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Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread

Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Our hugelbeetes are finally done!

We started the series of beds by constructing the first bed without digging a trench. We simply piled wood about 5 feet high, on top of the existing soil.

We then dug 4-5 X 5 foot trenches, filled them with logs and branches about 3-5 feet above soil level, put 4-6 inches of hay on top, and then covered with soil taken from the adjacent trench. This left us with one trench empty. The edge of the trench was approximately 5-6 feet away from the pile of wood. This left us with 2-3 foot wide pathes. I would've liked to go wider but the backhoe we used couldn't really reach that far.


[Thumbnail for step1hugeltrench.jpg]

[Thumbnail for hugelbeetetravistreestage.jpg]

[Thumbnail for step3soilhugel.jpg]

[Thumbnail for hugelbeete hay step.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
Here's the final product


[Thumbnail for hugel beds wide shot of all of them in line.jpg]

[Thumbnail for hugel all done side shot of all.jpg]

Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
A few tips:

-If you're renting/borrowing a backhoe, have all your wood ready and on site before it arrives. We piled the logs at both the south and north ends of where the beds were flagged.

-If you want uniform beds of the same length, mark out the ends so that you don't start to 'drift' like we did. This also gives you a reference for a path in which to haul all your logs in to minimize compacting the growing area

-If you have the machinery, its best to line  or pile up your logs close to the bed and push them in, rather than doing it all by hand. Being meticulous with the placement of the logs didn't seem to make a difference in the end product comparatively.

-Compact the logs part way through at least once with either your machine, or your stomping abilities

-don't bother cutting the branches from the trunks. There's no need, and Sepp says it can shorten the life of the bed, and cause pH problems if you're using pine for example. This is due to the seepage of sap or pitch from the wounds created by the cutting

-Sepp recommends a very steep angle to avoid compaction. I think its like 70 or 80 degrees. This helps avoid compaction aparently. We got about a 50-60 degree angle, and I don't know how the heck he gets a steeper angle. It may be the configuration of the wood in more of a pyramid form than we had, though we tried to make it as such. It also may be that he packs down the soil part way through which could give a wider more stable base to put the remaining soil on so that you get less fallign to the sides.

-if you have the luxury of time, scrape up the sod and place it on the sides of the beds, set aside the topsoil to add on last, add the subsoil on top of the wood, then finally add the topsoil. We simply put everything on as it came out and were left with a lot of clay on the surfaces.

-if you're putting your beds north-south going down a slope, Sepp Holzer recommends a swale at the north end on contour, and then to run your hugel beds on about a 30-40 degree angle against the slope. This is so you catch water with the beds, but don't keep it there at the expense of the beds below. He says this can happen with beds that are perpendicular to the slope. I learned this AFTER I built my beds of course...

-Get ready to wear yourself out!
Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
johnlvs2run wrote:
Do rocks have any place in hugelkultur?

Frank Fekonia did something similar with rocks in the bottom 1/3 of old fridges.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62ge_AqaVtM

Could someone comment on the relationship between using rocks plus organic matter as he did,
compared to using wood in hugelkultur, and might there be some benefit to using both wood and rocks?


I have to drive into town to watch YouTube. but it sounds to me from your description that he basically made a hydroponic system. 

However, if I was to venture a guess, it also sounds like he was making a quasi-trickle filter that are used in fish aquaculture systems for private and commercial use.  In which, the organic matter breaks down slowly and makes Ammonia.  Bacteria that colonizes rocks or other substrate breaks the ammonia down into nitrite and then nitrate and then finally down to free nitrogen and oxygen.  Is that what you were looking for?
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
what great pictures..and a lot of work, I can't wait to see what they look like when they are producing for you.

as for the question about rocks..i suppose that if you are in an area where it gets really cold rocks would help hold in heat and moisture as well.

maybe they could be placed on the south side to gather heat and emit it later during the day, or around more tender plants to help retain heat and moisture around the plants.

some trees also do really well with a rubble base around them, like prunus family.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
Pakanohida wrote:
I have to drive into town to watch YouTube. but it sounds to me from your description that he basically made a hydroponic system. 

