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Planting Trees For the Purpose of Hugelkultur Beds in 20 Years or So

Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
This plan came about from (I think it was Paul) saying that after hauling cut trees around to make hugelkultur beds, Fukuoka said something to the effect that if he had to do it again he'd just plant the trees in the spot and wait til they were big enough, cut em down, and bury em.

So here's my plan:

- Plant three blocks of trees for every one hugelkultur bed I want. Each block will be in slightly wavy rows of trees, with row and tree spacing set at one foot apart

-The rows will be angled about 40 degrees from the general contour (Angle as recommended by Sepp Holzer)

- Spacing from one block to the next will be 6-7 feet. Once the beds are made this should leave a final path width of about 2-3 feet. We have poplar growing in mixed stands here on the property and many of them grow 3-4 feet apart. Between each block I'm going to cram in thick plantings of red osier dogwood to be used for chop n drop mulch between the poplars. Dogwood is a dynamic accumulator if I remember David Jacke's edible forest gardens book correctly. As with the poplar, I have craploads of dogwood growing on the property that I could propagate or transplant.

-When the blocks start to get real crowded, I'll thin them out to leave a 3 foot spacing and let the remainder grow to maturity before breaking out the saw

-Wait until the trees have grown to a decent size (or my 50th birthday, whichever comes first), cut them down and bury them using soil from the adjacent paths

-Innoculate the cut stumps in the thinned tree stumps and/or the adjacent 'sacrificial beds' with shiitake or oyster mushrooms if there's enough shade



So thats the 'off the top of my head' plan. What do you think?



I'm debating whether to go with all poplar or a mix of poplar and other random trees that I can dig from nearby hiway ditches (mostly maples, linden aka basswood, and ash). Ideally I'd like to go with diversity but since I'd like even growth rates, and a finished hugelbed before I reach the age of 65, I'm leaning towards all poplar. Poplar grows fast, fixes nitrogen in its stem, and I have a crapload of them growing in fallow fields on the farm.

I'm also wondering whether this'll be enough biomass to build a decent sized bed. I'm thinking that I may have to plant more than 3 of these beds next to eachother in order to get enough wood for one sizeable hugelkultur bed. I'd love to have the beds be 6-7 feet high so my future old bones won't have to bend over to harvest.

Another thing I'm wondering is how much (if any) limb pruning I'll have to do in order to avoid too much conjestion between the trees. Will it be a real time-vampire or will the limbs just kinda prune themselves through natural happenings...

Yet another question in my mind is whether to do it this way or space the trees further, coppice them at an early age to get multiple stems per tree planted. I'm wary (weary?) of this because I'd rather the trees grew straight and I think that coppiced tree limbs would probably grow outwards.


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Jesus Martinez


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 142
I would plant fast growing species like alder, cottonwood and poplar.
Fred Morgan
steward

Joined: Sep 29, 2009
Posts: 961
Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
    
  11
If you live anywhere that they have to trim trees near the road, etc, you can probably have dropped off more than you ever need for free. Why wait?

Also, look up sawmills, there are always logs that are dropped off that are worthless - too much metal in them, have rot, etc. I can't imagine them not being happy if you just hauled them away.

I just can't get why bother growing the trees when there is so much waste available unless your terrain makes hauling logs into place very difficult.

I guess if you have time, sure, but be aware, a fast growing tree, except one that is nitrogen fixing, is going to suck up nutrients from the soil.


Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
Dale Hodgins
pollinator

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 3511
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
    
  40
Everything Fred said, plus you can make a part time business of cleaning up wood waste and dumping it.

You would have a competitive advantage over those who pay for disposal.


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Ken Peavey
steward

Joined: Dec 21, 2009
Posts: 2057
Location: FL
    
  43
Rather than harvest the entire tree for hugelkulture use, coppicing would make the trees a renewable resource. Pollarding will also offer a continuous supply of wood. Fruit trees need to be pruned now and then, making them a fine source of woody material, albeit of small diameter.

I've got oaks all over the place. They drop branches and limbs all the time, saves me the effort of sawing. Being dead the wood has a head start on rotting whereas green wood takes longer.


Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
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Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
Jesus Martinez wrote:I would plant fast growing species like alder, cottonwood and poplar.


I would plant alder and cottonwood (which is a type of poplar I think) too if I had a free source for them. I've got really dense growth of poplar seedlings from 3'-7' tall in several areas of my farm, so thats what I'll probably end up using.


Fred Morgan wrote:If you live anywhere that they have to trim trees near the road, etc, you can probably have dropped off more than you ever need for free. Why wait?

Also, look up sawmills, there are always logs that are dropped off that are worthless - too much metal in them, have rot, etc. I can't imagine them not being happy if you just hauled them away.

I just can't get why bother growing the trees when there is so much waste available unless your terrain makes hauling logs into place very difficult.

I guess if you have time, sure, but be aware, a fast growing tree, except one that is nitrogen fixing, is going to suck up nutrients from the soil.


There's lots of tree trimming going on in my area but the rural folk around here are like vultures, on that stuff in no time! I don't have the equipment to haul that stuff, so I don't know that the sawmill option is viable either

I want to bother with growing the trees because I'm only 30, so it's feasible for me to wait 10-20 years for this because the beds I'm building now will be near toast by then.

I know it'll suck up nutrients but thats the point, no? It's accumulating nutrients that'll become part of the bed. Poplar is a nitrogen fixing tree that takes nitrogen from the air and fixes it into its stem. I've got 100 acres, so I could put this idea in an area where it won't be taking nutrients away from current plantings.


Ken Peavey wrote:Rather than harvest the entire tree for hugelkulture use, coppicing would make the trees a renewable resource. Pollarding will also offer a continuous supply of wood. Fruit trees need to be pruned now and then, making them a fine source of woody material, albeit of small diameter.

I've got oaks all over the place. They drop branches and limbs all the time, saves me the effort of sawing. Being dead the wood has a head start on rotting whereas green wood takes longer.


I thought about going the coppice or pollarding route with this idea but I'm going to be doing that type of chop n drop in other areas anyways, mostly with no mor than 20 feet of my fruit and nut trees/bushes. I'll probably also do a coppice plot for firewood production but I wanna get food in the ground first. I've got plenty of forested area to last me many decades of firewood as is.



I have already built a 100' x 50' area of hugelkultur, and will continue to build more and more using the existing 20-30 acres of woodlot on the farm here. I'm just thinking waaay ahead, and thinking about all the work and fuel that goes into hauling logs. I'd like to eventually avoid that and this is the way I see of doing so.





Jesus Martinez


Joined: Mar 07, 2011
Posts: 142
I think that there is something to be said about being able to build a hugelkulture bed with nothing but a handsaw and a shovel and using big wood, so I think your idea has a lot of merrit.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
Thanks Jesus. That is a significant part of the reason I want to do this. When I think of how much less oil there'll be in 20 years...
mike mclellan


Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Posts: 72
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
    
    3
Fred Morgan wrote:

I guess if you have time, sure, but be aware, a fast growing tree, except one that is nitrogen fixing, is going to suck up nutrients from the soil.


The vast majority of the nutrients in the trees would be in the leaves, twigs, and buds. The bole(trunk) a of the tree contains a surprisingly small amount of the nutrients. Including the slash in your pile would release them back into the soil as the woody material decays.
Poplar would decay fairly rapidly compared to many other hardwoods. Inoculating your stumps or at least some of the logs would be a good additional use of the resource. I would suggest a varied grove of trees just to add some stability to the project versus a monoculture and more possible habitat niches. Good luck with your project. Sounds fun!
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    2
The slash will be included one way or another, whether it falls naturally or I prune and drop it there.

My concern with a varied grove is the difference in species growth rates. I'm thinking that to cut this all down at once would be a lot less hassle than cutting it down in stages, especially with such close spacings.

I realize poplar will decay much faster than most types of trees but most other hardwoods would take twice as long to get to the desired size, and I'm not sure I'm into making hugelkultur beds when I'm 70.
 
 
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