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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
    
    2
Looks good Maya. Are you going to mulch the surface now that its planted up? That'd help with the erosion.

I built several beds and made the mistake of only cover cropping some of them. I had a lot of erosion, and beds collapsing. The ones that collapsed were beds which didn't get the upper layer of twigs stomped down. Easy enough to fix with a few logs and wheel barrows of soil


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
maya704 McCoy


Joined: Jan 26, 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Lanaudière, QC, Canada
Thanks Travis! I'll mulch with wood chips once I'm done planting, as I do all my beds. I'm not sure I understand what you're suggesting though. Do you mean to add twigs and and more soil over top what's already there? This would make the bed even steeper. How would this limit erosion?


The Mocking Crows homestead blog:   http://mockingcrowshomestead.wordpress.com
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
Hmmm let me see if I can be more clear. I'm talking about a pretty large sink-hole in the mound. Some of the sink holes are deep enough to fit a few 2 foot logs and then bury them.

So basically I'm saying if you have these sink holes appearing in your hugelkultur over the years, just either fill it in with soil or woody debris topped with soil.

Clear as mud?
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1526
Location: zone 7
    
  11
you need more plants, toss some seeds on the hugelkutur bed and water to get them started. try at least 5 different plants. or even better 10.  you can also mulch lightly and then toss the seed, the light mulch will protect the young seedlings for the first day or two. it also gives them little spots to get ahold and stay put on the sides.


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
maya704 McCoy


Joined: Jan 26, 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Lanaudière, QC, Canada
Ha! I see what you mean. Yes that makes perfect sense. So far no erosion at all though we've had a few torrential downpour. I think once it's covered in vegetation it should be fairly safe from erosion.
Charles Kelm


Joined: Apr 30, 2010
Posts: 148
Location: Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
Anybody know how long a willow branch or sticks or stumps should be cut before the risk of them rooting is past?  I've got a bunch on top of a hugelkultr bed I am building, and will probably need to wait a while before I cover it with dirt.  Maybe I should speed things along by running a large propane torch over them a little to wilt them further, like one of these:



Western Washington (Zone 7B - temperate maritime)
Seth McCallister


Joined: Jun 19, 2011
Posts: 6
I have also really been interested in making a large hugelkultur bed where a portion of my property slopes off.  This was a lot more work then I thought it would be and I still need to add another layer of wood, manure and compost to get it up to the 6ft that I want it at.  I do think that after this is complete it will be a great system for retaining water during those long hot days of summer and provide another form of water catchment and retention.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions for improvements. 

A-frame that helped me find my contours.





I cut the bed about 8 inches down along the contour line that I marked with the a-frame and started to pile large logs in the bed.




I was amazed to find such nice rich soil with virtually no rocks!  I will save this for the top growing layer of the hugelbed.



Hugelbed filled with large wood pieces and covered with the grass that I scalped off the ground before I began digging the bed.



Look at the great life on this log.



Stacking smaller trees and branches on top of the large logs and green matter. 



Here it is after adding the first layer of manure.  I realized that I wan this much bigger so I am going to be adding another layer of wood and manure to get this up to around 6 foot.  Hopefully with this size it will really cut down on watering in the hot summer in the years to come.




Seth

George Lee


Joined: Mar 15, 2011
Posts: 526
Location: Athens, GA/Sunset, SC
Good goin' there.


Seed Swap via Letter | Livingwind.tumblr.com | sustainable seed co
maya704 McCoy


Joined: Jan 26, 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Lanaudière, QC, Canada
Seth that looks fantastic!

Dog looks like he's thinking "damn humans are weird!"

In addition to the previous Costata Romanesco zucchini (which is ready to explode with flowers), Tromboncino zucchini and Nasturium (in bloom) already in my new hügelkultur bed, I've planted Romano climbing green beans and Melissa climbing purple beans towards the "back"of the bed (which is facing south-east), green purslane at the bottom (and I hope it will creep all over the place!) with Nantes Coreless carrots, White Globe turnip and Sparkler White Tip radishes randomly through the middle section. I'm done with this one for now and moving on to the next one.

This is so much fun.
josh brill


Joined: Sep 06, 2010
Posts: 86
    
    1
Our market garden hugels are doing great.  We have a mix of different veggies and they all have been performing very well. 


