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Tricks to Keep the Dirt from Sliding off a Hugel?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 233
Location: Vermont, annual average precipitation is 39.87 Inches
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I just saw this video and thought of this thread. It shows sepp holzer's way of using sticks to help hold the soil.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KafYj_AcVs
 
Posts: 514
Location: North-Central Idaho, 4100 ft elev., 24 in precip
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So I'm thinking that if a kid used a post hole auger, and put the logs in vertically oriented (kinda like a fence post), then put the logs in the holes as close together as you could get the auger to drill without slipping into the hole you already made you would be able to make a pretty narrow/tall hugel mound. You could have deep dirt channels all the way to the original soil level, and the vertical orientation would leave you with little terraces to stack the dirt on and stay in place. You would have to play with the spacing a bit, but it seems like you could really get a nice steep mound with a narrow footprint this way. If I get some time before the ground freezes solid I'll try it out and post the results. (oh and I think the vertical log orientation would really accelerate the wicking action in the hugel mound and speed decomposition) What do you all think?
 
pollinator
Posts: 1793
Location: Wisconsin, zone 4
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Dave, I think using the post hole digger is a great idea to put the logs in without having to dig the entire area up. Thanks for that idea! I'm going to try another bed like that.
 
Posts: 93
Location: Seattle, WA
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Dave Dahlsrud wrote:.... I think the vertical log orientation would really accelerate the wicking action in the hugel mound and speed decomposition) What do you all think?



I've wondered about the vertical wicking, and asked in years previous. Seems more like emulating Nature, to wick as the xylem etc go, vertically. Of course Nature usually decomposes horizontally, but not always. I had a dead tree decompose vertically, no way to know if it accelerated it or not. Or when we want to accelerate it or not?

I got no real answers when I asked. Hopefully someone has some results by now? Or you will? <g>

 
Posts: 28
Location: Salt Lake City
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When we built ours, I poked in sticks to hold stalks from sunflowers and amaranth that acted almost like retaining walls for a terrace. Then I could had more manure and dirt to keep bulding the soil depth because I knew as it settled the steepness would slowly decrease. I topped it off with a layer of straw as a mulch and layered more wild sunflower stalks to keep the wind from blowing the mulch away in the high winds that we get before a storm.

That was 3 years ago, and I still add my "redneck terracing" each year to hold the chop and drop and compost that I add each year. The pre-storm winds around here can get pretty bad; to the point of blowing down chain link fences sometimes.
 
Posts: 249
Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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Suggest thinking wider if you are allowing for nature. If you are building a reservoir the manual calls for a roughly 1 to 2 for dam construction In other words fairly flat. A canal bank to minimize erosion on a shaped bank they want at most a 1 to 1 slope in clay and 1 to 4 in sandy soil. So if these need to be that flat what do you expect piles to naturally behave like?? You are adding water to soil. So if you are expecting a 2 to 1 slope instead you are going to have to work fairly hard to achieve it.

That said is there any reason why some of the wood can't go into the trench on sloping verticals to hold stuff from sliding?
 
Posts: 52
Location: Yonkers, NY/ Berkshires, MA USA
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Regarding pondweed, my friends have a giant rake attached to a rope. They throw the rake out into the pond, then pull it back by the rope. They also have a little rowboat which I imagine helps. This method has worked for them for decades, and when I have worked in their garden, it is REALLY fun to have all that pondweed.

Regarding hugelkulture slope, there's a picture in sepp's book of a woman leisurely picking from a hugel with a basket... I think wearing a pink shirt. The idea is that the hugel is perfectly proportioned to her body so she can reach the garden- even at the top- without bending or leaning over much. Folks in wheelchairs should also ideally be able to reach the garden easily. The extreme slope is for maximum surface area and accessibility. If you don't care about that, it doesn't really matter. If you do, you're aiming for a hill that you can stand up straight at the base of, reach out your arm over, and touch the crest with your finger tips. That's STEEP! To achieve this, I recommend pinning branches on newly built and seeded beds (all in the same day- you will need an excavator) as described by a few people above. That's how Sepp taught us in Montana and he strongly emphasized that doing it differently is NOT his way.

I myself am enamoured with the Sepp Way, but I believe it will take me practice before I can recreate it by myself. Remember that he has been experimenting with this stuff on his giant farm for a loooong time. The way he explains is his favorite for the above reasons. Now you get to find your favorite. Looks like a bunch of folks have shared theirs in this thread. I always love to read Bryant's take on things, for example. So inspiring!
 
