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Hugelkultur in the monsoon tropics?  RSS feed

 
Cathryn Doney
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Does anyone have any experience with Hugelkultur in the monsoon tropics, and particularly the incidence of fungal infection? Ie does having the rotting wood under the garden bed encourage fungal (and other) infections? We are approaching the start of our wet season and I'm about to start preparing some raised beds ready for planting with cover crops before the monsoon, and planting out once the rains stop in about March. Wondering if I should incorporate a hugelkultur (plenty of wood available) - also looking for tips on what woods to use or avoid. Lots of paperbarks, eucalypts, cycads and other natives available via a recent burn. Also a fair amount of palms. Perhaps I should do two beds, one hugel and one not and see what happens? Any hints or tips for hugels in the tropics appreciated!
 
Stephen Layne
Posts: 31
Location: NE Ga, Zone 7b/8a
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Any charcoal or partially charred organic materials you can collect from a recent burn would be great in most hugels, but especially in a tropical climate. The charring greatly slows the rate of decay and charcoal or partially charred wood can hold lots of water and nutrients and provide a home for bacterial due to its porous structure. Take a look at the biochar section of this forum.
 
Rogers John
Posts: 16
Location: Melbourne, FL
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My hugel littered homestead on the east coast of central Florida gets most of its rain in the warm subtropical summers. For several years I have been burying wood of all sizes and shapes--from long dead and rotting to fresh cut and full of sap. Most of my mounds are about one meter high, but some approach two meters, and took many truck loads (18 cubic yards ea.) of wood and fill dirt to complete. If you have the material and energy, go for it. I have not seen a down side to this technique. Or, devote some of your acreage to hugelkulture and some without. All of my property is covered in wood chip mulch, so I don't know hot much of that is encouraging the mushroom activity or how much results from the hugel magic. Fungi are your friends.
 
Jim Bryant
Posts: 55
Location: Piedmont Region of North Carolina
food preservation forest garden
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Rogers John wrote:My hugel littered homestead on the east coast of central Florida gets most of its rain in the warm subtropical summers. For several years I have been burying wood of all sizes and shapes--from long dead and rotting to fresh cut and full of sap. Most of my mounds are about one meter high, but some approach two meters, and took many truck loads (18 cubic yards ea.) of wood and fill dirt to complete. If you have the material and energy, go for it. I have not seen a down side to this technique. Or, devote some of your acreage to hugelkulture and some without. All of my property is covered in wood chip mulch, so I don't know hot much of that is encouraging the mushroom activity or how much results from the hugel magic. Fungi are your friends.


Sounds like you are enjoying the hugel lifestyle John. How close are the beds to your home? Do you have a problem with standing water in the beds growing mosquitos?
 
Rogers John
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Location: Melbourne, FL
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Aristotle, Some of the hugel mounds are very close to my house because they form the berms that enclose my four above ground ponds (filled by roof water catchment). These ponds hold water because I installed rubber pond liners. The hugel mounds do not hold any visible puddles because they are so porous.
 
Jim Bryant
Posts: 55
Location: Piedmont Region of North Carolina
food preservation forest garden
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Rogers John wrote:Aristotle, Some of the hugel mounds are very close to my house because they form the berms that enclose my four above ground ponds (filled by roof water catchment). These ponds hold water because I installed rubber pond liners. The hugel mounds do not hold any visible puddles because they are so porous.


Are you collecting roof water for irrigation and possibly drinking and bathing? I have never thought of Florida as a place where people have to worry about not enough water.
I am finding this forum interesting to say the least. Thanks for sharing with us.
 
Rogers John
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Location: Melbourne, FL
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Aristotle, Yes to all water questions. Storing water above grade is so useful that I dedicated most of my land forming effort toward that goal. (And my land forms happen to be mostly hugel mounds, hence this thread). I have tilapia and gambusia in all the ponds, with more species to follow. Ducks are on the horizon. This flat two acre homestead would be boring if not for the volcano like pond berms rising out of the landscape.
 
Jim Bryant
Posts: 55
Location: Piedmont Region of North Carolina
food preservation forest garden
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Rogers John wrote:Aristotle, Yes to all water questions. Storing water above grade is so useful that I dedicated most of my land forming effort toward that goal. (And my land forms happen to be mostly hugel mounds, hence this thread). I have tilapia and gambusia in all the ponds, with more species to follow. Ducks are on the horizon. This flat two acre homestead would be boring if not for the volcano like pond berms rising out of the landscape.


Wow Wee !!!
Sounds like lots of fun...
How long have you been doing hugelkultur? You may be able to start a blog.
I am looking for a consultant to design my 1 - acre for me. I've only got one acre so I better make it right.

