that they look like raised beds. I dug down at least a foot when I was creating them.
You can see the difference between them - both were planted with clover and alfalfa, but the first was topped with manure (and perhaps more heavily watered).



Looks good! Still trying to source some quality manure here preferably from an organic farm.
I'm wondering about alfalfa. I see in some articles people start with potatoes, some alfalfa, and others. Does one have a benefit over the other, or are they season dependent? I saw one video where the alfalfa was chopped and folded back into the bed, why do this?
Does it have something to do with fertilizing the soil faster, more nitrogen?
 
Geoffrey Haynes
Posts: 16
Location: Kimberley, BC (East Kootenays), Zone 3b
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The clover/alfalfa is for the nitrogen (maybe extra important because wood is said to absorb nitrogen). I've seen it dug into the bed - probably the same video. Don't know if it's better to do it that way or go the no-till route.

It's not the time of year for potatoes here. We are entering the frost season soon, followed by winter in another 6 weeks. Temperatures are dipping down to just above freezing even though it's still been hot here in the day (25C or more). But maybe in the spring time. Potatoes are resilient, and I assume they'd break up the soil, and leave behind organic material, especially if you leave some of them unharvested. Radishes can have the same effect and I planted some of them because they grow very quickly.

I also wanted to grow beets. I have read that the roots can extend downwards to 11 feet! Maybe not here, but they'd bring some nutrients from down below, and mix the layers.

As for manure, how about any place that has horses, or cattle, that are allowed to roam freely and eat grass? That's probably close to organic, even if not certified.
 
Posts: 14
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I have a related question:
We're thinking of starting a hugelkultur plot - since we live in a rainforest, rotting wood is a plentiful resource, and the banks should create some good sheltered microclimate zones.

Therein lies the rub - we live in a rainforest. We have 4000mm of rain a year, and several times a year have weather events that deliver 300mm of rain in 24-48 hours. Fortunately our volcanic soil is very free draining, but unless there is constant ground cover you can end up with erosion city.

Newly-built hugelkultur mounds would seem to be rather vulnerable to erosion from heavy rain. Even if your first cover crop is radishes there's a 2-3 week window of exposed soil.
Since we would be removing the sod (topsoil is a valuable commodity around here), I had thought about laying it atop the mounds grass-side out rather than the recommended turf-down, in order to provide some resistance to rain. However, this creates competition (grass) for our plantings and increases the odds of gores and blackberry getting a start on the mounds.

Can anyone see other pros and cons?

We do have a semi-guaranteed drier period in Feb-March, but watering new beds would be a bit of a strain as we wouldn't have much water pressure at that site.

Richard
 
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Welcome to permies Richard
We're getting a bit of an NZ contingent! Excellent, our cunning plan for NZ world domination is coming along nicely
Where are you? I'm not going to take a punt, since 'volcanic, high rainfall, bush' could be all sorts of places...
My rainfall's not nearly as high as yours, but I feel really uncomfortable leaving soil exposed, especially on a hill...
I've found brassicas are a fast, strong grower, along with daikon, silverbeet, borage and the many, many things that were obviously just hanging about in the soil.
Of all the things I'd try to keep away from my beds, grass is top of the list. The again, I'm biased against the stuff unless it's delivered in clipping form.

On another track, my hugekultur bed is waaay smaller than the traditional design: probably 500mm high, with the thick trunk slices slightly buried.
I've taken my particular situation into account and modified it to my conditions.
 
bill archer
Posts: 58
Location: Oregon Zone 8b
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Do you cover your hugelkultur bed? We got a late start and it probably won't be "ready" another week. It's beginning to drizzle and fog here, and a 20% chance of rain.
Once covered with manure/topsoil, won't medium to heavy rain wash all our hard work away? Would covering it with tarp/canopy that is a few feet high be OK? Could this also help keep rising heat in?
 
master pollinator
Posts: 10374
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I covered my hugelkultur with chipper mulch and 3 inches of rain in one hour did not wash them away.

 
Posts: 39
Location: Upstate New York, Zone 6
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Jaimee,

You can use a sickle or scythe instead of a weed whacker. Check Craigslist's free section for rocks or stones, often people have piles on their property they want to give away.
 
Posts: 16
Location: Oklahoma Zone 7A
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I am also a newbie to Hugelkultur. I started reading about it almost a year ago, then tried to make a Hugel bed last winter. I used pecan logs from a tree that had to be cut way back. They were a little over three feet long and many were easily two feet in diameter. I basically stacked them and put smaller branches and twigs and some straw in the holes, then threw a couple wheelbarrows of soil on top.
Eventually this will compost, but I fear it will be a long time coming. That's okay. I plan to have time to wait!

The good thing is I have access to lots of dead tree limbs and plenty of leaves so am ready to take the wonderful knowledge and advice I read here and do it again. Differently.

I found y'all through looking for information about Hugelkultur and have lurked around for months, learning and reading about all kinds of things. I think it's time for me to come out and 'play'. I found so much more than I was looking for!

Oh, I live in Oklahoma, USA. Zone 7a...or 6b, depending on which information you look at.
 
Geoffrey Haynes
Posts: 16
Location: Kimberley, BC (East Kootenays), Zone 3b
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Here are the beds in the front yard of my friend's house.

They're not super big but I wanted them to look attractive in someone's front yard. The wood is buried maybe a foot deep. The one in the back is maybe two feet high, and has a swale in the back.

Geoff
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master steward
Posts: 26089
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Sepp Holzer showing how to really do hugelkultur in style - along with a LOT of examples of great success ...


 
"How many licks ..." - I think all of this dog's research starts with these words. Tasty tiny ad:
please help me create BB wiki pages, and other PEP pages
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