I have recently finished building four small hugelbeds in our backyard. (Yay!) I have planted a cover crop of oats and peas in an effort to hold everything together over the winter and prepare for a spring planting. (Yay!) However, I'm wondering how best to water my cover crops without losing all the soil to erosion. My soil is very silty/clay-ey, so although I have amended it with bagged soil & compost, it has a tendency to dry out and roll down my beds in big ol' clumps (aka baked rocks) and fill in my walkways. Any tips on keeping things moist till the oats and peas come up and miraculously hold everything together? (That's what they're going to do, right???) I know that in time, the decaying wood will be an underlying sponge and this won't be a problem, but I also know I'm not there yet.
When the soil is held in place it might become much easier to water? I would use the finest misting type of spray I could find , or a drip / soaker hose . Either way you may have to spend a little more time and take a little more care until things start to grow.
If you have any grass clippings or other plant matter, that you could cover the soil with as a mulch , that might help too. You just need to be sure that it hasn't been spayed with any toxic gick !
For sure you will be wanting to mulch that sucker up good! Grass clippings like Miles suggested or old hay are my go to mulches for new beds. Compost is great if you have enough to go around. Get some organic matter on there to cover the soil and your going to have much better success. The mulch will keep things moist and should help hold things together better for you.
Making these beds can be a little tricky. If you do not have enough soil to do a thick layer of soil you will have to do a few things to keep the soil from sluffing to the sides. The people above are correct, mulching with grass or other organic material will give the soil something to hold onto and prevent some sluffing on small amounts of water presented by sprinklers or the rain.
I suspect you are looking for greater soil holding physical mechanism. In many of the videos of the big beds, they propose saving some of your sticks. These sticks are to help provide a more solid "scaffolding" of the covering soil of the bed. The process seems simple enough, some sticks that are branched (a Y) you save as "nails" for your structure. You simply cut just below the Y and cut a few inches down one branch, the other branch is left 6-8 inches long and you have a nail. Then you simply place some of the straight sticks (diameter less than 1/2") horizontally on the pile. Next, you take a few of these "nails" and drive them into the pile so that the horizontal sticks will stay in place. I would say to slightly mulch areas under the sticks with organic matter that will catch the sluffing soil, such as broad leaves or roots of plants. When all the nails are driven in, mulch the pile, water and plant your oats.
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I have three sizes of watering cans: 10 liter, 5 liter and 1 liter
I noticed that I only can use the small 1 liter can to water my hugelbeds, because it has the finest holes. Even then on my sandy soil, I can only apply water in the same spot for a short time. If the soil is very dry I have to move on to the other side of the bed, giving the water the time to be absorbed. Then I come back for another round of watering of the first side..
When building a bed I use a watering hose with the finest spray setting so the water is a fine soft mist and move on to the next spot if the water stops being absorbed.
The best method to use for watering a brand new growing mound is a mist head.
These put out a very fine spray (usually used to cool humans off at places like zoos).
We found ours at Walmart in the garden and pool section.
You can find them in the sprinkler area of Home Depot or Lowe's also.
They can be hose type or pipe fitting, so you can set them up and move them or they can be a permanent set up, depending on the type you buy.
Other than those, a watering wand will work but not quite as well.