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Conifers in a clay-soil hugelcultur

 
Josey Schanen
Posts: 6
Location: Grafton WI, USDA Zone 5b, AHS Zone 4, Very Flat, 35", Alkaline Dry Sand and (More) Neutral Wet Clay
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Hello everyone! One challenge that I want to deal with in the future is to dispose of unwanted pine and spruce trees in a regenerative matter, so I was wondering if I could create Hugelkultur beds with pine and spruce in a wetland anaerobic clay area (which also happens to have the most neutral soil in our alkaline area due to the wet clay and possibly the conifers) and plant conifer and (possibly) acid tolerant species on the mounds (think: highbush blueberries in particular). And if you have any other inputs regarding the disposal of pine and spruce, it would be greatly appreciated!
 
Shawn Harper
Posts: 360
Location: Portlandia, Oregon
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Pine tree branches fall in my parents yard. We mulch the blueberries with them. They grow well despite partial shade. I assume they like it. In my observation, strawberry, bleeding hearts, ferns, and azaleas like the same.
 
Michelle Bisson
Posts: 186
Location: Quebec, Canada
15
forest garden hugelkultur trees urban
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Josey Schanen wrote:I was wondering if I could create Hugelkultur beds with pine and spruce in a wetland anaerobic clay area


Hugel culture beds is a great way to get above wet land that is seasonally wet or wet after rains and is anaerobic.  If it is a true wetland than you may want to implement other techniques.

In my own case, I used mostly hemlock logs in our hugel culture terracess since that is what I have in abundance.  We had a wet area and we wanted to get above the saturated ground (springtime) so we built hugel culture terraces.


Josey Schanen wrote:
(which also happens to have the most neutral soil in our alkaline area due to the wet clay and possibly the conifers) and plant conifer and (possibly) acid tolerant species on the mounds (think: highbush blueberries in particular). And if you have any other inputs regarding the disposal of pine and spruce, it would be greatly appreciated!


If your soil is neutral to alkaline, conifer logs will not make the beds acidic.  As they decompose, the compost is neutral.  We cannot make alkaline soil acidic nor make acidic soil alkaline, but we can make it less acidic or less alkaline by adding lots of compost. 



See my journey:
Go Permaculture Food Forest - our suburban permaculture journey

Even Sepp Holtzer used confers to make his hugel culture mounts since that is what he had in over abundance. He wanted a way to dispose of them, so he buried them and throw soil on them and discovered that thing grew well.
 
Josey Schanen
Posts: 6
Location: Grafton WI, USDA Zone 5b, AHS Zone 4, Very Flat, 35", Alkaline Dry Sand and (More) Neutral Wet Clay
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Thank you Michelle, that makes me ever more optimistic about the potential that exists to create even more growing mediums that are protected from inundation after spring melts and hard rains and summer drought (yes even in the wetter locations) simultaneously. In true wetlands I am already planning on well in the future (because after all I am only 17 and in the observation phase) to create chinampas beds.
 
Jesse Fister
Posts: 75
Location: Missoula, MT
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chicken forest garden hunting
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We're trying it! What the heck.

As with Sepp, conifer is what we had to work with.  Mostly, I buried large logs too big for firewood.

Our clay soil is very alkaline: 8+.  I'm adding a layer of alpaca/lama manure on top of it before a mulch of pine needles for the assumed acidity; I haven't finished that yet.

On the big contour swayle I planted saffron and garlic.  The other three raised beds got Jeruselam artichoke (sunchoke).





We'll see how it goes!
 
Michelle Bisson
Posts: 186
Location: Quebec, Canada
15
forest garden hugelkultur trees urban
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Jesse Fister wrote:We're trying it! What the heck.

Our clay soil is very alkaline: 8+.  I'm adding a layer of alpaca/lama manure on top of it before a mulch of pine needles for the assumed acidity; I haven't finished that yet.




Layering of materials is a good practice!  Nice photos!




 
Scott Charles
Posts: 7
Location: Adirondack Park, New York
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We've got the opposite conditions, almost pure sand/silt with a natural pH around 5.5 - 6.5, on land that is dominated by pine forest and dries out very fast near the surface.  I'm just finishing digging out a sunken wood bed since we want to hold moisture and nutrients for the garden, and the bulk of the big sections of logs going in is going to be pine.  There's a lot of leaves available, but its all full of pine needles and I'd rather use it combined than go without the leaves.  It probably isn't ideal to have too much of any one thing in there, so mixing pine and hardwoods, fresh cut logs and old rotten stuff with mushrooms already growing in it, old manure and new bedding, and whatever else you can get makes the most sense. 

In the beginning when I started planning at our new house I was concerned with getting the right balance of materials, just like back when I started composting, but I've gotten past that now and it's about just adding as much organic material as possible.  If I have choices I'll go with what's better in the main growing areas, but I still use the other stuff somewhere else or toss it in a slow compost pile.  As long as its an improvement over what you had otherwise I think it's a success.  If pine is available, use it.  I see the eighty foot pines I've been clearing all growing out of 2 or 3 inches of very sandy topsoil and am amazed, even more so with the cherries, maples, and oaks mixed in.  If that growth can happen in the native pine-based soil I figure an improved version with other ingredients can grow great gardens.
 
Tj Jefferson
Posts: 73
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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I have several hugelbeds and one hugelswale, and I have intentionally made them out of different materials to try to figure out the best for my area. I put in some old pine, some pretty fresh pine, and a bunch of pioneer hardwoods. Honestly, by the time I had the wood collected the pine was teeming with worms before I even had soil on top. I agree that you are best to just put in as much organics as you have/can fit, leave it alone, and see what you get. I'm putting together a little anthology of the hugelprojects, which hopefully will help someone. Unfortunately, I think the plural of anecdote is still not data, and your chemistry is going to be different, but it is all part of the fun. If it was easy, everyone would do it.

 
Josey Schanen
Posts: 6
Location: Grafton WI, USDA Zone 5b, AHS Zone 4, Very Flat, 35", Alkaline Dry Sand and (More) Neutral Wet Clay
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Thank you all for making me more confident in the future as for how to properly dispose of the conifers on the property. And on another positive note I just saw the image in Ben Falk's book The Resilient Farm and Homestead of how he transformed a conifer (white pine) desert into an unbelievably lush pasture in just one year, so yes indeed we can do something about the vast unused and abused areas that have a dominant overstory of conifers.
My intention has changed somewhat on the placement of the hugel beds. I don't want to put them in wetlands in particular, I want to put them in small patches of what is now lawn to make use of the small spaces (and the chinampas in the pond) for growing disturbance crops while using large enough areas for silvopasture with intensive mob grazing between the swales and perennial crops on the mound. The wet ground I am referring to is not at all completely saturated for a long period of time, there are many grasses and perennial crops that not only can grow in these conditions but also thrive in these conditions (and anyways too wet is usually not nearly as bad as too dry, even in a humid climate).
 
Michelle Bisson
Posts: 186
Location: Quebec, Canada
15
forest garden hugelkultur trees urban
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Josey Schanen wrote:My intention has changed somewhat on the placement of the hugel beds. I don't want to put them in wetlands in particular I want to put them in small patches of what is now lawn to make use of the small spaces


Probably this is a better solution.





 
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