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My tropical Hugelkultur

 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Hi, I know I'm fairly new, but why not just dive into it?
I read about hugelkultur yesterday and I immediately appreciated the concept, so I decided to give it a go.
The following morning I was looking for that old, light, spongy, rotten wood and I was really absorbed in the facts about HK: "That makes so much sense... water retention, aeration, look how much of that wood is around here, too!" meanwhile I entered my banana grove still looking for wood and it hit me. I can use dead banana trunks! Can't get any spongier than that! So I started to collect them. Some of them were quite old, here in Costa Rica it's the middle of the summer, yet those trunks were soaked with water.
I decided to make an ayote bed. Ayote is the local squash. I'll probably plant some ginger at the base, which will grow tall and shade the ayote as the sun here is absolutely scorching.
I really don't know if I did everything right or I already acquired the PC vision, but here are some pictures, so anybody can correct me.
If I've just given a great idea to someone else living in the tropics, my pleasure.

Sd

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Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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OK somebody's gotta explain to me how to manage the pictures better, cuz I don't think I'm doing it right.
Anyway, in the first two you can see I put some palm frond bits, they take a lot of space, so I want the pile to crush it. I also put down the wood I had collected before I thought of the banana trunks.

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Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Then I lay the actual banana trunks, the last one was totally undone and moist, I thought I'd put it on top to give immediate moisture to my ayote roots.
Finally I covered everything with our nasty clayy soil mixed with some charcoal bits, then compost and topped it off with panchagavya.
Panchagavya is a biodynamic indian product made out of milk, yogurt, cow dung and urine, and clarified butter. Look it up, it's amazing.
My ayote now is but a sprouting seed, by the time I transplant it, the bed should be somewhat settled down.
The rains are starting in 6 weeks anyway.
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maikeru sumi-e
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Awesome.
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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So, here I am looking at my Hugelkultur and I decided to make it twice as tall, just for the fun of it, I don't think the squash or the ginger would mind if it shrank to almost nothing.
However, the other day it rained, at least one month too early, so I totally switched mode, from toughing it up for the last month of dry season, to getting ready to plant rain-resistant plants and fight fungi.
Now, the day after the rain (25 minutes of normal intensity) I saw my hugelkultur was covered with blotches of fungal growth. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I'm thinking, how to harmonize companion planting with the fact that some plants need air to circulate among their leaves?
You know what, I think I'll start a new post more to the point.
Sd
 
Sergio Santoro
Posts: 256
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
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Oh my, so much time has passed since. Well, I must say that some things are growing great, some less.
I'll post pictures soon. For now I'll say that in the meantime I converted that whole row into hillbeds (what's wrong with the English term, by the way? Hügel just means hill).

As you know, most of the cores of my hillbeds were constituted of already rotten wood, sometimes the crumbs of it, as I don't need that garden to last; in fact it might become a parking space soon. Otherwise there were banana trunks in them, too. I think the banana trunks decomposed too fast, leaving caves in my beds. Or so I think. The other day I was checking the moisture under the mulch, and my fingers were touching nothing at some point.
The mulch itself is a 3" layer of rice hulls charcoal, mixed with compost or manure tea and everything, but that is another thing I won't do in the future. They say biochar is great for retaining humidity, but that must be when it's IN the soil, not on it. It just dries up right away, and, for what I know, it sucks the moisture up from the rest of the hillbed. I really need some fine, uniform layer for the most external mulch, like grass clippings, but I don't have a lawn. I thought the rice hulls would be that layer, and I sowed in it, then covered everything loosely with some dried grass chopped under the perimeter of the electric fence, that when dried, was still shading the seeds some, but now that the plants are grown, the long fibers are making it very hard to plant or weed in between. Most seeds didn't even sprout, due to the constant drenched/bone-dry condition of the rice hulls mulch.
What I do have is a barrel full of sawdust infused with molasses and pancagavya (a mixture of fermented cow dung, urine, milk, yogurt, clarified butter and sugar water). I was actually trying to make bokashi saw dust to use as an ornamental, uniform mulch, but I used way too much molasses, and boy that stuff smells like ammonia. I take it to be a great source of Nitrogen, Calcium and Iron. One shovelful in a whole wheelbarrow of water. I drench the garden and use the solids to mulch around target plants. I just began that, I'll let you know. Other than that, I have okra growing, great chilies, tomatoes, but growing way too slow compared to the ones someone else is growing in our greenhouse. Also, I had chickpeas interspersed everywhere for Nitrogen, until I read the post about N and legumes, and it turns out legumes provide N when tilled in with their rotting stems, not much while alive. No wonder most of my plants were N deficient. The chickpeas were the most successful this time, meaning the grew lush up to one foot tall... before turning yellow and dying. I guess they are mulching now. To top it all off, I have some very annoying, black, fruit fly looking bugs that are sucking the lymph out of everything.
Anyway, in Nicaragua right now, I'll go back to Costa Rica tomorrow and try to take pictures to share with whoever else is embarking into permaculture this side of the planet, or for others to tell me how to improve.
 
