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Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread  RSS feed

 
Posts: 2
Location: Pacific Northwest Coast
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Thanks for posting this. I started one of these last week as a new addition to the veggie gardens.
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Posts: 16
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Hi all, I stumbled on this website after seeing a picture of hugelculture on another website, but before that I had created a small scale hugelculture mound without even intending to do so. I live in the tropics, just 6 degrees north of the equator, where I dabble in farming and catfish aquaculture.

With seeds purchased from Florida, I nursed a few hundred Moringa olifera, that rapid-growing ultra-high nutrient leaf crop that has really been growing in popularity worldwide over the past few years. Having read up on Moringa extensively before getting around to planting some, I learned that a lot of compost would be needed to keep the leaves from turning yellow, but I was still taken aback by just how frequently that cow manure had to be topped up, lest the plant start to lose its healthy green hue.

Anyway, while clearing a farm boundary path with my trusty old D7G bulldozer, I scraped together a large heap of wood and leaf debris, covered with rich top-soil. I planted one of the Moringa seedlings on top of that mound, and, in the months that followed, noticed that the plant located on that heap grew absolutely MASSIVE, in comparison to all other Moringa seedlings that I planted at the same time. Matter of fact the trunk of that one Moringa tree is at least ten times thicker in girth than most of the other spindly trees planted at the same time.

Not even realizing that cultivation on buried brush piles was a long established technique employed to assure bumper crop harvests, I was already planning to bulldoze under a few more brush piles, and quickly plant them with cuttings from my trees, before the rains taper off here. Now that I am aware that I can replicate on a large scale the rapid growth that occurred on my accidentally constructed hugelculture heap, my old ‘dozer is about to get a real workout.

I am in the early stages of constructing three parallel hugelculture heaps, varying in length from 50 yards to 100 yards, accross a hillside overlooking the swamp forest along whose fringes that same dozer excavated the catfish ponds I have used for years. When this work in progress starts to assume the final shape I am now carefully sculpting with this snorting mechanical beast, I will post few pictures here.

This is my first post here, and hopefully in the coming months I will update this preamble with progress reports detailing the performance and yield of the Moringa cuttings that I will plant along both sides of the ridge being built. I am excited at this new discovery of another good reason to keep my old 1976 D7G dozer running, despite her advanced age.
 
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I thought I invented this. I call my piles "corn mounds".
I make mounds in circles, 5 feet high sometimes. I dump a skim of dirt on top and plant corn. Corn has long roots which like mounds. You'd think, these mounds would be too acidic to grow corn the first year, but the corn grows green and has ears. I can't explain it.

 
Greta Fields
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May I add that I build these mounds with dirt on them BY HAND when I clear overgrown fields. I got soil to cover the mounds from below the roots of a locust trees, a legume, which fell over. I could not use a backhoe here because my soill is full of federally endangered long-tailed shrews. Shrews are underground tillers who make soil fluffy to walk on. Voles also populate my yards, but do not take over, because Bobcats control them. You are right though -- you do not have to irrigate hugel-piles.
However, to live sustainably, you can build the piles out of naturally fallen logs and saplings you cut with a bow saw! You can make a mound big ebnough to grow all the cornb one person can eat in one day. You don't need a backhoe un less you need to support a stanbding army.
 
pollinator
Posts: 3738
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Greta, I'm pretty sure I read that the Native Americans did something similar with mounds and corn in the forest, back in the day. Sans backhoe, of course.
 
Greta Fields
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You are right, C.J. Verde. I just started aking "mounds" out of weeds because I was clearing fields by hand and tring to figure out what to do with all the stuff. Also, I figured out I could grow stuff on top of the mound without having to till the soil. I did not know that Indians did this, but they did. There is a photo in the new book 1492 showing round mounds. I also found a picture of an old woodcut showing Cherokee women standing on toop of circular garden mounds, one woman per mound. It is just sort of a natural thing to try when you are clearing the woods by hand.
 
Billy Nelson
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Ok I am going to give posting pictures here a shot. This is the result of 2 days of work with my old D7G 'dozer. The ridge in this shot is about 100 yards long, and buried under the earth is lots of wood that came from thinning out a nearby forest of self-seeded rubber trees. Many of those trees were left standing, and can be seen in the background of the shot. Under the canopy of those trees a fruit tree native to the Amazon river basin, Borojoa patinoi, will be planted out from the tree nursery here. Borojoa has triple the protein concentration that beef has, so in a few years those trees will bear very special fruit. Borojoa is and ideal companion crop in the tropics, because it only thrives in the shade of other trees, which is why that canopy of rubber trees has been preserved.