However, if I was to venture a guess, it also sounds like he was making a quasi-trickle filter that are used in fish aquaculture systems for private and commercial use.  In which, the organic matter breaks down slowly and makes Ammonia.  Bacteria that colonizes rocks or other substrate breaks the ammonia down into nitrite and then nitrate and then finally down to free nitrogen and oxygen.  Is that what you were looking for?


It is dryland, not hydroponics. 

He got 100 discarded and drained refrigerators and freezers, took the doors off, layed them on their backs and drilled drain holes 1/3 of the way up one end or both ends.  Then he filled the bottoms with large rocks or any kinds of rocks, 1/3 organic matter on top of the rocks, and the top 1/3 with dirt.

The only water comes from rain in the winters.   
Apparently the water stays in the rocks at the bottom all through the year.

His gardens are flourishing.


how to convert a chest freezer to a fridge

Where liberty dwells, there is my country. -- Benjamin Franklin
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
Wow. Gigantic self-irrigating planters made from appliances...sounds like it would be amazing, but might be really annoying to deal with in a couple decades.


"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
I just dug one out of the ground with my Bobcat, to be taken to the dump after the owner gave up on the idea of the old freezer planter.


- Glenn -
Mekka Pakanohida


Joined: Aug 16, 2010
Posts: 383
Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
It is dryland, not hydroponics.



I understand & understood that, but the nitrogen cycle works the same way on land.  Same bacteria convert it, as well as others. 

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Planted a bit of the Fall garden this morning:  turnips, greens, a few flowers.

Here's some pics of things that are presently growing:

Sweet potatoes in a hugel bed:



Mayo Blusher winter squash in a hugel bed:



The part of the garden that I haven't hugelkultured yet mostly couldn't take the heat and drought, even though it got irrigated as much as the hugel beds:



Idle dreamer

                                      


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Brenda Groth wrote:

the backhoe guy that is putting the pond scum in my woods has also knocked over several trees and is burying them under the pond scum and the dirt that he is bringing into my woods..that I wrote about and showed pictures of on that thread mentioned above.

so this area that appears flattish..now..is buried trees under about 2' deep of pond scum, algae, seaweed, clay, dirt, micro organisms..etc..

this might work in the same manner..with the trees rotting from below and the good stuff (giant compost pile) working from above..

too bad it hadn't stopped right here..but there is still more going in there..more scum..more dirt..more whatever..and will be for 2 or 3 more days..it has been going on all day..

we told him to go ahead and knock over and bury some of the dying aspens if he needs the room..but we flagged trees that we wanted to save..

here is a look at the far corner of the woods where it isn't getting filled..
[/img]

the trees were healthier on this side..

the opening to where the area is getting filled in is to the south..so the area will get sun for the middle part of the day..i'm thinking once this area is repaired and levelled..and the stuff settles and begins to decompose (if it needs to decompose..it is mostly rotten already from being in the bottom of the pond) then it would be a good place to plant something

I'm not sure what will go there now..directly in front of this woods are 3 baby walnut trees that are doing very well..only a foot or so tall..so whatever gets put in here will have to put up with walnut trees within 40' of it..but..i have my list of things that will grow near walnuts..

this was totally unexpected..the scum in the woods..my husband arranged that this morning without my knowledge..so it is a new idea..what will happen with dead trees and pond scum


I am curious why you didn't spread the wonderful material removed from the pond onto a field where it could be plowed in and used to enrich the soil to grow crops or just left to go fallow?

"pond scum, algae, seaweed, clay, dirt, micro organisms..etc."
.... all very good material to have in a garden.


Lawrence London
lfljvenaura@gmail.com
EcoLandTech
http://ecolandtech.blogspot.com
http://ibiblio.org/ecolandtech
                                      


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Ken Peavey wrote:

N
While the initial bed would see the wood consuming some N, this would be bacterial activity.  Once the N is depleted, do those bacteria die off allowing fungi to take over?  The fungi would release N from the wood and the wood would capture whatever N leaching out of the soil above.  N is retained rather than lost or depleted.  This line of thinking could use further development and understanding.

Mycorrhiza Activity
Fungi would be the dominant component of decomposition of woody debris, with mycorrhizae finding an optimum environment.  While the pH would tend to be less acid, making P less available to plants, mycorrhizae would be able to chelate nutrients in areas where the pH is not ideal for the plants.  The range of pH in which plants could thrive would be greatly expanded.  The plants provide sugars to the fungi, the fungi provide the plants with mineral nutrients.  It does not matter that the plants cannot access the nutrients in the rotting wood, the fungi will spoon feed it to the plants.  I think the involvement of mycorrhizae in hugelkulture is a key aspect to how it works.