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I am new to permaculture and this site so forgive me if I step on any toes. As I understand the purpose of permaculture is to work with nature not against it. However, every hugelkultur mound I have seen built here or diagrams is against how nature builds mounds that would work as these are desired. Nature does not build high to begin with or so vertical. IN nature a tree might fall across a hill contour that is then filled in from above by leaves and erosion. The log serves initially as a dam. With time the back side may start to have some build up from leaves and then overflown erosion. Over time the uphill side will fill slowly until a swale is formed above the log. During this time soil creature move in and seed is sown, whose root begin to hold the swale in place. Over much time the log will rot, but only after the swale has been established with growth to hold it in place. Build your hugel with this in mind, keep it low 18 to 24 inches maximum, filling up hill and sowing first deep root grasses like rye, wheat, millet and such. Then even deep rooted vegetables. Carrots will grow a root network up to 7 feet wide and as deep as 17 feet! Look it up. Nest add deep rooted bushes like seaberry, Fig, Grape and others and nitogen fixing trees with deep roots like American Red Bud and Honey locust. Then you will have a stable hugel (hill)/Swale. If you want something as tall as I see in your pictures and diagrams, make a tall raised bed as I do using cinder block as the walls and then put in the layering of various organic matter like limbs and other compostable each layer with dirt.
If you want a swale to hold on a hill without using wood or even with wood, scalp the sod first and layer it upside down as your build upward and it will hold. This is how I have built swales all my life in the East Tennessee mountains, only we did not know to call them swales, just erosion barriers and water diverters.

"In all things consider the lilies in the field, and birds of the air" though to many a biblical fantasy, Nature is there to provide for them AND to TEACH us!
 
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Location: Richmond, Va
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I have to laugh with this thread. It is really hard to get to the top of my Hugel mounds. I have to walk along the ridge to pull weeds. (Oops, do permies pull weeds?). The mounds are too wide at the base for me to reach over to the top. I think I was partly just too timid to build as tall as Sepp suggests. Or, the soil sliding situation deters me. I don't mind getting a bit of a stretch though and it's all good, right? I have lot's of mistakes that I plan to let nature sort out for me over time.
 
master steward
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Yeah, even with my "steep" hugel, it's still hard for me to reach to the middle. I'm really glad I put those upright log rounds in there, so I have something to stand on. That really helps with accessing the top. I like the idea of building up, but it sure is hard to access the middle. Currently, I think I'm more in favor of building relatively level hugels with walls to hold the dirt, etc. A raised bed hugel is a lot more accessable for me, and they can be built at a slight south-facing aspect pretty easily, to gain a little more sun exposure.

Here's some pictures of how my tall hugel has been turning out. It's not nearly as steep as it used to be, and I've had to rebuild certain areas due to erosion. And, planting seeds in it is quite a bit more difficult than in a normal bed. All in all, I'm still pretty happy with it, and I really appreciate how I don't have to water it (except when I just plant seeds--I water the top layer of soil just to be on the safe side) and how it gives me a nice south-facing slope on my north-facing property
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Looking at the south side.
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From the side (Coffee grounds at the top, not eroded mulch.)
 
Posts: 31
Location: Bulgaria
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I do like this:

Thesite is a slope/under the slope is some horisontal surface, where I aim to make a garden. The topsoil is very thin. I have not so many logs, but get more in March. I made tests about H├╝gelkultur-beds in Greece an nowI am in Bulgaria => almost three months without clouds - just sunshine (in Greece) - here is always now and then some rain.

First digging about three feet deep, four feet wide - filling with cardbords, soil, mulch - a lot of mulch. I am a big beliver in worms. They are the gardeners small helpers.
Also straw, then a layer of logs that will press the mulch down, then soil, mulch and straws across. the straw comes out from the sides.
A new layer of logs, soil, straw - a lot of straw - and repeting. from the both sides of the base, all topsoil on the 'pyramide', using twigs.
I water each layer and use wet straw, so that I get as much as possible packed.  Finally I cover everything with straw and fill both sides of the base that I have dug, with mulch and straw.

Need to use a lot of straw as protection, because of the sun.
I think that I can make some 35 - 40 degrees angels. The owner of the house has agreed that I can make tests like: giving some beds water,  and some with a little bit less water, some no water.
I will photograph everything and put the picks here.

