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My new Hugelkultur bed + some questions  RSS feed

 
Brian Moolman
Posts: 12
Location: Port Elizabeth, Nanaga area, Eastern Cape, South Africa
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Hi to all,

I am new to posting on this forum. Here are some pics of my 1st hugelkultur bed.
I have a few concerns that perhaps you guys can help clear up for me.

1. I never dug down into the turf first, I just simply cut down a tree that my mother didn't want anymore then piled a whole lot of logs, sticks, etc about hip high then I covered it with kraal manure from the sheep and goat pen. On top of that I used some red soil that was already excavated from a burn tip site  on the farm as a top layer.

- If I had to do it again I definitely would dig into the ground first and use that soil and turf as the top layers. Saves me having to go fetch soil and the turf provides instant green matter to add nitrogen to the compost process.
I just thought if I put the wood directly at ground level the bed would be higher for the same amount of wood. Is this going to cause the bed to work less effectively?

2. The wood I used was some type of cypress (I think, not sure, not too many trees like this in these parts) and the wood has a very resinous smell.
- Do you think this is going to have a huge negative impact? Are these trees alleopathic?

3. Now that the soil is covered there are some small logs sticking out the soil in some places.
- will this wick/evaporate moisture out of the beds. Should i pull the area apart and reshuffle the wood so nothing sticks out?

4. sepp holzer ("THE MIGHTY, THE AMAZING, THE GLORIOUS" describes 2 methods of planting on his video.

a) broadcasting a seed mixture on his newly made terraces, plain and simple.
b) he describes the cardboard mulching and planting the specific plants into holes made into the cardboard method.
- this requires starting seedlings individually, then transplanting them into their new spots in my hugelbed - a bit of a mission + wont get the diversity as easily!

I would like to plant up a potato polyculture of flowers, deep rooted plants, comfrey, companion veg etc by firstly planting the seed potato then broadcasting the rest on top and raking in. We have had some good rain last night so the beds are nice and wet. Got to get moving soon.

What do you think, any suggestions? Appreciate your time.

Thanks

Brian Moolman



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Posts: 79
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it looks ok for me, except this for topsoil, yes it would be best if there would be topsoil to cover this bed. and for the tree, im not sure what it is also (im from europe), looks like japanese cedar but could be some kind of juniper, thuja or cypress also, anyway all those trees are too acidic for most other plants but like this it will take few years for acid to go out and affect vegetables, and maybe it will not be big problem anyway...no idea.... also, since its fresh tree it will need few years to rot, so next time maybe better idea just to go to neerby forest and pick up half-rotten logs...preferably not monoecious....
i would put many kinds of vegetables in that, just to see what grows good what not. for sure potatoes, carrots, cabage, kohlrabi, pumkins, radishes, beetroot......
dont worry much for other stuff. good luck.
 
Brian Moolman
Posts: 12
Location: Port Elizabeth, Nanaga area, Eastern Cape, South Africa
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Thanks Hvala

Why not monoecious?

I looked it up and from what I gather, monoecious means a plant that has both male and female reproductive organs. Why does this make a difference for hugelkultur?

 
                            
Posts: 79
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biggest part of monoeceous trees group are various sorts of pines, spruces, firs, junipers, cedars and so on. theyre all similar in one way - all have leaves stay over winter. and all have lot of acid in leaves, which make other kinds of plants hard to survive near, once falled leaves start to decompose and release those acids in soil....
 
Brian Moolman
Posts: 12
Location: Port Elizabeth, Nanaga area, Eastern Cape, South Africa
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Thanks for clearing that up.
 
William Roan
Posts: 40
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Hey Brian
Nice job on your first Hugelkulture mound, you did everything right. You have mimicked an event in nature; landslide knocks down tree and then covers with soil. Mother Nature doesn’t stop working just because the conditions aren’t ideal. The limbs sticking out of the soil will act as pathways for insects, fungus and bacteria to enter your mound and start doing their magic. First they will start by breaking down the outer bark layer and then the soft wood tissue, grinding it up into that all important water holding sponge like mulch. The cedar hard wood will be slow to breakdown, but the natural process of wood swelling when it rains and cracking when it dries out will open up the log to nature’s advantage.
Science says you will lose a lot of available nitrogen in the soil during this process, but I have found as long as you keep adding nitrogen rich green grass clippings to the top of your mound you won’t have any problems. Layer an inch of green grass clippings with 4-6 inches of brown material. Example: balled up newspaper, brown leaves, prune and chop up that dead tree behind your mound, straw or grass clippings that have already turned brown. Do this every week and you are mulching directly on the mound, the nutrients are flowing straight into the soil were you want it.
Next the weeds will come in to stabilize the soil and add root mulch deep into the mound; I would use inexpensive bird grade sunflower seeds, farmer’s market melon and squash seeds and nasturtiums. Some people are having problems planting store bought potatoes. Try this trick, put your potatoes in a paper bag with a rotting apple and store in a dark area until the eyes start to sprout. Then plant the potatoes. It’s late in the season so you are planting for ground cover and not a crop.
In Permaculture use what you have available and nature will find a way.
 
Charlie Michaels
Posts: 124
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How do all you rural permies move giant logs?

I'm a city  person doing small wood hugels and I'm just curious how its possible for you guys to make these 6 foot tall hugel things. (tractor? what kind)

In a fairly moist climate (in NJ the summers get plenty of rain) perhaps you only need a 3 foot tall one for no irrigation
 
                            
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well i can tell you how i move them:




seriously, if you need big logs entire you will need tractor or horses. but for raised beds its not important, you can cut them in smaller pieces......
 
