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Confused - Beds/Techniques for Growing Annuals (Holzer v Lawton)?  RSS feed

 
Peter Kalokerinos
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So we're currently terracing a small section of our place in front of what will be our home for the next 5-10 years (maybe longer). Its obviously a good place for our main annuals to be grown, zone 1 etc.

This has been bugging me for a while now and having recently listened to Paul's podcast on "geoff lawton's Soil DVD" (number 20 to 30 something), its bugging me even more.

Geoff obviously knows WAY more about this stuff than me, but at the same time, I hold Sepp in higher regard (I just feel what Sepp does is at another level....anyway). The gobsmackingly obvious difference is that is would appear that Sepp only grows annuals in hugel beds, complete polyculture, no rows of stuff etc etc.

In all of the movies/films etc I have seen of Geoff's place (except one, being the medicinal garden which is a total mess - in a good way), it would appear that Geoff grows annuals "main crops" and "vegetables" in largely an organic/traditional manner i.e. in rows/partial monoculture.

Geoff has his beds on contour and "raised" about a foot. Sepp's hugels are off contour and massive.

So my question is, what do we do? Try a bit of both?

We've got one large hugel already, one of the terraces is about 20m x 20m so we can put a large "sun scoop" hugel on that. But we also have some narrower terraces about 3-4m wide and 20m long (effectively on contour).

My gut feel is to put hugels wherever we can and just throw a heap of seed around and see how we go. BUT Geoff obviously doesn't do this....or doesn't appear to....why?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Geoff's annual vegetable gardens are intensively planted and irrigated, Sepp's are extensively planted and not irrigated.  Those are the main differences I see.  I think if your conditions are similar to Sepp's you can probably successfully grow vegetables in the same manner Sepp does.  If your conditions are not similar, you may get poor results.

Personally I think it might be of value to try both methods (and others) and see what works for you.

 
Peter Kalokerinos
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Geoff's annual vegetable gardens are intensively planted and irrigated,


Its the irrigation that gets me. Geoff's place gets an average of 2400mm a year! 94 inches.....yet he still irrigates. This I dont understand. Why would you need it? is it due to his the volume he needs to produce and consistency perhaps? still seems at odds with "hard core" polyculture approaches

We get about 950mm on average. Worst year in recent times was 350mm and highest was about 1250mm.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Geoff's farm needs to grow vegetables enough to provide thousands of meals for students and staff,  so yes I think it is the volume and consistency and the desire to grow "normal" vegetables even through droughts. 
 
Peter Kalokerinos
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Geoff's farm needs to grow vegetables enough to provide thousands of meals for students and staff,  so yes I think it is the volume and consistency and the desire to grow "normal" vegetables even through droughts. 


That's the only conclusion I can come to as well. It's hardly a ringing endorsement of the Holzer method though. Although, Geoff has a heap of willing helpers/interns on site, so I guess they can afford the labour for all the weeding, tilling, composting etc......not exactly "sustainable" though, which makes me questions to "sustainability" of the Holzer method for larger scale production....unfair?
 
John Polk
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Holzer's method relies on having a surplus of logs. Great if you are clearing a lot of land.
Around here, a 30 foot long 6' x 6' hugel  would take about $2,000 worth of firewood.
So buying the wood is not a realistic option, especially if you need to transport it in.

 
Peter Kalokerinos
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John Polk wrote:Holzer's method relies on having a surplus of logs.


We've got more than we'll ever need, fortunately, so not an issue
 
Tyler Ludens
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Peter Kalokerinos wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:Geoff's farm needs to grow vegetables enough to provide thousands of meals for students and staff,  so yes I think it is the volume and consistency and the desire to grow "normal" vegetables even through droughts. 


That's the only conclusion I can come to as well. It's hardly a ringing endorsement of the Holzer method though. Although, Geoff has a heap of willing helpers/interns on site, so I guess they can afford the labour for all the weeding, tilling, composting etc......not exactly "sustainable" though, which makes me questions to "sustainability" of the Holzer method for larger scale production....unfair?


I think they have different goals. Geoff uses his farm to actively train a lot of people per year, Holzer's farm is, as far as I know, mostly a demonstration site which produces a variety of things for sale, including vegetables and fruit which visitors harvest themselves.   I'm not sure how either method isn't "sustainable."   
 
kay Smith
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

I think they have different goals. Geoff uses his farm to actively train a lot of people per year, Holzer's farm is, as far as I know, mostly a demonstration site which produces a variety of things for sale, including vegetables and fruit which visitors harvest themselves.   I'm not sure how either method isn't "sustainable."   


