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Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread

Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Thanks for the good discussion, Emerson and Dianne. 

Think I'll try to get some sleep again. 


- Glenn -
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
yes a little off topic, but the big brother and little brother discussions are always of some great merit.

as for the diesel..one thing is true there..our little tractors don't use very much of it and it keeps better than gas..we have some large plastic containers of diesel that were given to us..which has been a great treat for us..we will probably refill them when they empty to keep a supply on hand.

one thing about the hugel beds and reclaiming the small forest areas around here..is that the food crops are out of view of most of the human prying eyes out there as they are not the typical ROW CROPS that most people would think of lookng for if they wanted food..or row orchards.

my food crops are more in a forest type of setting..and most city folks don't think to go looking in a forest for food any more..like we used to when we were growing up in a family of trappers and foragers..when i was a child.

most city folks don't know anything about looking in a forest for food..or a field..but if you have a good edible weed type field guide..you know that you can live pretty doggone well on the weeds that grow in the fields and woods and the fruits and berries that grow on shrubs and trees, or the critters that are in the woods..rather than worrying about corn, wheat, cows and pigs.

the trees that i'm continuing to plant around here are not just the typical fruit trees, of which i have, but not in rows, in food forests of mixed beds..but also the ones that city folks would consider just pretty..like service berries,, currants, june berries, elderberries, mountain ash, autumn olive, etc..filling our acerage up with forests of these items makes it much less interesting to LITTLE brother


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Here's a hugelkultur bed under construction.

The first picture shows the ditch of a swale on running up the left side  (where the shovel is), with a shallow trench dug about 3 inches down, on the right of the ditch.

The second picture shows the wood filling the trench, stacked a little over 1 foot high. This height was chosen as it roughly matches the far half of the swale, which is made purely out of soil from the swale depression.

The wood used is all pine, and was used mostly because it was only about 150 feet away and easy to carry over. If anyone wants to take pity on me, I accept donated truckloads of hardwood...


[Thumbnail for Hugel Step 1.jpg]

[Thumbnail for hugel step 2.jpg]


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
So here's the next step we did. The horse manure (with hay mixed in)  went on next. We put a layer about 4-6 inches thick.

We're not quite finished at this point but it's lunch time, and there's lightning pretty close to the house.


[Thumbnail for DSC01171.JPG]

                                        


Joined: May 01, 2010
Posts: 32
Glen will you plant fruit trees directly into your bed, or will would you wait for the organic matter to decompose before going with trees right off the bat? 
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Brenda, I have been learning about some of the natural food around us from native American friends and others. 

One of the better ones - Cattails grow in my spring.  Mike Oehler got me thinking about eating them, so one day soon I want to study up a bit more and have cattail lunch.

I did a little video with Mike when he was here.  Click the link below the pix because I haven't figured out how to embed YouTube videos yet.



[flash=200,200]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90vHr7Ck924[/flash]


Nice garden and bed, Travis.

Tardyviking, I put Alpaca manure and smaller rotted wood on top today and  will garden there until the pomegranates get large enough to make excessive shade.  Likely I will keep it garden there as long as things get enough sun to grow.  I can take out some of the small  live oaks to the east and eliminate more fire danger and give more sunlight if necessary also.

It is a relatively easy place to get to and work.  I don't have enough water to start rotting the logs until the rains come in about November. 

At this time I will use drip irrigation for the garden on top of the bed.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
As I understand it, if you plant ramps a couple years before the shade gets too bad for anything else, you can continue to do some gardening there.


"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Thanks for the info Joel.

It is pretty well east west too so that will help as well as being on top of the ridge - we get sun pretty well from sunrise to sunset.  Just removing some of the oaks should help with more sun also.

                    


Joined: Oct 23, 2011
Posts: 0
Oh I love cattails! yummy!

Thanks Travis for the pictures, this thread is turning into its own album, how cool!

Thanks Glenn & Emmerson for the ideas.
I think I will try a  hugelkultur Pot & perhaps a deep flower box.
                                  


Joined: Jul 29, 2010
Posts: 4
Location: NorthWest of Italy
Hi everybody!
In your opinion, what about using pallets (a.k.a. skids) as a wood source?
I'm a little bit worried about possible treatments with methyl bromide.
I did not find neither MB nor HT logo...

