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Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread

Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
I was going to mention that renting is likely not more expensive than owning when you factor in repairs.  It is fun to jump on it whenever you get the urge though.  I have seen lady operators that were every bit as good as men.

If not using the hugelkultur bed then I would recommend drip irrigation which I documented earlier in this thread.  The timer takes most of the work out of it over the entire season as well as preventing waste of water.


- Glenn -
danelle grower


Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 83
yes saw your thread took notes. also have all the tubing ends and pieces even a timer just have to lay out and instal.  on this years list. thanks
Sue Miller


Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 30
Location: NE Oregon
has anyone had problems with hugel beds getting too hot for trees?

In video from Sepp Holzer's place it looks like he puts the tree right in the trench on one edge. I'm going to create a bed for a hedge of filberts. My plan is to excavate down about 2 feet and lay in a line of soggy straw bales. I'd like to put the filbert seedlings right in the trench next to the bales.

What does the voice of experience say? Are the straw bales going to heat up too much for my trees?


Grande Ronde Kunekunes
http://www.kunepigs.com/
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I think if the filbert roots were in the soil and not touching the straw, they would be fine.  But I have not tried this personally.  I plan to put the hugel beds at least a foot away from the baby tree roots and let them grow into the trench.


Idle dreamer

Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
I agree with Ludi on getting them away a bit at least.

The bales may hold a lot more moisture than the tree would like, and as the bales decompose the tree will lose all support on that side.  I think it would be worth it to spend a bit more time digging an extra hole near the trench then letting the tree go after as much of the trench as it decides it wants.
                                      


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 30
For those of us living in cities or towns with limited access to timber/wood for hugelkultur beds has anyone experimented with scrap lumber like pallets?  I see a lot of places just giving away wood pallets so I was wondering are these treated with anything?  Could they be dismantled and then used as wood for our beds?  Thoughts?

Longsnowsm
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Looks like pallets are either heat-treated or treated with methyl bromide if they are from foreign lands.  Domestic pallets are probably not treated.  Many pallets are made of hardwood such as oak so would be excellent for hugelkultur unless you wanted them for something better like flooring or other construction materials.
                                      


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 30
Thanks Ludi,  I wasn't sure what the pallets are made of so I thought I should ask since this might be a good source of wood for various projects like you mentioned. 

Right now I am just trying to think of any source of possible wood for building beds, and lining swales as I try to terrace my little postage stamp city lot.  I have talked to a local tree service guy about wood chips from his tree service operation, but he says that many times the wood is mixed with pine, cedar, and other woods we wouldn't want in our beds so that would require some coordination with him possibly to see if I can get the materials from him that aren't mixed.  So I will have to follow up with him and see what might be possible as I have gotten one small load of aspen chips from him that looks like might make a good bed material. 

So I will keep searching and looking for sources of wood.  I think the chips would make excellent bed materials if piled deep enough.  Anyone else searching for wood might try calling their local tree service businesses and ask them about their wood chips/mulch.  Just a thought and you might get lucky to land a source of wood.

Longsnowsm
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Personally I wouldn't worry that much about the pine, cedar, etc.  But that's just me!  I put a lot of cedar in my hugel beds, so far no problems (granted only been doing it a few months).

Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
I put whole pine logs in mine.  That is what I had.

Last year and some now -  I grew corn, beans, squash, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli carrots, other stuff.

Some logs were 2 foot dia.  The bed was about 2 1/2 feet deep x 15'x30'.
danelle grower


Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 83
there was some info about this in previous pages. seemed the thought was you don't need to pull the nails or staples out if they are not stained should be ok. I think the staining was would be an indicator that some chemical may have leaked out on the pallet. I am new to this so I don't or can't really have a personal experienced say.  I do use pallets for bed boarders and my compost piles among other things and never have seen any indicator that they were toxic. No stunted growth and always lots of worms. However I am not a chemist nor have I ever had my soil tested for toxins.  On another site there was talk about using treated lumber for boarders and the main thoughts were if you are worried about it don't use it. never use creosote timbers. the newer treated lumber is not the same as yrs past so not to bad to use. the leaching  if any would be so slow and goes down and away shouldn't be a problem I think some were in reference to the red and others were in reference to the green treated lumber? It seems there is no absolute answers .  My thoughts are if YOU are at all worried about it don't use them. maybe you could get trimmings from neighbors.  Or if you are not that far from the woods you could collect some branches and bring them in? maybe construction sites scrap lumber or big box stores may have scraps in their dumpsters? Ok this may ruffle some feathers but if you really want to do this and can't find wood for free or really want logs maybe you could buy some fire wood.  I am thinking maybe you wouldn't be making a huge bed so it might not be that expensive plus if you are saving on water over the years and growing food would balance the cost.  I have read some have collected christmas trees to use. I had the same question so I hope this may have saved you some time.
danelle grower


Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 83
almost forgot others have advised calling a landscaping company and see if they would drop off some stuff.  Since they may have to pay to get rid of it you want it free it's a win win
                                      


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 30
If there isn't a big concern over the type of wood then I will follow up with my tree service contact and see if I can get some more wood chips from him.  These are still pretty large chips that are too big as a mulch in their current form, but I think they would make a great base under some hugel beds and to line the bottom of my swales.  Just pile it 3 or 4 ft deep in a bed and then layer some peat, manure, and compost over the top.  Or that is my thinking/planning at the moment.  Anything I can do to turn our desert environment into a water sponge would be very much welcomed! 

Longsnowsm
Glenn Kangiser
volunteer

Joined: Dec 31, 2009
Posts: 236
Location: Central California
Some things may have a problem the first year or so but after that most of the volatiles will be pretty much gone.  I really have not had a noticeable problem from the pine.
                            


Joined: Mar 01, 2011
Posts: 23
hi all - new to this method here was up most of the night going through this - wow!

just wanted to check about weed/ grass suppression as the initial image just had wood, followed by other material. weeds and grasses won't creep through?

i live opposite a forest that just recently got a working due to all the bush fires we have - wood, logs EVERYWHERE!
danelle grower


Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 83
Hey
Just to let you know Paul Wheaton did an interview all about this on www.thesurvivalpodcast.com with Jack Spirco(not sure of spelling) I thought it was pretty good and answered some questions.  Show #612 and #598. There are some other shows that have a lot of info I found useful
Andrew Hebard


Joined: Mar 03, 2011
Posts: 5
Has anyone ever used bush Honeysuckle for hugelkulture?  It is an invasive understory bush where I live and I have been clearing it out of our woods.  I have piles of it.  I heard, however, that it is allelopathic when it is alive, but have no idea if the chemical persists when it rots.
Casey Halone


Joined: Feb 09, 2011
Posts: 192
    
    1
interesting I just found this topic...  very timely.

I had a local arborist dump 6 yards of "chips" in my driveway. which i was planning to use for mulch in my beds to keep our front yard looking nice.... well, I didn't think to ask what type of tree chips we were getting. I got home to find about 6 yards of chips in my driveway, but HALF OF IT IS  Ponderosa pine needles. So aside from picking out all the needles, I remembered I heard about hugelkultur on here.

we are using pallets fastened together already to create raised beds. my thought is using these chips, needles and all as the filler, so I don't need quite as much good soil. the beds I have built and filled already are just half height pallets, so the center stringers are the top edges, and also a seat. to use up all this extra ugly mulch, would work ok to pile this stuff 2+ feet thick below the growing soil? any possible problems?


Kahty Chen


Joined: May 07, 2010
Posts: 26
Location: Southern Oregon
Has anyone used hugelkultur in a field?

I've got sloped field with deep ruts left by the previous owners when they layed in the geothermal lines (unfortunately the ruts run downhill, not on contour). I was thinking I'd fill the ruts with slash from my thinning project, then cover over with soil. I don't need the field to be perfectly flat, as I'll be using it more like a meadow, and not running equipment over. But if there's enough settling with the buried wood, and I end up with marginally improved ruts, then maybe it's a lot of effort for minimal improvement.

Also, does anyone have knowledge or experience regarding the use of madrone or manzanita in hugelkultur beds? Yea or nea?

Thanks in advance. 
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
we use old manzanita no problem in our beds. i would assume madrone is the same.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
ndomorph wrote:
I was thinking I'd fill the ruts with slash from my thinning project, then cover over with soil.


Personally I would just put the slash in the ruts and not bother to cover with soil.  The slash will stop the gully and eventually soil and plants will develop there.  This worked very well for us in a gully on our place.

