Ben Zumeta

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since Oct 02, 2014
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dog duck hugelkultur
Redwood Country, Zone 9, 60" rain/yr,
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Recent posts by Ben Zumeta

It’s worth going up, that estimate I gave on height probably understates the exponential relationship between volume and surface area. I have generally started at 4ft tall by 4ft wide with 3ft paths, and they collapse down to 3ft tall, and 4.5ft wide. In addition, the birth of your wood will effect its moisture retention exponentially. You can look up firefighting guidelines to check my math, but they have a standard for fuels where a 1ft thick log is a 1000hr fuel I believe, meaning it takes 42 dry days (1000 hrs) to become easily combustible (15% moisture or so). The fact you’d only use such large pieces in beds at least 3-4x as tall is a big reason for their long moisture retention. On the other hand, smaller pieces have lower carbon to nitrogen ratios and break down faster into soil. If you can, place some logs upright to utilize their wicking vascularature and how a flat end at a horizontal spreads water out and aerated it. You find increadinle roots on such logs.
4 hours ago
Hi Meg. I do not know your climate beyond a reputation for dankness, but I live in a temperate rainforest and use hugel beds almost exclusively now after seeing them out perform even normal raised beds. If you have any period of dryness (we get less than 3cm between June-September on average), they will give you about a month of water storage per ft of height where summers a mild. I only water when seeding in the summer, and I grow thirsty plants that can get 4m high and wide.

Another amazing and possibly counter intuitive benefit of hugel beds is that they drain well, after a 160"/400cm of rain last winter, I was getting germination and plantable soil a month before flatland gardeners. I also would bet my soil temperature is moderated by 2-3C from extremes from how they react to hot and cold snaps. I even have grapes that haven't lost all their leaves this winter despite freezes. In addition, the south side of a East-West oriented hugel bed, or better yet a south facing suntrap/keyhole hugel, will get up to 5C warmer than the flat ground, and at 2m in elevation change water will drop out of the air and condense on plants during the summer to help provide moisture.

If you have suitable wood/prunings available, I cannot think of a reason not to hugelkultur. If nothing else, you save 1/3 of your soil costs on raised beds by replacing it with wood.
9 hours ago
I agree with the first two responses, and would use your dead trees to stabilize the terrace edges. If you cut a long straight pole to have a point, you can drive the flat top end with a post pounder. Then stack wood between the posts and the terrace. This will ultimately have a hugel bed like effect and the fungi will help the plants stabilize the steep edges. I am building something like this for my brother.
3 days ago
So I just decided to answer my own question and googled "do walnuts harm aquatic life?" and this was one of the top links: http://www.funkykoi.com/list-of-plants-toxic-to-pond-fish.

Black walnut hulls are listed, but so are oaks (acorns and foliage), the prunus genus, pines, and many more common plants to north america. I know cedar and redwood tannins (walnuts are also using a tannic acid for protection) are deterrents to some aquatic life (like aggressive invasive algae and associates). This is along with having profound physical effects on a watershed (shading, water retention and condensation, humus building). So in this way even though you could accurately state that such tannic conifers are harmful to warm-water fish, they are at the same time integral to healthy salmonid (trout and salmon) populations. Therefore I would wonder, what fish live in the native habitat of our walnuts' ancestors? I bet they would be more than fine next to the tree.
5 days ago
Welcome to permits Andy, sounds like a good project. I also made the mistake about confusing the importance of level in the bottom and top of swales. Then I saw a video where Bill Mollison explicitly says

“the top of your berm must be perfectly level, the bottom of the swale can have dips and crests, what matters is that it’s permeable.”

This echoes the advice you’ve gotten about the berm ridge/primary spillway.  I have built small French drain “swales” with 4” weeping tile, and in that case saw it as worthwhile to level the bottom of my ditch/swale so the pipe laid flat and help spread the water as it entered the ditch, which I then covered with woody debris and chips to use as a path between hugel beds.
5 days ago
I second the potato success in new hugels, as would Sepp Holzer who fills in gaps with potatoes. Green onions are doing great on a first year hugel alongside the potatoes, with nasturtiums as an edible living mulch. I’ve also seen squash do well in a first season, but I do mulch with coffee grounds and composted bird litter.
6 days ago
You can prune all the way into flower to select for the best placed and most vigorous flowering stems. The flowering branches you take off will make your house smell and look great (if briefly as they are delicate).
6 days ago
And I think for scale I should point out that the redwood snag behind the pond in the last photo is at least 9ft thick and 50ft tall. Its the skinny one on my property, which is near a road called Wonderstump for a reason. The Iargest is 15ft+ thick. I hypothesize the skinny snag (likely dead over 100yrs after approximately 500yrs growth), along with its old root system, is absorbing immense amounts of runoff like a giant hugel log. If I can get a connected network of fungal dominated soil throughout the property, these logs will help to get me to zero watering through our 4-6 month dry season.
1 week ago
I've heard many warnings about going beyond 72hrs without reupping your sugars and nutrients. I have gone up to a week myself, and don't think it helped despite vigorous aeration with a vortex brewer. Maybe it wasn't enough or I did something wrong, but I never had any problems with results from 24-72hr brews. I also think if you just get ducks (I like muscovies) and either refresh and/or aerate their pool/pond, that is the best tea I've used for nitrogen tolerant plants. I feed them veggies and fruit from the trees above them and a compost pickup from a natural grocery, and they carry many items into their pond to soak, especially dried or shriveled fruits, which I speculate provides great sugars.
1 week ago
There is a whole page about non dormant planting of trees in Sepp Holzer Permaculture. You basically remove any open leaves, flowers or fruit. he says he does by drying them in the sun while stil protecting the roots from light, but I imaging you could do it with snips. You then get regrowth about a month later and the roots go without the stress of supporting greenery and develop a hardier base.
1 week ago