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UK Hugelkultur is it worth it?

 
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Given our climate (I'm in South Wales), and the amount of rainfall, are hugel beds worth it here?
From what I've read about them, one of their benefits is reducing the need to irrigate.

A tall hugel bed would also cast a lot of shade, and I want to maximise sun. (I don't want to dig a pit for a sunken hugelbed.)

I'd be really interested in hearing UK people's experiences with hugelkultur, especially any comparisons people have made with other types of garden bed, eg lasagne gardening or no-dig.

Thanks!
 
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My uncle in Bridgend had a laundromat and he wondered about collecting rain water to use in it.
When he called whatever government office to ask, the answer was : when it's in the sky it belongs to god, when it's on the ground it belongs to us, so no.

Utterly no help to you but I think of that story whenever I hear about rain catchment.

And now you will too.
 
pollinator
Posts: 506
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9-10, 60" rain/yr,
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Hi Meg. I do not know your climate beyond a reputation for dankness, but I live in a temperate rainforest and use hugel beds almost exclusively now after seeing them out perform even normal raised beds. If you have any period of dryness (we get less than 3cm between June-September on average), they will give you about a month of water storage per ft of height where summers a mild. I only water when seeding in the summer, and I grow thirsty plants that can get 4m high and wide.

Another amazing and possibly counter intuitive benefit of hugel beds is that they drain well, after a 160"/400cm of rain last winter, I was getting germination and plantable soil a month before flatland gardeners. I also would bet my soil temperature is moderated by 2-3C from extremes from how they react to hot and cold snaps. I even have grapes that haven't lost all their leaves this winter despite freezes. In addition, the south side of a East-West oriented hugel bed, or better yet a south facing suntrap/keyhole hugel, will get up to 5C warmer than the flat ground, and at 2m in elevation change water will drop out of the air and condense on plants during the summer to help provide moisture.

If you have suitable wood/prunings available, I cannot think of a reason not to hugelkultur. If nothing else, you save 1/3 of your soil costs on raised beds by replacing it with wood.
 
Meg Davies
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Thanks Ben! Those are some encouraging thoughts. I do have wood available so I think I will give it a go and maybe also make a flat no-dig bed as  a comparison.

The climate in S Wales is maritime, wet, mild and overcast in Autumn and Winter, with some dry spells in summer but no guaranteed hot summer.

In addition, the south side of a East-West oriented hugel bed, or better yet a south facing suntrap/keyhole hugel, will get up to 5C warmer than the flat ground,



You've answered one of my other questions, which is orientation. East-West seems to make sense to create a south facing bed, but I wonder what will grow on the shaded side.  

Maybe I don't need to build such a tall one if a foot of height gives a months storage.

My uncle in Bridgend had a laundromat and he wondered about collecting rain water to use in it.
When he called whatever government office to ask, the answer was : when it's in the sky it belongs to god, when it's on the ground it belongs to us, so no.



Thanks for the story Kevin. Shame they stopped his plans!
 
Meg Davies
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I also need to figure out how much space to leave between beds so they don't shade each other.
 
gardener
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Location: Western Washington
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I agree with Ben. I live in western Washington State where the climate is also mild and maritime, and I value hugel beds for the things Ben mentioned as well. I have a LOT of water in my soil in fall, winter, and spring, and by putting hugel beds (which I garden in) in between the trees in my orchard I have been able to lower the water level there substantially. They also hold water well in drought (every summer here is dry). I also noticed that when it snows or frosts over the hugel beds thaw out first (by far) probably due to the heat generated by the bed composting. Everything I grow in them thrives
 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
Posts: 506
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9-10, 60" rain/yr,
78
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It’s worth going up, that estimate I gave on height probably understates the exponential relationship between volume and surface area. I have generally started at 4ft tall by 4ft wide with 3ft paths, and they collapse down to 3ft tall, and 4.5ft wide. In addition, the girth of your wood will effect its moisture retention exponentially. You can look up firefighting guidelines to check my math, but they have a standard for fuels where a 1ft thick log is a 1000hr fuel I believe, meaning it takes 42 dry days (1000 hrs) to become easily combustible (15% moisture or so). The fact you’d only use such large pieces in beds at least 3-4x as tall is a big reason for their long moisture retention. On the other hand, smaller pieces have lower carbon to nitrogen ratios and break down faster into soil. If you can, place some logs upright to utilize their wicking vascularature and how a flat end at a horizontal spreads water out and aerated it. You find increadinle roots on such logs.
 
Meg Davies
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Thank you both.


I agree with Ben. I live in western Washington State where the climate is also mild and maritime, and I value hugel beds for the things Ben mentioned as well. I have a LOT of water in my soil in fall, winter, and spring, and by putting hugel beds (which I garden in) in between the trees in my orchard I have been able to lower the water level there substantially.



I have a boggy part of my field, and I'm still considering what to do with it. Would some hugels nearby help deal with the excess water?
 
Ben Zumeta
pollinator
Posts: 506
Location: Redwood Country, Zone 9-10, 60" rain/yr,
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You could use French drain pipe (with slits for absorbing and dispersing water) under your paths or the beds themselves to aid drainage and infiltration. Here’s my post about my setup:https://permies.com/t/75626/Hugel-Chinampas-duckoponic-swales#626386
 
James Landreth
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Location: Western Washington
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Hugelbeds have helped in my case. In addition to lessening the wetness at the wettest time of year (mid-winter) the hugelbeds make it so that the soil there get saturated later in fall (when the rain starts) and drain sooner in spring (when they lessen). I bet that a combination of that and french drains would do the trick
 
Meg Davies
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Thanks everyone! Very helpful thoughts. I will be making a hugelbed hopefully over the next month or so.
 
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