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Planting Fruit Trees Amid Hugel Mounds  RSS feed

 
Posts: 58
Location: St. Andrews West, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5b)
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Hey all,

Happy Saturday! Hope you all are having a great weekend so far! :)

I wasn't sure if I should post this in the Hugelkultur forum or in this one. I settled on the Fruit Trees forum since what I'm doing right now with my food forest is more related to fruit trees than it is HK. I think! As you'll see, they are both closely intertwined though.

Here are a couple videos documenting our adventures in planting fruit trees:





A couple things to keep in mind as you watch:

1) We have been at this property a little less than 2 years now so if progress seems slow, it's because we're still trying to get a footing and come up with a game plan.
2) We're also both working full time jobs and raising 2 kids at the same time which is not always easy.

Some "questionable" things we've done...

  • Used very tall plastic stakes to encourage the trees to grow straight and to protect them from breaking when the snow starts to melt in the spring. We also have a nasty wind channel in the area where I planted the trees so the stakes protect them from wind damage too. Eventually I plan to use my Korea Pines and other trees/shrubs as a wind break so this won't be an issue forever. I want my trees to be reinforced by dancing and swaying in the wind regularly too, as trees should. I clearly need advice and best practices here.
  • Used a store-bought mycorrhizal solution in the dug holes before we planted the trees. The intention was to create that symbiotic relationship early on to give the roots the best chance of survival. We also mixed in bone meal with our soil before layering it back in the hole.
  • Used plastic tree protectors to protect against rodents. We have a lot of mice, voles, squirrels and chipmunks here.
  • Used bagged manure. The reasoning behind that is simple: I don't know anyone (yet) who has fresh cow/horse/sheep manure on offer or for sale/trade. I'm sure I could find somebody for that eventually, I just haven't got that far yet. So we had to resort to store-bought crap (pun intended). I would have much rathered use our homemade compost entirely but we just didn't have enough of it. Ideally, now that we have very fertile soil, which was already good to begin with, I don't feel like I will need to amend the soil in the years to come, or at least not often, since we have such a good base point now. Proper pH, mineral balance and light levels are definitely some things that I need to learn more about though.


  • In your opinions, are we doing things right? Or close to it, at least? Was it a good or bad idea to plant our fruit trees amid the hugel mounds? Does it make sense to leave gaps with no wood (so the trees have a solid foundation)?

    After it's all said and done, I'm left with a lot more questions than answers. I'm sure many of you have been down similar roads before and probably came out of it victorious. What was your secret? It's all a big learning game to me right now and I realize I don't know sh** lol. But I'm learning! I address a lot of this stuff in my next episode entitled "Working with Hügelkultur [Part 5] Q&A + Shoutouts" so look forward to that one if you want more details about the why's behind my choices and where we're at.

    Thanks in advance for your input!

    Matt Leger
    Maple Grove Productions
     
    Posts: 5
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    I haven’t watched your videos yet but plan to. From what I’ve read in your post you are probably on the right track. But, I believe everyone has their own method of doing things. What works for me may not for you and vice versa. In the end we all have successes and failures and at least you are trying. I think the ones that truly fail are those who never start...

     
    Matt Leger
    Posts: 58
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    So true, Nate! There are soooo many differing opinions out there! Even within the permaculture community, I have received many different takes on what and how I should do this thing. You're right that it's mainly trial and error. I just hope our experimentation does not come at the cost of my hard-hearned dough lol. We're not exactly rich, you know? Pretty low income actually, that's why permaculture is such a good fit for us. Thanks for sharing your thoughts man! :)
     
    Nate Reid
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    Matt Leger wrote:Hey all,

    Happy Saturday! Hope you all are having a great weekend so far! :)

    I wasn't sure if I should post this in the Hugelkultur forum or in this one. I settled on the Fruit Trees forum since what I'm doing right now with my food forest is more related to fruit trees than it is HK. I think! As you'll see, they are both closely intertwined though.

    Here are a couple videos documenting our adventures in planting fruit trees:





    A couple things to keep in mind as you watch:

    1) We have been at this property a little less than 2 years now so if progress seems slow, it's because we're still trying to get a footing and come up with a game plan.
    2) We're also both working full time jobs and raising 2 kids at the same time which is not always easy.

    Some "questionable" things we've done...

