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Hugelkultur swale built - Need advice on aiding decomposition and planting perennials/fruit trees  RSS feed

 
Will Harvill
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forest garden hugelkultur urban
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Hello everyone, I recently constructed a swale hugelkultur and added a considerable portion of what I think are evergreen shrubs and conifer pine trees to clay-like soil. I live in Southeastern Wisconsin (zone 5b) and am seeking help for a few questions below. If you would like to see what I am up to and offer advice, please refer to these two video links first, so you know what I have in mind: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3HkpU13x-7fTDhZb3hObExNVFk https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3HkpU13x-7fNnJQVFJIZEZ3cU0 - 1. Should any of the biomass we buried (evergreen shrubs or cone-bearing pine trees) have me concerned about alleopathy, and if so, what natural things can I add to the hugelkulturs to counteract the effects of alleopathy? 2. What fruit trees and nut trees would you recommend for this design? I imagine planting approximately six to eight fruit or nut-bearing semi-dwarf trees that are surrounded by herbaceous perennial plant guilds that are multi-functional and beneficial to the tree in the center. 3. Since I imagine the first year's growth will not be exemplary (due to the nitrogen being locked up in decomposing wood), is there anything in particular I should add to compensate for the anticipated nitrogen deficiency? 4. Is there anything that should really be included in this design that I might not be thinking about? I appreciate your advice and insight and look forward to learning more about what I can do to create a food forest.
 
Krofter Young
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Location: Baja Arizona
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Will - Good idea taking advantage of runoff from the neighbors.  Hope they don't use pesticides. 
Don't sweat the allelopathic possibilities.  The microbial cultures will break down any of that soon enough. Might want to plant some trees known to have relationships with the native mycelium of your region.  I also wouldn't sweat the nitrogen issue. That biomass will be decomposed just in time for the trees you intend to plant to make good use of it.  Also, excess nitrogen can interfere with mycorrhizal and mycelium development.  http://erdakroft.com/Erdakroftfarm/Blogs/Entries/2013/2/14_Mycelium_And_The_Plow.html
 
Will Harvill
Posts: 24
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forest garden hugelkultur urban
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Krofter, thank you for the prompt response and your ability to alleviate my concerns. I haven't seen the neighbor using pesticides, but I will speak with him to verify. If he does use pesticides, maybe I can bribe him not to by offering a bounty of fresh food. I appreciate the link you provided as well; it reaffirmed the importance of mycelium.
 
Will Harvill
Posts: 24
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forest garden hugelkultur urban
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Happy growing to everyone. I'm just circling back with an update on this project. If you are interested in seeing a full tour of the backyard permaculture project, here it is: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3HkpU13x-7fX25GaGNMQXIzRlk/view?usp=sharing I will be excited to see how this progresses and looks next year as this continues to establish itself and the hugelkulture swales begin to really break down, creating the conditions for increased microbial life and nutrient availability, among other things. If you have suggestions for what I could do to improve the system, I am definitely open to suggestions and exploring other's ideas. Thank you in advance to anyone who views the video in its entirety and provides constructive feedback. All the best. - Will
 
Tom-Scott Gordon
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Similar thoughts raced through my mind while layering. Would the mycelium-rich oak bits overpower the sticky pines? Would 4-6-10% chicken manure pellets really have any effect at all compared to nice big chunks of cow and horse droppings? And, what about the actual mix of dirt--for this test it's been mostly gray clay. And that was the reason I had to build upward in the first place.

In any event, I was just thinking about people's propensity to transport soil amendments from hundreds of miles away, always a semi-futile exercise for folks like me who technically really do not know specifically what's involved. That's why I built four different sample piles last Fall. And today, I am so proud to see them covered with a flourishing crop of weeds.

Listening to the weeds, understanding what they say, this has been the best chapter in my gardening trials to date.
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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Location: Wisconsin, USA Zone 4b-5a
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I'm not an expert, but from what I understand hugelkultur swales can be a problem since excess water like heavy rains can cause the buried wood to float and the swales to fail.

Here's the article I'm referencing for my information: https://permaculturenews.org/2015/11/06/dont-try-building-hugel-swales-this-is-a-very-and-i-mean-very-bad-idea/

Here's another view on it that's a bit less all-or-nothing: https://permaculturenews.org/2017/01/27/hugel-swales-may-bad-idea/
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