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hugelkultur in hot ,arid climate

                                      


Joined: Jan 01, 2010
Posts: 172
Location: Amsterdam, the netherlands
    
    1
Hey all,

I think we could consider some more factors and techniques than just hugel beds. Though when you are in a dry climate any technique that suggests less need for irrigation might be something to try out i think it isnt necisary to make a holy grail out of building hugel beds. This technique originated in european climates, and even though spain doesnt get much rainfall, and a big part of the country looks like desert, it is in a much higher lattitude. Like some people allready pointed out, that makes up for different natural mechanisms at work.

When in a north african region, or something alike, I personally wouldnt go out all of my way just to build these hugel beds. Part of the system is based on building little hills, not only burying wood. And like Topic starter allready said, sunken beds in stead of raised beds are a much smarter thing in those climates. Also It might be worth while to look more at examples of permaculturalists who have been practicing in similar climates, like geoff lawton was in jordan, and morroco. Luckily australia, the place where permaculture evolved, has very similar climates, and people came up with all kind of solutions and techniques. Like creating shade by planting trees adapted to your region, and so layering your garden (or stacking in space).

Strategies like adding organic matter, not nessicarily wood, but any kind of OM you can find does improve the soil's ability to retain moist and not tilling of the soil also gets way more important the closer to the equator you get. Then there are all kind of techniques like the use of stones and rocks to collect dew can be of great help.

I am not saying not to use buried wood when in north african type regions. If you do have a source for wood it could help a lot, though it stil might be wise to dig even deeper to bury the wood so you can still have sunken bed (with buried wood). The permaculture design manual and other australian recources cóuld be more helpfull when in this climates then sepp's book or patrick whitefields, because they are based on european climates.

And me too, am curiously awaiting results from all you brave desert dwellers who are going to experiment with buried wood.

cheers,


land and liberty at s.w.o.m.p.
www. swompenglish.wordpress.com
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I've had a lot of success with wicking beds in our climate. Wicking beds create a reservoir of water below the soil, and don't suffer from evaporation. Coupled with a bit of shade, they have been really good for our garden.

We averaged a 1/2 gallon of water per square foot of wicking bed per week during on of the worst droughts in the last 50 years. I don't know how that would compare to a hugel bed in the same conditions, but it certainly worked for us.


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C.J. Murray


Joined: Dec 02, 2011
Posts: 92
Location: 5,500 ft. desert. 13" annual precip.
My impression of the concept behind hugelkulter is a wicking bed on natural steroids. The rotted wood soaking up moisture is the plastic sheeting equivalent which also allows deep roots a place to go also.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Abe Connally wrote:


We averaged a 1/2 gallon of water per square foot of wicking bed per week during on of the worst droughts in the last 50 years. I don't know how that would compare to a hugel bed in the same conditions, but it certainly worked for us.


People seem to suggest the mature hugelkultur should not need any irrigation. I don't know if we should realistically expect that in our region, as examples of no-irrigation growing in low rainfall areas seem to be from northern regions.....I guess I'm a bit skeptical about the plausibility of being able to grow all our favorite garden plants with no irrigation in our region...and am waiting to see if I can do without irrigation in my buried wood beds, eventually.....


Idle dreamer

Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
I think a hugel bed could be a type of wicking bed, if close attention to a few details was applied.

Below the bed, it might be good to have a clay subsoil to prevent vertical movement of water. If this formed a nice dish to allow a water reservoir below the plants, it would greatly increase the efficiency of irrigation. This would probably fade as deep roots penetrate, but by that time, the above ecosystem should be fairly established.

Creating an air space and water delivery below soil would be a good idea, too. Getting the water down to the wood is the hardest thing in our climates, mainly because of high evaporation and wind. If we can apply the water in a way to avoid the evaporation, it might be successful. So, adding a big drain pipe in the bottom wood layer might be a good idea.

Hugel beds that incorporate wind breaks and shade are a necessity, and shouldn't pose any design issues. Start with shade cloth and shaped mounds, and gradually transition towards trees and shrubs.

