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Hugelvirgin  RSS feed

Posts: 325
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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Soooo, I diving off the deep end. I watched Paul Wheaton's talk at PV1 and the one thing I have is thick skin, so if people get something out of this, awesome. If people are interested I will try to give in repayment to those who educated me. Not gonna bother with quibbles, and I am not a purist, just interested in the journey and want to grow some stuff. Just getting that out there.

I'm an engineer, so I had these design factors that were not modifiable:
1. House- fairly upscale, so need to have features that fit the neighborhood (and don't crush my resale if it comes to that)
2. Soil- depleted, farmed traditionally probably for 200+ years, evidence of annual chemical application up to last year (found receipts)
3. Woods- lots of it, pioneer species (sweetgum predominant, plus loblolly and white pine, occasional tulip poplar, some cedar). Several pines dead due to a recent blight. Not even one oak, maple, nut or hickory as should be native here (on >7 acres, walked it all)
4. Climate- 7a, generally predictable rainfall
5. Fields- farming crabgrass all hopped up on fertilizer as near as I can tell. Sterile as a mule in the control room at Chernobyl
6. Job- I have one. This is my hobby, and I have other responsibilities

Job one was to soil samples. I knew it was going to be bad but as my uncle said "I've seen better soil samples in parking lots." He didn't say why they did a soil sample in a parking lot so don't ask. Just don't. It's hyperbole. Look it up.

pH was 4.9-5.5, lytes all impoverished, organics <2% anywhere sampled in the fields. So gonna be what people here say is a "hot minute" before that gets fixed.

So I decided to get some of the deadfall and pioneer species that were just cheek to jowl, and make some hugels. Factor 1 meant I can't have a big 8' pile of detritus as much as it sounds awesome, so I decided primarily to do hugelbeds. I tried to dig down where the beds were going to go, to allow more goodies in there, but the ground was so compacted even the morning after a nice rainstorm that I BROKE MY PICKAXE. So I quit that. I dragged a bunch of deadfall pine into place and built the beds around it, and then added fresh frontier wood and leaves and whatever rotting wood from the hood.

This was suboptimal since I couldn't really fill in the beds with big stuff way up, since it is kind of tippy and I knew there was a chance I'd have to modify the plan due to rocks/roots/something.

Beds are 4'x56' basically. Treated 2x8s on 4x4 uprights in cement footings, with long screws lagged in to maintain something close to square.

Time- about 200 hours, most from getting nice deadfall out of the dense woods, and scrounging old firewood people realize has passed usability. Bed construction including post holes was probably about 30 hours since the ground was such a PITA.
Lumber- about $1400 from a local sawmill, would have been 10% less maybe at Big Box.
Hardware/cement- $200.
Gas/chainsaw stuff- $40.
Topsoil- $600, was about the same price for screened fill dirt. Not sure short of explosives how to get dirt from the property unless I steal from the woods.

So that's about it. Letting it percolate with some annual clover and rye.

[Thumbnail for hugel1.jpg]
site prep
[Thumbnail for hugel2.jpg]
site prep- with sandal for scale
[Thumbnail for hugel3.jpg]
basically done
Posts: 105
Location: Northeast of Seattle, zone 8: temperate with rainy winters and dry summers.
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Wow, good work! You should be able to grow a lot of food in those. Post updates about how growing in the beds turn out, eh? : )
That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. I think a piece of pie wouldn't kill me. Tiny ad:
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