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Paul Wheaton's hugelkultur article thread

Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
Tim Southwell wrote:dead / decaying evergreens as a main wood source for HK beds? I have acres of dead pines (Lodge Pole and Ponderosa) due to the Mountain Pine Bark Beetle. They have either fallen already or are standing dead.


It's fine. Newly felled would be problematic.


My project thread
Roman Milford


Joined: Feb 18, 2012
Posts: 24
Cj Verde wrote:
Tim Southwell wrote:dead / decaying evergreens as a main wood source for HK beds? I have acres of dead pines (Lodge Pole and Ponderosa) due to the Mountain Pine Bark Beetle. They have either fallen already or are standing dead.


It's fine. Newly felled would be problematic.


Is diseased wood an issue? Woundn't one be introducing whatever pest or virus into their future garden plot?
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
Roman Milford wrote:Is diseased wood an issue? Woundn't one be introducing whatever pest or virus into their future garden plot?


In general, I'd say no. Whatever pest/virus killed your trees probably wont kill what you're going to put in the HK. The possible exception would be if you were planting trees in the HK, but even then white pine rust isn't going to kill newly planted apple trees. Certain mushrooms might cause trouble.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
Hey Windthot,

Re: the airflow inside the bed... Not sure about pressure changes and that, but the airspace inside, and the shifting of the logs and soil as things break down is supposed to help speed up decomposition.

As for where to place the trees... It depends

How big (tall and wide) are your beds? I would think that with massive 7' tall beds you'd want to avoid planting at the top, cuz it'll be pretty freakin dry, UNLESS the field you're planting in is super soaked and soggy for much of the year. If you've got beds that are 1-3 feet high, I'd be inclined to plant em in the middle.

In the video about Sepp Holzer, it looks like he plants them in the path, close to the edge of the bed.

I planted mine in the middle of one side of the bed because I did this because I thought it would give the trees a more evenly spread root system than planting in the paths. Since the paths are more compacted than the beds, the tree would theoretically put more roots into the bed, which could cause bad anchorage of the tree if it's not putting roots into the path . You can see my plantings here:





You can plant bare root trees right into the bed after construction as long as there's enough soil so that the roots aren't directly exposed to air. This might mean that when you dig your hole, you may have to punch through/move some wood aside and fill the hole with soil.


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Jim Lea


Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
Travis, Thanks for the info you had to share. My beds will start going in tomorrow and likely will be about 5 feet high and as wide. I may plant out the bed and wait for decomposition and some settling to occur before sticking trees in. Comfrey,legumes, herbs, etc. Unless someone else has different thoughts on this it seems to me that the trees will be exposed to wind up higher and be in jeopardy of falling at least until the bed is more mature.Butttttt down low they cant much benefit from the sponge affect. I'll likely plant them next to and down slope from the bed and hope to get some help from the swale effect. Still learning and trying.
All thoughts welcome,
Jim


CA, Southern Sierras, alt. 4550 feet, zone 9ish. (still figuring it out), 3 mo. grow season. Regular wind to 20 mph. SANDY soil with scrub oak,pine,and juniper. 2 seasonal creeks.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
Hi Travis. What orientation are the beds?

Also, the shortened version was a better but.... you lost me at about the same place! I didn't like the music but it did help until the chanting/singing kicked in. It just took too much effort to hear what you where saying over the other voices. I'd love to have a look at another video with lots of green - shoot it when the beds look fantastic.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
From the confused newbie thread:
Cj Verde wrote:
Chris Kott wrote:My ideal (for the moment) setup for this system is to have hugelbeds formed into north-south oriented rows with food forest guilds planted atop them...
-CK


Chris, I'm not sure about the north-south orientation. My gut says east-west to track the sun but I'd have to research it. I'm also not sure which would be more important - the orientation or how it fits in with the lay of the land, though in Kip's case it seems sort of flat.


So Chris, I'm 90% sure that Sepp agrees with the N-S orientation but that assumes I'm reading the drawing correctly. What he does actually say is that the most important thing is where the wind is coming from and to lay them out properly on a slope.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 793
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    8
Thanks CJ,

I've heard that as well. I believe a big thing, in the arid climates I've read and heard about Sepp dealing with, is increasing ambient humidity by using prevailing wind to blow across a pond oriented in the path of the wind, i.e. a wind from east or west would be answered with an east-west-oriented long pond to maximise the surface area.

-CK
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
Cj Verde wrote:Hi Travis. What orientation are the beds?