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Breezy Meadows orchard & Nursery Permaculture Design Course. Join us at our permaculture farm in the wilds of Tinmouth, VT. Hands on experience on a working farm that produces food 365 days a year.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1526
Location: zone 7
    
  11
just had to say how wonderful hugel beds are. most of my garden is getting water dependant. not the hugelkultur beds. everything is twice as big and twice as happy with far less water.
Miles Flansburg
steward

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 1887
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
    
  41
Trying a small bed in a dry part of my veggie garden. My first hugalkultur !


Then I covered it with soil and packed it down.
Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
this my first garden and first hugelkulture garden. just trying to get to Wheaton eco level one


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Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
i tried to get at least 2 feet of soil on top and rock borders to hold soil is and bring warmth.


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Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
this is the finished gardens, i planted wild flowers all over to Polly-culture them and squash and zucchini around the sides so they can grow down the rocky sides.


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R Hasting


Joined: May 10, 2011
Posts: 151
Location: Middle America
    
  10
Hey Jon, those are good looking indeed. I like the Rock border look.

What region are you in?
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1526
Location: zone 7
    
  11
be sure to stick some herbs in the cracks in the rocks.
maya704 McCoy


Joined: Jan 26, 2011
Posts: 6
Location: Lanaudière, QC, Canada
Jon your hügelkultur beds look fantastic!
Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
Thanks guys im looking forward to gardening this way. in exactly 1 week from planting i got the squash and zucchini coming up! i will post more as they grow and some other yard things im trying to do. great idea to put herbs in the rocks! im in south east Idaho in a town named Inkom. i just started some raspberries in a 4th hugekulture bed and am wondering what to poly-culture them with them any tips? and im glade you guys could see the pics because i cant. and was going to have to re post. thanks again.   
Jack Shawburn


Joined: Jan 18, 2011
Posts: 230
Jon - Good job! all that work is going to pay off in the years to come.
I have a question for Hugels in a dry area.
We get about 20" rain per year -
Will it be better to dig a trench to put wood in for the hugels
rather than pile it up and cover with soil?
nomadcanuck McCoy


Joined: Jan 03, 2011
Posts: 4
I just posted a new article about my creation of a hugelkultur bed here in Red Rock, Ontario, Canada.  This really is a wonderful technique and perfect for cold climate permaculture.

Check it out at www.permafarmer.blogspot.com


My cold climate North of Superior Permaculture site: www.permafarmer.blogspot.com
Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
thanks Jen, i hope so. it is sure fun so far. as for your question i do not know witch is better. i just chose the wood on top method that paul wheaton shows how to do. have you built your hugel beds yet?
Jack Shawburn


Joined: Jan 18, 2011
Posts: 230
Jon - I've built one about 30ft long.
Basically just dug down - laid wood in the trench with some green brush.
added some compost and rockdust over it then filled with the soil mixed with bonemeal, compost, rockdust and a little char I had.
The bed is just under the dripline of a Leucaena and Mulberry
We'll plant the Raspberries in late August and some vine on the ends to go up into the trees (Woodbine or Chayote) There will be some Squash next to the bed as a groundcover.
Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
jen, That sounds AWESOME! you should post some pics of your hugel bed! its sure is cool to see how other people build there beds. and one thing i like is to see how they poly-culture them. i have been trying to learn/ copy what to plant together.
Gord Welch


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 64
Location: Oregon
I like what many folks here are making - looks like it will work well.

I have a question, though.... Sepp wrote in his Permaculture that his beds should be at least 1.5 m high, 2 m at the bottom with peak at the top. Has anyone besides him made something like that? Is is too difficult to create?
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5318
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
My kitchen garden is gradually turning into one large sunken hugel bed.   Here it is presently:



Idle dreamer

Gord Welch


Joined: Sep 25, 2010
Posts: 64
Location: Oregon
H Ludi Tyler, I expect that's a great thing, considering your location. I would think your beds would retain moisture better in the Texas dryness?
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5318
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
They seem to be doing so, especially as they rot down a bit.  Initially they didn't do much good, but now seem to be making a difference. 
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    2
Just read, "How to make Hugelkultur Raised Beds" by Sepp in Permaculture magazine, no 68. He mentions lots of details which help hugelkultur beds work the best for you.

A few things:

First, take note of where the wind goes the most so that you can design your beds to be protected. This often looks like having protective raised beds on the outside that have windbreaks (tall plants like sunflowers, Jerusalem artichokes, hemp, fruit bushes, etc

He also angles the beds to optimize sunlight, and, if on a slope like a mountainside, he makes sure the beds are not parallel to the slope so all parts of them have good access to water as it comes down the mountain.