Compost Amendment
When burying the wood, I think adding some amount of compost would provide the source of fungi which innoculates the hugel bed.


"N
While the initial bed would see the wood consuming some N, this would be bacterial activity.  Once the N is depleted, do those bacteria die off allowing fungi to take over?"

Several things:
"Since organisms use about 30 parts carbon for each part of nitrogen, an initial C:N (available quantity) ratio of 30 promotes rapid composting and would provide some nitrogen in an immediately available form in the finished compost."
http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/fundamentals/needs_carbon_nitrogen.htm

Hard to tell what ratio you would end up with in a Huegulkulture bed since you're trying to cover the wood with soil and not often adding manure or finished compost in any appreciable quantity. One thing for sure this sort of bed-compost pile is strictly an aerobic process; creating it above ground ensures that the relative impermeability of the soil added will not convert that process to anaerobic resulting most likely in putrefaction. Something to keep in mind; making it on a slope is an excellent safeguard against this
happening. Filling holes and depressions in the area where the bed is to be built would seem to be a good idea. This would be especially important on land with low percolating soil, clay and otherwise poor drainage due to lack of slope and soil permeability.

I would think that bacteria (thermophilic at first) and fungi would be present and actively working on the raw materials from the start,
with the possible exception of fungi while the thermophilic bacteria are making the pile heat up. There is also "cold composting" that the biodynamicists use. I would like to know more about this process. Maybe that is what happens with Huegelkulture. The thermophilic bacteria start the breakdown of the wood, cellulose and lignin, making the material less dense and more accessable to the fungi who populate the pile and complete the conversion of raw wood to black nutrient rich compost then part of the soil crumb structure and soil colloid.

I say this because I spent many years with tractor/loader at horse farms piling up sawdust/shavings mixed with horse manure,
shaping the pile, innoculating it with finished compost from previous batches, and turning it every week or so until it could be used directly as a soil amendment for food gardens and landscape plantings without risk of loss of N from the soil. After the pile had gone
through a heat and had cooled down you could see threads of fungal mycelia running through the outer few feet of material in the pile. Shaped properly these manure/sawdust piles could also be called Huegelkulture.

That's a great idea. Add finished compost ("black gold" and/or horse manure. This will be aerobic material containing an array of aerobic microbes necessary start the breakdown of raw materials and green materials in the Huegelkulture bed.

"While the pH would tend to be less acid, making P less available to plants, "

I think it is the other way around, phosphorous becomes more readily available in a lower pH soil.
It is OK to add wettable sulphur (lowers pH and add elemental sulphur, a micronutrient) to soil to facilitate the breakdown of rock
phosphate to release plant-available phosphorous.

                                      


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.

To those building Huegelkulture beds in big trenches, extending way above ground in finished form:

Do you allow for drainage of these trenches? What happens when they are dug in heavy clay or impermeable soil and
they fill up with water during heavy rain? Wouldn't this make the whole process go anaerobic, turn the materials
putrefactive, and take forever to break down into compost/soil?
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
I did build my hugelbeds on a slight downward slope to allow for some drainage for the reasons you speculate about dirtfarmer. I can't answer for the clay issue because the soil  in my hugelbeds is fit for a sandbox.

My understanding is that at least for the first few years, there are so many air pockets between the branches and trunks, that it keeps things from going anaerobic. Not sure though.
                                      


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Travis Philp wrote:
I did build my hugelbeds on a slight downward slope to allow for some drainage for the reasons you speculate about dirtfarmer. I can't answer for the clay issue because the soil  in my hugelbeds is fit for a sandbox.

My understanding is that at least for the first few years, there are so many air pockets between the branches and trunks, that it keeps things from going anaerobic. Not sure though.


the slope's the thing and is important.