Reference: see "brush dams" "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond Volume 2" by Brad Lancaster
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
ndomorph wrote:

Also, does anyone have knowledge or experience regarding the use of madrone or manzanita in hugelkultur beds? Yea or nea?

Thanks in advance. 

I've just put in my hugel beds and used quite a bit of fresh cut and dead madrone in mine.  A fair bit of dead manzanita, too.  Just getting started planting them, so I'll see how it goes.

I'll try and get pics up this week.


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Fl Sunshine


Joined: Mar 10, 2011
Posts: 11
This sounds like a BRILLIANT idea...we just had some very large oak trees trimmed and have several yards of logs/branches with which to contend.
Why potatoes first?  And was it difficult to harvest your potatoes?  I would think a root crop might get caught up in all the branches under the soil?
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
try legumes instead first. we grow beans, chickpeas, peas, lentils the first year. sometimes clover.
Joe Doc


Joined: Mar 17, 2011
Posts: 2
Anyone heard of using or see a problem with using sawdust as the base to build the hugelkultur?

Can anyone forsee problems with trying to turn a poor dainage problem in to a semi-marsh-bog type area using the hugelkultur method?

Susanna de Villareal-Quintela


Joined: May 01, 2010
Posts: 143
    
    1
SUCCESS!!!  At stage one, anyway.

The Giant hugelbed and half-started companion, I built last fall (350 feet, or so, long by 5 foot wide by 3 foot tall) to control spring run-off and provide a great mixed planting bed has kept our property dry despite heavy flooding in the fields around us. 

My neighbors are mystified that my sheer audacious lunacy worked.  Thanks to my fellow permies, there is a lot of crow being eaten 'round this old farm town.   


Oh... and, I did use a mixture heavy in chipped wood and sawdust for the core.  Still young with mostly strawberries as a cover, though.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I wish we could see photos, Mustang Breeze! 
                      


Joined: Jan 16, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Burbank , Washington (south central)
Yes, photos please.


David Wise, DaBearded1.  Doing Permaculture on .5 acre in a suburban setting, in a arid shrub steppe climate.
                    


Joined: Aug 24, 2009
Posts: 106
You want some discussion on the video you posted?  Nice wood, just right.  To have the Huegelkultur effect, it ought to be stacked a bit more ample.  You know, more wood in the pile.  The classic Huegelkultur beet starts out with taking off the sod where you want your bed, put the big wood down first,  cover it with small stuff,  have your branches cut up,  then cover everything with either old straw or hay and put the sod back on, upside down, then cover with garden soil.  Sepp Holzer took this concept and took some great liberties, which worked fine I assume.  I have made several upside down Huegelbeete, maybe the need to be called ditch beete.  On our place there are some big erosion ravines,  I have filled a couple with logs, branches, and etc. and for three years now they have been a nice garden, the effect ought to be the same, but they do not look like it. we are at present in the process to extend our upside down huegelbeet kultures. First of all, we have the dents in the ground, and we still have a lot of old wood from the icestorm two years ago.  I have made a couple of retaining walls utilizing old tires, which does not exactly look elegant, but works fine, and backfilling with wood debris.  We are planning to have only small gardens here and there ( so far I have five) and use our two big gardens as "fields" to hopefully grow grain, chickenfeed or the like. 
              


Joined: Mar 23, 2011
Posts: 1
Are there some pre-conditions or constraints regarding soil type or texture before applying hugelkultur? when so we need to apply hugelkultur? are there any important considerations before applying this method?
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
DanaMA wrote:
Are there some pre-conditions or constraints regarding soil type or texture before applying hugelkultur? when so we need to apply hugelkultur? are there any important considerations before applying this method?



Personally I think the main consideration is how well does your soil hold water in its present state?  If it tends toward being damp or waterlogged, hugel beds should probably be built on the surface of the soil to create a mound.  If the soil tends to be dry, the beds should probably be constructed in a trench.

