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My first true hugel  RSS feed

 
Amy Smith
Posts: 2
Location: WV, USA 6A
food preservation hugelkultur urban
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Howdy, I'm a new member and started my first true hugel today.  I guess first off, I'm in WV zone 6a, in a suburban area.  I have a couple raised beds, in the pic with the paving stones, one I started back in February and the new one I made yesterday.  I've found that kiddie pools work great for mixing soil and making nice round circles for beds.  In said pool, I had mixed some cow dung, topsoil, some partially decayed wood, and trimmings from last year's garden and let it sit all winter stirring it occasionally.  I have holes punched in the bottom too so it doesn't stay too wet.  But I used this mix in the beds.

I was doing some research online and came across hugelkulture.  And having some tree bits from an apple tree, dogwood, and a crab apple (with a bit of extra soil and leaves from last year) I thought this would be just the thing since they've just been sitting in random spots in my yard and I've already done it on kinda small scale. 

So I dug out a border, lined it out with flour first but still ended up a little lop sided. Then took the larger logs and put them on the downhill slope and worked my way around and then added some partially decayed sticks breaking and stuffing in gaps.  I then took the sod I had dug up to make the outline/border and placed on top upside down.  I'm thinking this will be really good for the green matter and there's a lot of moss mixed in under the grass.  I also added some kitchen scraps from lettuce, cucumbers, and pineapple after I took the pic.  There's also some sunflower shells dumped on top and worked in that I gather from underneath my bird feeders. 

Tomorrow I plan to add a layer of partially decayed tulip poplar and a thick layer of leaves and straw.  Now, this is where I'm a little stuck and would appreciate any feedback.  It's supposed to rain this week.  Should I go ahead and put soil on top or wait until it rains then add it.  On one hand I'm thinking rain will get all the pieces worked in really good but the other I'm thinking it might be better to let the soil work it's way into the gaps.

Weather permitting, I plan on planting peas for the first year, and maybe a few butternuts just to see how they do.  And I'm thinking a clover for a cover crop, or does anyone think that might be too much?

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Anne Miller
pollinator
Posts: 669
Location: USDA Zone 8a
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Amy Smith wrote: I've found that kiddie pools work great for mixing soil and making nice round circles for beds.  In said pool, I had mixed some cow dung, topsoil, some partially decayed wood, and trimmings from last year's garden and let it sit all winter stirring it occasionally.  I have holes punched in the bottom too so it doesn't stay too wet.


Best wishes for those kiddie pools.  DH thought that was a good idea last year since we use raise beds due to rocky soil.   Then he wondered why the yield was lower than the year before?  I suggested that maybe the plants were root bound??  This year we cut the bottoms out of the pools.  We will find out if that is any better.  Last year he planted yellow squash and watermelon.  This year he planted eggplant and watermelon.

The hugels look great.
 
Amy Smith
Posts: 2
Location: WV, USA 6A
food preservation hugelkultur urban
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Thank you Anne, I'm really stoked about using the hugel method.  I didn't actually use the pools for planting, just to layout the circles and mix different batches of soil.
 
Daron Williams
pollinator
Posts: 169
Location: Olympia, WA - Zone 8a/b
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Hello and great job with the hugelkulture bed! I would add the soil to your bed and really try to get it in all the cracks and crevices around the pieces of wood. If this was done before the rains came then that would also help do that. From what I have read on here and other sites it seems that people tend to have the most trouble with their hugelkulture beds when they don't get the soil worked in between all the pieces of wood. If you just put the soil on top of a big pile of wood then you tend to get holes forming, rodents and other critters can move in more easily (not always a bad thing!), and the whole thing will dry out more easily. If soil mixed in well then you should avoid most critter issues and the bed will likely stay moist.

In regards to planting the bed I would just recommend putting in a lot of nitrogen fixers. Peas and beans would be great and having a cover crop of clover would also work great. This will really help get your bed off to a great start and you should see it really jump in terms of productivity during and after the 2nd year as the whole system becomes more integrated and functional. Mixing the soil in well will also help this along and should really help the first year go smoothly.

Just a note - the first year tends to be the lowest in productivity for a hugelkultur bed. You can get nitrogen being made unavailable by the buried wood and depending on how fresh your wood is and the size of your bed you might need to water. However, after the 1st year you will see productivity steadily increase and your watering needs steadily decrease. This is one of the great things about hugelkultur beds - they get more productive overtime!

Good luck!
 
Tj Jefferson
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Posts: 185
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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One hugel with a late start was planted only with cowpeas and some melon. It looks good. I would recommend as above posters mention you temper your enthusiasm the first year and make sure something easy grows on there so the perennial weeds don't invade. So many cautionary tales about bermuda and other hard to eradicate species. Annual "weeds" are your friends, basically anything that looks easy to pull I leave in. I am aggressive with other stuff. Have fun!
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