Thank you and forgive me if my English seems to you a little bit weird... I'm from Italy 
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Glad you are finding useful info, Dianne.  We always learn from each other when we share information.  John Raabe has a saying, "None of us are as smart as all of us."

Hi ghicthin.  Your English is fine and a lot better than those of us who speak it and abuse it.

I think most pallets should be worry free, at least here in the states.  Dangerous chemicals are not usually shipped with foodstuffs and preservatives are not used on the pallets so they won't get into the food chain.  I would try to avoid pallets that may have shipped chemicals - possibly by knowing the source of the pallets if possible.  Otherwise I would inspect them for odd smells or stains. 

                                  


Joined: Jul 29, 2010
Posts: 4
Location: NorthWest of Italy
Thank you Glenn!

This afternoon I was talking about that with a friend of mine (who is a woodworker) and he told me that even the most intrusive and toxic (fumigant) treatment shouldn't last a long time on the wood.

By the way, they mostly was loaded with bags of potting soil...

So I'm pretty confident with my pallets.

Thank you so much, this forum is a treasure!
S.
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
I'd agree with that, S.  The farmers here are constantly fumigating the soil then planting crops for human consumption.

We haven't grown any weird appendages from it yet so I think it is OK.....well, most of us anyway...
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
This is a little off-topic, but California recently tried to save the ozone layer by replacing a not-too-toxic fumigant with a much more-toxic, ozone-safe one. Thankfully, the plan seems to have been stopped before it was implemented.

What I have read suggests that the worst human health effects of fumigant are not from people's exposure to it, but indirect results of its effects on the ecosystem: because the soil food web is damaged so badly, crops need more fertilizer & pesticide, which end up in food & drinking water.

I agree with your woodworker friend: any (currently legal) fumigant should be long gone from the pallets, and they will have plenty of opportunity to host a reviving soil ecosystem.
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Not off topic...just a deviation for advanced learning brought up by the main topic.

I don't think damage to the ozone layer is as bad as DuPont has led us to believe.  It seems that their patent for R12 refrigerant expired and they needed an excuse to prevent other companies from going into manufacturing it at low cost and driving their market share down. 

Latching onto concern for the Ozone and highly publicizing it stopped the use of R12 and put them back into production of a new refrigerant, R134A  at very lucrative pricing that they were once again able to control through their new patent.

The ozone is said to fluctuate in cycles. 

No sources - just going from memory of past articles and discussion.

Emerson White


Joined: May 02, 2010
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
I do believe that scientists first noticed the gaping hole in the ozone layer and then worked until they found the cause. The Ozone fluctuates because CFC's are concentrated at the poles in cold weather. CFC's work as a catalyst that converts 2xO[sub]3[/sub] to  3xO[sub]2[/sub].
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Thanks, Emerson.  I see naysayers about the Dupont story too, so am not sure about it.
Emerson White


Joined: May 02, 2010
Posts: 1206
Location: Alaska
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chlorofluorocarbon#Regulation_and_DuPont

Dupont it would seem didn't have a new product until years after the ban and did not condemn CFC's until they had a new product.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
My obnoxious opinion:

The history of the ozone layer is very scary to a lot of people, for a few important reasons:

1. It is a great example of a consumer product, once universally considered harmless, having subtle but globally harmful effects.

2. It is also a great example of people organizing against business interests to halt destructive, but profitable, practices.

3. Lastly, it is an example of verifiable improvement in the environment on a human timescale.

#1 sets a dangerous precedent if you are invested in technological innovation, because it's prohibitively expensive to rule out unforeseen consequences.

#2 is a dangerous precedent if you currently hold socioeconomic power, because what if everyone tried to realize that sort of hope?

#3 is a dangerous precedent if you wish to control people with environmental panic, because your control breaks down if people feel they actually have the power to do good, rather than just to prevent or mitigate harm.

It seems to me that someone who doesn't like the true history of ozone depletion has crafted a good conspiracy theory about DuPont. I would bet it is someone who dislikes the story for the third reason, and if so, I guess I agree with their ends, but don't condone the means they have chosen. Truth is liberating: deal with it.