He builds them at least 1.5 m (5 ft) tall, and makes the sides a little steeper than normal raised beds (less compact soil, more oxygen exposure, etc)

When he digs ditches (he uses a mechanical digger but you don't have to), he saves the humus so he can put it back on top when he is done.

He makes the beds at least as steep as 45 degrees, sometimes going to 60-70 degrees.

With wet, heavy soils, a french drain is a good idea.

As things are first growing/developing, keeping the soil covered with things like mulch will keep the new plants from drying out.

It is best to sow raised beds right after they are created, because it is still loose, and will be less likely to be blown away by wind. The  rain, rather than washing them away, will push them into the soil. Therefore, you need not smooth over the soil after you seed.

When planting veggies etc along with bushes, it is easier to plant the bushes on the top of the ridge. (It will be easier to tend to things and harvest, rather than reaching over the bushes)

Fruit trees and bushes can also be planted between the beds.

If you will be harvesting by tractor, you will want a wider path between beds, and can cover the path with things like clover.

If a raised bed is made of chipped wood, nutrients will be released quickly, in the first year. To make the most of this, he plants high nutrient foods, rather than less demanding ones. (Strawberries, peas and beans are less demanding, for example, and it is possible for them to be over-fertilized, which could mean poor flavor, and spinach might build up nitrates in the leaves, which could even be a bit dangerous)

Using big materials like tree trunks makes for slower initial release, (may take a year before very productive), but then it will have good, steady release for years to come afterwards.

When done with with a bed, leave some food there, and release the pigs! They will do the soil wonders and get it ready for sowing again.



Hope this is helpful


www.thehappypermaculturalist.wordpress.com
Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
thanks suzy! that was a great read. i want to get sepps dvd's and read more about his methods. im going to look up that artical too.
Suzy Bean
steward

Joined: Apr 05, 2011
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
    
    2
You're welcome!
jturbo68 Hatfield


Joined: Apr 17, 2011
Posts: 3
Hello all,

I am new to Hugelkultur but getting ready to make pretty intensive use of it in some hilly forest that I have cleared.

My location is in Kentucky, which can get lots of rain thru the winter and spring, but is generally quite dry from July - October
I am planning on developing a couple of different types of terrain features. Both Swales and HugelKulture Beds to hold water on my property.

My Soil is a couple inches of heavy humus ( not so much topsoil as clay with organic matter. )
Followed up by layers heavy clay and plate rock.  

This clay holds water quite well and it is able to form ponds quite easily despite the layers of limestone rocks throughout.

Anyway, not the best conditions for gardening.....


Here is my plan and questions for comment from you all.

1.  Build Swales across the contours of the property  about 3-4 foot deep and say 10' wide.  It is possible that these swales will act more like ponds.
but , If they drain readily, fill them level with wood and build Hugel Beds.

2.  Running more down hill, below the swales, build a series of Hugel Beds.  Trenching down 2 foot or so. and maybe 6' wide and 6' tall.
My thought is that the swales will trickle water to be absorbed by the hugel beds.

My questions.

1.  Would it be better to avoid filling the swales because my land doesnt typically drain terribly fast?  That seems to be the gist of some earlier posts on the subject.

2.  Are new logs alright for use in Hugel?  I just cleared the land where these will be placed.

3.  He soil placed on the hugel beds will be largely heavy clay mixed with the smaller rock that I wont be bale to separate from digging out
the trenches.  Is that a big problem?  I will have a small amount of the hummus soil to place as the final inch or two.  I can get some topsoil if it is needed to create better soil, but that is addl expense.

4.  I will be building more beds than I will initially use.  Planning on using white clover to cover the beds for the first year or two.  Is that a decent plan, or should I come up with something more polyculture-ish as a cover crop?

5.  Should I use Compost / Straw on the beds to make a kind of sheet much on the beds to build soil and stop erosion of the soil on the beds?

6.  I dont have any type of fresh grass or hay to place between the Trees and Soil to boost Nitrogen in the Hugel?  Is this an issue?  I see some beds with a layer of N and some built without.  I can find something if important, but as I will be building several hundred feet of beds, this could be an issue.

Thanks for all your thoughts.

John
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela


Joined: May 01, 2010
Posts: 141
    
    1
jturbo68 wrote:
Hello all,


Here is my plan and questions for comment from you all.

