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Geoff Lawton is Looking For Results of Hugelkultur 2-10+ Years After Being Built

 
Ryan A Miller
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geoff lawton and I are looking for pictures or film of any hugelkultur beds 2-10+ years after they were built to see the results.

Preferably, we'd like to see examples without any irrigation and would like to know the climate / average annual rainfall for the area.

Can anyone point me in the right direction? I've been looking for a week or so online and it seems I can't really find any slam dunk examples that really provide all necessary details (time started, time filmed, avg rainfall, irrigation used (if any), climate zone, etc.)

Again, we are looking for well-documented examples, not just pictures of amazing looking beds. Thank you very much!

P.S. Geoff and I aren't in direct contact. He just commented yesterday with this request here: (hehe) http://permaculturenews.org/2015/11/06/dont-try-building-hugel-swales-this-is-a-very-and-i-mean-very-bad-idea/
 
Giselle Burningham
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Thank you for this. I had not realised the mass of water, I have a lot of rainfall, but sandy topsoil, I was thinking of getting my tractor and use the acres of woodland on my large empty slightly slopeing paddocks and build hugels on my contours, so I think I had better stop and re look at the engineering. Much appreciated. Giselle
 
Ryan A Miller
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Giselle Burningham wrote:Thank you for this. I had not realised the mass of water, I have a lot of rainfall, but sandy topsoil, I was thinking of getting my tractor and use the acres of woodland on my large empty slightly slopeing paddocks and build hugels on my contours, so I think I had better stop and re look at the engineering. Much appreciated. Giselle


Hey glad that happened to help! Yeah apparently a church allowed some permies to build hugelkultur on swales on some pretty steep slopes and the result was a giant buoyant mudslide into the church lol
 
Ryan A Miller
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Anyone? Paul? This is a crucial and necessary step in validating hugelkultur's somewhat lofty claims... we need pictures, videos, and most importantly details of the long-term results with all aspects detailed otherwise these claims of non-irrigated paradises sound too good to be true. Then, with people selling PDC's, it starts to look like a scam / pyramid scheme type teaching model. I KNOW it's not, I just know that many people I talk with share similar concerns.
 
Miles Flansburg
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Ryan, did you look through some of the other threads under the hugelkultur forum here? There are some really good examples that our permies folks have posted over the years. There are , like, 12 pages.

http://www.permies.com/forums/f-117/hugelkultur
 
Ryan A Miller
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Miles Flansburg wrote:Ryan, did you look through some of the other threads under the hugelkultur forum here? There are some really good examples that our permies folks have posted over the years. There are , like, 12 pages.

http://www.permies.com/forums/f-117/hugelkultur


Thanks for the reply Miles, but unfortunately I did. I spent the last week looking through that and Youtube and Googling but haven't found anything that meets the specs I laid out in the original post. It seems like if a well-documented example exists, it would be a landmark achievement for hugelkultur and someone (I would think Paul) would have it bookmarked or at least have it come to mind and be able to easily find it for me. All of the threads I looked through were very short term (<1 year) and didn't have any follow up years later.

Since Geoff is asking the same question, it appears we are at a loss for real proof that hugelkultur can really provide abundance with no irrigation, all summer long, even in arid conditions, like I've heard Paul claim several times.

For example this is from http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/ -
- grow a typical garden without irrigation or fertilization
- has been demonstrated to work in deserts as well as backyards

Where are these demonstrations? It is a VERY BIG disservice to the cause if this is being claimed but not backed up.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Ryan A Miller wrote:
- has been demonstrated to work in deserts as well as backyards


Some of us have been discussing this for years, and still have not seen the example.
 
Peter Ellis
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I guess I am confused.
What has Sepp been doing with hugelkulture? Is his work not sufficiently documented for your purposes? I cannot imagine who would have better documentation on the subject.

Or is Sepp's work not staying around long enough for your purposes? That might be informative itself, right?

There is what strikes me as a rather confrontational tone developing in this thread, a thing that does not serve any constructive purpose whatsoever.

 
Tyler Ludens
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So far have not seen any hugelkultur examples from deserts.

 
Peter Ellis
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Tyler, why would you see hugelkulture examples from deserts? This forum and other parts of permies have had substantial discussion of huge mounds are not suitable for desert environments.

Seems to me we should be looking to examples of techniques appropriate to conditions.
 
Ryan A Miller
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Peter Ellis wrote:
What has Sepp been doing with hugelkulture? Is his work not sufficiently documented for your purposes? I cannot imagine who would have better documentation on the subject.

Or is Sepp's work not staying around long enough for your purposes? That might be informative itself, right?


Sepp is in the Alps and I believe he has a creek going onto his property. If I'm wrong about that, he at least has a lot of rainfall. I'm looking for desert / arid examples.