                                        
Posts: 1
Location: Managua, Nicaragua
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Hi Sergio, newbie here, but thanks for posting this as I am just embarking on a tropical hugulkultur here in Nicaragua and it's nice to see how it went for you. I laid down my wood today and will put one more truckload of wood and then start layering. We put down tamarindo branches, thick ones at the base and we also have some mamon not so big, and finally a mix of just old tree branches with leaves. Then I'll put some half-done compost down, charcoal and perhaps some green plantain leaves for moisture. We're in the dry now so again, thanks for posting and I would love to hear how it went now that it is over a year of after starting your hillbed. cheers, mike from elportonverde

Sergio Santoro wrote:Oh my, so much time has passed since. Well, I must say that some things are growing great, some less.
I'll post pictures soon. For now I'll say that in the meantime I converted that whole row into hillbeds (what's wrong with the English term, by the way? Hügel just means hill).

As you know, most of the cores of my hillbeds were constituted of already rotten wood, sometimes the crumbs of it, as I don't need that garden to last; in fact it might become a parking space soon. Otherwise there were banana trunks in them, too. I think the banana trunks decomposed too fast, leaving caves in my beds. Or so I think. The other day I was checking the moisture under the mulch, and my fingers were touching nothing at some point.
The mulch itself is a 3" layer of rice hulls charcoal, mixed with compost or manure tea and everything, but that is another thing I won't do in the future. They say biochar is great for retaining humidity, but that must be when it's IN the soil, not on it. It just dries up right away, and, for what I know, it sucks the moisture up from the rest of the hillbed. I really need some fine, uniform layer for the most external mulch, like grass clippings, but I don't have a lawn. I thought the rice hulls would be that layer, and I sowed in it, then covered everything loosely with some dried grass chopped under the perimeter of the electric fence, that when dried, was still shading the seeds some, but now that the plants are grown, the long fibers are making it very hard to plant or weed in between. Most seeds didn't even sprout, due to the constant drenched/bone-dry condition of the rice hulls mulch.
What I do have is a barrel full of sawdust infused with molasses and pancagavya (a mixture of fermented cow dung, urine, milk, yogurt, clarified butter and sugar water). I was actually trying to make bokashi saw dust to use as an ornamental, uniform mulch, but I used way too much molasses, and boy that stuff smells like ammonia. I take it to be a great source of Nitrogen, Calcium and Iron. One shovelful in a whole wheelbarrow of water. I drench the garden and use the solids to mulch around target plants. I just began that, I'll let you know. Other than that, I have okra growing, great chilies, tomatoes, but growing way too slow compared to the ones someone else is growing in our greenhouse. Also, I had chickpeas interspersed everywhere for Nitrogen, until I read the post about N and legumes, and it turns out legumes provide N when tilled in with their rotting stems, not much while alive. No wonder most of my plants were N deficient. The chickpeas were the most successful this time, meaning the grew lush up to one foot tall... before turning yellow and dying. I guess they are mulching now. To top it all off, I have some very annoying, black, fruit fly looking bugs that are sucking the lymph out of everything.
Anyway, in Nicaragua right now, I'll go back to Costa Rica tomorrow and try to take pictures to share with whoever else is embarking into permaculture this side of the planet, or for others to tell me how to improve.
 
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