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I'm new-- need help  RSS feed

 
Posts: 1
chicken goat hugelkultur
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Hi, I'm new. I've been reading and researching.  So far this is my favorite place for researching.  I am learning to do the Hügelkultur method and need some guidance.

 I started working on my very first ever in my life garden last year spring '17.  Never had a garden growing up, so I am having to learn as I go.  I planned out a garden area, but after 3 attempts at tilling the land and breaking the tiller because of all the rocks, we decided to build raised beds.  Because we are in our 50's and plan to stay here for life we decided to build 1 group of beds (area covering 14' x 16') to be raised off the ground, not touching the dirt below, so we don't have to bend or crawl around on the ground.  We can stand and harvest the produce like lettuce, carrots, etc, the non-climbing produce.  Then the other side (another area covering 14'x16') raised beds that the bottom is sitting on the ground, and then putting fencing around the beds for climbing produce etc.

After I finished building the 1st group of beds, that are not on the ground, I started thinking of  where and how I was going to fill these beds with dirt.  They are 2'-3' wide and about 15 inches deep.  I have clay dirt and rocks so after realizing how expensive it would be to fill all my beds with bagged dirt or dump truck loads of dirt, I started researching my options.  Then I stumbled upon the Hügelkultur method.  Once I started reading about it, it was a no-brainer that this is what would work for me and save me money having to buy a whole lot of dirt.  We have a lot of wood, sticks and leaves just laying in the lots.

Here is my problem.  In my research all over the internet, I am seeing people add amendments, different kinds for this and that.  I am at the point of confusion to know what I need now.

Do I need to buy?
1- Worm castings
2- Azomite
3- Mycorrhizal
4- Fish emulsion
5- Organic Fertilizer
6- Bone Meal
7- Blood meal
8- Kelp meal
9- Rock phosphate

Here is what I also have on my land. I have manure from 7 Nigerian goats and manure from 33 chickens.   One pile has been sitting there for a year and I have piles from this year.

This is how I layered my beds so far.
1st layer -  I put down fresh new goat manure right out of the goat barn
2nd layer - I put the logs and sticks down.  I read somewhere that putting the fresh goat manure down first then the sticks will help with the carbon /nitrogen tug-of-war that goes on when decomposing.  Would this be correct?
3rd - I put down leaves
4th - I put down a light dusting of new chicken manure (since this will be sitting from fall till spring planting I thought it would be okay)
5th - i put down 1 year old wood chips

In the spring is when I will add some top soil and amendments if needed. Plant, then cover with new fresh wood chips.

What else do I need as far as the amendments listed above??
Any suggestions? I have the other side of raised beds (for climbing produce)  that will be done building and I will be filling soon.
Any and all help is greatly appreciated.  
Thank you in advance.
 
gardener
Posts: 1071
Location: mountains of Tennessee
316
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Welcome to permies. Read this before buying anything.  Dr Redhawk's soil series.
 
pollinator
Posts: 2385
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even Soil:SandyLoam pH6 Flat
122
forest garden solar
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Rockdust = grinded up rocks to provide source minerals like calcium, phosphate, selenium, etc)
Rock Phosphate
Azomite
(Sea90)

Nitrogen
Fish Emulsion
Fresh Manure
Blood Meal
Bone Meal (also provide some minerals like calcium)
Kelp Meal
Organic Fertilizer

Carbon
Sawdust
Woodchip
Leaf Litter
Logs
Twigs
(BioChar)
(Strawbale)

Innoculanta
Worm Casting
Mycorrhizal


If I was creating a setup like what you are this is what I would do.

Carbon (80% of the volume or more)
Ask a tree cutting company to drop off two truckload of freshly cut trees.
The more leaves and twigs and smaller branches and non-evergreen the better but you will take everything.
Add any other carbon that you can get your hands on.

Nitrogen
I would then add as much manure, green chop and drop and other nitrogen sources as possible.
The more evenly and thoroughly you can mix the carbon and the nitrogen the better, but don't stress it too much
Even if you don't have enough nitrogen don't worry about it.