Anyway, as I mentioned earlier, my new hugel heaps are going to be planted with Moringa olifera, which should do really well with all that stored moisture in the logs underneath all that earth, even as the dry season takes hold here. At the risk of boring y'all, I will post pictures of these new hugel heaps, as the crops planted on them start to flourish.
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Billy Nelson
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A couple more pictures, this time of my Borojoa tree nursery. These will all be planted out under the shade of oil-palm trees, as soon as the rains return next April. I am really excited about starting Borojoa tree plantations. For those of us living in the tropics, the ultra-high protein and vitamin content of the fruit from this under-story tree really does hold the key to alleviating world hunger.

One can only hope that Monsanto or some other agro-chemical giant doesn't grab the rights to the cultivation of this crop, and then start producing seeds that grow into sterile trees. If that does happen, at least I'll be able to consider myself lucky to have flown under the radar with these few thousand seedlings.
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Posts: 6
Location: Yorkshire, UK
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Hi permies! Long time listener, 22 year old first time caller from Northern UK.

I have been reading permaculture for about a year after my PDC last October. I've read all Sepp's stuff and watched all of Geoff Lawton's I could get my hands on but didn't have anywhere to practice most of it... until I found this spot. It's a guerilla setup on an old railway embankment which sits between a busy main road and an abandoned farm's boggy field, with fences on both sides. I got in there and set about observing and noticed that it probably hadn't had a foot set on it for over a decade and was wildly weedy. Perfect! That was in August and by now I have a few experiments in progress which I'm going to share with you guys.

My first goal was to build a full size 5ft hugelkultur bed having seen mostly sunken, Spirko style 'woody beds' online, which don't have all the features of Sepp's ones (steep sides, standing to pick, dry/wet microclimates etc). These are some of the results:

First I cleared out the thorns and sited my bed to fit my design:



Then I pulled back the thin topsoil to reveal one of my main challenges: an inch thick layer of coal and railway rubble. This had a good amount of topsoil above it and some decent river clay / sand mix underneath (which forms the embankment) but is nonetheless an issue. Any thoughts on how this might effect plants? Is coal a pH issue?



Next I pilled my brush and then logs (opting to reverse the order to save hassle; most of this brush is hawthorn which was nearly uncontrollable to build with and spikey to boot).



I finished off the wood pile by adding some nicely rotten chunks to balance the fresh cuts I used for bulk. I weaved it together a bit as I was building by hand and wanted it to be rock solid:



I slung cardboard over the pile to reduce the amount of soil I would have to shift to cover the wood. I'm also hoping this would give a nicely aerated structure for roots which like that kind of thing. I tried to keep the sides as steep as possible but ended up making a weird blob like a giant speed bump.



Then I dug a trench along the side, piled the topsoil in a heap, put the lower soil over the hugelbed and then covered the lot with my topsoil. The red clay you see here is from my pond which I will post about elsewhere; the trench is designed to sink runoff from the hugelbed into the pond and act as a soakage swale when the pond fills.



This process was repeated on the other side:



Here we see the (nearly) complete structure doing it's thing and catching late sun at the top of the south side and shade in the trench.



Well that's the construction process covered. I'm now musing on mulch methods which stop birds from eating all my cover crop before they come up. As I said, I'm new to this! Seems like the rule is: if in doubt, add more. Anyway feedback would be great. Muchlove permies.
 
Billy Nelson
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You got lucky finding that site of unused land, Dan, and I can see that some serious labor went into building that hugel bed by hand. With that kind of work to do in your spare time, you won't need to get a gym membership to stay in shape.

Post some pictures of your pond when you can get around to it, and of course of this hugel project as it progresses. I always dreamed of owning an acre or two of countryside in the UK, and farming it organically, just like you are in the process of starting up there.
 
pollinator
Posts: 367
Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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@Dan: That's pretty awesome. Guerrilla gardening is always fun.

As for the coal, though, coal is full of mercury and sometimes other poison . I would be very careful with it, although it's rare there have been deaths from plants grown on coal containing heavy metals.
 
