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First time Hügelkultur in wet, warm New Orleans.

 
Stephen Houser
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Hello everyone,

After having great success with the square foot gardening method, and using Mel's Mix, I've decided to take it to the next level and start my first Hügelkultur. We had a strong storm come through New Orleans recently and I had to trim my Chinese elm. I had a ton of branches sitting around, so I figured what the heck.

It's not a huge Hügelkultur and the wood is still green but this is an experiment. I did not dig the sod underneat first but had a bunch of dirt from planting some trees recently. I put that on top as well as some chicken maneur, cow manure and some homemade compost. My wife says it looks like a grave.

We shall see what happens. I'm anticipating that it will break down very quickly as it is very warm and wet here.

Any advice or tips based on my setup and location/climate will be much appreciated.

Stephen
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The compressed limbs.
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Covered over
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Mulched. My wife says it looks like a grave.
 
John Elliott
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1) Over the coming year, it will shrink in height by a half, maybe more. In the fall when you rake leaves, you can build it up more and plant your winter greens on it. Collards do well planted halfway down on the side (as opposed to right on top).

2) I've found that okra doesn't do very well on a hugelbed, mine does better in the more compacted soil of the regular garden. Same with sweet potatoes, I get one enormous sweet potato that is very fibrous and only good for animal feed.

3) Things planted right on top tend to dry out unless you have rains coming through every three or four days. If you go a week without rain, shallow rooted plants on the very top (i.e., lettuce) will suffer. The most fertile zone is from grade level to about halfway up the side. Things planted there grow like they are on steroids.

4) If you wait until the peak of the summer heat has passed, you can plant root crops on top. Once they get their deep root established, they will feed very nicely off all that rotting vegetation and you can be harvesting them all winter long.

 
Stephen Houser
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Now how did you know that I wanted to plant okra? You're a psychic right? Lol. Thanks for the advice.

2) I've found that okra doesn't do very well on a hugelbed, mine does better in the more compacted soil of the regular garden. Same with sweet potatoes, I get one enormous sweet potato that is very fibrous and only good for animal feed.
 
Stephen Houser
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And John, I read your Hügelkultur article on your blog. Great information. Are you also on the Gulf South?
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Location: Columbus, Texas, USA (Colorado County). Zone 8b, verging on Zone 9. Humid subtropical, drought prone
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I haven't done the hugel thing yet, but a couple of points from reading Paul Wheaton's stuff:

He suggests a hugel 6 feet tall (!) in order to completely avoid irrigation. Of course in New Orleans that may not be a problem, but I'm a bit inland from the Gulf Coast of Texas and while it can be quite wet here, the heat is also brutal enough that if it fails to rain for any period of time, stuff dries out and wilts quickly. So if you have to irrigate, bigger is better for hugels. Paul has also said that there's no problem with just adding more height to them every year; you don't need to start from scratch or dig it up and reassemble or anything like that, so you can just keep building it up until you find a good balance.

Also, positioned against the fence like that, it makes it harder to take advantage of the differing microclimates the hugel can create. I don't know if you have enough space or if it would work aesthetically to orient it differently, but especially as your hugel grows (if you keep it) you can orient it so that you have a shadier side to the north and a warmer side to the south, so you could grow things that tend to wilt in the heat to the north of the bed and frost-fearing plants (citrus?) to the south. If you make kind of a "C" shaped bed with the opening toward the south, you can line the curve of the C with rocks that will absorb lots of heat from the sun, and create a basically tropical microclimate there, if there's anything you want to grow that New Orleans still gets a little too cold for in winter. Or you could place the bed on contour to slow and retain rainwater if you get a lot of runoff. Let us know how it goes!
 
John Elliott
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Stephen Houser wrote: Are you also on the Gulf South?


I'm in Middle Georgia; zone 8b when it's a cold winter, and zone 9a in the warmer winters. I find the main benefit of hugelkultur to be the extra depth it gives the soil. I only have 6"-10" of topsoil before I hit the infamous Georgia red clay, so I use hugels for crops that like a deeper profile of rich soil.
 
Stephen Houser
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Hi Jennifer,

Thanks for your reply and input. I would love to have a 6 foot tall Hügelkultur in my yard, but I believe my wife would prohibit that sort of hi jinks.

This project is more out of laziness, experimentation, and having embraced the Permie habit of not throwing out perfectly good yard scraps.

I have several raised boxes already going and growing but like I said, I used Mel's Mix for those which is entirely insourced soil. It uses 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 peet moss. It was a great start into gardening, but after reading this site, I have grown to appreciate the ideals of using and improving what you have on hand.

Lastly, I really, really did not want to do any digging. I pulled up a pretty good swath of Saint Augustine sod a few months back to put in a rose garden and it nearly killed me. Lol This new Hügelkultur went right on top of the grass. I don't know for sure, but I have a feeling it's going to work out great in time, but it is an experiment.

I will keep everyone posted and thanks for all of your great posts and advice.
 
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