The air pockets are probably vital to HK working normally as expected. In a trench during heavy rain they would be filled with water; cycling between anaerobic and aerobic; would slow things down and reduce efficiency and quality of end product, I would think.
If you were going to dig big trenches for the beds, say on a slope and across the grade, I would, instead, use the excavated dirt to
mix with and cover the wood in HK beds at existing grade (i.e. on flat ground) on the downhill sides of the trenchs, with the HK beds running parallel to the trenches, obviously; I would also allow plenty of width between the trenches - this would give you just the right amount of excavated dirt for the HK beds (calculate it out) and a trench for drainage and storage of rainwater to provide  moisture wicking up into the HK beds, very useful during drought.

See this photo collection to visualize how Niels' trenches & beds could be adapted to a different HK construction method:
Niels Corfield - nocompost
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nielscorfield/sets/72157619780442000/
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
How does one tell if the beds are anaerobic? 
                                      


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Ludi wrote:
How does one tell if the beds are anaerobic?   


the beds will be wet, waterlogged, soggy, poor drainage conditions, little or no leaching or flushing off site of the
non decomposing, possibly putrefactive materials

the material will turn darker in color or black, might smell putrefactive, plant growth in or nearby will cease,
stuff will sit endlessly without breaking down swiftly as it would under aerobic conditions
aerobic = "with air" or aeration, i.e. aerated

"without breaking down swiftly as it would under anaerobic conditions"
was changed to read as you see above.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Thank you!
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
This thread is interesting, however too long to read it all!
Huegelbeet might be a solution to our gardening problems.
Which are poor drainage, poor soil and tons of twigs.
My question are: Does it work with twigs as well? Or do you need logs?
Do you remove the topsoil first  together with the lawn?
How thick do you cover the twigs with topsoil?
Do you clip the twigs to a certain length?

Edited: meanwhile I read a bit about the concept, only to have even more questions.
First our vegetable garden is caged and wouldn't it be impractical to built a hill bed in a cage (9 x9 meters)? Then they say that you dig out on (sometimes they tell 2) spades deep out. Then comes the timber/branches.  they might sit in the water f it rains too much. Then they recommend putting the soil back in and the they want to see 25 cm of  leaf mold.  This would be really nice to have we would have to BUY this! And afterwards they use trailer loads of compost. Our soil is crap and I know that we have to buy stuff, but the amounts mentioned would be a fortune.
What would you recommend? We might get grass clippings from mowing contractors.
john smith


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 70
Location: western u.s.
ediblecities wrote:
Our soil is crap and I know that we have to buy stuff


I see no reason why you'd need to buy anything for filling the trenches.
However, I did purchase a nice drainage spade yesterday. 

I'm in the process of digging trenches and drainage holes, then finding whatever is available to fill them, which must be free stuff.  The soil here is hard compacted clay, going down 2 to 3 feet, then a softer layer underneath.  A tree trimming fellow said he would drop off a huge truckload of tree trimmings, which ranges from leaves and twigs, up to 2x12 inch pieces that would be suitable for burning in the winters.  I have not decided on that route yet, as it might be way too much material for my purposes.

Another option is having landscapers drop off their trimmings from lawns, bushes and small trees.  Such clippings are more likely to contain pesticides, and also would probably break down too rapidly.  In either case they have to pay to get rid of the trimmings, and should be glad to drop them off here for free.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
ediblecities wrote:Do you remove the topsoil first  together with the lawn?
How thick do you cover the twigs with topsoil?....I know that we have to buy stuff, but the amounts mentioned would be a fortune.
What would you recommend?


I'd like to second other commenters in saying: I wouldn't buy anything that isn't expected to grow.

The basic idea is to collect as much organic matter as is practical, then cover it with soil; it can be more elaborate than that, but it usually works as simply as that.

Whatever condition the soil is, choose plants appropriate for that to begin with, and plan for it to improve. Peas, beans, small grains, and some common garden vegetables are adapted to low-fertility soil, and will produce something, plus supporting the soil ecosystem with their roots, while the orgainic matter breaks down.

The consensus from this thread seems to use wood in whatever size and shape can be handled easily. If you want to get elaborate, the strategy is to put wood at the bottom (often in a trench, but start from ground level if you worry poor drainage will make this go sour), then pile on anything you worry will sprout, like sod or weeds with seeds. If you have the materials for it and have built an intuition for compost, then build a cold compost heap or sheet compost on top of this, followed by subsoil and finally topsoil.

