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How Deep?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 5
Location: North Texas
forest garden fungi hugelkultur
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I have no experience on Hugulkultur, I have read a books that mention Hugulkultur, and watched many videos on the subject, but I'm still not clear on the how deep they need to be to be effective. I am currently digging three small scale Huguls in my backyard, and I'm somewhat in a hurry to get them ready before spring, and I will be making three more in the sideyard so I have a bit of a time limit. I'm thinking that the deeper the are the more water they will be able to reserve for the Texas dry season, as the logs will be buried deeper, currently mine are at eighteen inches, not sure on how many cenitmeters that is, and I'm a bit nervous to start the log process if it won't be deep enough. I plan to start planting this spring, which is a bit hurried, I did read that Hugul's get better as time passes, and that they are recommended to have a cover crop that fixes nitrogen for the first year, but like I mentioned in my previous post, I just moved back to Texas, and I'm not too keen on waiting an entire year to plant, especially considering I may not stay here a long time. So any advice would be appreciated in managing a new hugul to give it the best chance of success, maybe adding a lot of nitrogen as I'm currently lacking that as well, I've been here a little more than a week and haven't accumulated very many scraps, and being winter, there isn't a lot of greenery to bury along with the logs, I've read that bloodmeal is good, and maybe I'll splurge and buy some rock dust as well. Like I said, I'm very amateurish and if any of you beautiful, experienced people out there have any wisdom to share, I will love you for it! Thank you for your time
 
Posts: 640
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Don't sweat the details here. It's closer to cooking than building the space shuttle in that it's as much art as science. If you dig down 3 inches and hit bedrock or a big boulder then you are deep enough
In boggy ground you might not dig down at all.

One of the major reasons why you dig down in the first place is so you have subsoil to bury the wood with, and topsoil to cover the entire mound with. I would use this as a guide to how much excavation is required, based on the amount of wood you have.

If you don't dig enough and you find that your short of earth 80% of the way through, then you will need to bring in material from elsewhere. That is essentially the worst case scenario which isn't exactly the end of the world.

So don't let this stop you from getting out there and doing it!
 
gardener
Posts: 1035
Location: Manitoba, Canada
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I think it depends a lot on what your goals for these Hugelkultur beds are and what your situation is. The bigger the pile, the less irrigation it needs. For example, a six foot high pile may not need any irrigation at all once it gets going. I imagine that an 18 inch pile might get you through 2-3 weeks without needing to water. I'm not sure how much space you have, how many logs you have, or how your neighbours feel about it so that would all be a factor. I think that even if they are only 18 inches tall you will likely still be thankful that you put them together. I think it would be really good to plant a lot of nitrogen fixing plants this year but I don't think that needs to mean that you can't plant anything else either. Good luck, have fun, and let us know how it goes!
 
master pollinator
Posts: 2164
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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bee forest garden fungi hugelkultur cooking rabbit trees urban wofati
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Hi Davin.

I like to dig down to mineral soil, or maybe deeper when constructing my beds. Toronto is actually mediteraneanish, I think, or something like it because of the humid continental climate that sees us with an august drought most years, so a hugelbeet for me is also a water reserve in times of drought. I dig down for more soil to cover my wood and brush, and to expand the volume of the compost and manures that I add.

I incidentally also like digging my paths down to the same depth, if possible, and backfill with wood chips, which working in the city can sometimes be had for free, if you catch the trucks. I think this approach will be more popular when more people have backyard chickens to feed, as the subsequent woodlice explosion can sometimes be extreme, but I have discovered that such an arrangement creates an invasive weed barrier around my hugelbeets, and turns my paths into a soil life bioreactor, spreading fertility into the surrounding area.

I have also recently been reminded of an idea I came across a number of years back, when I was looking into building chinampas in swampy land by driving standing deadwood down into the muck as pilings, but in a block, to form a platform on which I would pile dredgings, top and mineral soil, composts, and biomass. I figured the vertically oriented trunks would wick moisture better into the bed above, and that this would hold true if used in a hugelbeet.

