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Help to position my hugel-first one I've built  RSS feed

 
Andre Herrera
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Ok.. I saw it and loved it! but I'm still having issues trying to figure out how to position my hugelkultur bed. I guess because I'm in Florida and our weather is so different from Montana and California.. I'm afraid that if I face it south and curve it, it will get way too hot in summer. What would be the logical way to position it if I wanted it to have the opposite effect and attempt to keep it cooler? Also, I have a lot of coconut husks. I assume they'll be a good addition along with the wood?
Thanks in advance
 
Deb Rebel
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Adding comment, Andre Herrera viewed the micro document, and still needs some help with placing his first hugel.

https://permies.com/wiki/37907/digital-market/digital-market/Hugelkultur-Micro-Documentary-HD-streaming ;

If someone could help out with this it would be great, thanks.
 
Alexandra Clark
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Location: Long Island, NY
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If you have some natural shade from any trees that could help tremendously.  Laying a hugel on contour or slightly downhill on a slope that you have graded so the area is flatter will also help it to hold moisture. Placing it on top of a slope in direct sunlight will mean you will need to water it a ton.  The coconut husks should be rather good mulch to keep in the moisture as well.

You could also run it east west instead and make it wider instead of longer so that some plants got morning sun and some got evening sun. I would plant the more drought tolerant, tough stuff on the evening sun side and the more tender stuff on the morning sun side. Most of my hugels are based on brush and are pretty wide as opposed to being long and straight like a cigar.

Make sure you have plenty of wood at the base to hold in moisture, and if you use brush on top of that--get on top of the pile and stamp it down. The less air pockets in the pile, the more moisture it will hold. Lots of compost and top soil if you have it and then mulch over the top of that. I have a very sunny side yard, though I am in NY so the temperature factors are not the same except in August.

Good luck!
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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First the disclaimer: I haven't done this so it's all based on theory not practice. Take it with whatever grains of salt you care to. I'd suggest thinking of it as brainstorming not advise.

From what I've been reading and hearing about hugelkultur, there seems to me to be three factors that effect temperature: sun, wind and contour. So if you think of a sun scoop as working with all of these to keep things warm, the idea is to more or less do the opposite to keep things cool.

For sun, that means having shade part of the time and not having thermal mass someplace where it will collect a lot of heat. In fact, you probably want thermal mass, like rock, someplace where it's out of the sun and can collect the cool of the night. Alexandra's idea about running the hugelkultur north-south so that half of it gets the sun in the morning and half in the afternoon instead of catching sun all day also falls here. Technically you could face a scoop North but that would mean your plants wouldn't get any direct sun.

For wind I think that means allowing prevailing wind to flow through instead of blocking it, although that might also cause a certain amount of drying which partly defeats the purpose of a hugelkultur.  My thought here is that sheltering the area will allow heat to build up while having a breeze flow through will help take it away.

For cold, it means capturing the cold flowing down a contour. So you might want to have the scoop facing uphill, although you'd also have to consider how much water you might capture that way since cold and water flow somewhat similarly. In colder climates, like Montana, people don't want to do this because they would create frost pockets.

Hope this helps. By the way, most of what I know about this subject comes from the Hugelkultur documentary, Paul's podcasts and Paul's hugelkultur article.
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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Rereading Alexandra's post, she said run east-west and I said run north-south but I think we're talking about the same thing. Since her description talks about having the sun on one side in the morning and the other side in the afternoon I think when she says east-west she means the side of the bed is facing that direction. When I talk about running north-south I'm talking the length of the bed is running north-south, which would mean the sides would be facing east-west.

Alexandra feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
 
Andre Herrera
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Wow! I love this community! You guys are amazingly helpful. Basically, my lot is extremely flat, but I can still see some differences in ground level. I'm trying to figure out where the contour would be. I think I have a better idea now of where to place it, but I'm gonna have to work the area a bit first (I was hoping for the least amount of work since I don't count with much man power) Thank you so much for taking the time to reply.

PS: My full name is Andreina (female) and I've recently decided to finally (after much thinking, reading, video watching, and studying) take action. I'm working on my family's self sustainability and working one project/goal at a time. Thanks again!
 
Dale Hodgins
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Since its Florida, I'm going to assume that it is so flat and sandy that contour is not something to worry much about. I would prefer to bury the wood quite deeply and not build a big tall mound. A mound is likely to dry out very quickly.

I would dig a pit, and toss in lots of grass clippings and other organic material, along with the wood and coconut waste.

Better to have one big bed than a bunch of little ones, since it's bound to lose water from the edges. I assume that you will need to irrigate, at least in the beginning.

geoff lawton presents some pits like this in one of his videos. They are composting pits, but there's no reason why they couldn't accommodate wood waste as well, so that they are longer-lasting.

This isn't something that most people would call hugelkultur, but I think it could work.
 