Soil Life
This is what really gets the system going.
I like to make and add kefir both water kefir and milk kefir.
You can also add Wine Cap Mushroom and Oyster Mushroom to different beds to get another harvest
You can take the worm casting and make aerated compost tea
Even regular 'live non sterilized' compost from a farm can be used to make worm tea
I particularly like use MycoGrow
https://fungi.com/collections/mycogrow/products/mycogrow_soluble?variant=12125274472560
Mushroom Slurries and even just a bit of native soil from the yard, compost, a farm, a pond, a forest can be added.

Minerals/Rockdust
Sea90 is applied in a liquid form and you can just super dilute it and add it to the bed
Rockdust can be added to the acidic kefir slowly and it will dissolve and thus easy to spread everywhere.
Otherwise the rockdust can just be evenly distributed.
Top dressing also works it will move down as it rains/gets watered

Some people might say that it is un-natural because it is not grounded to the earth.
Others might say with so much woodchip it is like hydroponics/aquaponics.
Others will say the woodchip/compost pile will shrink by at least 50%.
Others might say, the woodchip/microbes will lock up all the nutrients.
Others will say 15ft by 15ft is alot of woodchip/area.
Guess what it is all TRUE! But the problem is the solution.

Gardening at the 15ft by 15ft scale is more about a enjoy the nature/produce and medidation.
It's not perfect but better for ones health and nature than watching TV/etc.
Yes it will shrink but as long as carrots and such is avoided it is okay.
Yes with all that woodchip it is almost like growing in soilless media, but that is okay.
Yes the woodchip microbes will lockup some nutrients but they will also release them once they die and if we sprinkle a bit of rockdust and kefir every so often it will be fine. And if you get enough raminal woodchip, that might not even be needed.
 
gardener
Posts: 2221
Location: Central Texas zone 8a
340
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Im a believer in using what you got. You have plenty available, no need to import. My concern is no soil at the moment. Soil on and around the branches. If that can be remedied i would do that. Right now im not sure you can dig a hole in your bed.if you could i would suggest digging your veggie scraps in the bed.

Do you like potatos? This is my goto plant on a new bed. If you plant potatos shallow, you can cover the plants as they grow. The potatos will be above the pieces you planted. I use hay, aged manure, whatever i have to gradually cover the plants. All these additions are slow paced things that are easily done. By the next growing season this will be your best bed as all this will decompose and add amendments.

Square bale gardening is another thing. This allows tomatos to be planted directly into hay bales. If the hay bales are over your sticks, it will break down and add a layer while also allowing a planting.

So whatever state the beds are come planting season, there is a way to get a bounty and build fertility. You got this.
 
gardener
Posts: 2571
157
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Normally, worm castings are collected when you have a box of red wriggler worms and you have been feeding them food waste and they create the"castings" over time.  
JohN S
PDX OR
 
pollinator
Posts: 1170
Location: Los Angeles, CA
219
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur urban
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As far as spending a bunch of money on amendments, I would discourage that.  Permaculture is a design science based upon biomimicry.  Observe nature, and then copy nature.  Where in nature do you see bags of stuff being purchased and dumped around?  No need for it in your garden.

If you bury wood, I'd also bury a bunch of manure with it --- all that goat and chicken manure you spoke of.  That will jumpstart the decomposition process and give your plant roots something to reach down toward.

Go with the native soil you already have, but sift out the rocks and try to incorporate as much compost as you can.  Perhaps you could plant a multi-species cover crop into it as soon as possible, getting a bunch of living roots growing into your beds.  This will pump sugars down into the soil profile to feed the microbes.  When it's time to plant your garden, cut off the cover crop at the soil level but leave the roots in the ground to continue to feed the microbes and to increase the carbon levels of the soil.

Next year, more compost, more mulch and more living roots.  Don't till.  You don't need to in a raised bed.  Just gently plant your seeds and nursery plants into the bed, and then mulch around them.  The soil will come to life --- don't till it and kill it.

