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making a quick 7 foot tall hugelkultur  RSS feed

 
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bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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This is a quick drawing, but will visually represent what I have told people about fifty times.

Start with plain ground ....
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paul wheaton
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add logs
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paul wheaton
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add soil
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paul wheaton
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add more logs
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paul wheaton
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add more soil
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paul wheaton
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add more logs
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paul wheaton
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add more soil
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paul wheaton
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keep doing that until done
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paul wheaton
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The moral of the story is that the bottom half of your hugelkultur is probably double the mass of the upper half.  And the upper half is pretty full of wood, so your shovel work is probably cut by 65%.  

Of course, if you cut the shovel work, then you don't go as deep to make the paths between the hugels, but ....   Maybe it is fair to say that if you did all this with a shovel, the shovel work might be 80% less than you might think.

 
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I've only made small ones on contour before.  I'll try this and see how long it takes me to make one.
 
paul wheaton
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On contour....   in my area, on contour would create frost pockets.
 
Trace Oswald
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My food forest area is a few acres on top of a hill.
 
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I'm going to try this soon using this big pile of branches that I've been collecting for a while. This will be my first hugelkultur, and I was reading in the other thread that poplars work really good, and its about 80% poplar. It started at about 8 feet tall and has dropped down now to about 5 feet tall. It's been sitting there for over a year, and I'm guessing the ones on the bottom are the softest and most rotten. Is it best to put those towards the top of the hugelkultur since they are the most broken down with the least broken down at the bottom?
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My big pile of rotting wood. :)
 
Trace Oswald
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Steve Thorn wrote:I'm going to try this soon using this big pile of branches that I've been collecting for a while. This will be my first hugelkultur, and I was reading in the other thread that poplars work really good, and its about 80% poplar. It started at about 8 feet tall and has dropped down now to about 5 feet tall. It's been sitting there for over a year, and I'm guessing the ones on the bottom are the softest and most rotten. Is it best to put those towards the top of the hugelkultur since they are the most broken down with the least broken down at the bottom?



That sounds like a lot of extra work to me. I would just bury it.  Poplar breaks down quickly when it's in contact with soil.
 
Steve Thorn
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Good point Trace. It wasn't in the perfect spot, but now that I'm thinking about all the work it will take to move it, I'll probably keep it there.
 
pollinator
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I have a dumb question.

The last time I built a hugelbeet, I dug the trench first and the bottom layer was layered logs, subsoil, hot-composted organics needing a finish, and composted manures. I essentially built a lasagna layer atop this using finished compost, topsoil, subsoil, and composted manure, and planted into it as a garden bed.

The dimensions were something like 7' from the bottom of the hole to the top of the bed, 18' long and 5' wide.

Now I had no problems, and I will soon be excavating it (we're renovating, and the machines need access), allowing me to check out the decomposition.

My question is this: what is the reason for having the wood at ground-level, and not at the bottom of the trench?

-CK
 
paul wheaton
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There are lots of reasons.  At the top of the list is the many benefits of adding texture to the landscape.

Here is a much bigger question:   what is the reason for having the wood at the bottom of the trench, and not at ground-level?

 
pollinator
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Chris Kott wrote:
My question is this: what is the reason for having the wood at ground-level, and not at the bottom of the trench?



My answer would be that it is a lot more work to dig a trench in order to fill it with wood than to dig a trench in order to cover layers of wood.  If you dig the trench first you have to move the soil twice; if you don't dig the trench first you only have to move the soil once.
 
Chris Kott
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Yeah, I remember moving that soil twice.

My reasoning for having the wood core go further down was twofold: to extend the hugelbeet's area of influence well into the subsoil, and to keep the processes of wood decomposition and composting away from the root zones of my garden bed.

I'll freely admit that I cheated with the bed structure,  using pallets two feet by three-and-a-half feet wired together as a retaining wall surrounding it, making for vertical sides, so erosion wasn't an issue.

I was also thinking that burying some wood deeper would allow for slower decomposition in the bottom, so the wood retains its water-retaining characteristics.

I could see doing it the labour-saving way next time.

-CK
 
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I would look at your evaporation-precipitation ratio to answer the ground level vs trench question. Another way to look at it is whether or not consistent drainage or soil moisture is more lacking in your system. Hugelkulture will both aid drainage and moisture retention either way. Building it up from ground level will help drain your beds better while digging it down into a trench will add to moisture collection and retention. Where I am with heavy winter rainfall (100+” some years) but almost no summer rain, I still go up without trenching first. Instead I trench under the adjacent path to get soil and aid drainage further, then refill it with woody debris and top it with woodchips.

In the photo attached I had a French drain pipe run through the trench that carries my duck pond/chicken run runoff through between the hugel beds. This makes even my paths productive, soil building and root supporting elements, but in hindsight I would forgo the pipe.

I would move the pile if you have good sun/access/logistical reasons. I’d also deposit my wood piles where you want future hugel beds, but not go deeper than the first layer before adding soil so you don’t get big dry air pockets like I have found when piling the wood layers too deep.

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Tyler Ludens
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Ben Zumeta wrote: I trench under the adjacent path to get soil and aid drainage further, then refill it with woody debris and top it with woodchips.



I like this because it combines buried wood beds with hugelkultur.
 
Chris Kott
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Yeah, I did a similar thing, taking topsoil and some subsoil from my paths and backfilling with woodchips. The worms really love it, so I took to topping the path with spent coffee grounds.

I found that I had to top the paths seasonally with woodchips, as well as digging them out every two or three seasons,  as it would be converted by that point to really great soil and would no longer serve as a path.

-CK
 
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