Thanks,

 
Rogers John
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Location: Melbourne, FL
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Aristotle, I have been doing hugelkulture for about six years. For me it started as a way to value the dead trees that were already on my property and to add time release fertility capsules to the young forest garden. Lately I have been using these mounds as safe growing space for species that cannot tolerate soggy soil, like papaya, avocado, olive, jackfruit and moringa. Hugelkulture works in the humid tropics (monsoon tropics too) at least because it offers well drained growing beds.
 
Cathryn Doney
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That's an excellent point Rogers John about the extra drainage offered by Hugelkultur beds, regardless of the additional nutrients. Thanks, I'm convinced I need to give this a go! cheers, Cathryn
 
Jim Bryant
Posts: 55
Location: Piedmont Region of North Carolina
food preservation forest garden
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Rogers John wrote:
Aristotle, I have been doing hugelkulture for about six years. For me it started as a way to value the dead trees that were already on my property and to add time release fertility capsules to the young forest garden. Lately I have been using these mounds as safe growing space for species that cannot tolerate soggy soil, like papaya, avocado, olive, jackfruit and moringa. Hugelkulture works in the humid tropics (monsoon tropics too) at least because it offers well drained growing beds.


Totally awesome use of hugelkultur. So you are using this concept for keeping some of your plants out of the soggy soil...

How is your fish operation doing? My friend raises tilapia in his garage. I am a little leery of farm raised fish however I must admit I know hardly nothing of the concept.

I wonder if any ancient mounds have ever been discovered in the monsoon tropics.

Do you per chance know of anyone whom I can hire to design my 1 - acre lot for me?

Thanks,





 
Jim Bryant
Posts: 55
Location: Piedmont Region of North Carolina
food preservation forest garden
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Rogers John wrote:
Aristotle, I have been doing hugelkulture for about six years. For me it started as a way to value the dead trees that were already on my property and to add time release fertility capsules to the young forest garden. Lately I have been using these mounds as safe growing space for species that cannot tolerate soggy soil, like papaya, avocado, olive, jackfruit and moringa. Hugelkulture works in the humid tropics (monsoon tropics too) at least because it offers well drained growing beds.


Do you think that you could design an outstanding permaculture system for an acre of land in central North Carolina?

Thank you,
 
Cathryn Doney
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Well the first biochar hugelkultur bed is underway Now all I need to do is be patient and wait for the wet season to do it's thing. I didn't dig, in the end we just collected burnt wood from a recent bush fire, put a layer of compost on top, then a layer of dirt and leaf litter, then a layer of straw, more dirt, and lawn clippings. Waiting to get enough chook poo and will continue to layer like this. I'm planning to sow a legume mix over the wet season (dont' know if it will stand up to the monsoon and humidity but we'll see) and turn it back in. Hopefully by March 2016 it will be perfect! Thanks for all your suggestions, really appreciate it. Cheers, Cathryn.
 
Troy Santos
Posts: 40
Location: Southern Thailand
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I'd love to get some updates on these tropical hugel beds. I'm in Thailand doing urban agriculture research. I suggested hugel beds to the participants in my research. Only one guy took up the idea and his hasn't worked out so well. I keep thinking I didn't put on enough soil. Just starting to write my thesis, so I'm still super interested to learn more about hugel in the tropics. If anyone knows of research that I can cite in my thesis, please tell. I've seen a couple of things about how wood decomposes under soil, but nothing about hugel specifically, and for sure nothing in the tropics. I realize that hugel beds aren't especially suited to urban areas, but they are very doable on a small piece of land as well as on a large piece of land. Even putting wood in a plastic tote or styrofoam box and covering it with soil works!
 
amarynth leroux
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We're in Southern Mexico - dry tropics in description but in wet seasons the rains really come down heavily.  Traditional hugel did not work for us, but what did, was hugel with raised bed on top.  I'm sure there is a name for that.  The raised beds have some agricultural cloth around them kept in place with local wood as uprights, to keep the soil and compost in place.  Doing traditional hugel, what happened is that with the tremendous amounts of rain, the soil washed from the top and we ended up with bare wood doing it traditionally.  This is very consistent with our local landscape which is flatter open areas with deep soil, and higher small hills basically rocky that keeps the soil in place.  Now we dig down, make the hugel with all kinds of wood where we need to clean up forest, start with the biggest that we have and work up to finer material.  Then the agricultural cloth goes up at least 1 meter and that is filled with a mix of our own compost and local soil that we dug out in the first place.  A light layer of mulch on top and it seems to work better than traditional huge hugel mounds at least in our local conditions.  We have the one test bed up now over 3 seasons, 2 wet and 1 dry, and besides a bit of settling of the upper soil mass in the raised bed, it seems to be working well.  It keeps moist even though water disappears from the surface to sub-surface within hours after rain.     
 
Troy Santos
Posts: 40
Location: Southern Thailand
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Thanks for this. I really appreciate creativity and innovativeness based on local conditions
 
Andrew Cavanagh
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A few thoughts.

I live in the monsoonal tropics and I put wood in to fill up banana circles years before I ever really heard of Hugelkultur.