I found this interesting though: "Very few edicts to the concept are even aware of why sepp holzer did hugels in the first place. Quite simply it was done because he had a ton of low value trees around and removing them was more costly than their value.

Something had to be done, so Sepp buried them. That is it really. I have seen Holzer build berms with no wood in them for many other reasons; some of these go straight to full tree production because they will not slump in time like a hugel will." from http://permaculturenews.org/2015/11/06/dont-try-building-hugel-swales-this-is-a-very-and-i-mean-very-bad-idea/

Peter Ellis wrote:
There is what strikes me as a rather confrontational tone developing in this thread, a thing that does not serve any constructive purpose whatsoever.


I don't mean to sound negative, but I guess I am being confrontational because these claims do need to be confronted - they need to be backed up or otherwise reworded. It is constructive to confront false claims. It is not constructive to purport false claims.
 
Ryan A Miller
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Peter Ellis wrote:Tyler, why would you see hugelkulture examples from deserts?


Because Paul states that hugelkultur has been demonstrated to work in deserts...
 
Ryan A Miller
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Some of us have been discussing this for years, and still have not seen the example.


Dang... =/ Well thanks for the reply. I'm in Southern California which is basically becoming a desert, if that helps you all understand where I am coming from. I don't mean to sound agitated or rude at all - I am just a little frustrated because when I was brand new to permaculture, I told my family and friends how awesome it was that we could use hugelkultur to grow food in places that don't have any irrigation / wells (especially arid or desert climates). Now, I kind of look dumb if I don't have examples (and incidentally it gives permaculture a bad wrap). I want to be wrong.
 
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In this thread http://www.permies.com/t/12150/hugelkultur/hugelkultur-hot-arid-climate we discuss the lack of hugelkultur examples in arid climates and the related methods some of us have tried, such as buried wood beds. But so far I believe we are all still irrigating in order to grow normal vegetables.
 
Dave Dahlsrud
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I think part of utilizing appropriate techniques is utilizing appropriate plantings. Normal vegetables don't really grow in the desert. I think you could probably grow some marginal species in a hugelkultur system without irrigation in the desert, but I don't know since I don't live in a desert. I feel like what Lawton is getting at is determining what the most appropriate technique is for any given situation...hugelkultur is not a panacea just like swales aren't always the best option. You likely won't cause more harm than good, but your time and other resources might be better spent doing something else.
 
Barbara Greene
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Hi Ryan,
I have a friend who lives near me in the Okanogan Valley of North Central Washington who has a great blog on growing her food with the buried "Hugelkultur" or wood beds with some , but minimal water used during our very hot and very dry summers. Yes, we were in the middle of the new worst wild land fires of Washington this August.
Her name is Julie and this is her blog info, http://woodforfood.blogspot.com/
she has documented the transformation of her poor soils over a few years, into a bountiful garden on her blog.
She may be able to tell you just how much water she uses, and yes, in our dry and hot summer, it would be wishful thinking to expect big mounds of above ground Hugels to stay very wet for veggies.
I hope this helps a little bit.
Barbara
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think the frustration stems from the claim that hugelkultur (huge mounds with woody cores) can grow normal vegetables in deserts with no irrigation, when there are apparently no examples showing this is the case. What has been documented by examples is the efficacy of buried wood beds in reducing the need for irrigation. I think we need to be very careful to clarify what we mean by "hugelkultur," which is not "buried wood beds." We need to not conflate these two very different techniques.
 
Ryan A Miller
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Tyler Ludens wrote:In this thread http://www.permies.com/t/12150/hugelkultur/hugelkultur-hot-arid-climate we discuss the lack of hugelkultur examples in arid climates and the related methods some of us have tried, such as buried wood beds. But so far I believe we are all still irrigating in order to grow normal vegetables.


Thanks Tyler, I did see this threat but admittedly scrolled through most of the second half of it looking for picture examples or links to examples. Going back now and reading all of it for people's insights / adaptations.

Tyler Ludens wrote:I think the frustration stems from the claim that hugelkultur (huge mounds with woody cores) can grow normal vegetables in deserts with no irrigation, when there are apparently no examples showing this is the case. What has been documented by examples is the efficacy of buried wood beds in reducing the need for irrigation. I think we need to be very careful to clarify what we mean by "hugelkultur," which is not "buried wood beds." We need to not conflate these two very different techniques


Couldn't agree more but I'd like to change "normal vegetables" to just "a good amount of food bearing plants" - the main frustration lied in thinking I could planting seeds and wait for the very scarce rains to come and not need to irrigate at all. If this were the case, I could buy cheap land without a well or connection to the water grid. I still may be able to do that if I harvest rain water for a year before I plant, which is what I'll be researching here next.

