• Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Hugelkulture Misadventures

 
dan long
Posts: 272
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Remember in my first post how I'd mentioned you all taking the opportunity to learn from my negative experiences rather than making then yourself? Well, in the past 2 weeks, I've been hit with a double whammy of hugelkulture"learning experiences". In short: be aware that buliding sunken huglebeets are going to involve topping the new bed with sub soil (unless you already have very deep topsoil) and that the dirt you dig up to top the hugelbeet with will leave behind a pit that, if filled with rain water, will become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Hello Dengue Fever!

Believe it or not, this is the "soil" on top of the hugelbeet a week after I painstakingly slung it up there. None of the oat grass or cow peas I sowed have made an appearance but the quack grass is doing just fine; go figure. Sure, there is a smorgasbord of nutrients, organic matter and retained water underneath, but the dirt appears to be completely unaware. In fact, this layer of sun baked clay is harder than pre-calculus. What I have been doing since this photo was taken is putting on alternating layers of dirt and leaves. Hopefully the OM turns the subsoil into something that will behave a little bit more like topsoil.

See that knee deep pool of mud water? If you look close, you might see the mosquitoes making sweet love. I wound up bailing out the water like a sailor on a sinking ship, all the while swearing like said sailor as the mosquitoes had a field day with my juicy, tender calves. Only after 5 days, through a combination of bailing and evaporation, the hole dried up and I was finally able to get back to digging. Don't leave half dug pits at the end of the day. If it rains and fills up that pit, you are going to have to wait for it to dry up to go anywhere near it without getting eaten alive, much less do any actual digging. Dig it all the way so that even if it rains, you can fill up that pit with some wood and mulch to soak up the water and deny access to flying parasites.

Hugelkulture by hand is demanding enough as it is. You don't want mosquitoes feeding on you while you labor, nor do you want your new bed unusable to anything aside from creeping grass because you neglected to mix organic material in with your subsoil topping. An ounce of prevention, my fellow permies!


Note: this is copy-pasted from my blog (url in my signature). Some of the more colorful language and similes are edited out or replaced with something a little more family friendly.


 
Troy Santos
Posts: 36
Location: Southern Thailand
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Pix aren't showing up.

And, I don't get it ... how were mosky ponds created?
 
dan long
Posts: 272
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Troy Santos wrote:Pix aren't showing up.

And, I don't get it ... how were mosky ponds created?


Pix are on the blog. Mosquito ponds are created when digging up dirt to put on top of the hugel mound.
 
Zach Muller
gardener
Posts: 776
Location: NE Oklahoma zone 7a
35
bike books chicken dog forest garden urban
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
With a mound, alot of people top it with mulch to stop the drying and cracking of the uppermost soil, a young sprout cant poke through a hard case like that, unless its a renegade like Johnson or quack grass. If you want to do living mulch only some wetting with irrigation might be needed to get things sprouted.

Since im not familiar with your soils, forgive me if this is a stupid question, but rather than digging a pit into the subsoil could you just expand the area Dug and skim only top soil? What happened the the top soil from underneath the bed?

This is with machine, but same idea.
 
dan long
Posts: 272
4
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator


Since im not familiar with your soils, forgive me if this is a stupid question, but rather than digging a pit into the subsoil could you just expand the area Dug and skim only top soil? What happened the the top soil from underneath the bed?

One of the advantages that I am expecting from sinking it rather than scraping topsoil from around the bed is that a sunken bed should hold more water. Kinda like putting a swale underneath the bed itself. The other reason is that the subsequent beds are going to be formed closely together so more closely resemble the wide rows that everyone here is accustomed to so that the hugelbeets are more accepted. The space between these first two beds is just wide enough for a wheelbarrow to get through so there really isnt a very wide are to scarpe topsoil from anyways.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
Posts: 453
Location: North-Central Idaho
23
books food preservation fungi hugelkultur trees
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Dan
You definitely want to be adding that organic matter/mulch to your hugel beds as soon as you are done with them. It will help keep that subsoil from turning into that nasty cracked clay pot covering, or at the very least you won't know it's happening and eventually stuff will start to grow.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Pie
Posts: 1820
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
121
chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
hau Dan Long, I could not find your blog, the URL in your signature takes me no where. So I have no way to see what you are doing.

For sunken mounds it is customary to reserve the dirt dug for the topping layer.
I like to mix the dirt I dig for a mound with lots of green material and brown material before using it as the top coat.
I also use a 3-4 inch thick layer of straw over any fresh mound to keep the dirt moist while the cover crops sprout and grow in.
When you are building a fresh mound with the sunken method, you should end up with around 12-18 inches of above grade height of the mound.
If you are using enough wood in this method, the dirt dug out should, with the mentioned amendments, be enough to put on a topper layer.

It is of utmost importance to be able to stuff every nook, cranny and crevase with greens, browns, compost and compostables before you put any dirt on.
The reason is that these materials are what will get the mound working as they are supposed to work. If you need extra dirt, then you didn't use enough of the other materials during the build.
If, you do everything right and do find you need more dirt, then the place to get it is from the swale you will put right next to the sunken mound.
Planting some of the right types of plants and flowers will help curtail mosquitoes.
 
Sadie Smithy
Posts: 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My 2nd hugel (when it was 1-2 years old) attracted the attention of Yellowjackets

It was unpleasant to garden amongst those tiny beasts! My knee was swollen for weeks after the stung. I used the overturned glass bowl method; and they were successfully 'dispatched' without poisoning my garden.

While they were being starved under the bowl, I ordered coconut coir. When it was safe to dig in my hugel again, I mixed a coir slurry in a 40 gallon bucket (coir, fish emulsion, and a hose) and I filled in their void/nesting area.
Now, I cover or wash in coir, compost or dirt for my new hugels and if I see any subsidence during the season.
 
It's in the permaculture playing cards. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
  • Post Reply
  • Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic