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First hugelkultur attempt with clay soil  RSS feed

 
Tim Kivi
Posts: 19
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My wife and neighbours complain I've filled my yard with twigs, branches and leaves from cutting down a tree over the pats few months.
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My garden soil is too clay-like: cracked and dry when sunny, heavy when wet.
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So I'm considering killing two birds with one stone by digging up my soil, filling it with twigs, stomping on them to pack them down, then mixing in the soil.

My concern is the branches were cut down just a few months ago, so they're not rotten. Another is nitrogen, as conventional gardeners say it'll deplete the soil of this.

Do you think it's still a good idea to do this?
 
Joshua Parke
Posts: 117
Location: Northern New Mexico, Latitude:35 degrees N, Elevation:6000'
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Do it.

If you look at my signature below and look at that link, you'll see some pictures of a hugel I built in an area with heavy clay soil.  Everything I used was fresh cuttings from the trees.  It'll probably use up some nitrogen to help start the process of breaking down the wood, but it wasn't enough to concern me.  You can sow some nitrogen fixing cover crops on the hugel to help provide nitrogen for the process.

I would do it for sure, even if the pile soaks up a lot of nitrogen for the first year or so, eventually it's going to become a thriving mound that'll provide life for many many years.
 
Tj Jefferson
pollinator
Posts: 227
Location: Virginia USDA 7a/b
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bee chicken hugelkultur hunting
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Short answer: yes you can do it. If you search "hugel" and "clay" you should come up with some threads.
 
Tim Kivi
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Thanks for the support. Tomorrow I'll start it!
 
Tim Kivi
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I could barely dig deeper than about 1 foot. So I've filled it with twigs and branches and topped with soil. Now my ground-level garden is about half a foot above-ground. It felt fun but hopefully I'm not making a big mistake nitrogen-wise by filling it with so much wood from a shallow bottom right up to the top surface of the garden. What do you think?
 
stephen lowe
Posts: 44
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In my experience there is way too much obsession with nitrogen leaching when using woody matter in the garden. Nitrogen is one of the easiest nutrients to source naturally and once you get a healthy soil ecosystem established there is plenty of nitrogen circulation going on. You can add manure, you can add green matter, you can make simple plant extractions, you can plant nitrogen fixers. All of these will help mitigate the effects during the first season. After that first season, assuming you keep the mounds covered with plants throughout the growing season, you will have a functioning soil ecosystem going and the wood will be heavily rotted and you should have mounds of abundance.
 
Tim Kivi
Posts: 19
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In that case I'll continue with the rest of the garden bed. Instead of trying to do the whole thing in a day I'm going to do a better job of it by spending a few days purely on digging so that I dig deeper and wider. Filling it is the easy bit.
 
trinda storey
Posts: 128
Location: kent, washington
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I read that aphids infest when the soil is high in nitrogen maybe a little leeching would be a good thing
 
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