1.  Build Swales across the contours of the property  about 3-4 foot deep and say 10' wide.  It is possible that these swales will act more like ponds.
but , If they drain readily, fill them level with wood and build Hugel Beds.


I have something very similar to your setup here in Michigan.  With the exception of the mountain slope and rock, the soil on my property is heavy top with underlying clay.  My swale does act like a pond.  So much so, that I added cattail to handle any volatile nutrients coming forward from the horse pastures OR, more likely,  leaching over from my neighbors ill-managed cattle pen.



2.  Running more down hill, below the swales, build a series of Hugel Beds.  Trenching down 2 foot or so. and maybe 6' wide and 6' tall.
My thought is that the swales will trickle water to be absorbed by the hugel beds.

My questions.

1.  Would it be better to avoid filling the swales because my land doesnt typically drain terribly fast?  That seems to be the gist of some earlier posts on the subject.


I think this is an issue of personal preference.  The swales will allow evaporation.  Maybe you could try it as swales, if you like, and if it doesn't work out fill them in at that time?


2.  Are new logs alright for use in Hugel?  I just cleared the land where these will be placed.

3.  He soil placed on the hugel beds will be largely heavy clay mixed with the smaller rock that I wont be bale to separate from digging out
the trenches.  Is that a big problem?  I will have a small amount of the hummus soil to place as the final inch or two.  I can get some topsoil if it is needed to create better soil, but that is addl expense.


I think you could use new logs if you have them available.  You just want to verify the type of tree you're using won't return to life.  I'd probably try and scrounge-up some rotting wood to throw int the mix if I could (even a small amount spread amongst the fresh wood.

I covered my hugel with a few inches of my heavy topsoiland it hasn't been a problem for me. 


4.  I will be building more beds than I will initially use.  Planning on using white clover to cover the beds for the first year or two.  Is that a decent plan, or should I come up with something more polyculture-ish as a cover crop?

5.  Should I use Compost / Straw on the beds to make a kind of sheet much on the beds to build soil and stop erosion of the soil on the beds?

6.  I dont have any type of fresh grass or hay to place between the Trees and Soil to boost Nitrogen in the Hugel?  Is this an issue?  I see some beds with a layer of N and some built without.  I can find something if important, but as I will be building several hundred feet of beds, this could be an issue.



I used compost and manure "inside" the hugel bed but not on top.  You could look for people in your area with horses and see if they can let you take any moldy hay or manure to help you out.  On top of the piles, I used screened stall shavings and to help mulch and hold the topsoil in place. 

I planted stawberries, garlic, herbs and some flowers as the initial planting.  I don't think you're clover will cause problems and should help you set the nitrogen you may be needing in the soil.

My best advice is to experiment and have fun!
Dave Bennett


Joined: Jun 25, 2011
Posts: 641
Seeing all of this beautiful work makes me long for more than this postage stamp yard where I am living.


"When there is no life in the soil it is just dirt."
"MagicDave"
Susanna de Villareal-Quintela


Joined: May 01, 2010
Posts: 141
    
    1
So far so good with my Hugelkultur experiment.  I built my bed late last fall and planted strawberries as a ground cover.  This spring I planted 8 pumpkins and 4 watermelons with the intention of seeing if they would survive with "no care" from me.

Despite the heat and drought, I did not add any water that did not precipitate from the sky.  The pumpkins vines have grown to consume 50 - 80 feet of the hugelkultur and are covered in pumpkins all as big as a laundry basket (well over 40 pounds, I think).  The melons have grown to encompas an additional 50 feet of kultur and are peppered with beautiful melons ranging in the 5 - 10 pound size. 

I've planted garlic, herbs, bush cherries, and many other flowering plants, non of which received an application of water.  Everthing is growing and healthy.. no sign of stress from heat, at all.  Non-hugel areas on my farm did require water inputs daily during the worst heat and drought.  I'm SO excited at the results!  More hugels coming in my gardens, for sure... great way to grow vines!
danelle grower


Joined: Feb 21, 2011
Posts: 83
That is GREAT  mustang breeze would it be possible to put up some pics? 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14159
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I've been making some huge upgrades to the article.  Please take a look, check for bad links, typos, etc.

http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/


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Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
looks great Paul! i really like the new hugelkultur graphics!
Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
here are some more pics of my hugel beds and all of the landscaping we have done this summer.


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Jon B


Joined: Apr 11, 2011
Posts: 18
its good to have friends with tractors!


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