So if your water table isn't too far from the surface, or even if your soil retains moisture lower down for longer, maybe pounding dead logs and branches vertically into the ground would better access the moisture reserves for longer.

Whatever you decide, keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
gardener
Posts: 5216
Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
658
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Davin Correa wrote:I have no experience on Hugulkultur, I have read a books that mention Hugulkultur, and watched many videos on the subject, but I'm still not clear on the how deep they need to be to be effective. I am currently digging three small scale Huguls in my backyard, and I'm somewhat in a hurry to get them ready before spring, and I will be making three more in the sideyard so I have a bit of a time limit. I'm thinking that the deeper the are the more water they will be able to reserve for the Texas dry season, as the logs will be buried deeper, currently mine are at eighteen inches, not sure on how many cenitmeters that is, and I'm a bit nervous to start the log process if it won't be deep enough. I plan to start planting this spring, which is a bit hurried, I did read that Hugul's get better as time passes, and that they are recommended to have a cover crop that fixes nitrogen for the first year, but like I mentioned in my previous post, I just moved back to Texas, and I'm not too keen on waiting an entire year to plant, especially considering I may not stay here a long time. So any advice would be appreciated in managing a new hugul to give it the best chance of success, maybe adding a lot of nitrogen as I'm currently lacking that as well, I've been here a little more than a week and haven't accumulated very many scraps, and being winter, there isn't a lot of greenery to bury along with the logs, I've read that bloodmeal is good, and maybe I'll splurge and buy some rock dust as well. Like I said, I'm very amateurish and if any of you beautiful, experienced people out there have any wisdom to share, I will love you for it! Thank you for your time



Hugels, as others have mentioned and indicated are more site dependent when it comes to how they are constructed. One of the primary things is how well along the rotting is in the large diameter logs, if these don't show any signs of rot beginning, then they will take a lot longer to begin holding water for the syphon effect.
How deep is very atmospheric conditions dependent too. In a desert you have to not only go deeper but you also need more wood because you went deeper. To speed up the conditioning of a new hugel you can use high nitrogen amendments as you build, spent coffee grounds are great for adding to each layer of wood you stack. Also there are so many variables in climate that are currently changing year to year that what is great now might not be so in a few years.

Much of Texas has caliche under the top soil, some places have two horizons before you reach this rock formation, If you are in the areas that are more arid, you might want to go as deep as you can (provided you have enough wood for this) and then stack just enough that you get about 3 feet above grade when you start adding the soil covering. You would also want to have good amounts of leaves, twigs and other easy to stuff in the cracks materials for the build. If you can water each layer, all the better for getting things started quickly.

The most important thing about this type of construction project for me is to have fun doing it. Trial and error rule the hugel builders methods, what works in one spot may not work the same in another spot, so not sweating the "details" should be normal.
There is a lot of hugel information on this site, do make use of it all, it will make your hugel journey much more fun and far less work.

Redhawk
 
Davin Correa
Posts: 5
Location: North Texas
forest garden fungi hugelkultur
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Thank you Guys! A lot of good information here has eased my worries. It can be quite dry here in the summer, so I'll dig a little deeper, as for wood, I am fortunate enough to have old wood piles in my backyard, piles that have been there for years and as such, have rotted quite nicely. I had read somewhere about placing the logs vertically might work like something of a straw and pull the water up, so that's a very good idea, I'll pound some of the logs into the soil as suggested. I'll have to go to one of the local coffee shops to get some coffee grounds, (the nearest star bucks is in the next town over). I will definitely try to go taller, and use the shaded sides for more shade tolerant plants, and leafy greens. Again thank you guys for all of the input, I greatly appreciate it.
 
Chris Kott
master pollinator
Posts: 2164
Location: Toronto, Ontario
175
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Another thing to keep in mind, Davin, is that the surface area of the mound increases as you go bigger, and in times of drought, that can amplify soil dessication.

I strongly advise employing some kind of mulch to cut down on moisture loss. This can be green manure, sod, cardboard, or wood chips, or even things like stones stacked up against the slope. These can be used in any combination, pretty much, until you can get growing root mats covering the whole of the mound. Living mulch is the best long-term option, in my opinion.

-CK
 
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