I think de-centralized techniques for building topsoil and remediating pollution (hugelkultur is excellent at both, btw), as well as permaculture in general, are sometimes opposed for the latter two reasons. If somehow I were to gain unusual foresight, I would much rather be a Jonah than a Cassandra, but I can understand why people might feel differently.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
Ghichtin, welcome and glad to have someone here with your great use of the english language..better than mine and i live in America..

i think that using the pallets is a wonderful idea..they are often free and better in a hugel bed rather than in a landfill..woo hoo

Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Thanks for the compliments. I'll try to get new pictures up tomorrow, as the hugelbeet has corn and pepper transplant in the bed. As I suspected, we did have some slight problems with the soil and manure on top falling through the gaps between pieces of wood. This was minor, and all I did to fix it was pack some sod in the holes. We'll see how the transplants take...

Does anyone know what type of wood pallets are usually made of? I thought it was cedar, in which case, wouldn't that be an undesirable choice for a hugel bed? Unless of course its all you have at your disposal...
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Cedar is pretty soft and expensive for pallets.  I think the softwood ones would be pine or fir - conifers, and hardwood ones here in the US are many times oak.

I have seen other hardwoods from China. Cedar should be rather red or possibly lighter color such as yellow to white depending on species, soft and have a cedar smell if you expose fresh wood.
Suzie Browning


Joined: Jun 10, 2010
Posts: 48
Location: Southwestern Ohio
For the past couple of years, I have layed two 4x4 pallets end to end to create a 4x8 area to store firewood, fence posts and whatever I need in that area.  Each year I move the pallets and the soil underneath is lovely, worm filled and where I start my new raised beds.

This year when I tried to moved the pallets, they were falling apart and the firewood left a ton of bark and rotting pieces.  I thought, crap, what a mess.  I decided to not bother trying to pick up the pieces falling apart and let them be to finish decaying.  Oh, my, lol, if I had only discovered hugelkultur before, I would have just let the skids lay and covered them with soil.  I have always known that decaying wood was a good thing, but man, sometimes, it just doesn't click.






On the border of Zones 5 & 6 on the last 2 acres of what was once a large farm.  Flat, flat and more flat!
                                


Joined: Jul 11, 2010
Posts: 20
Hello fellow permies,

This is an interesting planting design I came across while researching the hugelkulture. See this link and go through all steps before reading commentary

The hugelkulture perennial superguild (for Zone 2/3—sunny glades):

http://gaiacraft.squarespace.com/hugelkultur-lesson/

It seems as though this perennial polyculture is very well rounded, serves fultiple munctions (food, fuel, fiber, fodder, fertilizer, "farm"aseuticals, and fun), and it would probably last forever in various climates. The more you dig out the bed to harvest the tubers/root crops, the more abundant the whole micro-system will become. Fertility should be unlocked at a rapid, yet persistent rate due to all the perennial dynamic accumulators and organic matter from the hugelkulture preparation. Initial decomposition will be fairly rapid due to all the aggressive tap rooted species and human disturbance (harvesting). The polyculture partitions light, resources, and creates various microclimates. DEFINITELY NO IRRIGATION NEEDED EVER. I can go on and on and on...

I would add/change a few things to make this guild truly supreme.

1. I would periodically throw in annual legumes to fix nitrogen in the soil for the sunchokes, mashua, and chinese artichoke..

2.  Make another bed the same way but trade out mashua for american groundnut (apios americana)-fixes nitrogen (it’s a legume) and yields tubers as well! (can be a little invasive but it shouldn't be an issue alongside the other competitive plants). It mimics the climbing pattern of mashua so it can also fill the vertical vine niche.

3.  Shape the bed into a Keyhole--south facing to create a sun trap, the shade tolerant plants (wormwood/dandelions) to the north, with yarrow and valerian to the south. comfrey will do fine all the way around (it will also make a barrier against unwanted species)

4. (optional—depending on your climate) Plant a Moringa tree to the northern tip of the bed. Be sure to harvest the entire above ground section of the plant every year!!

In community,
Elan
                                  


Joined: Jul 29, 2010
Posts: 4
Location: NorthWest of Italy
I forgot to mention that my friend (the woodworker) also told me that most of pallets in EU are made of fir or poplar. I have just to sniff them to find out the fir wood... Pretty simple, isn't it? 
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
I've had that problem myself, Suzie.  Didn't know about hugelkultur so have wasted a lot of wood burning it.