Different resources. Sepp has way more trees and access to forest so he readily uses that. Geoff has free manual labor which is a resource. Both seem sustainable to me and exemplary of working with the environment you are in.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Also, I think the primary product on Sepp's farm is pork, not vegetables. 
 
Peter Kalokerinos
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Also, I think the primary product on Sepp's farm is pork, not vegetables. 


Perhaps once, but I was under the impression its all about the produce now (the 95 Euro entry fee business)
 
Tyler Ludens
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Ok, thanks for the correction.  I was under the impression the fee is mostly for touring the place, because that seems like awfully expensive produce otherwise.  In other words, I'm not convinced it's about the produce, but about the tour.

http://www.krameterhof.at/cms60/index.php?id=109
 
Kyrt Ryder
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I believe it is the produce. Europe seems to value beyond organic more than most of the US, and you can fit a LOT of produce into a large sack.
 
Tyler Ludens
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The interesting thing is, as far as I can find, they don't even mention the produce on their website, only the tours.  It would be great to see other examples of farms following the Krameterhof model.  There was a farm in Sweden (I think)?  which was developing a  hugelkultur vegetable you- pick model.  But I can't remember the name of the project.


 
John Polk
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they don't even mention the produce on their website, only the tours.

I recall reading that Sepp had some problems with local authorities about 'selling' his produce.
So, now he just gives tours, and suggests that they all bring an empty backpack with them.

He doesn't tell them to pick it, but somehow, he never sees it going on.
Must be too busy calculating his € x 95

 
Tyler Ludens
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I had forgotten that - thanks for reminding me.  :0

 
Peter Kalokerinos
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All that aside, I still dont understand why Geoff grows in the fashion he does. Perhaps he doesn't have access to trees to make hugels.....unlikely. To me it would seem that the increased labour from harvesting a polyculture would be way less than the increased labour needed to make compost, weed, and dare I say it....till?

 
Tyler Ludens
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My guess is because it is one of the most efficient ways to grow a lot of vegetables in a small space.  His method is very similar to Biointensive.   A lot of food is grown in polycultures as well, in the food forests.

Geoff seems to sometimes answer questions on his website, so you might try asking him:  http://www.geofflawtononline.com/blog/
 
Kyrt Ryder
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The big reason Geoff doesn't hugel is his climate. All that deisel used for 1-2 seasons of growing is a horrible energy audit.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Kyrt, are you saying that because of the rainforest conditions the hugel would rot down too fast?  That makes a lot of sense!

 
Wayt Smith
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I think Sepp did mention that what works for him may not work for you. Didnt get to see Lawton as my compu is too slow.  didnt get to post for eaons for my name, Tylor seems familiar but common name for sleepless folk.  Seems right on though. Hugeculture created a dried out ant hill for me. Have huge experience with bio=intensive=but-its  based on french intensive which was to use up excess horse manure near Paris. For anyone with over forty inches of rain, I have to doubt that digging techniques will  not allow enough mychoriza to have proper phosphate levels. Your answers may be individual. I have double dug beds that I try to tend no till after digging in certain supplements. But these are always exesive in air and deficient in water( we get sixty inches but my weather volcanic soil wont hold it, . Only with no till field techniques can I show true soil building- more black soil then I carried up there. Only polyculture are truly sustainable but in time allows for some crops denser for now. Its an epoch subject but I suggest you try more then both of above. In the end, zone one is small and thats important.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Tyler Ludens wrote:Kyrt, are you saying that because of the rainforest conditions the hugel would rot down too fast?  That makes a lot of sense!


His rainforest conditions (the heat and moisture combined) devours carbon waaaay too fast for hugels to be practical.

The rainforest up here in northwestern Washington, on the other hand, would probably benefit greatly from a hugel.
 
Peter Kalokerinos
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Kyrt Ryder wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:Kyrt, are you saying that because of the rainforest conditions the hugel would rot down too fast?  That makes a lot of sense!


His rainforest conditions (the heat and moisture combined) devours. Carbon waaaay too fast for hugels to be practical.

The rainforest up here in northwestern Washington, on the other hand, would probably benefit greatly from a hugel.


I think we have our answer - thanks!

