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for a wee bit.

 

 

uses include:
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Buried Wood Beds  RSS feed

 
William Bronson
Posts: 1540
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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I am six feet tall and one evening I dug a shallow grave for myself- and then filled it with wood.
Took about two hours.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9744
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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My soil is clay with lots of rocks, so it took me several hours to pick-axe a hole, remove the rocks, fill the hole with wood (which I had to collect), and sift the soil back over the wood. It took me about a year to fill my smallish garden with wood. So I think how long it will take depends a lot on your soil, your physical capability, and how large an area you want to treat this way.
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
Posts: 1840
Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Honor,

How bout you tell us what kind of soil you have and the size of the pieces of wood you intend to bury? There are just so MANY variables here, including the vigor and experience of the person doing the hand digging. I had a very fit young person here earlier in the season. I asked her to widen and deepen an irrigation ditch, which she willingly did. I was away for the day. At the end of the day, she told me she had not realized what hard work ditch digging is. (there is definitely a reason why that is the most often used example for hard and unskilled work. I only disagree on the unskilled part. Using your body to work is an art form). On a similar note, I had a 16 year old track runner and athlete digging (and other physical tasks) for me last summer. His mother told me that after a day's work at my house he was beat, he said "Now I know why I am sure I want to go to college, so I don't have to do this all my adult life".

To get an idea how fast you can get your hole dug, go out and dig a hole that is a 4 foot- or 1 meter diameter circle and dig it a similar depth. While doing that, you'll learn a lot about digging in YOUR soil (if you don't already have a ton of experience). Then you can compare volumes: the pit you dug vs the hole you need to make your buried hugel bed.

I dug most of my hugel beds using a small tractor, just doing the finish work by hand. Also used the tractor to drag the tree trunks into the pits, but I've done a lot of digging with a shovel. Enough that I can do more than the young kids I have to help me from time to time. If I have a big project to dig by hand, I divide the job, and only do part of it each day. That way I don't get so discouraged that I give up, and don't hurt myself or over exert myself, thereby providing excuses for why I am not continuing on the project. ( I already make plenty of excuses for not doing stuff that is hard or I don't enjoy).

Good luck on your project!
 
Jenn Christison
Posts: 3
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Honor Marie wrote:I'm wondering how long it would take to dig a buried hugel bed by hand. Does anyone have an estimate? Include some info about your soil and the size of the bed, please!


Dependant upon many factors. I recently dug up (grass covered clay soil) to a depth of 2feet, 3" x 5" and it took me about four hours. Another, smaller (2ft deep x 2ft wide x 4ft long) hugel bed took me an hour. However that soil was the previous location of my compost and was much easier to dig.

So, some variables: your labour rate, the compaction of the soil, how wet/heavy the soil is, how many rocks/roots etc you encounter....Good luck
 
Ed Farmer
Posts: 9
Location: Klamath Falls Oregon
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Perhaps I'm just lucky. I live in the high desert of South Central Oregon. I have over 100 acres. Mostly a second growth pine forest. But I also hve downed trees all over the property. Some will fall apart when you lift them but a lot of them are very light and would be a great sponge material. I have collected 50-60 cu yds of horse stall material and am presently getting a large amount of yard maintenance debris from a local landscaper. I also have a seasonal river and lake. Most of the year it's completely dry. That soil is going to be very helpful in improving the soil.

I look forward to making a huge impact on my place by gaining a lot more green and wildlife.
 
Tracy Lee
Posts: 52
Location: NW Arkansas
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I also do almost all my garden beds on top of buried wood. We are fortunate to have a backhoe though because if I had to do it all by hand it wouldn't happen. I have blackberries like this and I almost never water them. At the base of a mountain that seeps water when we get a lot of rain I layered wood logs on top of the ground about 50 ft long and about 3 ft into the air, I covered that with dirt and straw. About 4 ft in front of that we dug a trench about a foot deep and filled that with wood. I topped that with dirt and straw and leaves. Basically created a garden bed from the edge of the raised hugelcuture mound to the outer edge of the sunken hugelkulture trench. In between raised and sunken wood I planted some peach trees from seed. Its 3 years later and the trees that the deer haven't trimmed off are about 7 ft high and I haven't watered in 3 years. Veggie garden that is done on top of sunken wood I do water but easily go a week or more in hundred degree heat with minimal wilting.  Love the concept and i am sure it is working for water retention but for me i am still struggling to learn to garden in my area amongst the forest. I have to much shade I believe that is affecting my ability to get things to grow in a lush healthy way. But I am getting there.  Healthiest looking garden so far this year. I also learned that I needed to fill the gaps between the wood with dirt or leaves. First beds I made this way I didn't do that and they settled almost a foot in a year and settled very unevenly. Tyler, I spent 30 years of my life in south, south texas. I did lots of gardening there and getting good water was a challenge. I wish I had known about all this down there. I could of had spectacular gardens. here is picture of asparagus bed done with underground wood. I haven't watered this bed or done really any maintenance on it in 4 years. Maybe 10 mins weeding in all that time. Nice little crop this year from it. Next picture is the raised hugelculture mound against the mountain and I am building the underground trench in front of it. This is where the peach trees got planted. No evidence of seeping water from that section of the mountain. It all gets captured in either raised or sunken hugelculture.
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Tracy Wandling
steward
Posts: 1677
Location: Cortes Island, British Columbia. Zone: 8ish Lat: 50; Rainfall: 50" ish; sand and rocks; well water
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Nice to see both types of hugelkultur being used together, Tracy. Very cool.

