• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Hugel bed any good for waterlogged place?

 
Louise Tuve Lundberg
Posts: 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi!
I recently learned that Hugelkulture exists, sounds very interesting, but I haven't tried or even seen one yet.
I had planned to make something similar, but more flat, with branches under, then layers of soil and straw with goat manure. That's when a friend pointed me to find out more about hugel beds.

My main reason for raising the beds is that this part of my garden is water logged during winter, and sometimes also during rainy summers. I live in southern Sweden. The soil is medium clay.

I want to use this part of the garden, which is about 200 square metres, sunny position, very slight northward slope, for a mixture of apple trees (espalier), blueberry, the high ones, and possibly also cranberries and lingonberry, plus various annual vegetable crops.
For the blueberries etc, I will need to use peat (which I have saved from a job I had), because the soil here is too calcareous for them otherwise.
Apples and others will get my ordinary top soil, and since I'm digging a pond, there will be enough of it.
I have some logs, stumps and smaller branches, both spruce and birch, beech and willow (well dead since the goats ate the bark). I also have lots of strawbed from the goats' winter stable.

The questions I have is that when I search, I mainly find hugel beds used in arid conditions. This is not the case here, more that I want to get the plant roots higher above the water level. Has anyone used them like this? Logic says it would be good, but how about experience?

Another question for me is what would like to grow on the shady north side?

How would you place an apple espalier - on the top, or on one of the slopes? I want to be able to prune and pick, so I wouldn't want them too high up if I can't walk next to them on the mound.

The size of my area is about 20 metres in east-westerly direction, and 10 metres in north-southerly.
How would you have arranged hugel beds with these conditions?
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1828
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
122
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
]
Louise Tuve Lundberg wrote:Hi!
I recently learned that Hugelkulture exists, sounds very interesting, but I haven't tried or even seen one yet.
I had planned to make something similar, but more flat, with branches under, then layers of soil and straw with goat manure. That's when a friend pointed me to find out more about hugel beds.

My main reason for raising the beds is that this part of my garden is water logged during winter, and sometimes also during rainy summers. I live in southern Sweden. The soil is medium clay.

I want to use this part of the garden, which is about 200 square metres, sunny position, very slight northward slope, for a mixture of apple trees (espalier), blueberry, the high ones, and possibly also cranberries and lingonberry, plus various annual vegetable crops.
Espalier is a technique usually used against a wall or fence line since the branches need support all along them so they will hold the fruit. Blueberry, cranberry and lingonberry are acid lovers needing a lower than 6.0 pH, they all are happiest in a pH of 5.8-5.6

For the blueberries etc, I will need to use peat (which I have saved from a job I had), because the soil here is too calcareous for them otherwise.
Apples and others will get my ordinary top soil, and since I'm digging a pond, there will be enough of it.
I have some logs, stumps and smaller branches, both spruce and birch, beech and willow (well dead since the goats ate the bark). I also have lots of strawbed from the goats' winter stable.

The questions I have is that when I search, I mainly find hugel beds used in arid conditions. This is not the case here, more that I want to get the plant roots higher above the water level. Has anyone used them like this? Logic says it would be good, but how about experience?
Hugel beds were developed in Germany and Austria, they will work for your project but you will need to dig down and incorporate a lot of dead wood. Mounds are not the place to plant trees since they will settle over time which would disturb the tree's roots in a fatal way. Trees are normally planted just away from the bottom edge of a mound, where they have access to the stored water but not the settling actions of the mound.
Another question for me is what would like to grow on the shady north side?
There are many planting guides that list the plants that prefer partial to full shade, those plants would be good choices for this space.
How would you place an apple espalier - on the top, or on one of the slopes? I want to be able to prune and pick, so I wouldn't want them too high up if I can't walk next to them on the mound.
As I have mentioned, espalier technique is more for growing trees against a wall or fence since the branches must be supported so they won't break from the weight of the fruit. Combine that with the nature of mounds and you have an ideal spot at the base of the mound, you could build a fence into the mound to support the espaliered tree(s).

The size of my area is about 20 metres in east-westerly direction, and 10 metres in north-southerly.
How would you have arranged hugel beds with these conditions? If you orient the mounds on the North-South axis, you would get sun on both sides as it arcs across the sky. If you orient the mounds East-West, you would have a south face and a north face. I personally would orient North - South for maximum sun exposure. This would allow a larger percentage of the mounds to be planted in vegetables, bushes and trees would need to go at the upper end so they don't shade areas for vegetables or grapes or bush berries, etc.
 
Karen Walk
Posts: 122
Location: VT, USA Zone 4/5
3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hugelkultur is great for one or two-season crops, but not for fruit trees or bushes. The woody core of the hugel bed will decompose over time, unsettling trees and bushes - they will likely die. This decomposition is one of the reasons hugel beds are so awesome, but they are not a one-size fits all solution.

I have heavy clay, and in flat areas when it's rainy, it is very messy. Hugels have been a great way for us to grow vegetables. We grow heat-loving crops on the south side and greens on the north - lettuce and spinach go to to seed much slower when planted on the north.