I have my doubts that hugel beds can remove the need for irrigation in my climate, especially for the 8-9 months of dry season. Having said that, if the beds increased the water efficiency as well as wicking beds, it would be a great development for our region. They're construction is simpler and cheaper than wicking beds, and I like the idea of being able to grow deep-rooted plants.
C.J. Murray


Joined: Dec 02, 2011
Posts: 92
Location: 5,500 ft. desert. 13" annual precip.
I think what you just said makes a huge amount of sense. I'd find another way to get the water to the bottom faster if needed, though. Something more natural than a gaping wound of a pipe. Maybe a strategically placed pathway of gravel.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
well, the "gaping wound" of the pipe would be in the center of the pile, so not really "open" or noticeable.

It is similar to what we use in the wicking bed, a distribution pipe below the roots of the plants. From what I've tried, it is the most efficient way to distribute water and air underground. Media, like gravel and rocks, are useful for water distribution, but if you want to go more than a few meters, pipes are much better.

One end of the pipe would need to be exposed so that it could be filled with water.
Yone' Ward


Joined: Feb 14, 2012
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
Inverted hugelkulter? This looks interesting. I'm up at the 48th parallel, but only receive about 3 inches of rain in the summer and I live on a gravel bed. I could see this working well.


Just call me Uncle Rice.
17 years in a straw bale house.
michael wuest


Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 9
Has anybody experience with the covered soil like in BACK TO EDEN?

I tried that now for two years in Germany and during last years very very dry spring it was fantastic
to see that the areas covered with a 1-2 inch layer of wood chips was still moist after 2 weeks sun and no watering.

We will try 1-1,5m high hugelbeets in the Sahara on our next project, www.agniculture.net as well as covering them with wood chips as i did in Germany.

It worked well over here and i hope sby has more experience with it and is willing to share infos so i can avoid unnecessary mistakes

cheers

mike

here s a video of the hugelbeete

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=90882zWXCUk&list=UUON4PcGV12rztkfLeL5Km6g&index=1&feature=plcp



[Thumbnail for kartoffeln-9-5-12-001.JPG]

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
michael wuest wrote:

We will try 1-1,5m high hugelbeets in the Sahara on our next project, www.agniculture.net as well as covering them with wood chips as i did in Germany.


Very interested to see how it works there!

Eric Markov


Joined: Jul 12, 2012
Posts: 96
Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
    
    2

Abe,

If you're still reading this thread, could you explain your wicking beds in more detail.
Your comment on using pipes to get water & AIR to the roots caught my eye.

Getting enough air to roots has been the limiting factor in my clay soil and semi-arid climate (14" rain/yr, no rain june-oct)

The big advantage to hugelkultur for my garden, I believe is the better aeration, it still needs irrigation.

I've done sunken beds like Tyler. And I'd be very happy if the stumps in the ground last 10 years aerating roots the whole time.



lowcostgarden.blogspot.com
michael wuest


Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 9
Hi Eric, we are fortunate and have half of the terrain already a forest with palm trees and half of the terrain dry hard clay which we will have to turn into sth i don t know yet what exactly. The hugelbeete covered with wood chips seems to be the bet solution. A daily Agnihotra will do its share to change the soil, too.

The wicking beds i never read about so i m curious too, also the aeration of the roots when you have hard clay soil is interesting because that is exactly what we have. If you check out the pictures on my site you can see for yourself. www.agniculture.net

Cheers

Mike
Eric Markov


Joined: Jul 12, 2012
Posts: 96
Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
    
    2
Hi Michael,

Interesting video you have, wires in the bed?
I like to try crazy experiments, will have to put a couple in one of my beds too!

As for aeration tunnels, I found a gopher tunnel under one of my plants, it kept the plant from wilting.
http://lowcostvegetablegarden.blogspot.com/2012/07/gopher-aeration-tunnel.html

Cheers

Mark Harris


Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 73
Location: Portugal
Marianne West wrote:
Abe Connally wrote:
Tyler Ludens wrote:The picture does not look like a "desert" to me. That looks a lot more like our area than like yours, Abe! Plus Spain is WAY far north compared to you. People just don't appreciate the importance of latitude to the issue of rainfall and evaporation. Much of England gets around the same amount of rainfall as Central Texas. Seems like I hardly need mention Central Texas does NOT look like England. What you and I would like to see, I bet, is someone successfully practicing these techniques in North Africa. I'm at the same latitude as Cairo, Egypt, and you're south of me.

