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Can I plant wind break trees on a hugelkultur mound without them risking falling over?

 
matthew boersma
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I was thinking of putting in 5-6 foot mounds to start my wind break for my front field where I will have my garden. I plan to plant trees on the outside windy edges and was thinking I could plant a good short, fat, and dense tree variety on top of the hugelkultur too. Thought it would look cool plus give me some head start on my wind break height. Is this something that anyone has done before that any of you permies crew would know about? Any insight would be amazing.

-Matt
 
John Polk
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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The short answer is no.

Hugelkultur beds are not meant for trees. As the wood decomposes, the bed shrinks and settles.
It is not a stable foundation for trees and their root systems.

Hugel beds are meant for annual plants.

 
Chris Wells
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Location: Zone 2b, Canadian Rockies
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forest garden hugelkultur solar
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I have seen this done in a standard hugelkultur and the trees toppled in the wind. I believe you will find John right in this matter.

There is a second option I've seen done successfully. It will depend on just how much wind we are talking about, but you might get away with a design similar to a keyhole bed with a level center that contains your tree.



It looks similar to what you see in the image above, except that the center is raised level with the brick, and the base of the center is filled with a combination of soil, gnarled root, branches, and other entangled stock that roots your tree in place.

This would raise your trees and provide for the protection you seek, but it would not be perfect. As the tree grows, the surrounding bed will become shaded; you'll need to factor this into your planting as crops that thrive in sun will not always have it. As a secondary concern, there is a delicate balance of root and branch stock in the base; you need enough to secure your tree, but not so much that you leave its roots bound. If it were me doing this, I'd dig a hole below ground level and pack organic nutrient in it, following with the gnarled root mass and earth, and then the tree. This ensures the root system finds benefit in growing deep. You only get one chance to do deep earth amendment with this approach, and you'll have no option to transplant once the tree roots are set in.

 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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I would recommend dialing it back to planting 1-2 feet up the mound -- that also offers better water opportunity and a possiblity to get ground level more shade. Once the trees are 20' tall, your 6'mound will be down to a 2' mound and more uniform anyway. Put some mulch and biomass producers at the top..
 
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