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Starting Hugelkultur

 
Ryan Kauffman
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Hey all I'm new here and have a couple questions regarding Hugelkultur.

Can I simply dig a small trench and pile logs and branches into it and then cover with local soil? Will this work or will I need to add other things such as hay, kitchen scraps, compost?

I have already constructed a couple of these beds with logs and branches. I also added ground tree stumps, (Its relatively fine in texture), and some straw from the chicken coop complete with droppings. Will this work?

 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Hi Ryan:

My best advice would be, first identify your climate. Are you in an area that gets plenty of moisture or are you in a dryland? Different techniques work in different areas. While traditional Hugelkultur mounds are touted as working in all climates, they simply exacerbate the conditions in hot drylands - so if you are in that climate - please check out these threads:

Hugels in Hot Drylands (note that Zach Weiss who works directly with Sepp answered this question)

Hugelkultur in hot, arid climate

There are more discussions on this topic as well but these two threads go a long ways to helping people determine if raised or sunken or ANY hugelkultur is right for them.
 
Ryan Kauffman
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I live in California about 20 miles east of San Francisco bay. According to the internet my city gets on average 20 inches of rain fall a year.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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You might get away with mounds there. I guess I'd try both raised and sunken and see which works best for your situation.

Let us know and take some pics!
 
Ryan Kauffman
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.
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Ryan Kauffman
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This is the one I'm working on now.
 
Ryan Kauffman
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Just finished.
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Ryan Kauffman
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This is the first one I made about 4 months ago. As you can see its still producing tomatoes into the beginning of November. The second image is not a hugel just made use of a tree that was cut down on the property. It was been doing very well so I will probably leave as is.

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Ryan Kauffman
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Opps.. this is suppose to be the first image. Still getting use to the uploading format.
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Mellicent Fraticelli
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Hi There,

My name is Mellicent. My group, Local Ecology and Agrculture Fremont (LEAF) is building a hugelkultur in Fremont. I don't know how to upload an image. But we are building it with logs, branches, twigs, hay, compost, mulch, horse manure, leaves and coffee grinds. We started after Thanksgiving. It will be 12' long x 4' wide x 5' high. With the recent rain, it is hard to keep building it.

What materials did you use? How big is it? Any insight would be helpful. Thanks!
 
Jody Smith
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Hi, i'm new to huglekultur and I have some questions. First what directions do you build the beds to get the best sun here in MN? I am thinking northeast/southwest or north/south. Second how do I plant veggies on the bed-corn on top squash near the bottom- terrece the sides-dig small pockets -seed spacing? Should I use fertilizer the first year? I can not find this info anywhere.
 
George Price
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Location: Flathead Indian Reservation, 37 miles North of Missoula, Montana
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Here is a video about making a hugelkultur bed in western Montana, a slightly more arid place than most of the Pacific Northwest. It covers start to almost finished, along with some other video about a few different parts of our permaculture farm and surroundings. I don't expect that many people will watch the whole thing. I plan to do an update in the Spring when we are ready to plant on the bed, and more updates throughout the growing season. Since making this video, we have had a few breaks in the freezing weather and the ground thawed out enough that we have been able to continue building the hugelkultur bed up towards the desired height. Underneath the video you can read a six-point description of the benefits of hugelkultur over flat land, row crop growing.




Hugelkultur is a German word that means "mound culture," and this is a way of cultivating crops on mounds of earth, wood and natural nutrients that has several benefits over planting in conventional flat rows:

1. With the vertical rise of the mound and the high amount of fertile nutrients built into it, you can grow more food in a smaller area.

2. The wooden logs and branches, along with large leafy material like comfrey, built into the hugelkultur mound absorb and hold water, thus requiring less watering by the gardener or farmer. I have heard several users of this method say they only have to water their hugelkultur beds about twice during the entire growing season.

3. This is another great example of why we do not need to use toxic chemicals or ANY commercial fertilizers to grow the healthiest crops possible. The hugelkultur beds can contain a large quantity of all varieties of natural plant fertilizer/nutrients, arranged to decompose at different rates and provide very fertile soil for several years, without having to add anything but a little bit of water. The nutrients in the hugelkultur mound in this film include: bison and cow manure, a little bear poop, compost, comfrey, other plant materials, topsoil, and small rocks.

4. The taller the mound, the less bending over or kneeling the farmer or gardener needs to do, which of course greatly reduces back, knee and joint pains.

5. This method is less labor-intensive than conventional flat-ground row gardening, since it requires less watering and is easier to access for weeding, harvesting and general management.

6. The benefits and pleasure gained from this method of cultivating crops serves to provide greater encouragement and higher motivation to grow our own healthy food and live healthier lives.
 
Jason Pitzer
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How old is to old for wood?
 
Bill Bradbury
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Location: Richmond, Utah
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Jason Pitzer wrote:How old is to old for wood?


Jason, if you can pick it up, go for it. A lot of the nutrients and carbon will be missing from a well rotted log, but they still rot even more. I live in a colder climate that is similar to yours and I have had excellent results with every hugel-variant that I have tried.

My personal favorite though is the long undulating swale/hugel. These hugels have at least 3 tons of well rotted logs and boards buried within them that were left in big piles by the previous owners.
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Jason Pitzer
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Why I ask is their is a tree has to be close to 100 foot talk about 6 foot across that just fell by my house. It has been dead for 5-6 years was thinking of chunking it up and using it.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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bee books forest garden fungi greening the desert hugelkultur
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Go for it Jason ! If nothing else it will act as a sponge, to decrease your irrigation , and add "compost" to the soil.

George, Nice post!
 
Jason Pitzer
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Here it is.
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George Price
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Location: Flathead Indian Reservation, 37 miles North of Missoula, Montana
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I agree with Bill and Miles that if you can pick it up without it crumbling to dust it is not too old. The only cautions that I have heard are in regard to types of wood, specifically, no conifers because they are too acidic and no walnuts because they put forth a chemical that is toxic to most other trees and plants. What kind of tree is that one you just cut up there, Jason?
 
Jason Pitzer
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It was a old oak.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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