Paul and THC,
Thanks for your replies.
Yep, you are right it def does depend.
But what I am looking for is tolerances, minimums.
I am temperate UK, northern.
Be good to get your input generally before I tell you my intentions. Because I don't want to look at this as an individual case, rather one end of the scale; when planting trees/perens on to unrotted biomass.
As for your pics online. I've viewed these many times. However what would be great is if you have any pics of this bed in production over the years since it was done that would be great also.
Tolerances/minimums are gonna be kind vague.
Ya need enough soil for the plants to take root in or if transplanting, enough to transplant into successfully. Granted, I haven't done this for very long and in my wet sub tropical climate, I think I could put a peat pot on top of a fresh log and plants some things successfully. Anyway, the "enough dirt for planting" would be the minimum. I understand that many people into hugelkultur would mound the dirt up way high like a person tall berm. That is more dirt moving that I was up to doing.
As to the idea of building a hugelkultur bed around a new tree, one would need to make sure not to suffocate the trees surface roots by burying them too deep. Also, many trees don't like having their planting depth changed too much so this should be taken into account.
The huglekulture bed i read of buried the trunks low enough and talked of building up a high enough bank on top to put off all but the most energetic gardeners from trying to make one.
This last week i have been eating turnips i planted of the smal huglkulture bed I made at the end otf last summer about a metre square. THese turnips are the first vegetable grown by me i have eaten and delicouse. I have had fruit of muy own but not veggies. I ate them raw like apples, they were deliciouse.
The turnips i grew don't seem to have any roots to speak of apart from the bulbuouse bit so there growth can't be attributed to the huglekulture bed their roots did not even get past the layer of mulch i put on the bed, they must grow from thin air, their leaves must be the main absorbers of nourishment as they put out a lot of leaf and nearly no root except the tuber. The leaves are certainly wrinkly and a bit hairy I would say they seem like really potent leaves capable of anything creating a small apple in two mounths for example. wonder what the flowers like if you let them flower.
Making a huglelkulture bed meant that i i had a placae to plant vegetables.
the other seeds i put in that maybe are at the moment busier puting down a root than growing leaves at any rate they don't have much leaf yet will give better testimony to the efficienty of huglkulture.
I will have to get more efficient if i am to produce enough to eat for more than a day or two i felt really satisfied with the great bunch of turnips growing but thinking more sensibly about it there were only about ten turnips and some coming on .
The leaves were good i ate them as salad and alsomixed with lentels as cooked greens i heard they are full of folic acid so its healthy.
There is a dish from galicia in the north of spain called "pote gallego"gallician patoage a sort of ministrone that gets its strange taste from turnip tops. it is made mwith a half poound of white beans a pound of potatoes and about half a poound of turnip tops i suppose and ham bones and chorizo if you have it spainish parika salami. an dany onther bits of meat you have around to chuck in these poor dishes come from times weren there was not much meat and that was eaten by the father a pit of bacon to give the potage flavour. The rich would put in a good chunk of beef and ham and poprk and chicken. YOu cook the meat and the beans first abdding the potatoes and turnip tops in the last half hour modern beans cook pretty fast the old fashioned three to four hours are no longer necessary. QUevedo a good spanish writer on the miseries of poverty fights and grueling competitivity and general horrors talks of a inn htat has a ham bone they dip into each soup for ten minutes . agri rose macaskie.
I'm not sure if simply throwing whole coconuts into the bottom of a grow bed would be very effective unless you were trying to plant more coconut palms?
I think a jumble of split coconuts would have similar benefits.
What do you suppose would eat the nutmeats? Worms, or something less benign?
Some plants will love all those pools of standing water at various heights. Other types of root might drown on occasion. Maybe flood-tolerant plants would do better in beds arranged that way than ones that need very good drainage?
The husks alone will hold a lot of water.
I know that toby hemenway cites the method of using cedar logs in a similar fashion in order to make beds for blueberries so am I right in assuming that this means the bed will be too acidic for most other plants? Maybe wood ash sprinkled on top is the remedy for that?
Maybe something that releases more gradually? Oyster shells, perhaps?
See, people tend to warn about stuff like cedar or cypress being bad for plants. However there is a huge number of people who have used cypress mulch as growing media for hydroponics and done great with it. Now I know the situation is gonna be a bit different in dirt growing but doing a trial would be better than having the rails hauled off to a landfill somewhere.
The truth about most allopathic plants is that it isn't so much the parts of the plant after it dies that gives off the bad chemicals, it is actually the living plant that gives off the chemicals that help keep down competition around it. That said, cedar does take an extra long time to break down and therefore would be a very slow hugelkultur choice even if it doesn't give off any bad chemicals.
I'll let everyone know how it goes.
I think a lot of the oyster shells available commercially are from canneries. And I mostly suggested them due to price.