Also, the shortened version was a better but.... you lost me at about the same place! I didn't like the music but it did help until the chanting/singing kicked in. It just took too much effort to hear what you where saying over the other voices. I'd love to have a look at another video with lots of green - shoot it when the beds look fantastic.


The beds are oriented north- south, and are on a slight south-facing slope. If I could do it again I'd have angled the beds about 40 degrees off from straight north-south as is recommended in Sepp's book.

Hmm I was worried that the music was too loud and distracting. Damn.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
I've got 2 questions about this future HK:
Cut down the maple
1: It's totally on ledge. Look at that big hunk of exposed ledge lower left and middle right of the pic. Will trees be able to grow? Why place the HK there? Those big logs are too tempting and clearly some trees can grow on that ledge, look at that maple dead south of the HK. There are some stumps of bigger trees to the left and right of that maple.

2: Should I cut that maple down before planting anything? That maple is going to provide too much shade I think. I could leave the maple but it'll just get bigger and block more light and may be tougher make it land in the right spot. OK, I'll do it, you convinced me.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
Is that patch of trees on the eastern or south-eastern side of the hugelkultur? It's hard for me to tell for sure. If its to the south, I'd be worried about shading out your hugelbed.

How close is the nearest windbreak on the west and north sides of your hugel? I'm assuming your prevailing winds come from the north and west...

I'd be hesitant to cut that maple down, unless you've got a lot more maple trees on your property. If possible, I'd move the bed over a bit.

What are you intending to grow on this bed? Just because some trees are growing there already, doesn't mean any tree will.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
The trees are south of the bed, that's why I'm worried about shading.

I'm not terribly worried about the wind, but I guess I should tie some strips to nearby trees to see what's going on. This area in general is a small clearing surrounded by woods.

We have a bazzilion maples. I can't move the bed - no tractor, but... I am sort of thinking that if I cut down that maple I could realign the bed to cover the new and old stumps. Probably a reason why those maples grew in a line like that. In that case I could cut the logs into smaller pieces and move them.

In that spot I'd like to put in an apple tree or maybe a chestnut. I think it's close enough to the paddock that some fruit/nuts would fall in there for the cows.

Here is another HK about 20-30 feet west of the other one.
HK
It is even closer to the paddock so I have to make sure the cows wont be able to snack on whatever tree (apple, chestnut, or honey locust) I put there. It's already a foot tall. The next layer will include more hay and some manure. I'm not going for taller than 2.5 feet.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
Kind of a dull Sunday so I went out to confirm my suspicion:
Line of maple

That's a clear line of maples growing on ledge. Must be a fissure or something. Based on my grocery bag windsock, the wind is going south to north which is what I thought it might be even if it doesn't make sense. There is a valley that goes that direction so the wind follows it.

So I'll get hubby to cut down the maple and then I'll rearrange the HK (when the snow melts).
Yay, he just walked in and said he'll cut it down, right now if I start dinner right now!

Oops, gotta go.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
Dinner's not done but the maple is!
DSCN1744
David Castillo


Joined: Feb 04, 2010
Posts: 23
Location: IL/WI Border
I’m looking to build a blueberry hugelkultur hedge. I’m wondering if I should use pine, or perhaps a mixture of pine and other wood. I’ve read pine is supposedly allelopathic, but that perhaps it is more the acidic nature of the needles and their breakdown than any other problem. Not sure what to think about this as I haven’t seen anything definitive anywhere.

Just in case you were wondering, my plans are for blueberries, wild strawberries, white clover, and maybe some various annuals to help cover the soil for the first year or two (i.e. Squash, melons, etc…).

Anyway I have a few questions.
Should I use the pine? If so, should I use just the wood? Branches w/needles? Should I place it near the bottom, middle, top? Will it help make/keep the soil acidic?

Any other plant suggestions are also welcome.

Thanks Dave.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
i used oak and pine in my blueberry hugel pits( pits because they were big holes that i filled rather than make beds) they are doing great.


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


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 793
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    8
Irollaround,

I don't know what size space you're dealing with, but there are some very productive raspberry species out there. The ones in my backyard fruit twice a season, late spring and late summer. I haven't come across any yet, but I am looking now for a nitrogen-fixing plant or shrub that acidifies the soil in some way would be very useful for blueberries.