Thanks for the info, Oaktree.  Nice to learn new things.

We have poplar here too, ghichtin.  Sometimes it has a bit of a light green tinge to it,  before UV turns it gray.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
most of the pallets we have come across in Michigan are actually made of oak..we were able to take some of the larger ones and run through a planer and make shelving out of them.

nice

generally they have a lot of staples in them that are difficult to remove though..but oak is great for starting hugel beds..you can also do like was mentioned above and use them to stack firewood on..and then turn into a hugel bed the follwoing spring when the firewood is used up..if you have an area you want to work on..we have used pallets for firewood also..as was mentioned and had the same situation..rotting bark and rotting pallets under the firewood, what a great start.
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
I had been avoiding cleaning up low limbs, and trees overhanging the driveway especially in the summer.  Didn't want brush piles growing during fire season.

A delivery of solar panels came in a big truck, and he asked me to remove low limbs etc. before he got there.

Just happens I got my chipper going to make chips for the top of the hugelkultur bed so I cut off the low offending limbs, (reducing fire danger), and skidded them to the chipper by the hugel bed, cut the bigger parts for firewood and made chips for the bed from the rest.



A pix of the Bush Hog in front of the brush and my chipper.





It isn't as bad as it looks on fuel because a 10 to 20 foot long limb only takes about 1 or 1 1/2 seconds to shred.

It saves hours of work time compared to small units so gas is about the same.

It is dangerous for those who have not (and careless ones who have) been instructed in it's use.  People occasionally do go through them so I try to keep my wits about me while using it - as is a good idea with any machine.

This one is nick named a "Chuck and Duck" by tree trimmers.  Not in use much any more due to safety - liability- etc.  The main danger is in throwing in a large limb with a limb sticking to the side and getting pulled into the machine.  Most of the newer ones have feed rolls and safety shut down bars before the opening. 

This type takes about 3 minutes to slow down after shut off so I kill the engine and leave it engaged reducing the time to about 1 minute or less.

I use machines to ease the burden now so it will improve things quicker and reduce the need for them later as well as increasing food production areas more rapidly for harder times that seem to be coming up around the corner.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
holy cow that is a heck of a chipper !! good way to get rid of any enemies i guess..invite them over to help clean up the property  !!! woo woo.

just kidding of course

i just cut up several very very large overgrown humongous juniper bushes (supposed to be creepers but they grew huge, as big around as my arm)..

so trying to decide where i can start some kind of a bed with those..ready to haul them this weekend..probably 2 pick up loads is all..but that is a lot for little old ladies to be cutting up and hauling alone..
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Looks like the 318 Dodge industrial engine was about 187 HP.  It will chip about anything you can carry up to it.  I find that it is best to cut all major side branches off with the chain saw and feed them individually.

I used to spend hours unplugging my little Craftsman chipper after about 2 minutes of serious branch munching.

I think about anything you have in brush etc. will hold moisture in the bed, Brenda though some plants may not like it as much the first year or two.  I find that places I have buried brush before grow things way better due to the loosened ground and air spaces.  Last year a Swiss chard volunteer survived our whole hot summer without being watered just due to the brush underneath creating air and moisture space.  Extra nitrogen will help things decompose faster and replace nitrogen robbed from the soil by the fresh material.

Chicken manure is high nitrogen and a good match for woody materials that are high in carbon.  Horse manure is the perfect ratio for composting as it is, and any straw, wood or carbonaceous materials with it need added nitrogen for fastest composting.  Clean horse manure with the proper amount of water and air - turning and dampening weekly will compost in 4 to 6 weeks.

I researched it when I had about 210,000 lbs of it to compost several years ago.

Compost still happens without the proper ratio - just at a slower rate.

With proper ratios it will look like soil in that 4 to 6 weeks rather than horse manure.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
More of my little hugelkultur experiments.

New bed in progress: 



Previous bed with cucurbits:



Earlier bed with melons and sweet potatoes:



Idle dreamer

Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
They look nice and healthy.  I hope mine look half as good soon.


I just planted 4 rows of beans on mine this morning but had to work doing repairs on a giant masticator working on National Forest property the rest of the day.