One strategy to keep the twigs well-drained enough would be to trench between the beds, to whatever depth you trench to add the wood:


[Thumbnail for hugelbeet.PNG]

Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
Sounds good. As I have to remove the lawn sods anyway and dig through he whole crappy soil putting stones and rubbish out it might be easier for us not digging trenches and leave the paths rather than digging the whole stuff out to a certain depth, say 30 cm and building it up once again. And then putting maybe the stones back in where the paths are. And if we are very neat we even put in some string lines.
                                      


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:


Good one Joel, thumbs up! Great drawing. I think the border between ground level Hazelip type raised beds and Huegelkulture beds is becoming blurred in some cases. For some responding in this thread just constructing an ordinary raised bed might be a more direct approach than trying to build a Huegelkulture bed for growing vegetables. Double dig the bed, excavate a path/drainage trench (furrow) between the beds, apply and mix into the top 1' depth of soil: rock dusts , nitrogenous materials, compost, cut weeds and grasses and or aged sawdust or horse manure, etc etc etc. The Hazelip method is very reliable and productive as are the Jeavons and Chadwick methods.
See this document for more information:
http://www.ibiblio.org/ecolandtech/documents/gardening-hand-tools.faq
[Eventually I will revise and html'ize this work, include external links,  pics and more. This is my favorite subject: soil quality.]

I posted this related information for ediblecities in the other thread on garden beds; I would like to explore how this procedure could be integrated with adjoining Huguelkulture beds on site.

dirtfarmer (LFLondon) writes:

You are in luck if there is a rock quarry anywhere near you and you can hire a trucker to bring you many tons of siltation pond fines (finely ground rock dust). If the material is clean and the rock does not have toxic components then you are good to go.

Excavate your garden beds (just the beds, nothing else) to a depth of no less than one foot and no more than two feet and create little drainage outlets to prevent standing water. You can use the excavated dirt to build Huguelkulture beds for other types of food gardening and/or landscaping. Fill these wide trenches with the rock dust your trucker brings you. Pile the rock dust in these beds to at least one foot or more (16-18" is great) above existing grade; it will settle out later on. Mix in rock phosphate, azomite, maybe hi-cal limestone, maybe dolomitic limestone, maybe aragonite, maybe limited quanities of wood ashes, greensand, alfalfa meal, granulated seaweed, compost, manure, aged horse manure, organic manures of any kind, aged sawdust or shavings, aged hay, woods mold or earth and landscape waste including rotted leaves. Till everything in by hand or with tillage implement, level the bed and plant it. Mulch with compost or sheet compost it with cover crop planted.

If you later double dig these beds the you will increase fertility and tilth of soil to an even greater depth, improving the impermeable subsoil below the rock dust topsoil.

I have done all of the above though my soil is highly permeable and fertile with good friability and tilth; even better now after addition of rock dust and compost.


LFLondon
dirtfarmer
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
Dirtfarmer, why do you suggest an ordinary double dug raised bed instead of huegelkultur? (before we  moved I only had very ordinary beds, not raised or something, but it was hotter and drier there).
I really don't like big machines in our yard, but I might hire an excavator doing the job as our soil is incredible crappy fill with tons of stones. I put in some fruit trees and it took me several weeks of labour to get the crap our (and that's the reason why our compost is gone).
The huegelkultur would suit me because we have heaps pf twigs branches and the like.I contacted some lawn mowing companies yesterday and I got the first lawn cuttings delivered today. This let me hope for plenty of lawn cuttings, however they are not composted.
But I must think about the drainage of the whole thing, huegel or not, I have never dealt with drainage problems. I only know that we might simply dig a pond and funnel the water in there.
                                      


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 39
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
ediblecities wrote:
Dirtfarmer, why do you suggest an ordinary double dug raised bed instead of huegelkultur? (before we  moved I only had very ordinary beds, not raised or something, but it was hotter and drier there).
I really don't like big machines in our yard, but I might hire an excavator doing the job as our soil is incredible crappy fill with tons of stones. I put in some fruit trees and it took me several weeks of labour to get the crap our (and that's the reason why our compost is gone).
The huegelkultur would suit me because we have heaps pf twigs branches and the like.I contacted some lawn mowing companies yesterday and I got the first lawn cuttings delivered today. This let me hope for plenty of lawn cuttings, however they are not composted.
But I must think about the drainage of the whole thing, huegel or not, I have never dealt with drainage problems. I only know that we might simply dig a pond and funnel the water in there.