  • Used very tall plastic stakes to encourage the trees to grow straight and to protect them from breaking when the snow starts to melt in the spring. We also have a nasty wind channel in the area where I planted the trees so the stakes protect them from wind damage too. Eventually I plan to use my Korea Pines and other trees/shrubs as a wind break so this won't be an issue forever. I want my trees to be reinforced by dancing and swaying in the wind regularly too, as trees should. I clearly need advice and best practices here.
  • Used a store-bought mycorrhizal solution in the dug holes before we planted the trees. The intention was to create that symbiotic relationship early on to give the roots the best chance of survival. We also mixed in bone meal with our soil before layering it back in the hole.
  • Used plastic tree protectors to protect against rodents. We have a lot of mice, voles, squirrels and chipmunks here.
  • Used bagged manure. The reasoning behind that is simple: I don't know anyone (yet) who has fresh cow/horse/sheep manure on offer or for sale/trade. I'm sure I could find somebody for that eventually, I just haven't got that far yet. So we had to resort to store-bought crap (pun intended). I would have much rathered use our homemade compost entirely but we just didn't have enough of it. Ideally, now that we have very fertile soil, which was already good to begin with, I don't feel like I will need to amend the soil in the years to come, or at least not often, since we have such a good base point now. Proper pH, mineral balance and light levels are definitely some things that I need to learn more about though.


  • In your opinions, are we doing things right? Or close to it, at least? Was it a good or bad idea to plant our fruit trees amid the hugel mounds? Does it make sense to leave gaps with no wood (so the trees have a solid foundation)?

    After it's all said and done, I'm left with a lot more questions than answers. I'm sure many of you have been down similar roads before and probably came out of it victorious. What was your secret? It's all a big learning game to me right now and I realize I don't know sh** lol. But I'm learning! I address a lot of this stuff in my next episode entitled "Working with Hügelkultur [Part 5] Q&A + Shoutouts" so look forward to that one if you want more details about the why's behind my choices and where we're at.

    Thanks in advance for your input!

    Matt Leger
    Maple Grove Productions



    I just watched your videos, very nice! I’ll be interested to see a follow up video next spring as things start to grow.

    Something I might do if this was my project would be to cover over those hugel mounds with mulch asap. You mentioned a free source of wood chips that you finished your walkway with. I’d get some more chips and cover those mounds. It won’t surprise me that by this time next year you’ll want to plant stuff in that walkway because of how awesome the soil will have become.

    One final comment. Consider learning to graft your own trees. Whip and tongue grafting is pretty basic and there are plenty of good instructional videos on YouTube. You can graft your own trees for a fraction of the cost of buying trees. And you can graft 3 or 4 trees of each variety to ensure at least one takes. If they all take you could sell your “extra” trees to recover costs and have yours for free.

    Good luck!
     
    pollinator
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    Boy -- those trees are tiny little whips, aren't they?  You did a nice job taking your time and carefully getting the depth correct.  People have a tendency to plant too deeply, and then the water settles into the hole and can rot the tree roots.

    That's a lot of love you gave those little trees.  If they don't thrive, I don't think you can be blamed.  
     
    Matt Leger
    Posts: 58
    Location: St. Andrews West, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5b)
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    Nate Reid wrote:Something I might do if this was my project would be to cover over those hugel mounds with mulch asap.



    Yes! Thank you for noticing that and sharing ideas. We were using dried leaves but they all blew away. Would it make sense to water down the leaves so they stay in place? The only reason I haven't use the city wood chips is because I'm afraid the contents might have too much cedar/pine and make my soil acidic. I was careful not to use any of those woods in the hugel mounds too. That's another topic that has a lot of differing opinions out there. Some say not to use cedar/pine mulch or let them sit a few season before you do. Others say it doesn't matter and that the danger is more in the "live" wood than anything. What's your take on it? We used random chips in our garden this year and everything was stunted :( I can't say for sure that acidic soil and/or allelopathy were the culprits but I suspect they had a big hand in it. Actually, I just found out Maples and oaks are somewhat alellopathic too! That's a new one on me.

    As far as the pathways go, I'm planning to set up a raised bed garden running along the other side of the pathway. But yes, it will be awfully tempting to plan directly in the path as those beautiful chips start breaking down. We were a little more attentive to the type of chips we put in the raised beds in our backyard and it produced some beautiful, rich, black soil.

    Nate Reid wrote:One final comment. Consider learning to graft your own trees.


    It's like you're reading my mind man! lol I recently ordered a Siberian pear tree which will be a great pollinator and apparently they make excellent, hardy root stocks too. I would love to some day propagate those and graft my own trees. That is the dream (for the long term), indeed!

    Thanks again, Nate!
     
    Matt Leger
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    Marco Banks wrote:Boy -- those trees are tiny little whips, aren't they?



    They are! I had the same thought when I opened the package. We chose the smallest option they had to save cost. I'm wondering now if I shouldn't have just spent the extra 10 bucks to get taller ones. A friend of mine told me it doesn't really matter and that the taller ones are not any older, simply taller, so I went with the cheaper option. Do you concur?

    Marco Banks wrote: You did a nice job taking your time and carefully getting the depth correct.  People have a tendency to plant too deeply, and then the water settles into the hole and can rot the tree roots.