I dont think we'll have that issue.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Looks like they may grow some annual crops in a more "normal" way also at the Krameterhof.  A few of these photos depict mulched terrace garden beds, not hugelkultur:



More about what gardening techniques they teach: http://www.krameterhof.at/cms60/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/kurse/GAS_Krameter_4T_Permakultur_Einfu__hrung_1215_EN.pdf
 
Alex Michaud
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I'd think that in addition to obviously depending on what annuals you wanted to grow and where, the ideal composition of a raised piece of earth would be different in different climates. It seems that in wild ecosystems both rises and falls in elevation are beneficial to ecosystem health. Additionally, in such systems, the composition of those rises and falls will be shaped largely by its biology and climate.

Perhaps a hugelkultur mound of sorts could work well even in a very hot and humid location if it was less dense and composed of sandier or siltier soil and with less wood. The resulting mound would probably not be as tall as Sepp's mounds and likely wider.
Alas, I haven't tried it before so I don't know what it would do.. I would think that even in a local ecosystem examples of annual growth environment could be found.

Not sure what the benefits of less polyculture/diversity would be though.
If it was me, I'd try both.
 
Gary Finch
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I understood the principle of hugleculture is to create fertile soil over a period of time - i.e. once the carbon source (logs) have properly composted then the new soil can be spread over the site so growing annuals rather than perennials or trees makes sense on a huglekulture bed - obviously the created feature will also perform many other functions i.e. windbreak, growing space, ecosystem, offer differing aspects,capture and hold moisture etc - as others have mentioned Sepp has both the resources, space and climate - he can also use it, on his extreme slopes, as a way  of reducing erosion.  Another thing to consider is height of the water table - if the logs become submerged in water then there is a danger of over acidifying the soil.  The Lawton approach seems to be more consistent with a small farm scale use of energy and available resources - they are making an awful lot of compost whereas Sepps approach has been to design using a minimum - for me it would be about taking the design approach and weighing the desired functions of each element/system and weighing that against the available resources, climate and zones.
 
Gilbert Fritz
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Not sure what the benefits of less polyculture/diversity would be though.
If it was me, I'd try both.


It is much less work harvesting when everything is not a big tangle; hunting down enough lettuce scattered through the garden is difficult.

In my garden, I mixed 20 different tomato varieties, and it made picking difficult. Larger, harder tomatoes crushed small soft ones in pails, and nobody was ever sure what color each tomato should be when ripe. (I have lots of volunteers helping with the harvest, rather like Lawton would be. If you have temporary help coming, better make things understandable and efficient. )

This year, I planted the tomatoes in blocks of similar colors and shapes, and things went much smoother.

Now imagine if there were 20 different types of vegetables all mixed, and various weeds and things . . .

Not to mention how difficult it would be to put up trellises or other special treatments necessary for particular plants.

What I'm doing now is building small intensive beds of annuals surrounded by semi-wild borders of perennial vegetables and self sowing greens and flowers. I think I will get the best of both worlds that way.
 
Alex Michaud
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Gilbert Fritz wrote:
It is much less work harvesting when everything is not a big tangle; hunting down enough lettuce scattered through the garden is difficult.

Now imagine if there were 20 different types of vegetables all mixed, and various weeds and things . . .


Ah that is a good point. Though I do wonder if those issues could be prevented or reduced with particular planning. I guess the intensity of the polyculture would make a difference too.
 
Peter Kalokerinos
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Gilbert Fritz wrote: weeds


What are these "weeds" you speak of?

We're hoping that living mulches will take care of that....I guess we'll see how we go fora  year or two
 
Michelle Bisson
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In permaculture there is not one "best" technique or method.  Permaculture is about diversity.  If everyone used the same technique or method, that in itself would be a form of "monoculture". So looking at the planet as a whole, using different techniques and methods depending on your situation, culture and land will create a diversity in the landscape overall.

 
Hans Quistorff
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What are these "weeds" you speak of?

I find most of my weeds can be harvested one way or another. As I pull early spring weeds if I don't eat them myself they go to the worms. I then stick a pea seed in its place. When I transplant something that will eventually take up more space I plant lettuce or other greens around it to use/feed the soil life until the space is filled. I let a few lettuce, bock Choi, and broccoli go to seed and eventually they become the dominant weeds.

Around my ornamental plants is a thick mat of alpine strawberries. Any weeds that come up among them get pulled while I am eating strawberries. There is a 4 foot high terrace there so the grazing is easy.

