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No top soil.  RSS feed

 
Abbey Battle
Posts: 87
Location: Wealden AONB
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Hi, I found the 'perfect' spot for my hugels, or rather, it found me. As sitting out there in the winter sun I just felt it was a great spot in the middle of my boggy patch of willows. Plenty of dead timber and plenty of moisture. Only thing I'm lacking is top soil.
The soil is only 1 or 2" deep before you hit clay. Why it's a bog. This appears fine for willows and nettles. What little top soil there is is full of nettle root. Now while I love nettles, I would like a little variety to my diet.

So, I've already built the foundations for 3 small dome hugels. There is space for more. I have no soil to cover them with. I am composting as much nettle as I can - the whole plant as I had to remove a to of root to build the hugels. I only havea 5 acre field of field mowings - grass / docks / wild flowers - complete mix. I have covered on of the hugels with this.
Another hugel I have topped with a thin - not quite covereing - layer of soil and sub soil and the other with leaf litter so far. (not a thick layer). Am thinking about using more field mowings to cover these two hugels. There is a small amount of boggy soil, though of course, this is better in the bog as it's a wild life haven. I don't really want to destroy that, I need to relace what I have taken with more dead wood / leaf litter / field mowings so it's a slow cycle.

Just want opinions on if the layer of lawn mowings is enough to plant into. I'm guessing I'd need to start with annuals and chop and drop / continues to lay field mowings every year or crop rotation. This is a very small project - though very time consuming. I may get some photo's tomorrow.

Other option is to import some horse manure from a local stables. It's sound and chemical free, I've never had a problem with it. (Helps them out as I can fill the trailer for free and they don't have to pay to get rid of it).

At least I know I have some great clay for my wild pottery.
Oh I do waffle on don't I. Sorry about typo's wrong glasses.
 
Bryant RedHawk
gardener
Posts: 3004
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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The lawn mowings will work fine as long as you add enough browns to the mix, if you don't they will compact and go anaerobic which is not a good thing, to many bad bacteria will thrive in the no air environment.

The more stable bedding and manure you can get, the better. Even better would be to mix the bedding and manure with your mowings and compost that for around 3 months before using it for hugel topper material.

using manures in compost heaps builds a great biosphere where bacteria and fungi love to live, this means you will have all the goodies growing where you want them when you cover your hugels with it.

Definitely do not disturb the bog or do as little disturbing as possible, that is a wonderful thing all on its own.

Once you have a hugel covered with your life rich compost, plant the things you want to eat or grow. They will thrive.

Redhawk
 
Michelle Bisson
Posts: 222
Location: Quebec, Canada
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In my hugel culture terraces, we had no "top soil" or and just some clay dirt. So I mixed the heavy clay with my composting leaves, wood chips and anything I could "chop and drop"  This still provided me with a good growing medium after the organic matter started composting even though I had mixed it with the heavy clay.  I usually throw on layers of whatever I can gather.   If I have chunks of clay because it is pure clay, I treat it like stones in the soil that has minerals and water holding capacity, that over time, the worms and digging into the soil will eventually break up the larger chunks of clay.  I try to have a least 50% organic matter to 50% clay, if I can.  If the ratio is not perfect, then I continue to add what I think is missing over time. 

If I waited till I had everything perfect, I would not plant a thing.  But somehow most grow in spite of it not being optimal.    Of course some plants do not like heavy clay soil, so I tend to grow what will be happy in spite of my non perfect soil, dirt.  If I am growing annuals, then I have certain beds that they will be happier in because I have amended the soil with more organic matter to reduce the clay content percentage.  You have to do with what you have unless you have enough money to bring in rich topsoil, but that can be expensive if you have a large area to cover.
 
Abbey Battle
Posts: 87
Location: Wealden AONB
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Ha yes, bringing in top soil isn't really an option. Not least the expense.
I will be adding my kitchen waste and the chicken manure to the compost heap (which is mainly nettles), so in the not so distant future I will have additional material. (nothing will stop the nettles from growing). This is a willow shaw so there will be leaf litter in the autumn as well. Over the next few years the soil should improve, esp as all the smaller wood will break down more quickly than the larger stuff. There was also a lot of moss and lichen growing on the dead wood.
The clay is horrible to work with. I'll probably insert compost pots with things like strawberries and herbs in. May also try some trailing beans that I can leave after the event. I've a whole ton of bramble that I can chop back and add to the compost as well. Weeds aren't in short supply.
 
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