Hello everyone, I recently constructed a swalehugelkultur 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-7fTDhZb3hObExNVFkhttps://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.
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
"A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself." FDR
"We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Einstein
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.
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
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.
Long time no write, all. I'm just circling back to this post to let you know that I anticipate recording and uploading a video update in the next week or so. The hugelkulture swale has exceeded my expectations after just a year. Once our severe rains die down, I will take a video to provide an overview of the system, detailing the perennials that have been added to what I hope becomes a regenerative system.
Here's my 2018 Spring update. I apologize in advance for my impromptu narration, as it rambles in parts, and uses the conjunctive "but" too often, but (ha) I figured it was a good time to capture the scene. I didn't have time to cover everything that is planted, but when it's lighter outside, I'll get a more thorough walk through. Let me know if you have questions, interesting insights, or suggestions.