Here in the SF bay, zebra mussels are regarded as an invasive species, and have pushed out some native wildlife. Is that so where you are, too? It sounds like you have a good source of feed (I hear crayfish eat them) and minerals, that you wouldn't have to feel too bad if you depleted.
All that said, if you have limestone gravel available on the property, that would work to neutralize acid in a similar time-release manner. And Paul Wheaton says pH might not be the biggest problem anyhow, so this might all be moot.
And since it is old and carbon heavy, I would pee on it a lot.
And during the warmer growing season, I would think that cedar trees mulched with lots of old cedar wood would make an excellent poop beast.
Now what the heck is a poop beast?
A plant that can consume lots of .... uh .... fertilizer. Possibly wise to plant next to an outhouse, or to dump your people poop near in the spring.
cedar does take an extra long time to break down and therefore would be a very slow hugelkultur choice even if it doesn't give off any bad chemicals.
Ok, I know about the allopathic properties of Cedar, but the 'cedar' we have (Incense-cedar - Libocedrus decurrens) here is actually in the cypress family. The heart wood of the mature trees is incredibly rot resistant, but the small baby trees we've been murdering by the thousands recently (understory clearing for fire protection- those trees are PROLIFIC) rot very well, according to my partner who's lived out here and observed the woods for thirty years. Doug fir is another common (and intensely allopathic) understory ladder fuel we're trying to minimize by chipping up the short trees and using them as mulch or compost materials. I'm thinking that our high annual rainfall will help leach these chips for a few years as we also compost them, and then they can be used as mulch for perennials. I want to use the freshly chipped stuff for pathways - suppression of plant growth is desirable there, right?
Any information about how long or how much water it takes to leach these chemicals? We've had 26" since july, hopefully this current enormous storm will bring another ten at least.
We have an apple tree growing right under a black walnut (where it's planted makes me think it was an afterthought or was planted way later than the apples), and it's a classic example of how hard some trees make life for others. The smallest, saddest looking apple of the whole orchard.
I didn't know about hugelkultur when we did it, but we were inspired by Robert Hart's mulch mounds and made acidic mounds for some blueberry plants this fall. Oak and other hard wood branches (not large logs, branchier stuff), then rotten blackberries, then earth, then some forest litter and a lot of oak leaves, to about three feet deep and at least as wide. The berries all still look alive? Time will tell!
(I assume the guy who put it there had the rights to do so.)
Hugelkulture strikes me the perfect poor man's (read smart man's) rainwater harvesting/catchment/irrigation system - no cistern, no pumps, no pvc pipes, etc. Most importantly, I get 20" of rain/year in the SF Bay Area, but almost all of it is outside the growing season* and it would be difficult to store that much water for the year in a cistern or barrels. I have a small urban/suburban back yard 23' x 24' that I want to maximize what I can grow as much as I can while trying to keep most of the maintenance to a Saturday morning type activity. So I want to try a small scale hugelkutur bed.
Below is my design (Paul is not the only artist in paint/powerpoint ) along with a current photo (retaining walls are my next project).
I think the fruit trees need to be against the back wall for resale value of the house to give a 'normal' house buyer the option of replacing the garden with a lawn, but the will block some of the sun.
Is there a rough formula on how much water a bed would need in a year so I can apply the 4:1 wood to water ratio? As a city person it will be a litter harder to scrounge old logs. My current clay soil over shale rock won't be good for much.
Does the direction of the beds matter? I know they say against the wind, but I don't get much wind in my back yard, so what else should be considered? slope? sun?
I liked the Holzer/Fukuoka idea of just throwing the seeds on top, but I saw some videos of people who were much more methodical about what went on the top vs sides etc. Is there a strong recommendations for or against either method? It looks like I will need to buy a lot more seeds - Is there a cheaper place to buy in bulk?
Finally, I am a big tomato and green pepper fan and I have always used trestles or cages to keep them up. What keeps them from rotting on the ground?
Thanks for any input, I will post my progress.
* San Carlos Rainfall
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Annual
Inch 4.20 4.04 3.37 1.07 0.43 0.10 0.03 0.10 0.21 1.06 2.62 2.93 20.16
First, anytime that my advice varries from Sepp, you should also know that I cannot remember a time where Sepp has heard of one of my ideas and he did not say "catastrophe!" - so you might want to take this suggestion with a grain of salt.
So! First, I don't like all of the straight lines. I prefer beds to take on far more interesting shapes. I also like the idea of some of the beds taking on a curved shape to capture more sun.
Next, I have this vision, in my head, of cold air pouring from above like billions of gallons of gaseous molasses. I want that cold molasses to go right on by and leave me alone. So my beds are kinda wavy and kinda running downhill.
Next up: Sepp's beds are way bigger now. Like six feet tall! And I think that is rather wise.
