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hugelkultur in hot ,arid climate  RSS feed

 
Posts: 8
Location: Rajshahi
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Marianne West wrote:

this is a picture of Sepp Holzer's work in spain. Looks like a hugelbed to me.

for many more pics go here http://www.krameterhof.at/Fotoalbum/spanien_2006/index.htm



oh! I think great look.
 
Posts: 1125
Location: Central Wyoming -zone 4
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chicken dog hugelkultur
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another thing observed by another member on this site, besides depressions, you might also want to focus on mulches that are round in nature and shed water better than wood chips do, honey locust pods work great, this is because when you dont get much water to begin with, wood on the surface holds more water than ever comes from the rain, and it will take all the moisture and leave none for the soil below or the plants

also, can someone go into more detail on those wires?
do you run anything electrical through them or does simply having them do the trick?
is it enough to simply bury them a few inches and run them direct NS? also is it best to run them true north, and true south or does magnetic north and south work?

from that video, have you tried moving the wires to another part of the yard? i think that the solid white wall could be waht makes those plants grow better where they are, from better light absorption, the one wall that runs perpindicular to the beds has brown on the bottom, but that one is all white, and what direction is it facing as opposed to the brown wall?
it seems an interesting concept these wires, but before diving in i'd like to see some legit proof of it working because it seems more labor intensive and involved than simply planting some seeds or something...
 
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Abe Connally wrote:

Mark Harris wrote:Yes a swale around 2ft high (with special water absorbing properties) makes perfect sense to me. In fact that is what I suggested on another thread a few weeks ago. But apparently Sepp Holzer said to Paul W.and others they need to be MUCH higher, and very steep sided to work properly.



well, maybe in their climates, but in an arid area, I doubt making them tall and steep would help anything, and at the very least, it would increase runoff in the first hard rain. A lot of the techniques for temperate areas don't translate to arid areas without modifications.



Abe, I respectfully disagree. Tall raised beds act as wind breaks and since dessication by hot, dry wind is the primary cause of evaporation large wind breaks (raised beds) act to protect plants from dessication. This effect is enhanced when using a series of raised beds built parallel to each other.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 10366
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Posts: 386
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Very interesting topic.

We've done hugelculture in sub mediteraean semi arid climate with raised beds as a roof strucutre.
Lots of wind and strong sun made this beds heavily water dependant! It's not working.
It's not possible to have a growing area on a mound.
It's not so much about how it's built, but where you plant your veggies.

On the other hand, we've done hugelculture with 1m depth of a trench, filling with woody material, mostly part roten stuff, sawdust, chicken manure, green stuff and with lots of watering all the time. We filled the trench to 60cm, then added 20cm of top soil and left 20cm of space, so the bed was sunken. In addition we made a wall from rock around. Now that's working!

How can swales work in Jordan for Geoff Lawton?
Because the swale is not growing area, it's only a mound for wind protection.
The planting was not done on the swales, but in the trenches.
Support species were planted on the up side of the trench, productive species on the lower side of the trench.
The bottom, lower side and up side of threnches were irrigated, lots of mulch covering the whole trench, pipes and drip lines.

So, if you make a big mound parallel to one another to block the wind, you still want to plant in the mids or more to the bottom of the mounds, not on the mounds.
Yes, you might have a bit less wind, but there is still sun shining and you will have to water like crazy to keep mounds moist.
Top of the mounds would probably be paths.

Humid has growing area on mounds, on swales.
Arid in trenches, sunken beds, wicking beds.
 
Posts: 20
Location: NE Brazil drylands
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I actually did some hugelkultur beds on pure white sand in a very dry windy site (NE Brazil!) which has not evolved over ten years. I was also unsure about building such high beds in such a dry spot- but it really does work! It has evolved much beyond the rest of the pasture. We were able to plant bunch grasses which are quite demanding, as well as establishing some fodder trees- and it hasn´t really rained yet!

Great thing to do whenyou receive a group of high-energy university students! They love it!
 
Marsha Hanzi
Posts: 20
Location: NE Brazil drylands
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When you don´t have wood in arid climates: we use dead sisal plants, and collect pods of dried manure which the farmers ask us to remove (!) as the clods cover up the grass...(I suppose that one day they won´t be asking us to remove this material again!
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Marsha Hatfield wrote: as well as establishing some fodder trees



Did you plant trees on the top of the mound? Or on the sides? Or in the trench? Did you irrigate and how often?

Thanks! Just need more details.

 
Posts: 182
Location: CO; semi-arid: 10-12"; 6000 ft
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Yes, Marsha, I too am very interested to hear more details. Did you build on top of the sand, or dig in partially, how much organic matter did you use, how high the mounds, which direction do the beds face, etc. I am in a very windy, semi-arid location, gardening on pure sand--no topsoil and very little OM unless I haul it in from a town 18 miles away. We have been digging sunken beds, but it is a great deal of work with pick and shovels to break through the hard compacted layer beneath the loose top sand. (My son joked that the dirt hadn't decided yet if it was sandstone or sand).

I too appreciate your sharing this tidbit--it's a teaser!
 
Marsha Hanzi
Posts: 20
Location: NE Brazil drylands
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We oriented the beds against the prevailing dry winds.
The trenches are almost a meter deep, which are filled with mostly rotten cashew wood ( a fairly soft wood), as farmers prune their trees once a year and burn the residue (!). WE also add burnt bones and clay from the bottom of a dry lake, and charcoal if we have some around.
So the beds are about a meter high when finished.
We plant aloe vera on the top ( native here), as it resists the dry conditions.
In the depression at the bottom of the bed we put coconut shells ( easy to get here), and plant the fodder trees in this depression on the leeward side of the mound.
But even on the windward side things grow better than on the level.
I am actually in doubt as to when to seed the beds, as it does seem anti-intuitive to seed them in the hot dry sun.
And we do have a bit of difficulty of covering them- we cut branches from a local legume tree ( very thorny!) or a euforbiacea which is very resistent to drought and which we have in abundance here.
It hasn´t rained yet so we don´t know how these will react in the rainy season- (May) We´re actually in an 80-year drought, pretty dramatic here...(But we are much better off than what we see on the other side of the fence)
But seeing the improvement already, we have high hopes!
By the way , my name is Marsha Hanzi and not Marsha Hatfield, whoever she is...
 
Marsha Hanzi
Posts: 20
Location: NE Brazil drylands
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For organic matter we have always used sisal ( or other agaves), cactuses, bromelias (including loe Vera) and euforbiáces, all which can create durable organic matter.
We are finally getting trees established, but in the first years we basically relied on these four families of plants to supply us with organic matter, and we still incorporate them into our composts.
And what we glean from the neighborhoos of course! If the farmer says he´s going to burn it, we ask to haul it away... "But Sr. Severino, those cocnut husks are fertilizer" "Oh yes, they are fertilizer!" "Then don´t you want to use them?" "No, I´m going to burn them!"
 
Marsha Hanzi
Posts: 20
Location: NE Brazil drylands
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"We have been digging sunken beds, but it is a great deal of work with pick and shovels to break through the hard compacted layer beneath the loose top sand. (My son joked that the dirt hadn't decided yet if it was sandstone or sand). "

I just received the DVD about Yacouba´s anti-desertification work in the Sahael (Burkina Faso).
He had a stroke of genius: made holes , (his soil is also very hard), filled them with organic matter, and put in termites! The termites help to soften the soil below.
Today we were hauling some semi-rotten wood and were imnpressed that in two week´s time the termites had made a great change in the soil surface below the wood.
 
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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Hi guys - I know I'm late to this discussion but I'll throw my two cents in, living as I do in Phoenix, Arizona.

Stats:
Temperature: 100+ days of 100 degree or more heat (25 of those above 110, and this year we hit 118 - again.)
Rain: Average 7.4 inches split fairly evenly between summer monsoons and winter rains
Soils: (at least where I live in the alluvial flood plain of the Salt river) - heavy clay

I've never tried RAISE huglekultur beds - I just don't see them working in my climate as they are exposed to too much superheated dry air. I'll put my trust in Brad Lancaster's methods any day of the week as he's a true desert dweller. I use sunken beds, infiltration pits, and other water harvesting techniques to retain moisture and mulch around my plants.

Having said that, I have dug infiltration pits extra deep and tossed in some larger branches I've trimmed from my overstory trees, which I planted to form a protective shade canopy over my understory plantings (one element, multiple functions....). I think the oldest bed I did that to was planted with an orchard in 2007-2008. Here's what I've noticed so far:
--the beds sunk further as the wood degraded
--the fruit trees (a variety of low chill stone fruit trees - apricots, peaches, plums, apriums, nectarines) are doing well and growing vigorously. Note in that area, I also created a French drain to actively use rainwater vented from my neighbor's carport onto my property. We worked together to solve this problem of nuisance water and turned it into a solution of fruit trees. So this area probably gets more water than other areas of my property.
--I have noticed some nitrogen leaching in some of the trees - not sure if that's from the underground wood or the woodchips on top of the orchard.

In the other beds where I've buried large branches, I've now noticed sinking as well. The desert does tend to eat organic matter if you can get it into the soil and get a little water to it. I know I've buried chickens in the yard and then decided I needed to dig in that spot...never did find the remains. Not feathers, not bones.

I do know that the heavily mulched sunken beds and tree canopy are saving me money on irrigation because I can see it in my water bill. My planted areas have increased but my water bills have decreased. My electrical bills are also lower thanks to the tree canopy. My summer veggie beds are under my screwbean mesquite trees. They appreciate the shade. Geoff Lawton stated in his online PDC that hot desert gardens need 50% shade over the top, 25% shade on the east side and 75% shade on the west side during the hot season. Living where I do in AZ, I can tell you that those numbers are pretty accurate for us. Not sure about cooler/higher deserts.
 
pollinator
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Welcome to Permies, Jennifer!

It sounds like you have your climate figured out and your methods are working. Congratulations!

Do you have any desert ironwood (Olneya tesota) on your property? Besides being pretty trees, they are supposed to be great nurse plants for other desert vegetation. I'm convinced that a mass planting program of them could have a lot of positive effects: cool the desert, increase soil fertility, and serve as water catchments.
 
Marsha Hanzi
Posts: 20
Location: NE Brazil drylands
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Hello from Brazil´s drylands!

We are just at the end of our planting season, which is in the "winter" here- ok don´t laugh! (It DOES go down to 17* here ...Centigrade...)

This year we developed the ultimate garden bed! It has been giving fabulous results. If someone will teach me how, I could post a photo.
We combined French intensive (double-digging), huglekultur, and lasanha Back to Eden type beds all in one! We have had fabulous results in our poor white sand, even in the first year.(Absolutely no signs of nitrogen deficiency)

We dig trenches as you would for double-digging a bed.
We line the trenches with clay to hold in the water , then fill them with rotten wood, charred bones, granite gravel, and a local rock dust rich in boron.
We fill in the trenches, mixing in liberal amounts of semi-composted chicken house compost. (Have to explain: we built a brick box under the roost, and fill it with leaves, scraps, peels, etc., and let them turn it into compost. We even throw in the rabbit droppings and goat dung,. We then just use it or pile it to compost a while- very rich stuff!)
On top of that we put a generous layer of ground up sheet mulch of rich prunings from legume trees ( leucena, mesquite, etc.), sisal sprouts, Opuntia, aloe vera ( native here), and a local solanacea, close relative of the eggplant, which has shown itself to be very rich in minerals and nitrogen. We keep adding to that any time it gets thin.

The bed is very tall at the first, so we put half-rotted tree trunks around the edges to keep the moisture in. But it settles in a few months
We irrigated only once since April. It was the rainy season, but we DO get spells of hot dry weather even so.
The production is a gardener´s dream! Vigorous hallucinating green,tomatoes and tomatillos full of flowers, just coming into production, where the rest of the farm is already bedding down for its summer sleep.
In three weeks´time no one in the region will have any more tomatoes, just when these are coming into production.
These beds are at the skirts of two cashew trees, so they get shade a good part of the day.

We have irrigated only twice (the rains stopped around the 19th of September), so don´t know how long we will actually keep them going, until we move all production into our irrigated shadehouse. We have used only rainwater until now, and don´t really want to use groundwater , although abundant here, because of its high bicarbonate content.