I have also gone with the buried wood beds, as the summers here are usually hot and dry (although, not this year, of course!). We had an excavator guy on the property, doing various tasks, and he dug the first trench. He made it much deeper and wider than I wanted, but we managed to fill it up. It is 85' long, varying from 4 to 5 feet wide, and varying from 4 to 6 feet deep. It's divided by a path in the middle to make 2 40' beds. I'm thinking since this trench is at the top of the slope, and the next 3 trenches will be lower down, its being so deep will work well to slow water, and let it trickle down to the next beds. Time will tell.

The bed was finished about the first of June, and planted in the week following. It has worked beautifully so far this summer. We don't have soil, just sand. So the beds are filled between the logs with year-old wood chips and a grass/leaves/weeds mix. It is also topped with this mix, plus some sand, as well as some amendments such as clay, rock dust and seaweed.

Here are some pics of building the bed, as well as some garden pics. You can see more pics in my project thread shown in my signature.

I think that using buried wood beds (or hugelkultur proper in wet climates) is one of the coolest techniques I've come across in my search for ways to grow on pure sand, in a hot dry summer climate. I'm looking forward to a few years in the future when the beds have soaked up lots of water, and don't need as much irrigation. All very cool.

Cheers
Tracy

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The building of the beds.
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Garden on July 17
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The herb spiral is also done with buried wood.
 
Waylon Breaux
Posts: 20
Location: Campti, LA, Natchitoches Parish, Zone 8
books forest garden hugelkultur
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Honor Marie wrote:I'm wondering how long it would take to dig a buried hugel bed by hand.  Does anyone have an estimate?  Include some info about your soil and the size of the bed, please!


Hey all!! Just found this thread.  I'm in Central Louisiana, Zone 8.  Our soil is a mix of sand and clay.  I've dug in 16 (!) 4 x 8 beds using buried wood, most of it still green. I covered that with a layer of chips, then a layer of manure, and then covered it all with the original soil.  In my high tunnels, I am putting in 8 4 x 25 beds, using the same technique.  These beds really work!  Totally worth the effort.  The smaller beds took me, by myself, maybe 6 hours to do one.  I don't remember, since it's been a few months.  I haven't had ANY trouble with rodents, and my farm is out in the woods. 
 
Bill Erickson
steward
Posts: 1136
Location: Northwest Montana from Zone 3a to 4b (multiple properties)
132
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Tyler, your determination to bring fertility to your property is just amazing.
 
Ben Zumeta
Posts: 204
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
10
dog duck hugelkultur
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Great posts all...

Any thoughts about when to bury and when to just build up your hugel beds?

I have built about a dozen fair sized hugel beds (4'x4'x 15'-35ft each). I dug down about 18" on my first one and built it back up to about 3' above grade, then decided that seemed like excessive work and in way counterproductive here in redwood country with 60"+ rain annually (160" last year!). I definitely endorse building upwards and using soil from paths and other excavations around here, but just 20mi inland from me you get less than 30" in some rainshadows. Doing this gives me dry enough beds a month before ground level gardeners in spring, and I water no more than once a month and by year 3 almost never.

So where would you all draw a line for above vs below ground regarding rainfall, temperatures, and seasonal variations?
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I was doing this today!
...and the dailish waiting for me.

...I just had a question in mind this afternoon: Is there a maximum depth for buriying the wood? Is there a "too deep" stage where it is for example too anaerobic?
Is 1m too deep to start putting wood?
 
Gabriel Bane
Posts: 5
Location: 9a
chicken forest garden pig
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Glad to see this thread here, I too have been burying wood over the course of about a year in hopes of improving soil quality. :) I am going to be planting on some of the buried beds starting tomorrow with a fresh batch of cow peas. :) Will report in with findings on the difference between areas with no buried wood vs. with the wood beds.
 
Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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Pics from today, and not intended to be posted!
So, I can show how deep we dug (to remove a very big stone, and even 2!). Thus my question about how deep is too much for burying wood? Hope somebody can help soon, as we have started today to put the wood, mainly almond, but also pine, orange, mango and avocado.

Basically, I want to remove stones and replace by wood... Wouldn't you find some logic in this? On the 1st pic you can also see the second stone, that is nearly out on the last pic. My place is terraces with some soil over huge amounts of loose stones ...and air between those stones. I do not have a natural soil there.