Posts: 641
Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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It looks great! congrats on getting out there and doing it.

There looks to be quite a bit of long grass around your site. If you harvest it and more from the roadside, you could use it as a mulch cover for the seedlings if you're worried about birds.

Can you post a picture of the coal? If it's fine grade then it's possible that the heavy metals (if present), have leached out into the lower clay layer over the years. Coal tends to contain Sulphur which will make the soil more acidic.
I am guessing that the PH of the mound may be low, but will neutralise over time as natural rainfall rinses through the mound. The soil organisms will also regulate PH.

A few questions... Did you put soil in between the wood pile? Have you used any manure? Was asking because the manure would add a good load of beneficial organisms to the mound and go to work on the possibly not so great soil.
Quality compost applied liberally is known to remediate contaminated soil due to the organsims introduced.

Planting detox plants like Rabbit-foot grass (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/cris/programs/srp/phi/mercury/index.cfm) can also help.

I would personally scrape off the soil you put on and apply a few feet of compost you make yourself so it's top quality. I'd then include detox plants like rabbit-foot grass and alpine pennycress in my plant families.
 
master pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Sweet potatoes like hugelkultur! Here's about ten pounds from one plant grown in my kitchen garden in a buried wood bed:

 
Posts: 29
Location: Southwest, VA
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Newly constructed hugelkultur garden featuring ten dollar carpet pond and bridgett the farm guardian
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hugel pond
 
Tyler Ludens
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Very neat!

 
Greta Fields
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Gee, I can't believe you all are building these gigantic mounds. Mine are just manually built, ten feet in diameter.
I am new to this website, and I was a little shocked to see y'all using bulldozers and track loaders, both of which pack down soil. They will kill out animals that live underground and destroy a good mushroom patch. I was just curious, ius there a debate in permaculture about using heavy equipment?
I don't want to use a tractor anymore in summer, after I mowed snakes, rabbits and turtles in half..
I found a tiny, crop circle made out of grass braided in a spiral. It was beautiful and it surrounded the hole of a copperhead in my long grass.
I have never looked at snakes or crop circles the same since, and I can't bring myself to mow that spot. I DID mow it one more time after I saw the snake hole, and there was a NEWS circle, where the snake went round and round in the gass, making a perfect circle, absolutely perfect 360 degrees!!!
I thought, how nice, and went around it. I mowed a terrapin in half a second later. I think the snake was trying to warn me, there was a turtle around.
I will never forget the look of sheer terror in the still-living eyes of that terrrapin as long as I live. He was trying to get away from my mower, no doubt. It was pitiful.
He looked like a man I saw cut in half by the rapid transit train in New York City.
I do not like heavy machinery anymore (: (
 
Billy Nelson
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Greta you have a heart of gold, and a greater degree of compassion for all living things than most do. Your descriptions of garden and soil life-forms illustrates the kind consideration you have for all beings that share this green planet with us humans, and it really is humbling to hear your thoughts on why heavy equipment can be destructive to soil and surface dwelling organisms.

I defense of my particular method of constructing my first ever hugelculture ridge, I must mention that the farm I operate is located in the Third World, where the cultivation of food crops, particularly those with high nutrient value, is of paramount importance for basic human survival, given the general level of poverty here, which for many people precludes the sort of routine grocery store shopping that residents of Western countries take for granted. Bands of hunters with dog-packs strip-mine every living creature they can find in what is left of the forests here, since such hunting expeditions are not regulated by any statutes to ensure the viability of wildlife breeding populations, as is the case in most of Europe and North America. Here, I have seen grown men come to blows over allegations of cheating in the way the flesh of guinea-pig sized rats was divvied up after the hunt.

The two crops that I have chosen to cultivate here were selected specifically because they both offer highly nutritious and vitamin-packed alternatives to animal protein. Moringa olifera, from my research on the internet, is truly God's gift to mankind, from the standpoint of its multiplicity of health and nutritional benefits. If a few soil micro-organisms are ploughed under in the process of constructing hugelculture ridges to cultivate Moringa olifera for mass consumption in a land so deficient in affordable protein sources, I would argue that the greater good, of providing a constantly regenerating plant alternative to animal consumption, does outweigh the loss of a few soil microorganisms.

I am even more excited about the prospects of harvesting Borojoa patinoi fruit here in about five years. This species is so ideal for cultivation here because it is an under-story crop that requires no clearing of forest trees, since Borojo only grows well in the shade of taller tree crops, or of a preserved forest canopy. As I mentioned in my earlier post, Borojoa fruit contain three times the protein concentration found in beef, which means that in the tropics at least, animal husbandry can in fact be rendered obsolete by the mass availability of Borojo as a meat substitute.

Regarding your thoughts on the compaction of hugelculture mounds with heavy equipment, I must mention that I take extreme care to avoid driving my ‘dozer up the sides of the ridge. I stop short, raise the blade, and dump the shaved top-soil on the wood stacks lined out along the ground. Obviously, since this is my very first attempt at hugelculture construction, there is an off chance that the results of my efforts could yield less than the bountiful harvest that I envision, but I am determined to learn and adapt from my every mistake, to assure the success I seek in the long run.

I thank you for your having taken the time to express your misgivings about the side-effects of mechanized agriculture, but at least in this corner of the planet, such an industrialized approach has the real potential to protect endangered wildlife from relentless and unrestricted hunting pressure by hungry bands of men.
 
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Its dec 2nd in N.E. U.S.A....I planted a peach tree in my hugle bed in Oct...I went out today to dump table scraps and noticed a 1 ft. growth on a sprig at the bottom of the tree and buds coming out all over the place on the tree.This tree is all mixed up ..It should be dormant It is protected from wind and gets good sun ..I am confused ...lol
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Make sure the sprig is not coming from below the graft. If it is, cut it off or the rootstock will overtake the grafted portion of the tree. The tree may be confused by extra warmth coming from the hugelkultur.

 
Posts: 4
Location: Mareeba. FNQ, Queensland, Australia
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Can someone help me with a bit of info please.....

I live in tropical Australia (up the top) with very dry dry seasons and wet wet seasons. We have very thin (5mm) "plasterers scree" soil and no grass.. Just seca stylo left to go feral for 25 years and tea trees.

Do termites wreck a hugelkultur bed? We have lots of termite mounds.

Do I need to bring soil in to make it useable faster? If we leave it bare too long the snakes move in and the rain washes the wood bare...or will just a bit of our sandy soil do?

Can i build it north/south?...... It is better for drainage into the dam and stopping water from just sitting on the ground for 2 months.

Please help if you can ...we are all alone here and can't get much info. Thanks.
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richard willey
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Location: W Ma.
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I did cut the srrig off as it was below the graft..Tk U..Should i cut off the buds on the rest of the tree? I wish it was spring. The tree looks wonderful, but i think it will prob die when winter settles in.
 
Nick Kitchener
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Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit wrote:I buried one rotten willow trunk in my garden last fall, just to see if it works. It looks like a child's grave though. In spring I will start planting and observe closely how well it does. I will take some pictures.



You should have used more logs and made it look like you buried an adult or two

My guess with termites is that they will be great for the beds. Termites build soil like nothing else and they build awesome soil into huge, well aerated mounds that become natural hugel beds for trees.

The natural environment for termites is grasslands where they harvest grasses etc and bring it back to the mound. If you get termites in your hugel bed then they will likely build the bed rather than eat the bed. JMHO.
 
Marc Troyka
pollinator
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. Yuralani wrote:Can someone help me with a bit of info please.....

I live in tropical Australia (up the top) with very dry dry seasons and wet wet seasons. We have very thin (5mm) "plasterers scree" soil and no grass.. Just seca stylo left to go feral for 25 years and tea trees.

Do termites wreck a hugelkultur bed? We have lots of termite mounds.

Do I need to bring soil in to make it useable faster? If we leave it bare too long the snakes move in and the rain washes the wood bare...or will just a bit of our sandy soil do?

Can i build it north/south?...... It is better for drainage into the dam and stopping water from just sitting on the ground for 2 months.

Please help if you can ...we are all alone here and can't get much info. Thanks.



Unless the termites are eating your house, they shouldn't pose a problem.

For covering up the mounds, I'd start with whatever herbal riprap you can get. Weeds (pull em up and throw em on) and leaf litter are great. Then throw some sandy soil on top of that. Snakes will probably move in anyway, but getting the piles covered will yield results quicker.

As for the drainage, that depends on the reason for why the water would just sit around. Are you sitting on a high water table, or is the bedrock really close to the surface, or is it just that your soil is cemented into a solid sheet? Since your dry season is very dry, it would be better to avoid wasting water if at all possible.
 
Y Yuralani
Posts: 4
Location: Mareeba. FNQ, Queensland, Australia
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The land is fairly flat and there is no water movement. We only bought the land at the end of the last wet season but we have been watching it for a while. Where the beds are going will end in a big dam to take most of the still water and store it all together in a smaller area. There is a slight enough dip to do this. The beds will just steer it a little (hopefully).

Thanks for the advice, holidays are coming up and i want to get started before the wet season comes again.
 
Y Yuralani
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Location: Mareeba. FNQ, Queensland, Australia
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Thanks Nick. Hope the termites help us. That would be very "permie" of them. We have lots of anteaters and kangaroos too. Dont know if they will be in a permie mood tho. Haha.
 
steward
Posts: 3023
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Front Yard Hugelkultur bed:

My first hugelkultur bed: building this is actually how I found this website! I knew I wanted to use the brush from the large ash tree we had to take down and looked for information on how to do that. . .
 
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I apologize if this is a repeat, but this is a long thread! I am researching to write an article on this style of raised bed, and was wondering how it might do here in Texas. I'm in Austin, and we are pretty dry here, especially in the last few years. We just recently had devastating fires in neighboring Bastrop, and I'm thinking this might be a great way to recycle all those burned pine trees. I guess my questions is about super dry, dead wood. Will it work? Will you be able to grow in the first year? Should you add nitrogen for the first year? Also, I noticed quite a few examples of this bed had manure going right on top - is this safe for veggie gardening right away or do you need to let it age? We use turkey manure down here but let it age first or it stinks to high heck and is full of amonia.
 
Tyler Ludens
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So far I have had good luck with burying logs in the soil, with the top at about the level of the surrounding soil. My entire kitchen garden is done this way and this year was the best garden ever, doing well even through the heat of summer. I have planted in these areas right after completion, though they grow better after a few months. I do water them thoroughly during construction so that the wood is not super dry at planting time. The wood I've used is a mix of aged cedar, oak, elm, and persimmon.

I'm also building low hugelkultur about two feet high in which I'm planting drought tolerant fruiting shrubs but it's too early to know how well they will do.





 
Julia Winter
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Front yard with hugelkultur berm, from the uphill side (sorry the picture is so huge--I'm using gmail as an image host site, which is cheating):


It doesn't look as tall from uphill, as it is helping to terrace the slope. Near the stump is an area that will be most damp--I've planted some Camassia there, and will follow with more rain garden plants next spring. I could use advice as to other shrubs, small trees or perennials might be good for Wisconsin. Right now there are, oh about 3000 bulbs, three peonies and a few dozen daylily plants.
 
Nick Kitchener
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Nick Kitchener wrote:...Can you post a picture of the coal? If it's fine grade then it's possible that the heavy metals (if present), have leached out into the lower clay layer over the years. Coal tends to contain Sulphur which will make the soil more acidic.
I am guessing that the PH of the mound may be low, but will neutralise over time as natural rainfall rinses through the mound. The soil organisms will also regulate PH.
...
I would personally scrape off the soil you put on and apply a few feet of compost you make yourself so it's top quality. I'd then include detox plants like rabbit-foot grass and alpine pennycress in my plant families.



Thinking more about this...
A low PH will cause heavy metals to become water soluble. This means that if you can maintain a neutral soil PH, heavy metals from the coal won't be an issue.
I wouldn't worry about scraping off that dirt. Just use lots of mulch and good quality compost.
 
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I have tried two methods of huegelbeds. In the first case the whole site for the vegetable was dug out with a machine. That was a majopr catastrophe and I don't recomment this at all. We then completetly netted the site which was good. Then we layed the beds first woody clippings and then grass and dirt. but we did not mound each bed. The beds had to be refilled since then. The soil is nice now but the amount of hard shoveling work was just too much and also the destruction of the surroundings. It was as well a huge stability problem to build everything in.
I have to add that we have next to no toposil and our whole land is fill with asphalt lumps and concrete pavers and some dirt.
The second method I tried was no good either. I decided to lay everything on top of the land. There are two versions, the first were i put first grass clippings on the wood (worse) the second were I laid the soil first and used the clippings for mulch.
These hilled beds are first of all not very stable and I really have no idea how Sepp builds his very steep beds without a problem - there must be glue in his soil.
Building the beds on top of the soil is good as long as the climate is very wet. But in Australia it always changes and we only had some weeks of dry weather and the stuff wilted and I had to water daily.
My next attempt will be to dig small trenches in the width of every bed, fill this with the woody stuff and then hild up the rest. I will bring in a SMALL machine for this one too as it is really no fun trying to hand dig our fill and it is not comparable to dig dirt.
Hopefully this approach is better.
I must find a method to restore the beds laid on the top.
 
Dan Hill
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Location: Yorkshire, UK
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@Billy Nelson Haha you're right; I'm allergic to gyms but I'm in good shape as I like to ride mountain bikes dangerously fast for fun! As for luck, I have lived here for 20 years and know nearly every bit of scrub land (inquisitive kid + mountain bike :p) but I always assumed this spot was an impenetrable mess so it was a great find. I do worry a little that the adjacent landowner will object on the grounds of principle but I intend to turn it quickly from building site into lush, productive forest garden (sounds so easy on paper!), which should minimise that objection. We share the same dream but for now this is really an experimental site for playing with unfamiliar elements and methods.

@M Troyka On closer inspection I definitely overstated the coal content. In some areas it is a gravelly with a little coal but most everywhere else it is hard to find and it's always under a good amount of soil. After all, the railway line has been closed since Beeching 'downsized' the network in the 1960s. I don't take heavy metals lightly (pun intended) so I'm looking into particularly problematic combinations (mushrooms and lead :S). Even so, I've heard Geoff Lawton brush off the toxicity issue by saying that it is mostly a problem in low pH situations and that overstacking the system with carbon mulches can sponge up most of the badness. This seems to make good sense even to someone whose understanding of chemisty ends at "salt is salty".

@Nick Kitchener Thanks for the tip, don't know why I didn't think of harvesting the grass earlier... seemed like work I guess! As for soil building, I had added a decent amount of manure when I posted (not pictured) and I recently found that the base of the embankment has incredibly rich soil as the bank is too steep to hold leaves so decades of rotten leaves and worm poop has accumulated in heavy shade. I plan to harvest some of that to complement my compost heap (under construction...) and enrich my hugelbed(s). I also thought of holding leaves on the bank in future with the fallen brances and a few short wooden stakes. I didn't scrape off the dirt as it was only ever intended to be the foundation for a pile of plant food but you're right that it wasn't great quality. Still 'fine tuning' on the bird issue as I have had much less time to attend to it recently. I'm definitely going to try putting young alder branches over it like in Paul's recent hugel video. That would at least make it harder for birds to toss the mulch to find the seed and give seedlings chance to become less appealing to birds.

When I have some photos of updates I'll let you know as that was all helpful feedback. Currently I feel inclined to do construction to keep warm out there and get things ready for spring; I've got an idea for a 'U' shaped hugelbed with a hollow for vermiculture / worm business in the centre. Another similar bed in a shady spot for protecting my nearly fully innoculated oyster mushroom logs (followed Sepp with pleasing results) is also a possibility. Thanks for listening permies!
 
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What is considered the best orientaion for the beds e-w or n-s,or doesn't it matter?
We are in New Mexico with a strong prevailing westerly wind
Our wood is mostly pinion and arborvita (cedar).
Be well
Matt
 
gardener
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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Hi Matthew.

Will they be on relatively flat ground or a steep slope? If on a significant slope, place them on a (roughly) 45 degree angle from the slope if I remember Sepp Holzers diagram correctly, with a swale or terrace running on contour, upslope from the hugels

How high are you making the beds? If only slightly raised or flush with the ground, this won't be a factor but if you're making steep beds that are 3 feet high or more, consider the shade that will be cast.

What are you planning to grow on them? Again, if you're going with tall steep beds, consider that north-south beds will have shade in the afternoon on the east side of the bed, but the east side will warm up earlier in the morning than the west side. If you're going with east-west orientation, the north side might be shaded for almost all of the day so shade loving plants will thrive there but sun-lovers may suffer.