Charlie Michaels
Posts: 124
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I often feel like one of those American soldiers when moving wood by hand... Perhaps I need my own chubby Russian lady.
 
Brian Moolman
Posts: 12
Location: Port Elizabeth, Nanaga area, Eastern Cape, South Africa
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Thanks biologybill,

Some really interesting thoughts there, I like the insects using exposed logs as pathways and entry point for fungus. Makes sense.

BTW it is the beginning of the growing season here, springs starts in September for us, so the potatoes are definitely for yield. I hope anyway, I planted 3 varieties Buffelspoort, Argos and Harmony.

Now let me try remember all the seeds I used in the mix:

Marigold
Poppy
Chicory
Nasturtium
Broc
Cabbage
Carrots
Edible flower mix
African daisy
buckwheat
lucerne
raddish
beetroot
echinica
vetch
chamonile
evening primrose
borage
lettuce

There are more just can't think of them now.

My idea is that whatever is right for the conditions will germinate.











 
Travis Philp
gardener
Posts: 965
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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hvala wrote:

seriously, if you need big logs entire you will need tractor or horses. but for raised beds its not important, you can cut them in smaller pieces......



I use an ATV/ four-wheeler, a heavy chain, and a hook. If I had a proper harness, I'd use our horses but I don't have that much cash to spare.
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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Good work bro.. Check this lil video for some planting suggestions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tSOtEZbCEpE

You can literally leave that thing unattended assuming your area isn't TOO extreme heat-wise, as there's so much moisture in there.

Good to have ya on the forum. Enjoy

 
Hugh Hawk
Posts: 225
Location: Adelaide, South Australia (Mediterranean climate)
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Cypress (if indeed it is) is often chosen for its resistance to all types of munchers and rot, so it may not be the best choice, but hey someone has to try it.

If your comfrey doesn't succeed from seed, try getting some root cuttings.  It's a sure fire way to propagate it.
 
Brian Moolman
Posts: 12
Location: Port Elizabeth, Nanaga area, Eastern Cape, South Africa
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I do have a few other tree species in there, but the majority of it is the cypressy stuff.

I do have some comfrey plants already growing up, so when they are big enough ill make some root divisions.

Thanks.
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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real nice' / i have all sorts of limbs and chunks of logs leftover all the time from my rustic woodworking. get the logs from tree-services for free then mill them into slabs with a big chainsaw-mill.

when i cant get these nice old residential trees in log-form, i can still get all the free woodchips i can handle (minimum deliver is like 20 yards with these guys!)
2 years ago i had about 50 yards dumped in my driveway and spread it out as mulch under nearly every bush in the yard,plus spread 6"< thick for garden paths and underneath all the garden beds(with about 10"topsoil above)

still having a ton left after all that, i dug out a big 20x20 pit maybe 16" deep and buried them in there. the topsoil settle in pretty good after a few rains .i added another 6" layer of the fresh chip on top as well.. 
this basically worked as a hugelkultur bed,maybe broke down quicker?

it has all broken down into rich dark friable soil, really teeming with earthworms! today i mowed down the weeds, raked off the top inch of debris then roto-tilled through it like butter. i used this black stuff to fill some raised beds with and will fill it back in with more wood chips and maybe some aged horse manure.thinking that oughta work even faster! really liking this "in-ground composting" system

hurricane Irene is gonna keep me busy with logs for weeks im sure.
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Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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a few clickable thumbs of the woodchip mountains (i'd already started chipping away at it when i took the pics ) and some of what i did with it.
 
 
George Lee
Posts: 539
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
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20 yards is a shit ton. Are you mulching your pathways and just reserving another pile to sit and rot? I had a hardwood mulch pile at my grandfathers, and got copious amounts of garden soil from the bottom of that thing.
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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LivingWind wrote:
20 yards is a shit ton. Are you mulching your pathways and just reserving another pile to sit and rot? I had a hardwood mulch pile at my grandfathers, and got copious amounts of garden soil from the bottom of that thing.


i mulched everything i could,and then did that hugel pit thing with the rest (soemf riends grabbed a few trunk fulls and mayeb a pickup bed or two, that didnt put a dent in it though)  each shovel full musta had about a dozen worms in it.too bad these werent redworms.

i just tilled over a new 30x30 area for our fall crops and some green manure crops. thinking i'll bury another load under there with  the horse stuff. that'll take a ton of work though,gotta call in some friends for it!
 
            
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Is it bad/wrong to use pine, spruce, cedar, and monocieous trees or just not the best option.  Because that list sums up the trees we have in SW CO in abundance.  Ok just realized I will go gather Aspen very abundant and I imagine it being a great wood for Hugelkulture.  The trees rot quickly maybe I should add some pine if that is ok.  I do not have Aspen on the land I live, will have to go to the mountains.  Hugelkulture: using a truck to drive to the mountains and cut trees. Maybe this is a better question of right or wrong?  Oh fossil fuels, so easy to use for solutions sometimes. 
 
                            
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if you dont have anything else near you can use your pines or whatever you have.or mix half-half with some diocieous trees. i would actualy start to replace pine forest with diocieous trees, since this will improve biodiversity, but it takes a while.....
 
If you are using a rototiller, you are doing it wrong. Even on this tiny ad:
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