Don't get confused get creative.  If the roof down spout can go into a rain barrel then irrigate. if not then make a hugle to absorb the water. If the produce is low to the ground put it on a high terrace. If it is up high when harvested put it on a low terrace or planting bed.

In my case some of my plants need to be protected from the frost then need to be in the sun then in the shade then protected from the frost again. these are planted in wicking barrels and I move them around with a hand truck as the season progresses.
snap-dragons.JPG
[Thumbnail for snap-dragons.JPG]
I could not figure this weed out until it bloomed
 
Jared Woodcock
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For a small home garden the lawton/lasagna/deepmulch method is very effective. You can build all of your beds in a few hours and maintain them with very little effort. You dont have to irrigate, if consistent high yields dont matter just water as needed and after a season or two your soils will hold most of the water you need. This gardening method wasnt invented by a permaculture designer it is just how people have grown their kitchen gardens for centuries before the invention of cheap rototillers. No need to reinvent the wheel here.

A 100 foot row of a single crop in a market garden is not a monocrop. Monocrops are when you have acres of a single crop, not really a concern for a home gardener.
 
Kyrt Ryder
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Jared Woodcock wrote:
A 100 foot row of a single crop in a market garden is not a monocrop. Monocrops are when you have acres of a single crop, not really a concern for a home gardener.

Its a micro monocrop; far less dangerous than large scale monocropping and totally acceptable practice, but it does lose out on some of the benefits of polyculture.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Jared Woodcock wrote: You dont have to irrigate, if consistent high yields dont matter just water as needed and after a season or two your soils will hold most of the water you need.


Not my experience in my climate.  I've not yet found a no-irrigation food growing technique here. 

 
Ben Zumeta
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It seems like Geoff's methods are a bit more capital intensive up front [just remembered Geoff's examples that required no machinery, so disregard], while for Sepp's hugels you would need access to a lot of wood and organic matter but not necessarily heavy equipment like many of Geoff's projects utilize (and get good value but still need upfront $). I am using Sepp's approaches more because I am in a resource rich, cash poor place (NW California).
 
Tyler Ludens
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Geoff's crop gardens and kitchen gardens do not utilize heavy equipment.  People sometimes use heavy equipment to build hugelkultur, but it is not required.  
 
Alex Michaud
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Not my experience in my climate.  I've not yet found a no-irrigation food growing technique here. 


Have you tried sunken mulchy beds? like paddies with a lot of organic matter in the bottom but without intentionally keeping them full and for growing vegetables or whatever you want? maybe put some clay and/or silt down on the bottom of it before adding in soil and mulch

You could put some nitrogen fixing windbreaks around it, where the sun wouldn't be blocked, perhaps. and of course cover the surface of the ground with dead vegetation. But maybe these are all things you've tried.
 
Jared Woodcock
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Jared Woodcock wrote: You dont have to irrigate, if consistent high yields dont matter just water as needed and after a season or two your soils will hold most of the water you need.


Not my experience in my climate.  I've not yet found a no-irrigation food growing technique here. 



Good point, I should have qualified that I live in New England USA, we do have to water to get smaller seeds to germinate, and we arent too picky about yields. We also keep cows and horses so our compost is pretty rich. We kind of steal from paul (pasture) to pay peter (garden).
 
Peter Kalokerinos
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Saw another thread today on Hugel's in humid environments. Two excellent quotes, some food for thought/different experiences from John:

Rogers John wrote:My hugel littered homestead on the east coast of central Florida gets most of its rain in the warm subtropical summers.  For several years I have been burying wood of all sizes and shapes--from long dead and rotting to fresh cut and full of sap.  Most of my mounds are about one meter high, but some approach two meters, and took many truck loads (18 cubic yards ea.) of wood and fill dirt to complete.  If you have the material and energy, go for it.  I have not seen a down side to this technique.  Or, devote some of your acreage to hugelkulture and some without.  All of my property is covered in wood chip mulch, so I don't know hot much of that is encouraging the mushroom activity or how much results from the hugel magic.  Fungi are your friends.


Rogers John wrote:
Aristotle,  I have been doing hugelkulture for about six years.  For me it started as a way to value the  dead trees that were already on my property and to add time release fertility capsules to the young forest garden.  Lately I have been using these mounds as safe growing space for species that cannot tolerate soggy soil, like papaya, avocado, olive, jackfruit and moringa.  Hugelkulture works in the humid tropics (monsoon tropics too) at least because it offers well drained growing beds.
 
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