Don't buy worm castings -- just mulch the soil surface and create your own worm farm.  If you feed them, they will come.  I'll bet that there already so many worms under your goat manure pile that you don't even need to worry about it.  As the worm population in your raised beds grows, you'll have all the natural worm castings you will ever want.

Azomite --- I suppose you could spend money on that if you want but your soil probably doesn't need to be remineralized.  Unless I saw a problem, I wouldn't waste money on minerals.  Here's the thing: soil is a living thing.  If you have a healthy population of microbes/fungi and other biota, they will help your plants access all the minerals and nutrients they need.  So just adding azomite to the soil does not mean that the plants will be able to access those minerals unless there is a healthy micro community.

As for fish emulsion, organic fertilizers, bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal . . . NO.  Buying all or all of that would just be a waste of your money.  If you've got the manure from 33 chickens, you've got more nitrogen than you'll ever need.  Compost the chicken and goat manures and incorporate that down into your hugels.  Use that N rich compost as a top dressing.  Use any straw from your chickens or goat pens as a mulch/top dressing.  

Best of luck.
 
Posts: 517
Location: Eastern Kansas
12
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You are off to a very good start. I would throw some soil on top and call it good.

Like you, I am older. DH and I just finished framing a raised bed that sits on the ground, so I could sit on the edge while I garden. Now I will throw in everything that I have: lawn clippings, chicken manure (I agree with you: after it gets rained on a few times it should be good) some sticks and rotten firewood and, yes, some soil because the soil has both minerals and beneficial microbes.  Also organic material breaks down and shrinks and soil will not
 
pollinator
Posts: 177
39
cooking rabbit purity
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Just a note on the chicken manure - just like rabbit manure, it can go straight into your beds, without any curing. It doesn't get hot, so it's safe, straight from the critters - just one of the reasons chickens can be great, in the garden.
 
Terri Matthews
Posts: 517
Location: Eastern Kansas
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Carla Burke wrote:Just a note on the chicken manure - just like rabbit manure, it can go straight into your beds, without any curing. It doesn't get hot, so it's safe, straight from the critters - just one of the reasons chickens can be great, in the garden.

I strongly disagree! Chicken manure is hot while rabbit manure is not. Rabbits eat a highly fibrous diet and the undigested fiber ends up in the poop. The nitrogen is surrounded by a lot of carbon. Chickens, on the other hand, eat as much concentrated feed as they can get (bugs, fruit, seeds, etc) and their poop is NOT full of carbon. Chicken poop can burn the plants. When I use chicken poop I am careful to either use it in the fall or scatter it thinly
 
Marco Banks
pollinator
Posts: 1170
Location: Los Angeles, CA
219
books chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur urban
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I'd also advise a bit of caution with chicken manure.  It's pretty hot.  Tomatoes, okra and corn would be able to handle that much nitrogen, but I wouldn't want to use it straight-up with things like greens, carrots, and cool season crops in general.  Any younger seedling will not be able to handle that much chicken poop.  Once established and more mature, them perhaps you could use straight up chicken poop, but as a side dressing sprinkled a couple of inches from the plant.

But if you turn chicken manure into a compost pile and just wet it down a bit, it will retain all the wonderful N and will dilute it enough that it shouldn't burn more sensitive plants.  

A similar concern with human urine.  Go ahead and pee all you want around your fruit trees and other larger established plants, but if you are using it directly on or around smaller garden plants, I'd caution you to dilute it with some water.  

The good news is that you've got all the nitrogen you need (between the animal manures and human urine) that your garden will need to thrive.  Too much nitrogen will cause things to grow sky-high but will not necesarilly produce more food.  My neighbor planted his garden into almost straight mushroom compost, and his zuchinni was 5 feet tall.  It went crazy.  But it blocked out the sunlight to the rest of his raised bed and took over the world.  Too much of a good thing is exactly that -- too much.
 
Carla Burke
pollinator
Posts: 177
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I stand corrected. I guess.
 
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