We are really pleased with the results...
 
Marsha Hanzi
Posts: 20
Location: NE Brazil drylands
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PS: Just to avoid confusion- this is a different bed from the other mentioned above, which we used to create micro-climates and establish fodder trees in a windy exposed pasture...
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
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@John - thanks so much for the welcome! Nice to be here.

@Marsha - your bed process sounds very similar to mine - the only difference is that when I've double dug a bed and refilled it, I've kept it sunken as opposed to letting it be above ground level.

I was just out in the yard looking at the various beds where I've used "in ground hugelkultur" (for lack of a better term) and took a few measurements. Here's what I've got so far:
--urban orchard swale, planted in Jan/Feb 2008, started out being 8-10" deep and is now 13" in places. I'm assuming this sinking is from the big wood pieces in the bottom of the swale decomposing. There has been some nitrogen leaching I've noticed over time - one tree will show nitrogen stress, and not the others. Another year, a different tree would show stress. (Note: I've always found nitrogen to be very quickly processed in my beds and providing enough nitrogen is something I'm still not good at). Overall, the trees perform very well.
--two double dug planting beds for seasonal veggies that were dug in Sept/Oct 2010. These originally were sunken about 3-4", now they are about 6". Again, noticed sinking which was probably caused by woody materials decomposing. These beds also produce very well - the spinach grown here is TO DIE FOR. No nitrogen deficiency HOWEVER these are my annual crop beds so perhaps they are not as affected due to root depth? I keep having to decompact the top 6" each season because my hungry clay soil eats organic matter (even when I leave the roots of the annual crops in the soil).

It would be interesting to hear how others beds progress over time.
 
Posts: 11
Location: Willcox, AZ
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So I am a young ambitious man who recently bought 4.5 acres in the wonderful southeastern part of AZ. I learned about permaculture about 2 months ago. I read about hugelkultur on this site last week. I built one as described on Paul's page.

I used from a nearby pistachio farm, dead tree stumps with the accompanying root balls covered by mesquite brush. I then covered this, 5 foot wide x 6 feet tall x 18 foot long hugelkultur, with the natural topsoil from a future pond spot, making sure it was very much watered as the soil was piled on. I then put tons of mulch on top of this. Watered it too.

I did this on Saturday. It was a long day.
I found this forum today. I read all of it. I am now wondering if all that work was for nothing. I don't want to water the thing. That's why I made it so HUGE. That was the instructions on Paul's page. So I now have this Ginormous earth berm and am scared that it won't work.

I was planning on doing another this coming weekend.

I have no means to dig. These are just placed on the ground and built up higher than I am tall.

We have lots of wind here. We get about 13 inches of rain annually. approx at 32 degree lat. about 1 1/2 hrs east of Tucson.
 
Posts: 57
Location: DFW Area, Texas
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Hi Ted,

I would think it could still be made part of a productive system. Maybe you can focus on further reducing incoming wind by planting trees strategically. You can also try Marsha Hanzi's technique to keep moisture in the bed starting out, "we put half-rotted tree trunks around the edges to keep the moisture in." You could also consider how to collect water toward the bed so some of it can infiltrate up into the bed, if you have access to a shovel.

The benefits of a tall bed is that it will block a lot of wind. If you could place multiple of them in a good pattern, you could probably create more moist, less windy spots. Good luck with your place.
 
steward
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Howdy Ted, welcome to permies!

Noah made some good points!

Don't give up too soon !

One of the cool things about the hugel is that it hold water like a sponge. Have you planted it yet? Try to get something growing as soon as you can, even if it is just "weeds"

It may take a year or two to really get going. In the meantime observe and keep reading and learning here.
 
Ted Crowder
Posts: 11
Location: Willcox, AZ
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Noah and Miles,

Thank you for your replies. Yes it has been planted from seed for over a month now. I've been watering it every 2 -3 days and about 20 plants as well as many weeds and grass have come up. Before I learned about this in previous years if I didn't water 1-2 times a day every day. Nothing would grow. This is simply outstanding. I can't wait for it to become mature.
 
pollinator
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I was very glad to find this post with the search system....
I also had decided to burry and sink the beds, to profit of my new walls building.

