Recently I was assigned to design an orchard on a piece of land which is about 5 acres. I have the base-map and the contour map going. And I am planning for keyline design (drawing the keylines as we speak/forum). But at the same time I LOVE Hugelkulturs and was wondering if you would recommend planting fruittrees on top of huge hugelkultur beds on keyline? Thanks a million times for your insight! Cheers and Peace!
...wondering if you would recommend planting fruit trees on top of huge hugelkultur beds on keyline?
No, I wouldn't.
Hugelkultur beds are mostly recommended for annual crops, not trees.
Hugels sink & settle as the woody materials decompose.
Tree roots need to be established in soil that remains stable.
Planting down grade from the hugelbed will allow the roots to gather water from the plume that develops.
Thanks John... what if we let the hugelkultur beds settle in winter and plant in them in spring? Or even let it settle for one year (with under-story row covers and mulch covering it) and then put the fruit trees in the following year?
I am thinking maybe if the beginning shifts and changes of the first year are over, then the roots of the trees would eventually help to keep the bed in place? What do you think?
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It can take many years for the bed to break down - a decade or longer, depending on climate, soil, microbial life, etc.
That is their function. That is why they are built for annual plants.
Even dwarf fruit trees would be out of place on a hugel bed.
Dwarf root stock is usually supported by a staking system.
A hugelbed would be far too unstable for a tree that is expected to produce fruits for decades.
I will stick to trees on the keylines on the ground then. To prepare the soil I would lasagna and sheet mulch them.
Maybe I put some trees above (elevated from) a hugelkultur bed that has things like strawberries, sun-chokes or clovers on it. I guess this way, the trees will be on the ground but will eventually dig their roots into the decayed hugelbeds downhill, down the road. What do you think?
Water coming down the hill will only pass over where you have an uphill tree. It will then stall at the hugelbed and soak in, soaking the wood in the hugel, and eventually soak the soil just downhill from the hugel. Depending on precipitation, a water loving tree might like being in the swale of the hugel, but might also get too much water. So where to put trees depends on a lot of things: precipitation and tree species for starters. At least that's what I'm picking up from my brand new Permaculture Design Manual. ;D
All good points. But please remember I am not putting the trees on a hugel swale. The beds are not on contour. They are on keyline. Water will not stay. It will flow to dryer ridges.
By the way... the link was a very cool read Callan! Thanks!
Keep in mind with this type of hugeling(?) that you are going to increase the likelihood of creating frost pockets, the same can be said of swales in your climate (I'm assuming your orchard project is in Toronto-ish area). If you're set on that idea make sure to take that into account. That's one reason many people want to have really odd shaped hugels with lots of swirly, curves, and direction changes. You could do the keyline subsoiling to move water from wet areas to drier areas and then build your hugels over the top to create texture in the landscape and account for/direct the cold air coming down the hill, just an idea.
Thanks for your reply. Yes the land I am designing for is in Milton, Ontario. It gets pretty cold here!!!
That is essentially the main reason I am not doing swales. I heard in one of Paul Wheaton's interviews that swales can create frost pockets in cold climates.
I am drawing keylines all over the place which means none of the beds will be straight and I am moving as much of water from the wet areas to the dry areas. The concerning cold air in this area comes from north/west. So I am planning to put most of my hardy standard fruit trees on the north-west line to create as much wind block as possible. Do you think I should put bigger evergreens instead? What would you recommend for windbreaks?
And what do you mean by "build your hugels over the top"? Do you mean in between the keylines subsoiling lines?
There are 10 feet between keylines I am drawing and they are all curvy. Since I want to guild my trees as well, I was thinking to put hugels on every other bed (between keylines). These (every other) bugel beds will get the tree guild plants such as comfrey and clover and bee balms and stuff. Then the other in between beds would be on the ground (no hugels) and the trees would go on those.
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