Henry
 
                        
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Nicole Alderman wrote:I know I'm probably not the only one that deals with this. I build up a nice pile of wood, put sod over it, and then attempt to cover with dirt. The dirt all rolls off, piling on the ground around the hugel. This makes for deep soil at the bottom, and very little on the top. To get soil deep enough at the top, the bottom gets so wide I can't reach the plants at the top of the hugel. It's very frustrating!

Anyone have any tricks to keep the dirt on top? I've found putting rocks or logs around the edge helps keep some of the dirt up, but hauling all those rocks is no fun, and wastes uses up some vertical planting space. The logs also do that, as well as wick moisture from the hugel.

I'm currently thinking about putting some logs around the base while I put the dirt on the hugel, and then removing them afterward, and hoping the dirt doesn't all slide off... and that the logs will actually come out!

Anyone have any tricks or techniques to arranging the hugel and putting the dirt on so it doesn't all slide off?

Thanks!




I saw a great idea on YouTube where you take old branches and use them as stakes alongside the mound

stuff brush in between the stakes and the mound which creates a flatter surface

then pile wood chips on top of the brush

it should be more flat after THAT and the dirt won't slide as much

 
                            
Posts: 5
Location: Eastern Kansas
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I too have been wondering about how to keep dirt in place, especially on a new bed.

I have pondered several solutions.

I did think about the Ancient Mayans and their stepped pyramids.

Perhaps instead of straight sloped sides, you make them into a sort of stepped pyramid of sorts?
On each step perhaps put a small straight branch, pinned in place so there is a gap between the branch and the slope (to catch water and allow you to plant things).

I will be building mine this spring. No pics yet to post.

Mine will be in a 'comb' shape to maximize sun exposure, catch more run off water, and block some of the wind.
Smaller 'fingers' of the 'comb' will allow more access to areas without having to make a staircase to get to everything.

I plan on using tossed out Christmas trees in my hugel too. Probably to hold the dirt in place.

About tunnels by rodents - seems to me that will allow more aeration to the mound and better root growth.

Anyone think of adding vent tubes to each mound to let air into the center/bottom?

This is similar to the air pruning pot method.

My dirt is composed of 'barn scrapings. That was tilled repeatedly to make the dirt more fluffy.
The dirt is on a long 'U' shaped pile, plastic covered for now. similar to hugel but no wood in it yet. Still have to rototill the hardpan after moving the dirt to make the ground saucer like to put the wood in (about a foot or so deep I planned) and build the Hugel on top of that.


I am not sure how tall I can make it as I am still getting materials.

Biggest question is about the Mayan Pyramid Style for new beds. Do you think it can hold the soil until things get growing?


 
                            
Posts: 5
Location: Eastern Kansas
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Update:

I took 10-5 gallon buckets and filled them with wood chips then filled with rain water. All are frozen solid right now.

My theory is that water in the wood would freeze and help break apart the chips as well as saturate the wood chips prior to putting them in the hugel bed.

Might save time and watering effort labor.

Your thoughts?
 
pollinator
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crazy squirrel wrote:
I did think about the Ancient Mayans and their stepped pyramids.



The real engineering feat is Maachu Picchu.  The entire mountains were terraced all of the way to the bottom.  This is an engineering feat in itself, but it gave them much additional growing room.  They had a system where water ran from one bed to another.  There was a fabulous documentary about this, but I haven't been able to find it in years.
 
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uh....more...dirt?
 
                            
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Location: Eastern Kansas
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crazy squirrel wrote:Update:

I took 10-5 gallon buckets and filled them with wood chips then filled with rain water. All are frozen solid right now.

My theory is that water in the wood would freeze and help break apart the chips as well as saturate the wood chips prior to putting them in the hugel bed.

Might save time and watering effort labor.

Your thoughts?



Soaking wood chips was OK except it became quite anaerobic.

My Hugel garden was a disaster.

It got waaayyy too hot this summer. Couldn't give it enough water. Even soil temps were 95 degrees +

We got a well fixed but I am afraid it was far too late in the season.

I will say this: Pig Weed GROWS like crazy on it.

Everything else burned up/dried up.

Watermelons (volunteer ones) started out OK but failed. Same with hot peppers.


Oh well. Might try again next year.
 
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