By all means do both as I expressed interest in previously. European or Jeavons/Chadwick raised beds are the best way to grow food in an organized way maximizing the space you have at hand, maximizing production with less external inputs (water, fertilizer, etc.). What about the rock dust - can you get any? Yes, rent or hire an excavator and dig the wide trenches for your raised beds - you will then have the dirt you need to create your Huegelkulture beds on existing grade - stacked functions! Use the rented equipment to move the excavated dirt into place and the rock dust into the bed excavations. Some expense and labor up front with huge payoffs in production (reliable production), minimal irrigation and less labor input required over the long haul. Yes, the HuegelKulture beds are essential but so are the permanent double-dug notill biointensive raised beds.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
If your soil is very stony, it might not be worthwhile to trench deeply. You might try to get by with twigs piled directly on the sod, with just inverted sod from the paths plus the easiest-to-dig portion of topsoil forming the top of the garden bed.

In this part of the world, Craigslist includes many ads offering free fill dirt, which might also be a useful resource if trenches are problematic.
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
Our soil is a real mess, because it's not soil, but fill (beware of fill). Our property was a swamp until the council had the glorious idea to fill up the swamp (at our lower property border and our neighbours land there is still the swamp). The fill consists of usual soil, which is sand and a bit of clay and the sandstones you find here plus everything you find on a building place like concrete pavers, bricks etc., this is maybe 20-30%.

The digging might not be too expensive and I would get rid of the concrete pavers and put the real stones to build dry walls etc.

The reason why I don't want to hill up to much and dig down is because we have to cage  the whole area (80 m2), because of naughty cockatoos (you can't share with them, they don't leave you anything, but I still like these birds). If not I would not  question very much and simply begin with some experiments, but this cage thing demands beforehand planning.

I once had this Jeavons book from the library, but I did't get it. The whole book full of imperial tables, I'm metric and I can't translate 1000 figures! (I'm learning though, but slowly)
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Hi Edible,

As far as free woody plant materials go...

If you're unable to get a tree trimming/landscaping company to give free drop-offs, would it be feasible for you to cut some small trees or branches from abandoned city lots? Walking around Toronto a few weeks ago I noticed how many 'weed' trees were poking through sidewalk cracks and fences, and how there were vacant lots with abundant vegetation ripe for the taking. Maybe its even worth asking people with 'messy' front lawns if you can clean it up for them by taking the plant material for your garden.

While in Toronto I also passed by a city park and saw dozens of 2-4 foot logs scattered on the ground that were left for people to take. The city workers trim trees in the fall. Maybe its worth contacting them to ask when they intend to cut, and where?

Probably not logistical for you but I thought I'd put that out there.
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
No, thanks, we have got a pile of trimmings maybe 2 meters high and 5 meters long. And I could take out all the cotoneaster I wish, it's a declared weed here.
I might even ask the city council if I am allowed to take out some of these hollys but they might make good posts.

I read somewhere that the width of these Hügelbeete should be 1.8 meter or 6 foot(?), isn't this a bit too much? I usually make usual beds in a with of 1.2 meter or 4 (?) foot. As we have to cage the whole thing it must be a suburbany-neaty thing.I wonder as well how to move all this brush around later on in a cage (9 by 9 meters).

And if we want to do something the like for trees, how deep and how wide would you make the beds (and yes we must net each individual tree)
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
As I understand it, the width of the bed depends on the height of the bed. Our beds were approximately 3.5 - 4 feet high and about 5-6 feet wide. Angle is aparently important. In Sepps permakultur book I think he says that the angle should be about 70-80 degrees. Almost steep enough that the soil falls.
                            


Joined: Oct 05, 2010
Posts: 37
Location: australia
fukuoka once 'hauled trees up hills' to create fertility in his orchard, then he began to grow the trees on the spot, ...the silver wattle grows very fast with a deep tap root bringing minerals up to the surface...fukuoka then cut the trees on the spot and buried them
presto mandarins! he didn't really like digging the trees in, but thought it better than hauling and digging


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Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
Thats ideal hiawatha but in my situation it'd take several years for the trees to be big enough. Time which I don't have right now. I do plan to try this out, as I'll need a second round of beds in about 10 or 15 years. I'm thinking poplar and birch as they grow fast and there are plentiful seedlings in the interior of my forest.
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
I have to order this book and it takes some weeks to come.
Why does he makes his hills that steep? Has it anything to do with the sun, and then in  other latitudes it must be different.