This place will be underground and upper ground, but between 3 walls. The front will be wood that can be removed, to harvest the ginger and turmeric rhizomes. (hope the idea will work!) My idea is to use a place that has too much shade. Also, it will be a 5 crops in 1 place, like pumpkins from the upper terrace. And guinea pigs inside, as they do not like those leaves.

Edit: interrestingly enough, the 1st pics shows quite a lot of my place, as you can see 3 different levels! It is quite narrow, though less than it seems. At the highest place you can see some of my VETIVER. Then below are mango and pigeon pea (who decided to hang!) Down are more mango and bananas.
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Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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1st photo. I started a buried wood bed aside the hugel I want to ELIMINATE (it is where the water pipes).
60cm deep. The moved part on the left is already done. Very long work if you go that deep by hand, and you need to remove some soil, or else you cannot work. If you leave some empty place, then you can work from down the hole. This explains why not all the dug part is filled with wood.

2nd photo, the  hugel whose wood will be buried deeper. You can see the "mice building", all the galeries and air inside were my major concern, plus the soil going down on the sides, and i had places with no more soil over the wood.
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Xisca Nicolas
pollinator
Posts: 1341
Location: La Palma (Canary island) Zone 11
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I also replace stones by soil and wood! And I need the stones for drainage and walls, according to their size, so all good.
You can also see that organization is not easy when you make big holes and have little spare room around. Moved soil has much more volume. Plan well your material movements and also keep in my where is your aerobic soil and the anaerobic soil! They will love to stay at the same depth as they were...

1st pic:
You can see that trees are guama and pigeon peas. Also some bushes of lima beans behind, and the guava further away.
You can also see the logs upon the old hugel.

Then the reserve of stones that went out and they will go for drainage under a tool shelter that i want to make in the corner of 2 walls. Also some go to a path where they will also help keep humidity.

The extra soil on the left is the reason why we started the other buried bed: I have extra soil here, and needed more for the turmeric bed, as I up the level above ground between walls.

2nd pic shows some big stones, not too big, could be removed by hand. There was also some air between the stones, and I do not think it is that good to have empty spaces in the ground!

Or is it?
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Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 237
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
34
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Ben Zumeta wrote:Great posts all...

Any thoughts about when to bury and when to just build up your hugel beds?

I have built about a dozen fair sized hugel beds (4'x4'x 15'-35ft each). I dug down about 18" on my first one and built it back up to about 3' above grade, then decided that seemed like excessive work and in way counterproductive here in redwood country with 60"+ rain annually (160" last year!). I definitely endorse building upwards and using soil from paths and other excavations around here, but just 20mi inland from me you get less than 30" in some rainshadows. Doing this gives me dry enough beds a month before ground level gardeners in spring, and I water no more than once a month and by year 3 almost never.

So where would you all draw a line for above vs below ground regarding rainfall, temperatures, and seasonal variations?


For my property I tend to lean towards burying the wood at least 2ft down. I still mound it up above the ground level but I like to have part of the bed bellow ground level.

Part of this is to save money and damage to other parts of my property since I don't need to buy as much soil or dig it out of another part of my property. Now if I was digging a pond or a foundation then the soil from that could be used for a hugel bed.

Another part is that a lot of my soils have a compacted layer at the surface that I like to break through. Digging down helps to get through that layer.

I also think the beds stay more moist in the summer this way. Also, it lets the plant roots easily spread into the surrounding soils. At least compared to a 5ft or more high hugel. Seems like people in dry climates are having more luck with buried hugel beds. I live in a climate with wet falls, winters and springs but very dry summers.

But you do lose out on the degree of micro climates that a very tall hugel bed can make. The top of the bed will be relatively dry, winds will be changed, part of the beds will get more sun or more shade depending on orientation, and frost patterns will be changed.

Also, if blocking a road or bad view is important then a tall hugel bed will work much better than a short or buried hugel bed. Large hugel bed will block both the view and any loud sounds coming from that direction.

The single biggest motivator for me to use buried hugel beds is the reduction of the amount of soil I need to bring in from outside my property or from other areas of my property. Second has been the better connectivity to the surrounding land for plant roots, water flow (groundwater) and soil life. These are the main reasons why I prefer buried hugel beds. But I still mound the beds up 2 to 3 ft above ground in addition to the 2 to 3 ft below ground.

That being said I'm building a new hugel bed that will be mostly all above ground. A few very large conifer rounds will be halfway buried but otherwise all the wood will be above ground. For this specific part of my property it makes sense to do this. But I will need to bring in 20 cubic yards of soil to complete this project.

Eventually I may have a large enough compost system to generate my own soil so I would not need to bring in as much soil if any. But at this time it is not practical so I will likely continue to focus on buried hugel beds. Plus I still think there are some real benefits to having the beds at least partly buried.
 
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