This raised bed was made from the heap above with tree roots dug up by the pigs made from a six year old pile covered with goat litter compost and cleaned up by the chickens.
The beds should be aligned to take advantage to either, winds, sun, slope, or rain. I saw a little slope in the picture so perhaps having your beds (swales follow the conture like natural terraces might have some interest or benefit. Or curves to catch sun?
All my beds seem to line up running North/south as winds often come from either the east or west though they are rather variable here much of the time. I'm on really flat ground so there isn't much else to help me choose a more interesting shape.
I suggested earlier in this forum that maybe if organic matter was broken down by fungi it did not use much nitrogen, not as much as bacteria did to break down food, well it seems that fungi like bacteria work with nitrogen but the article does not say how much nitrogen each uses. agri rose macskie.
PatJFree wrote:As a city person it will be a little harder to scrounge old logs.
I would think it would be easier, if you don't mind that most of the logs have been milled, kiln dried, worked over by homebuilders once or twice, and then discarded.
The Natural Way of Farming includes a passage where Fukuoka talks about scrounging organic matter to improve his soil. He wonders what sort of food-producing industries will produce waste most abundantly: Feedlots? Breweries? After looking at the situation carefully, decides that none of them are as good a source as carpenters.
If mid-century Japan wastes so much wood, I bet 21st century America wastes more.
I see ads on Craigslist all the time inviting people to haul away scrap lumber, occasionally firewood as well. Since you're in the SF bay area, there's a fairly reliable source on Wood street in Oakland that comes up more often than others, which I haven't visited yet, but sounds like a large enough operation to have some rotten wood as well as fresh stuff.
this is a modification of the above writtten few days later it seems maybe unpolite. Paul actually said he wanted the cold air pouring down on him. Crazy male attitude, i like the idea of wiggly lines if you have straight ones you create wind tunnels.
When i am about to write things taht might be rude i wonder about it and remember , advice from yoga let the water run freely which comes to being an equvilent of Sepps advice, plant lots of poisonouse plants, the advice that works for relationships to, say things tactfull and less keeps people active handling the less tactful one to evaluate the situation and relflect how unfair it was what a distorsion of the reality por not depending if they are people who normally defend themselves or who normally allow unfair critisim.
Also i am a woman and have spent years saying tactfull things and i have had some terrible relationships it worked so badly. I have pretended to like what i don't and people have had a mistaken idea of my ideas and that leads to trouble in the long run. I have pretended to be clueless so as not to step on anyones toes and they have treated me as an idiot and i have been so borded by them as a result that giving up all tact has begun to seem the best method, tact makes for some bad relationships.
To mention psychological ideas is important for everyone. Don't i just know how complicated it is when you don't know what those who know how to use these ideas are talking about. In this century people people spit them at you, as i have done, and it is hard to anwer them unless you know about the ideas used by this group of people when peple don't talk about one set of ideas or another and they don't spread, it allows those who do to attack others in some very unfair ways. they can say some very unfair things without the person attacked being able to protect themselves because these are not waters they are used to swimming in . Theses ideas have to get an airing or you start to get those who haven't heard of them being bullied by people like me who have . I am a beginer at this type of idea.
It is rude of me to talk as if Paul description was of how to place banks on a hill was a description of a desire to get out of the cold, i often find his remarks seem to be full of poetic allusions seem to be partly like a bit of blues song instead of just gardening. I reckoned it was not to strong a criticism it is easy to get me back, to return the insulting remark, someone who knows how to organise so many people and activities is sure better than i am at building up banks against cold air.
Its encouraging that Sepps banks get higher with time if my bank starts off small, i need not worry i can keep calm in the confidence that they will grow each year if i keep up my efforts.
You made the side of the road look more cosy like a garden, incredible. I don't like towns, visually at anyrate, i can imagine liking them more with you doing town planning.
I suppose setting huglkulture banks into the wind means setting them side on to the wind so the side of the first bank suffered from cold winds and next bank was protected as was the other side of the fist bank.
I have spent a long time wondering about that. I talk about it when i have started to get clear in my head what i think he means i don't know what he means but i suppose. I used to be happy with whatever answer i had supposed was the right one and not ask, my suppositions were often bad.
In Bill mollisons videos of dry climate strategies there are the banks put up by Teddy Roosevelt to stop desertification but htey are not made to grow vegetables on but to they are really big, a bit dreamy i suppose in betwen them you are really cut off in a garden where no one can see you. You would have to turn the whole road into a bank if you wanted to copy them. rose.
Do you think there would be a problem with laying out the woody debris now, while the ground is still frozen and there are several weeks of full on winter still left? I'm guessing that there may be a problem with blocking the existing soil from the sun, making the ground stay colder for longer... but maybe its a non-issue?