Wish I had his munched wood for my hugelkultur bed.

Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Finally got a day to get the hugelkultur bed garden planted with fall and winter vegetables.

I installed drip tape and hooked it to a timer to make sure I don't miss watering.  If I don't follow through and do the whole thing I just may not get it done, so finished it all. 

The drip tape applies about 2.5 liters per hour per 100 feet having an emitter every 6 inches, so it works great with my short supply of water.  Other spacings are available .. I have 12" spacing tape also.  I will likely convert more of my gardens over to it also.  It is very cheap and simple to use.  It comes in rolls around 1/2 mile to 1 mile long or other quantities also.



It took me about 1 1/2 hours or less to set up irrigation on 7 rows 30 feet long to run 30 minutes 3 times per day.  Timing is easily changed with the inexpensive Raindrip R672C analog timer.





                                  


Joined: Jul 29, 2010
Posts: 4
Location: NorthWest of Italy
Brenda Groth wrote:
generally they have a lot of staples in them that are difficult to remove


Brenda, you are absolutely right! This afternoon I started to disassemble some pallets to feed my HK... I never imagined that in a single pallet could be a hundred 3 inch long rusty nails!
It's a BIG work and takes a long, long time.

I even thought of burying them with the wood, but I'm not sure I want to leave scrap metal in the soil for posterity.

Anyway I think I'm going to put the wood on top of the ground, without digging anything; I feel that this is how Nature works

If I'll remember to bring my camera I'll post some photos... If you like, of course 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Removing the nails from pallets is SO difficult!   I don't think a small amount of metals would be a problem.  Iron is beneficial in many places.

Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
ghichtin wrote:
Brenda, you are absolutely right! This afternoon I started to disassemble some pallets to feed my HK... I never imagined that in a single pallet could be a hundred 3 inch long rusty nails!
It's a BIG work and takes a long, long time.

I even thought of burying them with the wood, but I'm not sure I want to leave scrap metal in the soil for posterity.

Anyway I think I'm going to put the wood on top of the ground, without digging anything; I feel that this is how Nature works

If I'll remember to bring my camera I'll post some photos... If you like, of course 


I'd like to see some pictures if you don't mind, ghichtin.  Thanks.

I also agree that the nails would not be a problem.
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
you can certainly leave the nails and fasteners in the beds..just remember that they are there ..and make sure those that work in the bed are aware..wear sturdy shoes in the area

i have an area in one of my beds that was where pallets had been burned over a period of time..in a big bonfire..there are tons of nails in there..

i left them below the hugel beds and compost beds..but am very careful when i work in those beds..they are NO TILL so they won't be constantly turning over..which is ok for hugel beds..

i have warned people with children to make sure their kids wear sturdy shoes in our garden also one place in our lawn where a glass table blew over into thousands of sharp shards..we tried to vacuum them up..but you only get so much up out of the long grass.

you know that metal is very very helpful for some fruit trees, esp pears and apples..we bury metal under them..the rust feeds the trees..
                            


Joined: Aug 07, 2010
Posts: 271
A question...

I have some starting beds which are predominantly sand and, of course on hot sunny days are a bit of a pain to keep moist. Would rebuilding my starting beds on top of decaying trees/branches help to provide more consistant moisture, so that I would not have to be as attentive?

Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Without a doubt it would help.  Our house in the valley has sandy soil.  Years ago we filled a hole with weeds, roots and grass clippings.  It was then a constant mud hole rather than dry sand.

I was brushing for a friend today with my Bobcat.  Tons of manzanita were cleared to prevent fire danger.  Last year I would have had him burn it.  This year I talked him into making a hugelkultur bed with it.

Forgot my camera but the first one is about 3 feet deep x 10 feet wide x 50 feet long.  Tonight I excavated the second one and used the soil from it to cover the brush.  Tomorrow I will fill it beside the first one - second about 8 feet wide x 3 feet deep x 50 feet long.  They will put their garden over this after I am done.
Karl Teceno


Joined: Mar 16, 2010
Posts: 91
Location: Portland Maine
Hello Glen,

      Where did yo get the drip tape and the timer? The drip tape I have seen is kind of expensive (around here anyway)


Thanks Karl
 
 
subject: Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread
 
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