Cal Burns


Joined: Mar 23, 2011
Posts: 102
Wow, this is interesting. Just saw Paul's interview on the Survival Podcast and this is my first time hearing of the term hugelkultur. So many possibilities...
Have some existing raised beds and looking to incorporate wood into as I usually have to water often with our hot summers. May start using lattice to block some of the sun for plants that don't need the full effects of it. Also have a gradual sloped property that on occasion has had flooding from so looking to add terracing. Being in central Texas with hot summers and clay soil with rocks, wondering what the best woods to use would be for my area - oak, cedar? Our soil is rather poor. I'll soon be adding sheep manure mixed with oak leaves to bolster it some. My soil ph was around 7.6 the last time I checked.
Am I just overthinking what wood would be best? Saw someone mention pallets. Was thinking to use rocks to border my raised beds. Also looking to use hugelkultur for beds of blueberries and for fruit trees I'll be planting.   
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
I'm also in Central Texas and I'm building my hugel beds in trenches.  Actually I'm excavating all the rocks from my garden and replacing with logs, so the entire garden is becoming one hugel bed.  I'm using our native wood species, mostly oak and cedar.  I'm using weathered cedar, not fresh.  Also some elm and persimmon.  So far I'm extremely happy with the results. 
Cal Burns


Joined: Mar 23, 2011
Posts: 102
Sounds good Lugi. That's my plan as well. Have a peach and plum tree and I'm looking to dig a C shaped trench around them on one side where the water slopes towards when it rains a lot. Thinking of putting the hugel trench along the drip line of each tree. Have lots of ideas. Need to find some hugel material...
Cal Burns


Joined: Mar 23, 2011
Posts: 102
Ludi, noticed one of your photos have a build up of rocks. Our area has plenty of rocks as well. Looking at ways to use them to benefit in retention of water and also my area oaks. Maybe put more around the base of these.
Cal Burns


Joined: Mar 23, 2011
Posts: 102
Getting some of my raised beds ready. In zone 8b in central Texas, contend with clay/rocks. This one is a small row that I used last year for okra. May plant peas there this year. Dug down about 18". Once I got past the hard clay later it was black again so that's encouraging.. Is by the drip line of a pecan tree so bed may be mutually beneficial.
Have many blisters. Need to rent me a bobcat.


[Thumbnail for hugel.jpg]

Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
iseethelight wrote:
Looking at ways to use them to benefit in retention of water and also my area oaks. Maybe put more around the base of these.


Personally I would avoid putting rocks around the base of the oaks.  You pretty much want to avoid disturbing or changing the root zone of the native oaks, so don't pile rocks or mulch around them.  Any kind of change or stress can make them vulnerable to oak wilt. 

I'm using the rocks to make a berm at the low end of my kitchen garden, as well as other berms in the yard.  I'm hoping these will help slow run off as well as provide habitat for snakes, lizards, frogs and toads. 
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
i would personally just let the oak go on its own, they dont need any water in the summer. and when older water in the summer makes them weak because it breaks there cycles.

i cant agree with the rocks, i see oaks growing at the bottom of skree slopes all the time, covered in a ft or so of ever moving rocks and boulders. i do agree that they are best used elsewhere to build things. oaks like a lot of leaf litter and fungi. and low light perennial shrubs.
Caleb Larson


Joined: Feb 02, 2011
Posts: 76
Location: Missoula,MT
    
    1
My wife and I built the first of a three pack of hugelkultur beds yesterday.

5' wide at the base and 24' long.

I run a small sawmill and I have been looking for a creative way to get rid of scrap wood.  With the abundance of wood we have we will be making many more. 

We will add some more dirt/compost/manure to top it off.

I plan on planting some buckwheat on this one this year.  Anyone have some good ideas for companion plants.  We talked about some berrys in this location also.
In the background you can see one of shops. I am making a plan to pull the rainwater from the roof and direct it with the topography to feed water to the hugelkultur beds and terraces we will build on the hillside. 


Adding More Wood.

More wood. About 30 " tall with a mixture of sizes of fir pine spruce larch cottonwood.
To the left you can see the layout for the next two beds. I will fence it off and use it for another chicken paddock at times of the year.


After adding 8 inches of soil and straw w/ chicken manure. We will add another 8-12" of soil compost and manure to the top.

We also posted more photos here.

http://quarryrevolution.blogspot.com/


Rocket Mass Heater Workshop
October 26-28 with Erica & Ernie Wisner
http://www.permies.com/t/14828/missoula-eco-forum/Rocket-Mass-Heater-Workshop-just

For more info or to register
contact Caleb Larson @ ruggedtraditions@gmail.com
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Looking good Calemb!  Don't you love it when you find a use for something that used to be kind of a problem? 
 
 
subject: Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread
 
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