-CK
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 793
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    8
Hi Everyone,

So I skimmed the crazy number of pages in this thread, I hope I haven't missed this already. Here goes. So this occurred to me while listening to one of Paul's podcasts where he was interviewing Jack, and Jack was talking about the way he's observed that trees in nature naturally grow on the contour lines of the land, and that's also where trees tend to end up when they fall. He wasn't sure which caused what, but he was sure they were interrelated. I think what goes on there is that dead fall will accumulate in place where physical obstruction keeps them from continuing downhill. In my opinion, these piles of logs and duff are hugelkultur in its natural state, and the optimal growth conditions for young trees to grow into mature ones is the cause for them growing where they grow.

Taking all of this into account as a natural model, could we not take this natural phenomenon and use it large-scale, using really big hugelkultur on slopes where terracing is desired, and planting in such a way that the root structures secure the hugelterrace to the side of the hill before the temporary self-integrity of the bed rots away with the wood? I was thinking that if a number of years were available to prepare the site, one could grow, for instance, plantings of black locust in such a way that living trees could be used to anchor the bed, and form a timber structure within the bed that would remain long after the bulk of the bed had decomposed, providing both structural concerns, and an extremely long-term time-release nutrient aspect.

I'd be interested to hear any opinions, especially those of anyone dealing with hilly wooded terrain and slopes they consider too steep to be of use, or any complaining that such is the only land available in their price bracket.

-CK
Alan Stuart


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 42
Cj Verde wrote:
Roman Milford wrote:Is diseased wood an issue? Woundn't one be introducing whatever pest or virus into their future garden plot?


In general, I'd say no. Whatever pest/virus killed your trees probably wont kill what you're going to put in the HK. The possible exception would be if you were planting trees in the HK, but even then white pine rust isn't going to kill newly planted apple trees. Certain mushrooms might cause trouble.


In general, I'd say no. Whatever pest/virus killed your trees probably wont kill what you're going to put in the HK. The possible exception would be if you were planting trees in the HK, but even then white pine rust isn't going to kill newly planted apple trees. Certain mushrooms might cause trouble.

What kind of mushrooms could pose problems to plants? I was under the impression that mushrooms and mycelium meant the soil was healthy.
-Alan
Nickolas Mcsweeney


Joined: Feb 04, 2012
Posts: 28
Could you mix sawdust in the soil and get sort of the same results?

Nickolas Mcsweeney


Joined: Feb 04, 2012
Posts: 28
could i use Eucalyptus logs? i.e. red gum, yellow box and grey box?
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
Alan Stuart wrote:
What kind of mushrooms could pose problems to plants? I was under the impression that mushrooms and mycelium meant the soil was healthy.
-Alan

From Armillaria Root Disease
Armillaria root disease is found throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. In the continental United States, the disease has been reported in nearly every State. Hosts include hundreds of species of trees, shrubs, vines, and forbs growing in forests, along roadsides, and in cultivated areas.

The disease is caused by fungi, which live as parasites on living host tissue or as saprophytes on dead woody material. The fungus most often identified as causing the disease is Armillaria mellea (Vahl: Fr.) Kummer. Recent research, however, indicates that several different but closely related species are involved. Therefore, the generic term Armillaria is used to refer to this group.

These fungi are natural components of forests, where they live on the coarse roots and lower stems of conifers and broad-leaved trees.

As parasites, the fungi cause mortality, wood decay, and growth reduction. They infect and kill trees that have been already weakened by competition, other pests, or climatic factors. This type of activity occurs throughout the United States--especially in deciduous forests of the East. The fungi also infect healthy trees, either killing them outright or predisposing them to attacks by other fungi or insects. Such behavior typically occurs in the relatively dry, inland coniferous forests of the Western United States.


Hopefully, a tree planted in an HK would be healthy enough that this wouldn't be an issue, but it might be better not to include infected wood.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
Nickolas Mcsweeney wrote:Could you mix sawdust in the soil and get sort of the same results?



No. The sawdust would lock up too much nitrogen. Whole branches and logs break down slower so it's not an issue. I think Sepp has said you could make up an HK with 25% sawdust without a problem. Hmm. He might have said wood chips. Sawdust would break down even quicker than that. I wouldn't include more than 10% sawdust.
Elliot Everett


Joined: Dec 20, 2011
Posts: 26
Location: Coastal Uruguay. Wet winters, hot and dry summers. 1000 mm annual rain.
Nickolas Mcsweeney wrote:could i use Eucalyptus logs? i.e. red gum, yellow box and grey box?


