Rogers John

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since Jul 18, 2013
orphaned at birth, raised by wolves bla bla bla
Melbourne, FL
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Recent posts by Rogers John


Aristotle, I have been doing hugelkulture for about six years. For me it started as a way to value the dead trees that were already on my property and to add time release fertility capsules to the young forest garden. Lately I have been using these mounds as safe growing space for species that cannot tolerate soggy soil, like papaya, avocado, olive, jackfruit and moringa. Hugelkulture works in the humid tropics (monsoon tropics too) at least because it offers well drained growing beds.
5 years ago
Aristotle, Yes to all water questions. Storing water above grade is so useful that I dedicated most of my land forming effort toward that goal. (And my land forms happen to be mostly hugel mounds, hence this thread). I have tilapia and gambusia in all the ponds, with more species to follow. Ducks are on the horizon. This flat two acre homestead would be boring if not for the volcano like pond berms rising out of the landscape.
5 years ago
Aristotle, Some of the hugel mounds are very close to my house because they form the berms that enclose my four above ground ponds (filled by roof water catchment). These ponds hold water because I installed rubber pond liners. The hugel mounds do not hold any visible puddles because they are so porous.
5 years ago
My hugel littered homestead on the east coast of central Florida gets most of its rain in the warm subtropical summers. For several years I have been burying wood of all sizes and shapes--from long dead and rotting to fresh cut and full of sap. Most of my mounds are about one meter high, but some approach two meters, and took many truck loads (18 cubic yards ea.) of wood and fill dirt to complete. If you have the material and energy, go for it. I have not seen a down side to this technique. Or, devote some of your acreage to hugelkulture and some without. All of my property is covered in wood chip mulch, so I don't know hot much of that is encouraging the mushroom activity or how much results from the hugel magic. Fungi are your friends.
5 years ago
I like how you invited a comparison of the shoppers on the produce and bulk food isles verses the ones on the soda and chip isles. Brilliant.
5 years ago
I am the guy who (accidentally) developed the Jolly Roger TLUD biochar oven. During that era I had huge piles of wood chips on my two acres that had been dumped by busy contractors. I would spread the chips evenly to dry in the Florida sun and then burn them in those 55 gallon contraptions. The Jolly Roger oven prefers wood chips or any small chunk feedstock that is approximately uniform in density when loaded. This "balanced loading" is critical because the primary air is drawn through that column of fuel before combusting. You don't want to unevenly burn a fast ditch through part of it while the rest is left to smolder (due to a diverted chimney effect). This is its main weakness.

Brush, branches and windfall fuel is better suited to the simpler (and more elegant) cone kilns-- the Kontiki being a higher tech version. Your feedstock seems to be in this latter category, which requires less effort at every stage. Watch a few online videos so you can practice with a small pit, cone, wok or Kontiki model before committing larger piles of branches to your top lit fire. Kelpie Wilson's Greenyourhead blog is a friendly base camp.

For gardening purposes, the biochar from a Top Lit Up Draft device (stack of steel barrels) verses a Top Lit Open Draft device (cone, or pit geometry) is indistinguishable. Notice that "Top Lit" is the key common element. And that is what burns the smoke so efficiently.

5 years ago
Please email me when you get settled near Melbourne and I'll introduce you to a few local permies and show you my suburban homestead. bamboojohn@hotmail.com
5 years ago
The handful of Melbourne permies would love to meet you. I live on two acres just east of the airport with lots of mangoes, avocados (of several races), mulberries, bananas, moringas, annonas, dragon fruit, papaya, pineapples and bamboo. My citrus are in decline from "greening", so I no longer replant them. Hugelkulture pond berms is the terraforming that I do. Would love to compare notes and share my successes and challenges. The Brevard Tropical Fruit Club meets in Melbourne monthly.
6 years ago
I live just up the coast from you in Melbourne, and am doing hugel mounds with truck loads of discarded biomass. As I build my mounds, I apply sand regularly in thin layers to fill in the gaps. Sand will buffer the manure and rotting biomass and make the mixture more crumbly.

Summer crops: sweet potatoes, okra, certain peppers, Seminole pumpkin squash, yard long beans.
6 years ago
Perennial polyculture and forest gardening, have captured our imaginations and focused our efforts, but the maps are still being drawn. What kind of advice would you have liked to hear years ago when you first started? I'll start a list:

Develop water catchment early.

Introduce animals as soon as practical. Earthworms, rabbits, chickens, goats, pigs etc.

Be as conscious of animal fodder as human food.

When removing dead trees and brush, save the biomass for hugelkulture.

Enjoy the niche created by tall pine trees (and other existing species). Don't mindlessly clear land.

Involve the neighbors with your strategies. Support theirs.

Hire and trade within the neighborhood.

Create a nursery / propagation area.

Over plant. Some species have a short life expectancy anyway. Coppice.

Plant fast growing trees to goose your enthusiasm. Mulberry jumps out of the ground in Florida, as does Moringa, papaya, and many bamboos.

Keep a list of shade tolerant plants. Some day you will need more of them.

Avoid planting things that need well drained soil in areas that flood on occasion.

Observe and create micro climates.

On bike rides, stop and talk to caretakers of interesting gardens. Trade seeds, plants and stories. (Local sources vs. mail order)

Save room for the mysteries of seedling (un-grafted) fruit trees. Some produce fruit at a young age.

and so on...
7 years ago