The next thing I thought is why not digging the whole area out, beds and pats. Then fill the beds  with the twigs and the paths with stones, that might insure the drainage. and you dig the whole area out slightly sloped and at the bottom you dig it in a slight angle from both sides and maybe even fill some good draining material like pebbles or smaller stones. In the middle bottom part you insert a pipe and funnel the water out to a pond (that must be dug as well) . this pond should have an overflow that it cannot fill the whole area.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
I think Sepp makes his hills that steep so so that the bed is less likely to 'fall in on itself' and  make the bed compacted.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I'm digging out and putting hugel beds throughout my entire kitchen garden.  Temporary paths are stepping stones.  When I finish and decide where I want permanent paths I'll either add more stones or lay down thick mulch.

Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
I've just started a hügelbeet, not our veggie garden, but another on. I have some stone retaining walls, dig the dirt out cut some twigs (some, lots of until I get blisters) , the I have some ,lawn cutting which I will put on the top together with some fertilizer and then comes the dirt.
I think I like it and I make it in pieced by a meter, digging a meter out putting the twigs down etc. then it is not so monotone to work on it.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
ediblecities wrote:some good draining material like pebbles or smaller stones. In the middle bottom part you insert a pipe and funnel the water out to a pond (that must be dug as well) . this pond should have an overflow that it cannot fill the whole area.


It's possible that spaces between pebbles would fill in with clay over the years, leaving a mix that drains even less well than before.

Organic matter, such as wood, would decompose to leave a more humus-rich soil with better drainage, and have the added benefit of better water & nutrient retention than stone. This is one of the major reasons for hugelkultur. By contrast, you can talk to people who've put gravel at the bottom of some flowerpots, not in others, and compared the results: the consensus seems to be that any better drainage is very temporary.

I think the pond could be filled any of several ways; it's probably possible to fill it with surface runoff and do away with the pipe, but I don't have any experience to say for sure.
Paula Edwards


Joined: Oct 06, 2010
Posts: 411
Without pebbles this is even better,less work.
With my little bed I'm doing at the moment I realize how much twigs and woody stuff goes into it. However I clip the stuff to about 20 cm. The sheer mass of organic material must be an advantage.

One thing is different from the no dig garden philosophy, and that's why I like the Hügelbeet. No dig does not do much with the soil underneath, they even make a barrier our of cardboard. All organic material is put on the top. However the Hügelbeet digs the sol out, which then plays a major role laying on the top of the whole thing. This must have an impact in the soil biology and maybe in the minerals content of the vegetables - just a speculation.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3096
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
Joel Hollingsworth wrote:
By contrast, you can talk to people who've put gravel at the bottom of some flowerpots, not in others, and compared the results: the consensus seems to be that any better drainage is very temporary.


I think that's an issue of breaking capillarity.  water sort of perches at the bottom of the dirt in any pot.  adding gravel to the bottom just moves that bit of water upward a corresponding amount.  the result is less room for the plant and no change in drainage.


I was recently asked for some advice on a hugelkultur project.  the site in question has an impermeable layer below about 20 inches of gravelly sand loam with a fairly consistent moderate slope.  the woody material was placed on top of the impermeable layer.  the idea was to intercept and store some of the water that would otherwise quickly leave the property.  the gardeners also chose to build circular beds in keyhole arrangements instead of long, straight beds.  the paths end up just below grade and are mulched heavily with wood chips.

seems like a clever combination of two good ideas to me, but do any of you see any potential problems?


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Joined: Jun 06, 2010
Posts: 57
Location: Northern Rockies
@Brenda Goth.... hi Brenda, in regard to all those aspen... turn them into edibles... oyster? chicken of the woods?  hugelculture mushroom beds!


Rick Freeman

Interface Forestry, l.l.c.      http://interfaceforestry.com

Forest and Stand Inventory and Assessment
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subject: Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread
 
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