Yeah, that's right, something in North Africa would be very useful. We were part of the same drought that hit, you, too, so things that work for you usually work for us.


i strongly suggest you go to Sepp's side and check it out. The whole point is that it didn't start out that way. his project in Spain has about 12" of rainfall, the one in Portugal 3". he has done the technique in all kinds of climates. Again, go to the side and check it out. You don't need to understand German to understand the pictures - to see how the environment changes year after year after year.......

Also, you can get Sepp Holzer's permaculture book in english and he writes about his experience. By the way, he started doing what he is doing about 40 years ago and everybody around him said that it can't be done (in his location). guess what, it worked.....
But in the end, it doesn't matter what you choose to do. if you want to dig and do it that way - all the power to you. I myself am lazy. I would try it first piling things up on top, follow the other advice, like to plant perennials from seed on the location so their tap roots develop long and strong - and if after a couple of years nothing grew: Start digging. just how I would do it - not saying that that is a better choice.


Where did you get the information from that the Portugal site (Tamera) only gets three inches per year ? That is completely wrong. In the last seven years for example the average rainfall has been 29 inches !!
Mark Harris


Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 73
Location: Portugal
Tyler Ludens wrote:The picture does not look like a "desert" to me. That looks a lot more like our area than like yours, Abe! Plus Spain is WAY far north compared to you. People just don't appreciate the importance of latitude to the issue of rainfall and evaporation. Much of England gets around the same amount of rainfall as Central Texas. Seems like I hardly need mention Central Texas does NOT look like England. What you and I would like to see, I bet, is someone successfully practicing these techniques in North Africa. I'm at the same latitude as Cairo, Egypt, and you're south of me.


What you say makes a lot of sense. I don't know central Texas but if it gets as much rainfall as parts of England then it also gets very similar rainfall to the drier parts of Portugal too.

Having lived in both London and central Portugal which have very similar annual rainfall figures the differences in vegetation is very clear. Somebody coming here for say a holiday in the middle of summer would struggle to believe that it gets the rainfall is does. But the sunshine is so much stronger here, and the rainfall is generally completely absent for around 4 months in the warmer part of the year.
michael wuest


Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 9
Hi Eric

after watching the site you linked it fell onto me like a boulder, of course, the reports i ve seen and never understood where exactly about that, AERATION of the roots. I have seen several websites where they filled the beds, hugel and normal with a thick layer of rocks, and now i caught at last why, get some air to the roots ))))

The wires aren t weird at all, some german railway worker figured it out after observing that near tracks which are heading exactly north-south the greenery is tenfold as all other tracks. He experimented, was successful and got lots of trouble then like everybody who discovers the good stuff.

In german it s called orga urkult and i got it linked on my site, there is a friend of mine who s doing sth similar in france and his site s in english just google up yannick van doorne, really nice chap and good ideas

thanks again, cheers

mike

Peta Schroder


Joined: May 25, 2012
Posts: 62
Location: Australia
I think in very arid climates the major issue is evaporation.

Groves, in addition to the hugelkulture might help.

I'm in South Australia where the evaporation is three times the rainfall and find that many of my healthiest plants are growing in shady spots.

I too have clay soil and the water runs off it so I've been digging out all my paths and using carpet underlay as a weed mat then mulching over the top. The underlay acts as a sponge and so my paths are staying relatively moist and gives an opportunity for plants to spread their root systems.

Also another idea that I am currently trying is to bury my worm farm underground and it has many holes in the sides for worms to tunnel in and out of the soil. Worm castings underground are a good way to improve water retention in the soil. So far this idea is working fine, I have many worms traveling through the soil to deposit their castings and they feed in the laundry hamper I buried.
michael wuest


Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 9
Hi Peta, (Petra?) evaporation is a huge problem where we are, thats why i d like to cover the soil with wood chips in the beginning, once i have a living carpet of shrubs and greenery that might not be necessary any more,

also the water is actually not a problem, we got enough, but from the river and well, no rainfall worth mentioning here

i wonder if i dig out the paths between the hugelbeete a little deeper, fill it with weeds or mulch to store water and cover that with a layer of rocks and gravel so water can move where its soaked up best might be a good idea

that way i d have some decent paths to walk on and get through with a wheelbarrow, same time the ground would be covered, no evaporation and water stored beneath the stones

the worm farm is a great idea, i hope i can find some there, if not i ll have to get some from the atlas 500km up north

i love rain worms as we call them in germany, up there we got plenty and they turn sand and dirt into a wonderful soil very fast

thanks for the idea,

cheers

mike

Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Eric Markov wrote:
Abe,

If you're still reading this thread, could you explain your wicking beds in more detail.
Your comment on using pipes to get water & AIR to the roots caught my eye.