In general, beds oriented north-south are the way to go in my books, which would also coincide with Sepp's recommendation that beds be perpendicular to prevailing winds, if my memory serves me.
 
Matthew Metzler
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That is what I thought
Thanks
be well
Matt

 
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I wish I had a camera the last time it snowed because I had a perfect visual representation of the micro-climates created by hugelculture which are dependent on bed orientation. I have hugel-swales which are on contour. The uphill side was completely covered with snow whereas the downhill side was completely free of frost. These beds are only 2 feet tall but I also have beds that are closer to 3 feet (and growing). These beds are oriented at about 45 degrees to the contour. The micro-climates were still created, one side was frost free, the other side had frost, but the side with frost had much less frost than the beds on contour. It was very interesting to see how one bed could possibly grow lettuce and melons at the same time. The side facing away for the sun extends your cool weather season, the side facing the sun extends your warm weather season. This effect gets stronger with increases in bed height. So you get more season extension with a 4 foot bed than you do with a 2 foot bed.
 
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Location: Cascadia Zone 8b Clay
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James Colbert wrote:I wish I had a camera the last time it snowed because I had a perfect visual representation of the micro-climates created by hugelculture which are dependent on bed orientation. I have hugel-swales which are on contour. The uphill side was completely covered with snow whereas the downhill side was completely free of frost. These beds are only 2 feet tall but I also have beds that are closer to 3 feet (and growing). These beds are oriented at about 45 degrees to the contour. The micro-climates were still created, one side was frost free, the other side had frost, but the side with frost had much less frost than the beds on contour. It was very interesting to see how one bed could possibly grow lettuce and melons at the same time. The side facing away for the sun extends your cool weather season, the side facing the sun extends your warm weather season. This effect gets stronger with increases in bed height. So you get more season extension with a 4 foot bed than you do with a 2 foot bed.



I don't know how to make two quotes, but in the one above this, the description speaks of dealing with a slope and these 45degree angle beds. I was all set to go on contour with swales and berms and hugelkulture beds just in front of the brms coming down the slope on contour... Now I'm confused about what is best to do.

My slope runes east to west (east is higher) and so the on contour beds would naturally run north to south - do I make a series of shorter 45 degree angled hugel beds below the berm? The winds come in from the southwest, which would either put the beds facing ends into the wind or crossing the wind, depending on the direction I went 45 degrees. Oh AGH. I just serendipitously got a big load of cottonwood from the fellow who I get my firewood from - I've got apple branchers, long water shoot pieces and smaller ones, and a big load of old semi composted straw and compost as well as all the soil from my old garden beds (we just moved into our own place and I brought it all with me) - but I feel confused about which way to lay in the hugel beds now. oh help. :( Oh - and the field levels out below this area - this is the edge of the uphill slope (there's a fenced pasture above it).

Also, the cottonwood was JUST cut this week - now it's lying out in big piles in the general area in the winter rain, so I figured I needed to dig the beds and get them in and get the wood under there and plant somethinng on top as soon as I can... Ame I being too crazed? Help!
 
Matthew Metzler
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Thanks for asking for clarification on the "45%". Our land slopes down from south to north with prevailing west wind.
Not sure what direction to use but think e to w. would gather more moisture.
Be well
Matt
 
James Colbert
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It depends on the height of the bed, the direction of wind, and the sun. The slope I am working with runs from west to east (west being uphill, and east being downhill). I have relatively low hugel-swales running on contour. My taller beds are not on contour as this could cause land slides as water builds up at the top of the hill. Blocking the wind is really important so give that priority only after safety and even water usage.
 
Becky Mundt
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Thanks guys - yes I'm still muddling through on this as well.

Going to put in the contour line with an A frame first and see where it really is before I do anything else.
I know these things can be deceiving to the eye - esp when there is so much up and down on the property.

Once I can see that clearly then I'll see if I can put up some pictures to show you what I'm talking about and
you can tell me if I'm making sense or way off track. lol.

Thanks again and I'm working to figure out a windbreak on the downslope western perimeter, as that's the only
way I can really provide any serious shelter from the wind other than the height of the beds themselves.

There is an 80 acre mostly open pasture below us to the west and that does make for some big winds
coming through from the southwest - We love the view and the cows in the pasture, but there is not much
stopping that wind when it comes...

Will keep you posted.
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