We definitely need to differentiate - sunken buried wood-beds with high rock borders for shade and wind protection along with heavy mulching makes the most sense for me in the desert. If you have no rocks available, I can see creating hills (hugels) as wind breaks, but I'd still bury the wood in the trenches to collect and hold onto rain, not in the hills.
 
Ryan A Miller
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Dave Dahlsrud wrote:I think part of utilizing appropriate techniques is utilizing appropriate plantings. Normal vegetables don't really grow in the desert. I think you could probably grow some marginal species in a hugelkultur system without irrigation in the desert, but I don't know since I don't live in a desert. I feel like what Lawton is getting at is determining what the most appropriate technique is for any given situation...hugelkultur is not a panacea just like swales aren't always the best option. You likely won't cause more harm than good, but your time and other resources might be better spent doing something else.


I don't think I ever said "normal vegetables" but I couldn't agree more - thanks for leveling out my head and widening my scope. I definitely had tunnel vision due to the claims, lol. Mucho appreciated!
 
Ryan A Miller
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Barbara Greene wrote:Hi Ryan,
I have a friend who lives near me in the Okanogan Valley of North Central Washington who has a great blog on growing her food with the buried "Hugelkultur" or wood beds with some , but minimal water used during our very hot and very dry summers. Yes, we were in the middle of the new worst wild land fires of Washington this August.
Her name is Julie and this is her blog info, http://woodforfood.blogspot.com/
she has documented the transformation of her poor soils over a few years, into a bountiful garden on her blog.
She may be able to tell you just how much water she uses, and yes, in our dry and hot summer, it would be wishful thinking to expect big mounds of above ground Hugels to stay very wet for veggies.
I hope this helps a little bit.
Barbara


Beautiful blog / pictures / harvest! Wow! Even though irrigation was used, the difference between her property and the distant hills is so drastic! I asked her for her watering specs - thanks again Barbara!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Ryan A Miller wrote:

Couldn't agree more but I'd like to change "normal vegetables" to just "a good amount of food bearing plants" -


The reason I said normal vegetables was because of the claim "grow a typical garden without irrigation or fertilization." I think it would be possible to grow a good amount of food bearing plants using buried wood beds/mulch pits in swales which concentrate the runoff from a large area to a smaller area, effectively multiplying the amount of rainfall. Careful selection of drought-tolerant food crops and careful timing of planting could produce a good crop. But not with hugelkultur, in my opinion.
 
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Ryan,

It's been exactly 2 years since I've built my true hugelkultur.
I've documented the process fairly well I think. Take a look.
the 2015 update tells information about the conditions.

see link:
http://permies.com/t/29919/hugelkultur/large-Hugelkultur-Work-Progress#416928

 
Jesus Martinez
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If you take eastern washington for example, that is classified as temperate desert, in the wenatchee or yakima areas. Hugelkultur would be effective for growing the many fruit trees the area is well-known for and I could definitely see there not being a need for traditional irrigation, something that the area is heavily depdendent upon under normal circumstances. The difference though is that the roots of trees or shrubs will easily reach down through mound into the covered, moist logs and most likely completely underneath the whole structure, which would keep the roots in the area of the hugelmound most likely to retain water.

In my own western washington, I've found that the tops of my various hugel mounds/beds can at times be completely dry and would be very unfriendly to new life, but anything that had roots that grew throught he dry topsoil into the wood would have a better chance at life.
 
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Jesus Martinez wrote:If you take eastern washington for example, that is classified as temperate desert, in the wenatchee or yakima areas. Hugelkultur would be effective for growing the many fruit trees the area is well-known for and I could definitely see there not being a need for traditional irrigation, something that the area is heavily depdendent upon under normal circumstances. The difference though is that the roots of trees or shrubs will easily reach down through mound into the covered, moist logs and most likely completely underneath the whole structure, which would keep the roots in the area of the hugelmound most likely to retain water.


Sometimes it is very hard to post without sounding argumentative, but in no way do I mean to be. That being said, this is exactly what this thread is about. Saying that it would be effective, and showing it to be so are vastly different things. People keep saying that Hugelkultur would work in these areas, but no one seems to have examples of it being so.

I'm not seeing any evidence presented by anyone that "the covered, moist logs" even exist in a desert environment. I think for desert regions there is much more evidence that that buried wood gardens like Tyler and others are experimenting with are the way to go.

I moved to Wisconsin from Phoenix a few years ago and my former business partner still lives there. On my next visit, I'll see if we can build a hugel in his yard and document the progress. At this point though, I don't expect to get the results that people are getting in other climates.
 