I didn't see any really noticeable improvement in water retention short term.

I will say years later I don't water my bananas in those banana circles during the dry season and they do just fine.


In one of these 4 videos Wade Bauer recommends using Hugelkutur in the tropics which would suggest it works...


He also suggests putting a layer of coconut halves six inches down in vegetable beds to catch and hold water for plants.


As someone already said using charcoal in the tropics is a powerful soil amendment...especially if you soak it in worm juice, worm tea, urine or some other highly biologically active starter or mix the charcoal in when you start your compost pile.

Google Terra Preta soil for some insights on why this can be a huge long term soil improver.

If you are going to burn word to create charcoal you should really do it in useful every day ways like using a Top Lit Updraft (TLUD) cooker to cook your food or heat your water (or both).

If you have to burn scrub for fire protection you can do that with a top lit fire in a pit with water control to create charcoal too.

I wouldn't be just burning wood to create charcoal.  That's poor use of resources.
 
Troy Santos
Posts: 40
Location: Southern Thailand
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Thanks Andrew. I like your idea to put wood in banana circles. I'll watch Wade's videos.
 
Andrew Cavanagh
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If you do get heavy rain where you live it's a good idea to put a fine layer of sand or grass clippings in the bottom of your banana circle first before putting wood over that.

Without a fine layer before it matures the bottom of your banana circle can fill with water providing a habitat for mosquitoes to breed.
 
Troy Santos
Posts: 40
Location: Southern Thailand
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For about the first 20 minutes of the 2nd video (37 minutes total), Wade and the lecture attendees talk about their experiences with Hugelkultur. So it is apparent that more than a few people have used the method in Hawaii. After the hugelkultur bit they talk about sheet mulch beds. Good talk
 
Jason Manning
Posts: 14
Location: Udon Thani, Thailand
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I am looking to incorporate a form of HC to improve water retention on my very flat land during the 6 month dry season we have here in North-eastern Thailand. The main hurdle I have is that there is virtually no wood available. I do have an acre of eucalyptus on the site, but I would rather use this resource for posts and basic construction.

What we do have plentiful supply of is rice byproducts (straw and husks) and possibly suger cane and corn waste.

I would like to get people's thoughts on using them in hugelesque covered ditches to hold water for a food forest for the first couple of dry seasons while it gets established. After that time, the ditches would evolve into shallow swales being protected from the sun by everything growing above it.

If someone has done something similar and reported it here, a link would be very much appreciated.
 
Troy Santos
Posts: 40
Location: Southern Thailand
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You're in Udon ... I'm in Hat Yai You get a decent cold spell that gets to about zero celcius, and long dry hot season. I think it's a super cool idea to bury all that stuff. I suppose I'd mix it up first, but if you bury the stuff separately, boy, make sure you know what is where, and to some extent, plant the same things in the various parts, then note plant characteristics and vigor & health. One word of caution ... I think the sugar cane bagass will attract tons and tons of ants! But maybe I'm wrong. Regarding the rice husks, realize that they take a long time to break down, even under soil, and many people in the colder climates would say that's great, except that unless they're already somewhat decomposed, I'll bechya their decomposing agents'll (bacteria and fungi?) drag nitrogen out of the soil in order to break them down. If there are cows around who like to poop, be sure there's a person nearby who is happy to scoop Also regarding the rice husks, you realize that some people say that burying biochar (in your case, the charred rice husks) in the soil, in an HC bed is a great idea. Others are not so sure. Just gotta try it out on your own

I don't have any experience trying what you're gonna try, and don't know who has but I'm interested to follow this project

One more thing: if you're not so far from a city, where people have trees, or where there is a tree cutting service ... hit them up

 
Jason Manning
Posts: 14
Location: Udon Thani, Thailand
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Hi Troy. Thanks for the supportive comments. Certainly a good idea about getting in touch with tree cutters (we're about 45 mins from the city so doable).

Here is a rough plan of the food forest part of the farm which is currently a eucalyptus plantation. The 2 circles are what I was proposing. Once settled/sunk they would be used as swales for the road run-off and I guess, overflow from the pond that I intend to use as a reed bed filter for my black water.

My plan is very rough at the moment, so aplogies if noone can see what on Earth is supposed to be happening there!
Slide1-APR-2017.jpg
[Thumbnail for Slide1-APR-2017.jpg]
Na Chum Saeng - Food Forest Plan
 
Troy Santos
Posts: 40
Location: Southern Thailand
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Just thought ... I wonder if eucalyptus is allelopathic (i.e. hinders the growth of other vegetation). If so, you might want to avoid using it in hugel beds anyway. I hope you post back here in the future about your hugelkultur beds
 
Jason Manning
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Location: Udon Thani, Thailand
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I will start a proper thread about my exploits in the future when I get enough time to draw up better plans and have managed to collate my ever expanding ideas universe.
 
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