new video from paul! (permies thread)
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! Hugel on bedrock?  RSS feed

 
knut inge
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Hi all, first poster here.

I have a challenge in that I am working with mostly bare bedrock (some scots pine, some norway spruce), acidic soil. I would like to be able to plant diverse bushes and trees, but the property is not accessible by car - everything must be carried by boat and hand. I.e. getting 10 tonnes of compost soil is out of the question.

One issue is that rainfall tends to accumulate in pits after rainfall and in winter (root rot), while in summer drying out is a real problem.

We do have plenty of scots pine. My question is if I could/should use excess pine logs, branches and needles along with household food waste in hugel mounds with a thin layer of semi composed pine needles/soil on top. Would that stabilize moisture (if placed on a sloping piece of rock)? Would it turn into good soil and a nice spot to grow?

My hope is to be able to plant hardy figs and grapes, apricot, blackberry and strawberry. I do realize that this is going to be a multi-year project.

Would it make sense to introduce myko, as there is very little broad-leaves trees in the area due to sheep grazing.

Thanks for any response
Knut
 
Heather Merritt
Posts: 1
Location: North of Seattle
bee solar trees
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Hi Knut,
I am definitely no expert, but I've listened to Paul a lot and just made my own hugel. I know I've heard Paul talk about how we work with what we've got, so if you've got pine and food scraps I'd say go for it! You mentioned sheep grazing, perhaps you could dig some sod from someplace close to turn over onto your hugel? I used sod we'd dug to put in raspberries/blackberries elsewhere. Or how about sheep manure? Something to consider might be trying initially to grow some things that will help to mitigate the acidity of the soil (pine needles tend to make it more acid). All in all, of you can build it fairly easily it could be what you need to get some plantable soil going, probably not the first year, but worth a try! I hope you'll update us with what you end up doing.
 
Sarah Joubert
Posts: 78
Location: Eastern Cape,South Africa Zone Cfb, Annual rainfall 570mm,
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forest garden hugelkultur solar
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Welcome Knut!
I don't know about hugelkulture beyond what it is. I just wanted to comment on your lack of ability to bring in materials. I know that with hugelculture you add pockets of different materials but still require a decent "topping". My suggestion is aimed more at producing that topping than building hugelkultures. Of course, I have no idea how big your project is and if you visit the site often, but if you are building hugels in stages and you are there a lot, you could "manufacture" a cubic m of compost in around a month using the method demonstrated by geoff lawton and others. there are loads of youtube videos 
  and Geoff has a complete soil building video that is very interesting.

I have personally tried it and it does work! I had a site that was in a forest of blue gums far away from my house. I would accumulate a bucket of kitchen scraps (green matter) and take it whenever it was full. I'd alternate with sacks of horse manure (nitrogen and innoculants) I could carry up. I used the bluegum leaves and twigs (you could use pine needles) for carbon and build a 1 square meter pile, as the carbon needs to be around 80%, most of the material is onsite. Once I'd completed the pile-I built the first one over 2 weeks- I let it sit for 4 days before starting to turn. The first pile took about 5 weeks in total but I started building the next pile as soon as I had finished building the first. You very quickly end up with loads of piles! Now, I know (from experience) that turning loads of piles is a lot of work but I found that you could skip turnings -you get days when you just can't face it-which lengthened the process slightly. I am a not-so-young, slightly unfit woman and I regularly managed to turn a fluctuating total of up to 5 piles. Stacking functions really, as I improved my health and fitness levels! Adding pee or comfrey tea is also a great way of adding moisture and nitrogen and can be carried up in a 20L drum. I would advise adding the pee at the beginning to allow time and heat to sterilise.

Just an idea, each one's situation is different. maybe someone else has something else to offer?
 
Thekla McDaniels
gardener
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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Hi Knut.

I once gardened on a remote wilderness island. Your question reminds me of that situation.  Bedrock with root mass and evergreen needles very acidic soil.  For me, I was on an island in the ocean.  We used to go shopping around the other islets for materials like sand, and drag kelp out of the swirling waters in the bay, when they passed by the garden.  Can you provide any other details?  How long a walk in is it?  How much time you spend there, how frequently you make a trip in to your property. 

What do you eat when you are there?  And are you making use of the humanure?