I have found little information on using eucs in hugelkultur beds. I just built a 5 foot tall bed using blue gum eucs (mainly sticks) and small mousehole trees as a base. All were pretty much rotten. My euc leaves have almost a wax coating on them, and do not break down easily. I added in grass, cow dung and seaweed to make a lasagne. Getting the pile hot seems to be difficult. I do see a white mold on euc sticks on a smaller pile I made for testing purposes. I think that's a good sing. (Mycelium hopefully?)

From what I understand, eucs are acidic, so I am using plants that like this type of soil. My problem is leaf cutter ants, which have eaten everything I have planted pretty much everywhere and on top of the hugel as well. I hate ants.

This guy made a hugel bed with eucs and acacias recently:
http://foodnstuff.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/hugelkultur/
Roy Clarke


Joined: Feb 05, 2012
Posts: 120
CjVerde, can you get a neighbour to bring a tractor over and construct a bed and move the logs? You maybe could exchange some of your logs. I don't understand why hubby isn't helping though. He needs to eat too, and if you are able to grow more food, that gives you independence. It won't be any use trying to learn to grow food when the rest of the system is broken. At least doing that now you will be prepared.
Cj Verde


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 1822
Location: Vermont
    
  31
Roy Clarke wrote:I don't understand why hubby isn't helping though.


?
Scroll up a few posts. He cut down the maple I requested before I could finish cooking dinner.
Eric Gerber


Joined: Mar 05, 2012
Posts: 7
Location: Texas Hill Country
So, I just started my first Hugelkultur bed yesterday. It's just a small experiment. I dug down to bedrock, about 14-16 inches and about 3 feet in diameter, filled with fresh cut oak logs too big for my woodstove, then added a bunch of cut up branches in various stages of decomposition, no more than 2.5 years old, then covered with loads of soil. The whole thing is probably 4.5 feet tall. I'm planning on planting a peach-cot tree in the mound next year, once the wood begins to rot in earnest. In the meantime, I wanted to plant a good starter crop as a nitrogen fixer. It's gonna be a long, hot, dry summer, and I will be out of town for a good 6 weeks, so i'm interested in drought tolerant things that will do well and help the pile along. What suggestions do y'all have for Central Texas? I have some pictures of the hill I'll post here if I can figure out how to do it from my iPad.

Eric
arild jensen


Joined: Mar 02, 2012
Posts: 37
Location: New Hazelton BC zone 3 lat 56 north
This concept sounds like it would be good for the property we rent at present. The lot is overgrown and the willow trees have to be trimmed. Unfortunately there is a burning ban from spring to late fall for good reason.
We would like to make a vegetable garden to feed ourselves so is this an approach that will yield results the first year. Sounds like this is something that only matures after several years.
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
make sure willow is dried very well before using in hugel beds. it will root if there is any fresh growth. also it will decompose fast compared to say oak.
Alan Stuart


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 42
Cj Verde wrote:
From Armillaria Root Disease
Armillaria root disease is found throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. In the continental United States, the disease has been reported in nearly every State. Hosts include hundreds of species of trees, shrubs, vines, and forbs growing in forests, along roadsides, and in cultivated areas.

The disease is caused by fungi, which live as parasites on living host tissue or as saprophytes on dead woody material. The fungus most often identified as causing the disease is Armillaria mellea (Vahl: Fr.) Kummer. Recent research, however, indicates that several different but closely related species are involved. Therefore, the generic term Armillaria is used to refer to this group.

These fungi are natural components of forests, where they live on the coarse roots and lower stems of conifers and broad-leaved trees.

As parasites, the fungi cause mortality, wood decay, and growth reduction. They infect and kill trees that have been already weakened by competition, other pests, or climatic factors. This type of activity occurs throughout the United States--especially in deciduous forests of the East. The fungi also infect healthy trees, either killing them outright or predisposing them to attacks by other fungi or insects. Such behavior typically occurs in the relatively dry, inland coniferous forests of the Western United States.


Hopefully, a tree planted in an HK would be healthy enough that this wouldn't be an issue, but it might be better not to include infected wood.