I just want some tips fast enough to avoid mistakes BEFORE they finish!
Yes, I had to put a catterpillar there... It looks for the underground stones, moves big stones...

The walls are 1.50 meters high, so I have room behind, and i do 4 terrasses.
I am doing a surface between 1000 and 2000 m2, I did not measure.
I would like to use a digging method only once, and then let it live. The wood is pine, could not find anything else.

Do you think I should put a very thick amount of logs?

What was the sinking effect you had compared to the thickness of wood you initially put?
Thanks
 
steward
Posts: 3999
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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Something reminded me of this thread, and the importance of making sure a method is appropriate to your climate/geology/geography.
I live on miles of sand in a relatively high-rainfall area.
If I build my gardens 'up' at all, I have major irrigation issues.
Down is the new up! Or something
 
Leila Rich
steward
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bump
 
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Hello Permies

I'm in the process of implementing a Hugelkultur system at a farm in the Eastern Part of Portugal's Algarve coast near Tavira. http://www.quintamar.com

The farm has an amazing Biopool that is totally awesome! But i'm really here to talk about Hugelkultur.

We had a storm a few weeks ago and a whole lot of brush and dead tress fell down, adding to this the annual prunings of the Olive and Almond trees, left piles of brush looking for someone to save them before they got burned by the local 'old school farmer'. Yes thats how they deal with excess here, burn it.

So my idea is to create a hugelbed mandala system around a small pond, and make it a healing, wellness nature area for the customers who come and visit the farm to hang out in a more private space thats not just the pool, but has some seclusion in amongst nature.

It gets really hot here in summer, and the summers are long and dry. Most rainfall is in the winter, peaking in december. Hopefully I can capture some of that rainfall in the hugelbeds before the tap stops. I aim to dig around 0.5m to 1m depending on how much labour is available for the task and whether the owner will pay for a small digger to come in.

I created a blog post around the project and will update it with a phase 2 post when its done. http://bit.ly/1rWJLFh
 
Ted Crowder
Posts: 11
Location: Willcox, AZ
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Well It's been a year since I made my gigantic hugel in the desert. The soil has been blown down and settled nicely. It's only about 5 feet tall now.

I and my spade have made attempts to route water from the roof to the hugel and let it work like a sponge. I don't think it has worked yet. I had some plants growing on there during and after the monsoon season. I transplanted 3 trees around it. 1 may make it. 2 other are dead.

To be completely honest, Once I had everything set up for it to work except for installing a sprinkler system on the thing, I gave up on it. I let my kids go to town using it as a hill to climb and jump off and play with. They love it. (multipurpose use?)

Plans for the future include:
1. letting it sit and rot more.
2. keep watering it with whatever it soaks up from roof runoff.
3. throwing all leftover seed on it. (who knows, it may surprise me and actually grow something. )
4. keep it around even though my wife hates it. (I still hope it will bring some agricultural goodness.)
 
Ted Crowder
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Location: Willcox, AZ
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Update yet again!

My Hugel is currently growing potatoes and broccoflower! I did not plant anything. I thought more weeds were growing, but to my surprise, food is growing! So exciting! this thing may not have been a complete waste of time and effort... Yahoo!!!
 
Posts: 299
Location: Oklahoma
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I'll throw my hat in the mix. I have had problems with hugelkultur here in Oklahoma due to dry conditions. To get around that I had been burying my hugelkultur beds. This year I am trying a semi buried bed for strawberries and yet another above grade bed for wildflowers. The twists I will be trying is this: Using a lot of wood chips to fill in between the solid wood. Then soaking it good before covering with soil. And for the completely above grade flower bed using a dry adapted wildflower mix and using a large cottonwood stump still in the ground as my main chunk of wood and simply building my bed over it. We will see if it works.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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Sunken beds with organic matter in them and hugels all around (not finished yet on the photo, highest one is on south east where majority of wind is coming from).
First photo is looking towards south west.
Hugels (3' and 4' photo) were planted with pioneer and fruit bushes and trees to make more shelter, sunken beds are for annual veggies.
Sunken beds turned out to be just a little tiny bit raised, but material is added on paths all the time.







 
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