    That's a lot of love you gave those little trees.  If they don't thrive, I don't think you can be blamed.  



    Ah, thank you so much, Marco! That really means a lot to me. Since this is all so new to me, I doubted myself the whole way, with pretty much everything I was doing. But I could almost hear Geoff Lawton's voice in my head saying "Don't get stuck in analysis paralysis!" which kept pushing me forward. :) We certainly did give those little trees the best chance they could get. Good to know we did things right with the depth. I have the Hardy Fruit Tree Nursery to thank for that. They sent a couple of really great videos along some guidelines after we ordered. I'll link them below if anyone is interested in watching. They basically said the same thing you did. Our soil has some hard clay about 2-3 feet down in places. Had I dug too deep, it would have probably created a "bowl" and drowned the roots.



     
    Nate Reid
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    “Some say not to use cedar/pine mulch or let them sit a few season before you do. Others say it doesn't matter and that the danger is more in the "live" wood than anything. What's your take on it?”

    I live in a rural area where it is actually kind of hard to come up with wood chips. With my contacts at a couple of local tree service companies I was able to obtain 3 truck loads delivered to my house this year. While that was a lot of chips by some standards; it only provided a fraction of what I could use. So I also bought commercially available mulch, a natural softwood mulch that undoubtedly contains pine, spruce and possibly some cedar. I didn’t care, I figured mulch is mulch... My trees and berry bushes have responded well and I noticed after one season that I could pull the mulch away and dig into the soil with out tools (I was planting daffodil bulbs). The worms had moved in and were doing their thing, it was great!

    So I don’t worry about what tree my chips are coming from. As far as covering with wet leaves, that’s fine but they will dry out and blow off eventually. Perhaps the wet leaves and then some wood chips to hold them in place??? Maybe some spoiled hay??? I use whatever I can find. I can get loads of horse stall clean out free anytime I want some. I’ll attach a picture showing how I use some of it. Basically I took some rotten logs that were sitting along side my trail and set them between my orchard trees and covered them with fall leaves and horse manure. I won’t be planting there for a while so I’ll let it decompose in place and feed the surrounding trees.

    7F30659F-0D40-442F-A582-440B2DB7CD85.jpeg
    [Thumbnail for 7F30659F-0D40-442F-A582-440B2DB7CD85.jpeg]
    Hugelkultur
     
    Matt Leger
    Posts: 58
    Location: St. Andrews West, Ontario, Canada (Zone 5b)
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    Thanks for sharing, Nate! That is a nice mound you have there! It looks very fertile already! Sexy even. A few years ago I would have never thought I'd be saying that a decaying pile of wood, plant matter and manure is sexy but... well, here we are. :)

    Thanks also for confirming what I've been hearing and reading lately, that the type of wood used has little bearing on your final yield, so long as it's kept in a somewhat natural state. One of my favorite YouTubers (James Prigioni) kind of set the record straight for me recently with one of his videos which I'll link below. The guy really doesn't need my help in promoting his channel (he had something like 78,000 subscriptions last I checked) but he has helped me out so much I feel he deserves a shout out. I've been able to understand a lot of these things, like mulch and forest floor layers, thanks to his channel so it's the least I can do.

    In any case, this video was really insightful and I hope it helps to dispel some of the myths we sometimes hear about putting "bad wood" in your hugulkultur mounds or even in your garden bed. We put in almost every kind of wood chip imaginable in our garden beds this year and while at first I thought it was hindering our garden, I later came to find out it had nothing to do with the wood chips and we just had poor soil that needed to be worked. At the end of this season, our garden let us know that it was fine and started to produce like mad! So I take that as a sure sign that the chips were not hurting it and it simply took a little while to get fired up, like a lot of gardens do the first year.

    Hope you enjoy the video and thanks again for your brilliant replies! I'm done with Hugelkultur for this year but I've already got plans in the works for next year. I have my spots all picked out and wood set aside for it. I'm always on the lookout for more now too when I venture out in to the woods. My wife could tell you how I'm constantly making comments now like "Oh, that would go great in a hugel mound" or "this is a fantastic spot for another mound next year". I've caught the HK bug and spring can't come soon enough! :)

    Cheers!

     
    gardener
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    To  keep the trees from damage in winds you want three to four stakes and the suspension lines (ropes) to have some slack in them so the trunk can move, just not too far.
    I have some peach trees that are currently staked this way and I measured my slack for you and it is 7 inches on the slack side when one line is taught.
    This amount of slack allows my peach tree trunks to move a fair amount but not tip the root ball in the ground.

    Redhawk

    Nate has given you some really good tips in his posts. Thumbs up Nate.
     
    I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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