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Hugelculture raised bed for tree propogation? Too many rodent problems?  RSS feed

 
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Location: Northern pennsylvania, zone 5b
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Im making a raised bed for propogating trees and shrubs from seed, and Im considering making it a hugelculture bed in order to cultivate good soil fungal communities and reduce the need for watering.  However, I have heard someone say "hugelculture beds are almost always full of voles and mice in their first year".  Is this people's experiences?  It makes me think that maybe hugelculture beds may not be the best option, as the rodents may put too much pressure on the seedlings.
 
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That is my experience. Second year seems to be better. Maybe then the snakes have moved in, or the soil has settled or some other reason, but they don't seem to do well for me the first year.

I did have fine success with hardwood cuttings the first year, so maybe thats a starting point.
 
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Yes that's my experience too, voles and mice move in and then after 1-2 years, lots of snakes start to live near the hugelbeds and they keep them under control.

However, I've found garlic really helpful against voles and mice. They seem to hate the smell. So I plant lots of garlic in circles around whatever I want to protect from rodents. Many people say you can't let Jerusalem artichokes in ground over winter because voles will eat every last tuber.  I interplant them with garlic and they come up every year, no problem!

But to be on the safe side, maybe it's a good idea to wait one year and then seed the bed, interplanting with garlic once the trees are established, just to make sure.
 
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ryan the smith wrote:Im making a raised bed for propogating trees and shrubs from seed, and Im considering making it a hugelculture bed in order to cultivate good soil fungal communities and reduce the need for watering.  However, I have heard someone say "hugelculture beds are almost always full of voles and mice in their first year".  Is this people's experiences?  It makes me think that maybe hugelculture beds may not be the best option, as the rodents may put too much pressure on the seedlings.



Don't forget that hugels are going to settle over several years and that is why it isn't such a great idea to plant trees on the hugel but to either side of the bottom of the hugel.
Others have addressed the rodent issues, good hugels tend to be well established for growing in the third year.

Redhawk
 
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I could see using a hugelbeet for tree propagation, especially in situations where I am working with deeply-taprooted trees that I intend to transplant.

As to rodents, the solution I like is actually quite elegant: dry-stack stone walls and/or large pebble/small stone mulch. I like rounded river rock, but anything that comes in hand-sized pieces will do for stone mulch. I find that this gives ample room for predatory arachnids and snakes. I actually found garter snakes in my parent's backyard after using this method, about 20 minutes bike ride from downtown Toronto.

I would strongly consider walling in my hugelbeets with rock-filled gabions next time, should I be able to source materials cheaply.

I also found, in the rainless humidity of our summers, between sporadic thunderstorms, that a double-layer of stone mulch increased soil humidity, either by halting dessication, or by acting as a ground-level airwell, the humidity condensing out of the air on the cool, shaded underlayer of stones.

Oh, and the root zones under the hand-sized stones weren't ever dug up.

As to actually propagating and removing saplings, I would structure the hugelbeet such that there are discrete spots for each seedling I am trying to grow out. Each spot would be dug out, and there would be the same rock mulch placed at the bottom of each hole, just for air spaces. I would place a piece of landscaping fabric or some other barrier material so as to encourage the roots to air-prune, and I would probably line the holes with something like open-bottomed boxes or tubes or something for ease of removal. All of these steps are primarily for ease of removal and transplantation, but they also serve as layers of deterrent to anything seeking to munch.

And even if the footing on the individual saplings is good enough nearer the peak of your hugelbeet, it is worth considering planting on the leeward side partway down the hugelbeet for the sheltered microclimate it will afford your baby trees.

Pictures are always appreciated. Let us know how you proceed, and good luck.

-CK
 
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I had great success in a y1 bed but I don't have voles or mice, only rats. I like to put meat scraps and other rat-attracting compostables at the bottom of the hole since it seems to mask the smell enough to keep them away.
 
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