We just moved into a new place and we'll be starting a hugelkultur here. The move was also forced us to look at our wardrobe and it turned out we have tons of clothes that we don't use anymore and that may not be good enough for passing onto somebody. Since a lot of it is cotton i got this idea to throw it underneath the wood and let it rot there.
I just wonder if that would introduce any harmful stuff to the garden. And what about clothes that are like 80% cotton and 20% polyester? Do you guys have any advice or comments?
This is my opinion. If you are willing to wear it on your body, next to your skin, it should be fine decomposing in your garden. I'm sure you are aware that polyester won't decompose like cotton. However (also my opinion), we have to take responsibility for our waste, and sending it to the landfill is not really a responsible option. Again, just my opinion--and something I'm trying hard to reconcile in my own life, as I still do send some waste, particularly plastics, to the landfill.
Can you use the poly cottons for something else, instead of just compost? I have a scrap bag which pretty much all our worn out clothing goes into; I make patchwork, I use scraps as patches to mend clothing. I just made a little fabric bunting decoration from my scrap bag, and I'm saving up for a second rag rug (my first small one is a great dormat, and was made from an old chair cover and old torn jeans). I even sometimes refashion clothing: for example, I've made pajamas for my small son out of my husband's old shirts, and more than once I've cut down adult-sized coats into coats for my son. My first coat, my second coat.
We hardly ever donate clothing, as we tend to wear it out too badly, but that is another option.
I've put clothes through the compost bin in the past. Some cotton clothing (probably most) uses polycotton thread, and so the fabric breaks down but you end up with these long threads in the compost, which is a pain. I wouldn't do it again unless I cut off the seams, edges etc that had thread in them, or composted in a separate bin.
With a hugel, I guess the issue is whether you think you will ever dig that up again. If not, I'm inclined to agree with Galadriel, deal with anything you wear on your own land and hugelkulture seems as good a way as any. I think there is a limit to how much the land can handle though. And there are other chemical toxicity issues with fabric as well as the polyester (eg treatments).
In terms of breakdown and chemicals, I'm wondering if burning polycotton and then using the ashes is best.
Alternatively, finding a way of indefinite storage would really limit the toxicity issue eg make insulation from it.
Tradd Cotter encourages using them as mushroom substrate in his book. I think that would also be good hugel fill.
My only concern is if the department of make you sad would say that is illegal dumping or unapproved landfill or some other red tape nightmare.
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I say go for it. This is a hugel bed we're talking about here, so it's not like you'll ever be digging down to the bottom of it for any good reason. A few un-composted threads will be of no detriment to the bed way down at the bottom. If biology won't eat it, it'll either grow on it or eventually absorb it into the soil structure in some way that it will be inert. Some poly fibers might actually assist is wicking moisture around the bed. Obviously it's not a great thing to do but either you deal with it or the landfill does. I'm sure that it's not the worst thing to go into the soil either. All sorts of micro-plastic debris and who-knows-what are constantly blowing in from all over the place. But that's beside the point.
Hugel-Cotton Hugel-Cotton Hugel-Cotton Hugel-Cotton! Doesn't have a bad ring to it
Any all natural fiber clothing should be just fine to put into any growing bed or compost heap. Poly blends are what we use for rags around the farm or knee/ elbow patches.
I place totally worn out cotton clothing into growing mounds, I don't even bother to remove the copper rivets from the jeans that no longer provide any leg protection due to being worn so thin you can't even patch them anymore.
I've never put them under the logs, usually I use them as part of the between the logs stuffing. I doubt it makes any difference where you use it since it will all decompose in the end.
Thanks for the interesting ideas. The bed may not end up being there for a long time, we're renting the place and we'll stay here maybe for a couple of years (but who knows, eh?) until my wife's done with her school. The land lord is sort of suspicious of the whole idea. But he cut down a whole bunch of trees and the room is there so i'll do it even if just for the experience.
Thanks to landlords concerns about the department of making you sad most of the wood is going to go into the ground - maybe 3-4 feet deep so, even if he decides to bulldozer it down after we're gone, whatever doesn't get decomposed will stay way below the surface.
Location: Southern New England, seaside, avg yearly rainfall 41.91 in, zone 6b
Honestly I put just about anything biodegradable in my girls. Like Bryant Redhawk said, those spaces in between the logs need stuffing. Hair from haircuts, old love letters, the baby's placenta, wool slippers, mayday flower garlands...
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