Jesus Martinez
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I totally understand where you are coming from, especially having lived in the Phoenix area.

I think part of the issue here is a combination of too few people doing hugel work in arid climates and even fewer people have documented their hugel works in sufficient detail to meet your criteria. In my experience, the permaculture community is not well known for their computer related prowess and so even some of the highly successful permaculture projects are poorly documented. As a side, even the "well documented" projects on this forum are hidden behind ad hoc forum posts mixed with loads of (sometimes unrelated) comments.
 
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Jesus Martinez wrote:I totally understand where you are coming from, especially having lived in the Phoenix area.

I think part of the issue here is a combination of too few people doing hugel work in arid climates and even fewer people have documented their hugel works in sufficient detail to meet your criteria. In my experience, the permaculture community is not well known for their computer related prowess and so even some of the highly successful permaculture projects are poorly documented. As a side, even the "well documented" projects on this forum are hidden behind ad hoc forum posts mixed with loads of (sometimes unrelated) comments.


You could very well be right about that. I expect that many "back to the land" type people have little interest in discussing what they are doing with people they don't know, and may very well never have even heard the term "permaculture" or know these forums exist.
 
d tyler huff
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ISSUES with Hugel grow beds...

In regards to above cited comment from Geoff Lawton.

_____

We've just begun building our own hugel laden grow beds here in the northern Catskills. These grow beds will be seeded with annuals for a limited CSA for the 2016 season.

We're using medium sized logs, some branches and sticks. All are well rotted, years if not decades, pulled from the surrounding forested area. Mostly Sugar Maple, Poplar, Pine, and some birch.

Our grow beds are dug out of a preexisting lawn. We'll dig up the sod, place the logs in the trench, fill the gaps between the woody material with soil, turn the sod over and place on top of the bed, then cover the entire lot with an additional 9-12 inches of well aerated soil. We'll inoculate the soil with mycrorizal fungi. Then, import organic compost, to get the ball rolling. One month later, we'll seed or transplant our annuals into the beds.

ISSUES.

There seem to be two critical issues with using Hugelkultur in grow beds. (There are other additional issues associated when building massive hugel mounds of the sepp holzer type, for instance... landslides).

1. Nitrogen Sequestration. Woody material, significantly recently chopped, will sequester Nitrogen as it breaks down, absorbing it from the surrounding soil. The older the felled wood, the less nitrogen it will drain from the soil. Still, the process is significant.

Solution: wait a significant amount of time (one year, or two?) to plant annuals on these beds (allowing nitrogen fixing cover cropping to work), or, incorporate significant amounts of nitrogen laden materials (fresh grass clippings, turned over sod, human urine, chicken shit) under the soil, near the woody material.

2. Anaerobic Trap. Digging a ditch and placing within it woody material can run the risk of trapping water in the basin, if the soil is "hard pan", heavy clay, or just not well drained. This water will then encourage the development of anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria are said to bleed nitrogen from surrounding soil, and are anathema to beneficial nitrogen fixing bacteria, as well as beneficial fungi and other microfauna.

Solution: Ensure adequate drainage. If sinking wood in a trench, dig a ditch that will allow the water to wick away. If laying the wood on the surface of a lawn, fork the lawn ahead of time to allow for adequate penetration of water.

_____

Perhaps this is the experience / perspective of others regarding hugel grow beds. I for one would like to hear your thoughts.
 
Tyler Ludens
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d tyler huff wrote:fresh grass clippings


Fresh grass clippings are prone to forming an anaerobic mat.

 
d tyler huff
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
d tyler huff wrote:fresh grass clippings


Fresh grass clippings are prone to forming an anaerobic mat.



Ok, obviously one doesn't want to just layer grass clippings willy nilly without mixing them into the soil like one would any other amendment.

And what about those pieces of sod turned over? Seems to me like the perfect opportunity for compaction and thus anaerobic decomposition.
 
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Those pieces of sod turned over would just keep growing in Texas. But I imagine in climates where that works, the grass is short enough to make a very thin layer when compressed.

Grass isn't the only material that is prone to matting. I've seen it happen with shredded bark and leaves. I think the deciding factor is a uniform sized and a uniform material. There aren't many uniform items the average gardener would acquire in bulk so we don't see much of it. Even cleaning a monoculture bed of dead plant matter at the end of a season will have a combination of leaves and stems in different sizes and thicknesses.
 
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Grass isn't the only material that is prone to matting. I've seen it happen with shredded bark and leaves. I think the deciding factor is a uniform sized and a uniform material.
My experience verifies this. Sometimes, also, if materials are soft/moist in nature (like pea vines), they can break down to an anaerobic slime, if laid down as a mat. But if they are mixed with some straw the matting effect is broken.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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