Are there any fungi that are mushroom producing that can pose problems for plants? I have some mushrooms in my yard I wanted to make a spore slurry to encourage them to grow more and increase soil fertility. Can that be a problem? I posted this question in the Fungi forum as well becuase it is not exactly hugelkultur related. Here is that thread if you want to check it out
Dennis Bourland


Joined: Mar 14, 2012
Posts: 2
Hello All, My neighbor has a bunch of wood from some fallen Tallow tree's. They are considered a noxious invasive here in Texas. Curious if these would work on a hugelkultur bed. They are a fairly soft wood. I tried reading about them and couldn't find that they inhibit the growth of anything but maybe I didn't search long or hard enough!
Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1527
Location: zone 7
    
  11
the only problem other than allelopathic effects, is if the wood will sprout back. some woods if you fill with hugel beds, will sprout back and youll end up with a big tree in your bed. if your dealing with this type of wood (acacia, willow for example) just let them dry out fully before they go in the beds.
Dennis Bourland


Joined: Mar 14, 2012
Posts: 2
They have been cut and sitting in a pasture since hurricane Ike. So it has been a few years.
Travis Halverson


Joined: Mar 25, 2011
Posts: 76
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Made two small hugelkultur beds today.

I was reading some of "Sepp Holzer's Permaculture" this morning and was a bit fascinated with the section on "Alternative Composting Methods" (page 174, 175).

I wanna be safe about copyright and stuff, so I'll just describe what I ended up doing.


I am making two raised beds pretty steep and pretty close together.


I'm too cheap and lazy to bring in outside soil so I dug down about a foot, tossed in some logs and brush we (my wife and I) had in the area and piled the soil back on top.


This area was previously a heap to toss stuff onto. A successful heap too. Last year we had tomatoes thriving without watering, on our heap.


We should be able to grow some more stuff, eventually, on these two, little, raised beds than on our one heap.


I just covered everything burlap, for now. I think I'll plant a bunch of flowers, catnip, and clover for this season. Any ideas of what else I should try to grow?

What does this have to do with "Alternative Composting Methods"? Perhaps someone else will share the technique. It's in the book and the book is worth buying and studying.

Victor Johanson


Joined: Oct 18, 2011
Posts: 221
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
    
    7
The hugelbeet I built last fall is thawing fast, giving me hope that this will be helpful here where cold soil can be a problem. It should thaw early and stay warmer than the ground. Still mulling what to plant on it.



[Thumbnail for 2012hugelbeet1.jpg]



Vic Johanson

"I must Create a System, or be enslaved by another Man's"--William Blake
Jonathan Patrick


Joined: May 27, 2011
Posts: 16
Hey guys, got a hugelkultur question:

Can I use cherty/silty/clayey soil as the soil cover? As I'm digging out my underground house, I'm finding myself needing a place to put all of the dirt. I'm not even sure you can call this stuff soil -- it's brownish grey when fresh dug, then turns light grey as it dries in the sun. I doesn't bother me too much if I'm restricted in finding plants that do well in 'poor soils' for the first year or two. I mostly just want to be able to use all of this dirt for something if I can, and I have a LOT of hugel beds to make.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
Jonathan; you can use that as the soil cover. I think that with hugelkultur especially it's a case of 'use what you've got'. I would highly recommend putting a top mulch on the finished bed. It'll go a long way to keeping that soil from drying out, hardening and cracking. Things that do well for me in heavy soil are:

kohlrabi, cauliflower, swiss chard, celery, radish, leeks, and onions especially, to name a few off the top of my head
Mark Rose


Joined: Jul 19, 2009
Posts: 34
Travis Philp wrote:Jonathan; you can use that as the soil cover. I think that with hugelkultur especially it's a case of 'use what you've got'. I would highly recommend putting a top mulch on the finished bed. It'll go a long way to keeping that soil from drying out, hardening and cracking. Things that do well for me in heavy soil are:

kohlrabi, cauliflower, swiss chard, celery, radish, leeks, and onions especially, to name a few off the top of my head


If kohlrabi and cauliflower do well, then other Brassica should do well, including brussel sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, and kale. I'd also through in rhubarb, which I've personally seen growing in hard earth.
Hoeye Vokter


Joined: Jan 11, 2012
Posts: 9
I have an old overgrown flower bed where I want to make a hugel bed. The bed is 25ft long and 7ft wide at an angle, dropping 3-4ft. In the deep end I have trouble with huge blocks forcing me to start laying wood 2ft from the side, and in the shallow end I don't think I have enough depth for any wood.
But I still have a 4ft center line for wood, better than nothing.. right?
I've had huge spruces laying in the field for 5 year, half rotten.. thinking maybe I can cut them into slices and fit the bottomn of the bed with "spruce tiles?" How thick should the wood layer be?

I'm also going to plant in bath tubs.. can I also put in a layer of wood there? Is it any point? I have a few heaps of 2 year old half rotten firewood I have to get rid of.. would be perfect!

I have plenty of rabbit manure.. can I use this in the soil the same season as growing vegetables?
 
 
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