Are there predators, or could you have some chickens and goats or sheep that would eat the pines (in addition to what ever else it takes to balance their diet)
and create biomass?  What is the climate/ how much rainfall do you get (on that island where I was, it was 12 feet per year).  If you are having that much rainfall, you would want to divert a lot of it so that it did not wash through your pile and carry away all the decomposed material.  If you are building on solid bedrock, I think it would be fairly difficult, because the ground underneath becomes part of the habitat the plants dwell on, roots go in, and it is a resevoir for all the good stuff that comes from the hugel mound.  You would want a way to capture the run off and recycle it.

Could you post some pictures to help us better understand?

 
Hans Quistorff
pollinator
Posts: 702
Location: Longbranch, WA
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knut inge wrote:Hi all, first poster here.
As a first time poster we suggest you fill out your profile which will list certain things with your name when you post such as your location weather and soil type which makes it easier to make sure we are giving appropriate advice for your conditions. Go to profile at the top of the page or click on your name will take you to your profile page but selecting "profile wil alow you to edit it. You can also send a message to one individual by clicking on their name and select the PM button in their profile.
knut inge wrote:
I have a challenge in that I am working with mostly bare bedrock (some scots pine, some norway spruce), acidic soil. I would like to be able to plant diverse bushes and trees, but the property is not accessible by car - everything must be carried by boat and hand. I.e. getting 10 tonnes of compost soil is out of the question.

As others have commented the principle is to use what you have at hand. One advantage of this is that what soil life is there has adapted to that material. It has been found that soil life will balance the PH appropriately over time so adding the native soil with the small debris will give the soil life a home to work in.
knut inge wrote:
One issue is that rainfall tends to accumulate in pits after rainfall and in winter (root rot), while in summer drying out is a real problem.

So this is the principle of hugelkultur fill the rain pits with woody material and raise the top of the soil above the height of the pit. Then the rotted material will be a sponge to hold the water for the summer.
knut inge wrote:
We do have plenty of scots pine. My question is if I could/should use excess pine logs, branches and needles along with household food waste in hugel mounds with a thin layer of semi composed pine needles/soil on top. Would that stabilize moisture (if placed on a sloping piece of rock)? Would it turn into good soil and a nice spot to grow?

It would probably do better in the wet pit but should improve on a sloping rock if that is necessary for your plan. That is the first step; draw up a plan so whee you place things will work long term ore give you benefit when moved later when your time line alows you to further your plan.
knut inge wrote:
My hope is to be able to plant hardy figs and grapes, apricot, blackberry and strawberry. I do realize that this is going to be a multi-year project.
Blackberries are a good pioneer species. Grapes when thriving can supply a lot of biomass when pruned properly. Long vines in summer need to be cut back to encourage fruiting buds and when fruiting begins to put sugar into the fruit instead of growth. I use a hedge trimmer on mine cutting just outside the level of fruit. As the time line progresses observe micro climates where strawberries and figs will thrive.
knut inge wrote:
Would it make sense to introduce myko, as there is very little broad-leaves trees in the area due to sheep grazing.

Replacing what has been removed by man's desire to monocrop for maximum short term profit is usually advisable but needs to be part of a plan.
knut inge wrote:
Thanks for any response
Knut

You are welcome. It is what I do when my 77 year old body says I have to take a break from trying to restore my own land. It would be a shame to wast all that experience homesteading.
 
Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 589
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Welcome to permies!  Sounds like a lovely place to start.  What is the coastline like and do you have access to it?  Maybe lots of nutrients there like seaweed. Do you have lots of sunny spots to use to start your garden?  Are there other trees that you can use as a source for leaves?  Usually the ground under trees are full of decayed leaves which can be used for growing perennial plants but will also help with hugels.
 
Inge Leonora-den Ouden
pollinator
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Location: Meppel (Drenthe, the Netherlands)
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Hi Knut. Please tell more on that place. It sounds like an island in a northern region. How's the climate? What more plans do you have there?

Your question is interesting to me, because I experiment with Hugelkultur too, not on bedrock, but on pavement. Maybe that's about the same Hugelkultur with pine will be acidic ... so the berries will be fine there. Think of Paul's favourite: huckleberry! And blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc.
 
Just put the cards in their christmas stocking and PRESTO! They get it now! It's like you're the harry potter of permaculture. richsoil.com/cards
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