Getting enough air to roots has been the limiting factor in my clay soil and semi-arid climate (14" rain/yr, no rain june-oct)

The big advantage to hugelkultur for my garden, I believe is the better aeration, it still needs irrigation.

I've done sunken beds like Tyler. And I'd be very happy if the stumps in the ground last 10 years aerating roots the whole time.



Here's info on wicking beds. These things work really well, both for aeration and water retention.

http://www.velacreations.com/food/plants/annuals/item/108.html
Eric Markov


Joined: Jul 12, 2012
Posts: 96
Location: Bay Area CA zone 9
    
    2
Thanks Abe.
Nice blog, look forward to your book!
Living off-grid is probably a secret desire for many, that many would like to read about.

Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Eric Markov wrote:Living off-grid is probably a secret desire for many, that many would like to read about.

well, I hope so, for my book's sake!
Peta Schroder


Joined: May 25, 2012
Posts: 62
Location: Australia
I wouldn't add weeds to the paths then gravel - the weeds will break down and the gravel will sink to the bottom and then it will turn into muddy clayey gravel that will need to be dug out if you want to do it again. I did dig as deep as I could go for the paths.

I'm going to stick with straw and wood chips as they are very easy to dig out and put on the garden when they break down.

The worm farm does work well. I used a laundry hamper but I think multiple PVC pipes with holes in the side scattered throughout the garden would be even better. Then the worms form their own underground superhighways between the various food sources rather than just hanging around one. Also the laundry hamper takes up a bit of space.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Abe Connally wrote:
Eric Markov wrote:Living off-grid is probably a secret desire for many, that many would like to read about.

well, I hope so, for my book's sake!


Sign me up for a copy! More examples are needed from hot dry climates.
michael wuest


Joined: Apr 01, 2012
Posts: 9
Hi Abe,
i thought living off the grid is quite normal, on the other hand Africa is not the US . If you want some info about what we do to stay off grid just send an PM, cheers, mike

Hi Peta,
OMG, good that you mention it, i completely oversaw that, i would have been pissed off when the paths would start to sink once the mulch and other plant stuff would turn into soil and absorb the gravel on top of it. thanks a lot for that one.
And the clay will be easily compacted before putting gravel on it, so it will serve as a river bed, no water passing through. Sorry, since we saw the report PLASTIC PLANET i just avoid any kind of plastics wherever i can.

I don t want any plastic on our land, nightmarish poisonous stuff. I think some nice clay or ceramics tubes, flower pots or similar with little holes drilled through will do as well for a worm farm.

cheers

Mike

Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Tyler Ludens wrote:Sign me up for a copy! More examples are needed from hot dry climates.

If you are interested in the book, go here to pre-order: http://www.indiegogo.com/foodweb

michael wuest wrote:i thought living off the grid is quite normal, on the other hand Africa is not the US . If you want some info about what we do to stay off grid just send an PM, cheers, mike

It depends on where you are. We have been living off grid for about 12 years, now. It has not been common in any of the areas we've seen or traveled in. Even here in rural Mexico, there are very few people off of the grid.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I will do that, Abe.

So, have we determined if there are any examples of hugelkultur growing "a typical garden without irrigation or fertilization" in an actual desert?

Or not?

Alder Burns
pollinator

Joined: Feb 25, 2012
Posts: 878
Location: northern California
    
  24
Two loose thoughts on this, from someone who has actually never done hugel (I'm a wood burner, and now that I live in a dry climate, firewood is a precious commodity!). I would beware doing this near buildings, since the buried wood will attract and breed termites. And I think it might provide an ideal habitat for gophers, ground squirrels and other rodent pests....


Alder Burns (adiantum)
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Tyler Ludens wrote:I will do that, Abe.

So, have we determined if there are any examples of hugelkultur growing "a typical garden without irrigation or fertilization" in an actual desert?

Or not?



