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hugelculture and winter sowing

 
James Dunn
Posts: 7
Location: Zone 5
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
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tl;dr I'm not sure what to sow in my hugelbed during the winter months, if anything.

Permie noob here. I found this place via YouTube, through researching chickens and farming. My chickens have been slowly revitalizing the earth in my backyard. The soil was garbage when I moved in a little over 2yrs ago. I don't know what the last tenants did. I still find old batteries in the yard from time to time. Anyway, this year things started growing, and I let just them. Partly because I'm lazy, and partly because I was curious as to what would happen. We've got lichen and moss and tall grasses and weeds and saplings. Even a couple of volunteer tomato vines. I really only trimmed the area a few times with the weed whacker, just to discourage snakes from making a home near my birds. Sort of chop and drop. I let the milkweed alone, because it drew in a bunch of cool insects like the monarch butterfly and tiny garden wasps. It grew to at least 4ft tall.

You guys inspired me with all this permaculture stuff, and so now I'm trying my hand at hugelculture. I don't think the landlord will care one way or the other, as long as the rent's on time. I already had a bunch of wood in my backyard from fallen/felled trees. More than I could have used for firewood. Also, the stars aligned, and I had a 3 day break in the cold weather that happened to coincide with my days off work! Providence!

So I piled the wood East to West, along the contour of my yard. As I was moving the wood, I found a ton of fungus under there, and even some tiny microclimates where green grass was still growing! The chickens loved that. Raked some halfway decomposed autumn leaves into a few piles. Cut down any brush on the property that was still standing and piled it. Spread out a bale of hay on top of the wood and added the leaves. Then, dug a mini-swale about 7in deep (since ground is frozen today) along the North side of the hugelbed, to catch the rainwater runoff from South side of the house (where we're missing a gutter), and piled the dirt on top. Topped it off with the brush, and filled the mini-swale with pine shavings that I had around for chicken bedding. The finished product is about 15' x 5' x 2-1/4' tall.

I tried to follow along with Paul's article and video as closely as possible. But the very last step is to sow seeds immediately. It's actually snowing today. I'm not sure what to plant, if anything.

I'm attaching some pictures I took during the process. Enjoy!
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wood pile
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hay and leaves added
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finished hugelculture bed
 
James Dunn
Posts: 7
Location: Zone 5
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
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After searching the forums a bit more, I've decided to plant some veggies that are "winter hardy" and hope for the best. Worst case scenario, I chop and drop in the springtime, and sow again.
 
patrick canidae
Posts: 74
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Congrats on taking action, instead of just thinking something!

Winter hardy vegetables are sown in summer or early fall and are near maturity when frosts set in. You can't germinate in frozen ground!
Examples; kale, rutabagas, spinach, cabbage, carrots

You have to finish your bed. Your logs are exposed, and you have no soil. I can't tell if you have shavings or snow, but if those are shavings they are going to eat up all your available nitrogen.

You need to get some top soil or finished manure type compost to cover your bed. At least a good foot deep or more.

Cover it with a tarp until germination temperature for cool season crops are reached in your area to keep it all from washing away.

You could also buy row cover material and make a pvc hoop structure over it. Let in some moisture, reduce chances of slide off erosion, and collect heat.

I would do the row cover, and buy a bunch of radish and cool season greens (spinach, lettuces, etc) seed and cover the whole pile with it just to get some growth when it warms up enough in early spring to get those things going. I also overseed everything in my grow beds with dutch white clover for ground cover, living mulch, and nitrogen fixation. It will germinate early. Then I just kill off spots of it with pieces of board or plastic and transplant plants into it when the seedlings are large enough to compete.
 
James Dunn
Posts: 7
Location: Zone 5
chicken forest garden hugelkultur
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You're right, Patrick. The soil was totally frozen. A hoop structure may be the way to go. There is a small amount of pine shavings on top from what was left in the bag. I thought, "What could it hurt?" I can sweep it off though.

A foot of top soil? Wow. That's like 25 40lb bags. I'll check with the local feed 'n' seed store to see what kind of deal I can get for a pickup truck bed full of top soil.

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I've still got loads to learn!
 
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