Thyri Gullinvargr
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Actually, I think I used contour incorrectly before, I probably should have said slope. Contour is the level land going across a hill that's perpendicular to the slope. Sorry about that. 

I'm not sure how much slope you need to make a difference for collecting heat and cold. Given what you said about how flat your land is, I think Alexandra's idea might be most practical.

For what it's worth, you can use a really simple tool to find both where your land is level and where there's a slope, an A frame. Below is a short video on how to use one. Basically, create it on a surface which you've verified is level, hang a weight from the apex, and mark where the string crosses the horizontal bar. That shows you level. Then you walk it around like in the video. If you're interested, I'm sure there are more detailed videos.



By the way, the more I think about it, the more I think making a sun scoop is more straightforward than making a cold scoop, at least for gardening. This is because the ideal cold scoop wouldn't get much, or any, sunlight. Think of a C shape with the opening facing uphill on a north facing slope. This would probably be great for capturing cold, but only good for plants that thrive in indirect light. Also, in thinking more about wind I decided that unimpeded wind would mostly equalize temperature to ambient temperature. It would "steal" both gathered heat and gathered cold. Finally, you have to be careful how much water you "catch" with a hugelkultur on a slope (see https://permaculturenews.org/2015/11/06/dont-try-building-hugel-swales-this-is-a-very-and-i-mean-very-bad-idea/ for more info), so facing the "cup" uphill might be an issue.
 
Daniel Schmidt
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Location: Jacksonville, FL
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As a fellow Floridian, I can relate to how vastly different things are here compared to many of the experiences people post here from much colder northern climates. Their summer vegetables are our winter vegetables. Full sun plants there might not survive or produce well with full summer sun here. Burying smaller pieces of organic matter just breaks it down very fast and any nutrients get washed through our sandy soil with the large amount of rainfall we get.

I strongly recommend checking out The Green Dreams YouTube Channel. This is a real Floridian doing real permaculture, and his videos are very dense with information of things that do or don't work here. He is almost exactly the same latitude as my property but on the opposite coast, so I find his information to be extremely helpful. I am super fortunate to have found land with some slope to it, but I'm currently living in Jacksonville at the beach, so I understand being on very flat ground and some of those issues. We get tropical storms that can dump 10"+ in a day and that is fairly common to happen at least once in a year, sometimes much more.

In my garden I made rows and dug between them to pile up my rows higher than the surrounding area. Even with hugelkultur, our soil never freezes and the biology can be so active that things break down fast. This means flat ground with logs added will become flat ground again. I would make certain to start in a high spot, or dig out other high spots to build up the soil in the selected area. If the area is low and you bury logs then it will eventually flatten out where it can get drown by a storm and kill plants. My friend made his first garden in a low spot in his backyard and we got hit with back-to-back tropical storms of 10"+ before hurricane season started. He lost a lot of plants and built up the area to avoid future disaster. There is also the possibility of what is mentioned in the jack spirko article linked above where relatively dry logs freshly buried would become bouyant in a flooded area and destroy the hugel. It might not have a hill to slide down and damage things, but losing the hugel would be a lot of labor lost.

Given how fast things break down in the soil I wouldn't put small woody material in the ground. Anything an inch or smaller would deteriorate quickly and wouldn't be worth the effort of having to re-dig so often. A huge problem here is evaporation. Putting that small woody material on top of the soil as mulch helps keep the sun off and retain moisture. Bare sand in the sun becomes so dry it gets hydrophobic. I believe it causes static electricity below 10% soil surface humidity which causes polarized water molecules to be repelled. If you see a hot dry patch of bare sand, you can hit it with a hose for several minutes without any of the water soaking in! It seems counterintuitive since sand drains water so quickly, but when baked dry by the sun it repels water.

I really can't stress the mulching part enough. I don't remember which podcast it was, but I remember Paul saying something to the effect that if you have enough mulch to cover 8 acres of land with 1" of mulch or 1 acre with 8" of mulch then you will do better to cover the small area with more mulch. Another lesson I learned the hard way. Anything less than 4" out in full sun with no protection will get pushed around by wind and rain, providing only a small amount of water retention. You could take the idea above and replace acre with any unit of area measurement. Even 1 square foot vs 8 square feet. Having 1 square foot with a single awesome plant would likely be a better experience than having 8 plants struggling to survive.

The last thing I will touch on is soil amendments. Because of the way the sand will drain nutrients through quickly, I wouldn't waste the energy to bury or till in any amendments. Actually I did and had mediocre results. You can put it on top and mulch it which gives it a little further distance to go before washing below the root zone. Even better is to just put it on the mulch so it gets absorbed and slowly released. Something like compost tea given regularly will help keep nutrient levels up. It might be a bit of work, but certainly no more than tilling year after year. It is pretty easy to get fungi growing here with the high humidity during the rainy season. This can help to break down some of the mulch on top and release nutrients to the soil at a steady rate. Not too wet, not too dry, proper nutrition, and mother nature can provide the rest.

 
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