I have determined that I cannot find one example of anyone doing it in a climate similar to mine. I have, however, made some trenches and filled them with stuff I can find, mostly juniper, brush, and grass. I haven't covered them yet, though in some of the hard rains we've had lately, the silt is filling in all on its own.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Thank you, Abe. It's often difficult to get real clear answers. It can be distressing if something is claimed about a technique but there are no examples of it in action. I want it to be true that hugelkultur will allow people "to grow a typical garden with no irrigation" in the desert, as is claimed. http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/ I would like that claim to be based on factual example.

Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Tyler Ludens wrote:Thank you, Abe. It's often difficult to get real clear answers. It can be distressing if something is claimed about a technique but there are no examples of it in action. I want it to be true that hugelkultur will allow people "to grow a typical garden with no irrigation" in the desert, as is claimed. http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/ I would like that claim to be based on factual example.


well, your examples are the closest things to success in my climate, though I think you guys get a bit more rain that us (still, it's close enough). I think you said that yours do well, but you still need to water, right?

In my area, fertilizer is not an issue, our soils are pretty rich, though they do lack organic matter. But, the big thing is irrigation, and even with irrigation, a lot of things don't make it.

I'm almost tot he point where I focus on just growing during the rainy season (when we have one) and in the wicking beds (very conservative with water). Beyond that, I harvest edible weeds and grasses for us an the animals. The weeds do great around here, and some of them are more nutritious than anything I typically grow in my garden, so I don't mind taking advantage of that free resource!
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Yep, still watering. If I stop watering, the eggplants stop putting on fruit. I think it's possible after a couple more seasons and more layers of material (I keep adding mulch and soil on the beds), I might be able to stop irrigating. But it is not an immediate effect in beds the depth of mine.

I would love to have weeds, we barely have any, and when they come up, the deer eat them.

I sometimes wish I could become a venisonitarian. Deer seem to grow here better than anything!
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Tyler Ludens wrote:Yep, still watering. If I stop watering, the eggplants stop putting on fruit. I think it's possible after a couple more seasons and more layers of material (I keep adding mulch and soil on the beds), I might be able to stop irrigating. But it is not an immediate effect in beds the depth of mine.

I would love to have weeds, we barely have any, and when they come up, the deer eat them.

I sometimes wish I could become a venisonitarian. Deer seem to grow here better than anything!


that's kinda our approach with the weeds. Eat what is already growing without requiring much effort. We don't have many deer here, but I envy you, because I love venison.

our place is covered in weeds and grasses this year, mainly because of the 10" of rain we received in July. purslane, lambsquarters, amaranth, and maximillian sunflowers are the most prevalent, but there are many others. All of those are great for the animals, too, so I've been weeding the garden, and dumping bucket loads of weeds to the rabbits on a daily basis. They've never been so happy!

I wish I had things together a bit more, but I really need some sort of machine to chop the fresh weeds into tiny pieces so that I can press them into cubes for feeding the animals during the winter. I haven't seen any garden shredders anywhere around here... It seems like a waste not to take advantage of all this lovely nutrition while we have it!
Yone' Ward


Joined: Feb 14, 2012
Posts: 135
Location: Springdale, WA USA - Cold Mediterranean Climate
Here in Washington State we have an interesting problem with living off the grid. If you don't have a power bill to prove your address, you can't get your new address put on your driver's license. It could be an interesting legal issue. You must be a customer of a public power company to get a drivers license when you move? Does your book cover that?
Mark Harris


Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 73
Location: Portugal
If you assume for a moment that burying wood in the soil has a beneficial effect on plant growth by whatever process, whether it be the nutrients stored in the wood, the 'sponge effect', or just the extra aeration of the soil, why would you want to create a raised bed ?

Traditional horticultural advise and experience tells me raised beds = improved drainage, not something surely you want in a hot arid climate ? Making a bed the shape of a house roof as is advised in Pauls's hugel article cannot to me make sense. The house of a roof is designed to efficiently/quickly shed rainwater. So why design a system that encourages the rain to do the same thing ?

I have to admit I have not tried hugelkultur. I am especially sceptical about it as an idea in hot/dry climates. Paul says these beds should be around 6 feet (2 metres) high. I reckon such beds would need masses of irrigation here, even with 30 inches of rain a year.

Would it not make more sense to dig out a trench, and do all the normal hugel stuff, but end up with a bed level or even slightly lower than the surrounding soil ?