For your site, building a pond is a great way to get material so that you can have higher, drier areas. Do you earthwork this year, and create locations to plant your fruit trees and bushes. This year, work on improving the soil so that your trees will be happy when you plant them.
 
Louise Tuve Lundberg
Posts: 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thank you for your comments!

Seems like my original idea, fairly flat raised bed, slight inclination to south, using thinner branches underneath to create channels where water can drain off, with straw/manure and soil on top to raise the bed over the water level might be the better idea here, at least for trees. I mean if after letting that settle a year, it won't settle so much that it will damage the roots since there is only a network of thin branches, not a massive core of logs.
Some parts could be covered with peat instead of local clay for my acid lovers.
A north-south hugel or two would increase the surface area for annuals, as well as make the landscape more interesting. And I get to use my stumps somewhere.

Any other ideas?
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1828
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
122
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
one other thing that can help with soggy ground is biochar. also growing deep, big rooted plants like daikon radish can improve the clay soil, over a few years of planting/chopping/decomposing the clay will have enough organic material in it that it will start draining better. Clays love to hold onto water and the more organics you can get down into it the better.
 
George Meljon
Posts: 278
Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
We have a hugel-swale system on contour that is in a soggy area. It's in a half bowl that was moving water to a little valley and into our pond, but now the water soaks in at the ridges. The areas beneath the hugels are still very very soggy (clay-loam), but it is true, we now have a lot of above ground surface area to plant any kind of annual. The swales provided enough dirt to add on top the wood. It think that was a major consideration. In another area (also soggy), we had to dig a little tiny pond to add dirt to the wood. I like the swale concept better as of now for that reason. We are definitely thinking about another pond though, and at that point we would harvest the 40+ dead poplars and hugel the crap out of everything, probably without a swale needed. The mercurial chinampa concept geoff lawton advocates is also an interesting avenue, but not practical or easy at this point. Anyway, in those soggy areas under the hugels we are going to mulch with our hay bales we kept outside last winter and also establish walking paths. In mid-late summer I will likely try a fall cover crop if I can. I actually might do the daikon radish cover crop instead of the hay mulch, but it depends on how much room we need for all the varieties we're growing this year. We'll see.
 
Pia Jensen
Posts: 218
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am currently incorporating hugelkultur into my landscape specifically because the soil here is super waterlogged much of the time. I will post updates when the rains come and I can see how the combo swale, drain, canal, dam, hugel works
 
George Meljon
Posts: 278
Location: Southern Indiana zone 5b
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
One consideration is that in the spring, which is when we dug, it was very wet and we reached a lot of water during excavation. Big huge blocks of watery clay plopped down. Big ruts in the soil were left. Nothing much came from the hugels last year as a result. It wasn't a good time for it. I would wait for the fall if you can, if it's a big enough project. Less water in the soil. Plant a fall cover crop on it or cover with hay/straw for the winter. How many feet is the hugel you have in mind?
 
Louise Tuve Lundberg
Posts: 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Let's see if the attached picture works.

It's a preliminary drawing of the plans for the western part of my garden. You can see the scale in metres at the top of the picture.
Above, north, first there is a fence with an apple cordon. Below a path, then blueberries and cranberries, which most likely won't be planted in a straight line like that, but it was easier to draw.
I put in green manure on the rest, but it can just as well be an annual crop of something.

The plan is to dig in a bit of a drainage pipe under where the apples are planted, leading to the blue spot at the right, which is a drainage well. The two ovals are possible hugel beds. The whole planting area, from the apples down to the (as yet non-existing) pond, will be raised maybe 50 cm to slightly slope southwards towards the pond. I plan to use thin branches, gravel, manure with lots of straw, plus soil to build this flat raised bed, except for the acid lovers, which will get peat.
The hugels can get logs of both beech, birch and spruce, plus some stumps.
Maybe under the blueberries I could put just one line of log, placed sloping towards the drainage well, to provide a place for water to run off?
western garden.JPG
[Thumbnail for western garden.JPG]
Preliminary drawing
 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
1
forest garden goat trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am in an area with heavy clay and a high water table. I have planted hedging on top of a hugel but it is just a small hugel - only a couple of feet high. I reckoned that the movement would not be that great as I packed it very firmly between the logs with soil and manure. It will give the plants a chance to establish before they try to send their roots down into the nasty stuff which was also very rocky. There are some sites where years of planting daikon radish just won't cut the mustard and you just have to manage as best you can.
 
Pia Jensen
Posts: 218
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Katy Whitby-last wrote: It will give the plants a chance to establish before they try to send their roots down into the nasty stuff which was also very rocky.


Do you mix some of the old dirt from the hole into the new soil to put the plants into? The idea is that it gives them an idea of what to expect when their roots reach the wall...
 
Katy Whitby-last
Posts: 280
Location: North East Scotland
1
forest garden goat trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, it was a mixture of the old stuff plus some well rotted manure and the side facing the road was plastered with heavy clay that came out of the bottom of the duck pond to make sure it was stable and wouldn't slump at all on that side.
 
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic