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Hugelkultur bed in warm climate

 
Jazzy Paulson
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Location: So Cal, zone 9b, 8500 sq ft urban lot
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Will hugelkultur beds work in warm climates? I live in So Cal. Would it be better to dig about 1 foot down to start? But, then I would be disturbing the soil where there is already nice worms. I was thinking of only making them about 3 ft tall instead of 5-6 feet tall because I am afraid they would dry out. Taller would be better for me though, because I have back problems. I do have greywater from my laundry machine to make the wood moist to start. What if the wood was from a recently chopped down tree instead of rotten wood? I wanted to do a hugelkultur bed because we have water restrictions and I thought it would need less irrigation.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I found the hugel dried out in my warm, dry climate. So I tried buried wood instead and it has worked well, though I still need to irrigate a bit in order to grow a normal vegetable garden, but nothing like I used to have to do before I buried wood: http://www.permies.com/t/52077/hugelkultur/Buried-Wood-Beds

 
Jazzy Paulson
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Location: So Cal, zone 9b, 8500 sq ft urban lot
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Tyler, Do you mean burying everything so that the garden bed is flat with the surrounding dirt?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yes, in my experience only the wood below the level of the surrounding soil remains moist.

 
Tyler Ludens
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I've been thinking about this more, and I think the key is the size of the hugelkultur.  My above-ground hugelkultur were, in my opinion, super NOT BIG ENOUGH.  And my buried wood beds aren't deep enough because of a rock shelf down there, so they're more or less a giant container garden.  If I ever have the energy in the future, I want to try to make the giant size hugelkultur that Paul indicates is the real deal.  But I will have to make it by hand, so, it is daunting.  I haven't given up on the idea, because I don't see why it wouldn't work if the pile is big enough.
 
Tracy Wandling
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Ive been thinking the very same thing. I, too, have used the buried wood bed technique - although I'm lucky to be able to dig down deeper than you are able to, Tyler. But I think that most above ground hugelkultur beds 'fail' because they are too small. I agree that they need to be quite large, both in height and width, to be able to withstand drought. I believe they would work if they were big enough. And that's why above ground hugelkultur beds seem to 'fail' when people build them 'garden bed size'. Go big, or go deep. That seems to be the trick.
 
Marco Banks
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Like you, I'm in So. Cal.

My hugelkulture mound is 3 years old now, and this is the first year where I've seen it live up to its potential.  As you suggested, I started by digging down a foot and burying the first layer of wood well below grade.  It was mostly palm -- very fiber-y and soft.  After 3 seasons, it's breaking down and filled with fungi and worms.

I think if I could do it over again, I'd go a bit deeper when I built it -- maybe 2 feet deep.  And I'd make it wider rather than so steep.  Make it like a table, about 2 feet tall and 4 or 5 feet across the top.  That way you don't have soil washing down the sides of it when you water it.

 
Tyler Ludens
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Marco Banks wrote: when you water it.


I thought the idea is you don't need to water it.

 
Marco Banks
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Marco Banks wrote: when you water it.


I thought the idea is you don't need to water it.



We don't get rain from Feb. till November.  We've got to water everything here, including deep rooted trees.  But the key is that we don't have to water it as much.  I suppose that if we lived in a place where you get a rain storm twice a month, you wouldn't have to worry about watering, but the last storm was almost 5 months ago and the next storm is still months away.

I've got water loving plants growing on mine, including watermelon.  The melons are absolutely huge this year and are taking over a massive space under all my citrus trees. 
 
Tyler Ludens
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I know about long dry seasons! (and I used to live in Los Angeles) But hugelkultur is promoted as a way to garden without irrigation, even in the desert.  I'd love to see some examples of it in a warm climate, but so far I don't know of any.
 
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