As has been said before, i would agree also that in truly arid/hot climates, wood would be a very precious commodity. Surely you would not want to be cutting down the few remaining trees in such a landscape.


Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Yone' Ward wrote:Here in Washington State we have an interesting problem with living off the grid. If you don't have a power bill to prove your address, you can't get your new address put on your driver's license. It could be an interesting legal issue. You must be a customer of a public power company to get a drivers license when you move? Does your book cover that?

well, I know that places require bills for proof of address, but are you sure they will only accept a power bill? In New Mexico (where I have my license), they also accepted bank statements, internet bills, phone bills, etc.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Mark Harris wrote:If you assume for a moment that burying wood in the soil has a beneficial effect on plant growth by whatever process, whether it be the nutrients stored in the wood, the 'sponge effect', or just the extra aeration of the soil, why would you want to create a raised bed ?

Traditional horticultural advise and experience tells me raised beds = improved drainage, not something surely you want in a hot arid climate ? Making a bed the shape of a house roof as is advised in Pauls's hugel article cannot to me make sense. The house of a roof is designed to efficiently/quickly shed rainwater. So why design a system that encourages the rain to do the same thing ?

I have to admit I have not tried hugelkultur. I am especially sceptical about it as an idea in hot/dry climates. Paul says these beds should be around 6 feet (2 metres) high. I reckon such beds would need masses of irrigation here, even with 30 inches of rain a year.

Would it not make more sense to dig out a trench, and do all the normal hugel stuff, but end up with a bed level or even slightly lower than the surrounding soil ?

As has been said before, i would agree also that in truly arid/hot climates, wood would be a very precious commodity. Surely you would not want to be cutting down the few remaining trees in such a landscape.


yeah, you bring up some good points, but a lot has to do with how you set up the bed. Once of things about arid climates is that when we do get rain we get a lot of once, and localized flooding is common. So, if you set up your bed as a type of swale, with the ground around it sloping towards the base of the bed, I can see that the bed would become a storage of water, without your plants being drowned by the torrential rains.

That being said, I would not make the bed like a roof of a building, but a bit more flat, possibly even with a miniature trench on top to help water soak in. And it wouldn't be 6 ft tall, either. a few feet might be advantageous though, especially if you can situate them to help block the winds. the key, though, is to get the water to the base of the bed, where the wood is, so you still want the surrounding area to slope towards the bed.

Wood is definitely hard to come by, but there is a lot of trimming that can be done, as part of maintaining the trees that are established. But, why stop at wood? there are lots of shrubs, ag wastes, grasses, etc that could be used. I even think rocks could be beneficial, if done right, to create cavities below the soil for water to gather.
Mark Harris


Joined: Jul 03, 2011
Posts: 73
Location: Portugal
Yes a swale around 2ft high (with special water absorbing properties) makes perfect sense to me. In fact that is what I suggested on another thread a few weeks ago. But apparently Sepp Holzer said to Paul W.and others they need to be MUCH higher, and very steep sided to work properly.
Abe Connally


Joined: Feb 20, 2010
Posts: 1381
Location: Chihuahua Desert
Mark Harris wrote:Yes a swale around 2ft high (with special water absorbing properties) makes perfect sense to me. In fact that is what I suggested on another thread a few weeks ago. But apparently Sepp Holzer said to Paul W.and others they need to be MUCH higher, and very steep sided to work properly.


well, maybe in their climates, but in an arid area, I doubt making them tall and steep would help anything, and at the very least, it would increase runoff in the first hard rain. A lot of the techniques for temperate areas don't translate to arid areas without modifications.
Cath Johnstone


Joined: Oct 24, 2012
Posts: 5
Location: East Africa
I am in Tanzania, on th ecoast - hot, 2 rainy seasons, quite a lot of rain but long dry periods in between.
I've constructed 2 quasi hugel beds - dug a hole, filled with wood, up to ground level so it will be sunken in the end.
My problem is what to put on top - we have no turf, and the soil is actually sand with a VERY high pH. My project has no funds for transport to import good soil from anywhere.
I am thinking about using a mixture of cardboard, seaweed and compost (we are making as much as we can).
Any suggestions or thoughts, please?


Cath
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Personally I would use native soil (sand), compost, and seaweed, but not cardboard. Cardboard can form an impervious layer which keeps water from penetrating.

 
 
subject: hugelkultur in hot ,arid climate
 
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