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Hugelkultur for making soil?

 
                  
Posts: 19
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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Has anyone tried using hugelkultur beds as a quicker way to generate good topsoil?  The land we are on needs lots of rehabilitation.  There is no topsoil in zone 1, and I have an abundance of brush that I have been spending many weeks clearing.  What would happen if I bound the slash tightly into 'logs' and buried them in a typical hugelkultur preparation instead of using real logs?  My thinking on this is that by binding them tightly, they should retain loads of water, but also lots of air spaces.  I believe these beds would break down quicker into good quality topsoil I could then spread out.  Once the beds are spread out I can always find more slash for more beds, repeating the process as needed.  Does this sound like it would work, or am I missing something important here?

Our pigs did a great job building soil for us in their paddock, and next year we will add lots more of these farm workers to help us transform other areas of the property.  We don't generate much in the way of compost here, since it's only the two of us, so there's not much soil being created there.  I want to find a good solution to my problem of an overabundance of slash, and too little top soil, without burning the slash and buying in soil.

We are using ratchet straps to tighten the bundles of slash into logs about 10' long, then we tie twine tightly next to the strap, move the strap 18" or so, and repeat.  I would also like to experiment with inoculating these logs with gourmet mushroom spawn, or adding already inoculated logs in the middle of the slash bundles.  I think that could produce some interesting results.

I'll add some pictures later, after the rain stops and we can get back to work.

d
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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Because we had a lot of soil moving around from pond digs the past several years, we have been pushing over some brush and trees and burying them under the pond soil salvage..and it sure does build up soil fast !! AND MUSHROOMS !! If you bury a lot of the right kind of brush and logs and wood materials under the soil you sure get a lot of mushrooms in no time fast !! I have mushrooms sprouting up like, well, mushrooms.

you can tell where the logs are, the mushrooms sprout right above them.

my regular hugelkulture beds didn't necessarily sprout mushrooms, but in the other areas where things are flatter with just a thin layer of soil over a lot of logs and brush and forest duff..i have had tons of mushrooms..it was just like a fairy forest around here..
 
Tyler Ludens
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That's so encouraging, Brenda.  I've planted edible mushroom spawn in some hugel beds and I sure hope they grow.  I think I might try some plug spawn in slightly buried logs also. 

 
Joel Hollingsworth
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Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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It sounds as though it might be less labor-intensive to compost with that brush on the surface.

If you can get clover growing well, maybe piling brush on top of the clover sparsely enough that it grows through the layer of mulch repeatedly, then when you run out of brush, piling it all up into a hot compost pile.

What you're describing sounds entirely practical, though.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Location: zone 7
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i actually had this idea about a month ago. but i dont have any areas where this would work for me. but for some i think it could produce a lot of great topsoil in no time.
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Why would the labor of bundling the brush as a log be better than just digging trenches and pushing the brush into the trench before topping with soil?

By what mechanisms would a buried bundle of brush store a greater pool of moisture than brush buried any other way?

Just trying to point the questions at your labor costs.  That said... I bury all kinds of stuff.  An added function is increased percolation and so I think burying debris goes well with swales or other water collecting structures.
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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yeah i kinda agree that bundling might be a bit of overkill..just push soil over the brush ..we also fill in lower areas of the property with brush and then pile soil over it and level it out some with the tractor to make more level areas..they are generally great for holding moisture in the soil as we have a very high water table..
 
                  
Posts: 19
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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Paul Cereghino wrote:
Why would the labor of bundling the brush as a log be better than just digging trenches and pushing the brush into the trench before topping with soil?

By what mechanisms would a buried bundle of brush store a greater pool of moisture than brush buried any other way?

Just trying to point the questions at your labor costs.  That said... I bury all kinds of stuff.  An added function is increased percolation and so I think burying debris goes well with swales or other water collecting structures.


Hi Paul,

Originally, I was thinking the bound 'logs' would hold more water since everything would be tightly packed and not as easy for the water to just run through the loose slash.  It is quite a bit more labour intensive than I had anticipated, though, so I'm only going to do one bed this way, and the rest with just buried slash.  Then I'll see if there is any differences as the beds break down.

d
 
                  
Posts: 19
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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Brenda Groth wrote:
Because we had a lot of soil moving around from pond digs the past several years, we have been pushing over some brush and trees and burying them under the pond soil salvage..and it sure does build up soil fast !! AND MUSHROOMS !! If you bury a lot of the right kind of brush and logs and wood materials under the soil you sure get a lot of mushrooms in no time fast !! I have mushrooms sprouting up like, well, mushrooms.

you can tell where the logs are, the mushrooms sprout right above them.

my regular hugelkulture beds didn't necessarily sprout mushrooms, but in the other areas where things are flatter with just a thin layer of soil over a lot of logs and brush and forest duff..i have had tons of mushrooms..it was just like a fairy forest around here..


That's great news, Brenda!  We live on the east coast of Canada where there are LOADS of mushrooms growing wild, but nobody seems to be growing their own.  We have perfect conditions for them here, and I want to come up with a way of using the mushrooms to break down the slash into soil faster, where I can enjoy the benefit of lots of tasty gourmet shrooms in the meantime.

Blueberries grow everywhere here too, and I'm thinking of using them as a cover crop on the hugelkultur beds.  I would expect the mushrooms to fruit below the blueberries as they do here in the wild.  Basically, I'm just planning to try everything I can think of, and seeing what works.  I have 84 acres to play with, so I might as well have fun!

d
 
                  
Posts: 19
Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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Ludi wrote:
That's so encouraging, Brenda.  I've planted edible mushroom spawn in some hugel beds and I sure hope they grow.  I think I might try some plug spawn in slightly buried logs also. 


Hi Ludi,

Could you explain what you did here?  I'm interested in knowing what strain of mushroom you used, what type of spawn (grain, sawdust, rice, etc), and what you did to add the spawn to the beds.  Do you make your own spawn, or buy it?  I picked up an All American #930 pressure canner, and I plan to use it this winter to make lots and lots of spawn jars.  I'm going to pick 10 species to start with, and see what happens.

d
 
Tyler Ludens
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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NB Permie wrote:

Could you explain what you did here?  I'm interested in knowing what strain of mushroom you used, what type of spawn (grain, sawdust, rice, etc), and what you did to add the spawn to the beds.  Do you make your own spawn, or buy it?


I bought the Three Amigos spawn kits from fungi perfecti, and put them in 3 separate, slightly differently constructed hugel beds.  Here's a thread about it at another forum:  http://malthusia.com/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=1110

The next I'm going to try are plug spawn of Shiitake, Chicken of the Woods, and Pearl Oyster.  There's a sale on at Fungi Perfecti if you buy three kits the price is reduced substantially. 

 
rose macaskie
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one of paul wheatons videos is of a man who piled up some brush one year and the nect dumped some soil on top and lots more  plants grew there. A te4stimony to the fat that it works  than in the surrondign land.
      I have brush, the trouble with loose brush is that you need such a lot of soil to cover it, Loose it makes a mixture with a smaller percentage of wood to soil. Maybe it rots down faster so you have less time with a substance that works as a sponge, they say that with hugglekulture you get bits of wood in the earth that work like sponges filling up with water. I have brush, thats how i know what the problems are when it comes to using it for huggle kultuer beds. agri rose macaskie.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/cards
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