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What to plant on Hugelkultur?

Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
I know you all are probably tired of me reminding everyone that I'm new at this but I just want to make sure folks don't assume I know more than I do.

This fall after my tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are pretty much done for the season I am planning to pull out my raised boxes and replace them with a hugel bed about 40' long 4'wide and 4'-5' tall if I can get it that tall. Unless someone tells me different my initial plan is to mix in a fair amount of composted manure as fertilizer to try and allow for that first year nitrogen draw caused by the initial decay. If that goes well I am considering putting in another one that size the following year on the uphill side of the grape trellis..

What I am unsure of is what to plant when and in what combination. Also I am a little unsure of the issue of do I replant every year or just let part go to seed and "grow wild" so to speak. I have grown a lot of tomatoes, squash, peppers etc. the standard Midwest garden staples. But I would like to expand that and grow a wider variety.
I would like:
Tomatoes,
pepers
brocoli
coliflower
carrots
garlic
onions
watermellon
cantalope
butternut squash
cabbage
a variety of lettuce greens for salads
kale
spinach
okra
cabbage
cucumbers
and anything else that strikes my fancy int eh way of a veggie.

I am assuming that I would be better planting the lettuce and other greens on the north side of the hugel hill to help keep them from burning up in the summer heat. Beyond that that I am not sure where to go from there. I know that some plants are cool weather plants and some prefer the summer heat. IF these are all planted together on a mound do they come up on their own at the right time of year or am I going to have Kale getting burn up in July? Do you still have to manage a hugel bed as to what you plant when to some extent or can you really just toss it all in there and let it grow like wild and trust the plants to come up and do their thing in the season they prefer? I am about 2/3 the way through Mollisons Intor to Permaculture book but I have not found this kind of info in there at least not yet. I also have Holzers PErmaculture book which I plan to attack once I'm done with the Mollison book. Hopefully that will have more of this type info in it.

You folks got any advise as to where to go to find such info?

Thanks
Ray



Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
i may have overlooked but didn't see any nigrogen fixers in the mix?


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Thanks Brenda,

Where do I find that kind of info. If I fertilize with digester waste or manure do I need nitro fixers. Do you have any recommendations?

I think this is a big part my problem. It seems everyone else has this info already acquired from YEARS of working with this. But I am having a problem finding a source where all this info is centralized, organized and easy to locate. Such a resource would be a HUGE help to newbies like me. At this point I feel like I am trying to put together a 5,000 piece puzzle with no picture on the box cover and all of the edge pieces missing. Its becoming a bit overwhelming and frustrating.

I have three or four books on the subject but I can't read fast enough to digest these and put it all together. It has taken me a month to get 2/3 the way through this first book, not because I'm illiterate but I just don't have the time to set down and read a book through. Is there a concise straight forward hugelculture for dummies online anywhere?

John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6440
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
Personally, I would NOT trust nature in this case (annual vegetables).

In nature, a plant's primary goal is to reproduce itself (not to feed you). Plants bolt (go to seed) in their quest to reproduce.
This generally makes them unsuitable for our consumption, but perfect in their scheme of things.
For a maximum yield of food, you will need to plant most of them at the appropriate times that allow you a harvest.

Food crops are a case where we try to "fool Mother Nature" for our benefit.
Perennials and biennials usually do fine "in their own time", but annuals need to be manipulated.

Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Thanks John, that helps me straighten out my thinking quite a bit.

Is there a guide somewhere that will help me with what partner plants to put in a veggie garden along with the edibles? or...... would I be just as well off to fertilize with manure/compost or digester waste to amend the soil? If I am able to get the digester made that I wanting I am going to need someplace to go with the "by product" fertilizer anyway.

Ray

Morgan Morrigan


Joined: Oct 16, 2011
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
Remember, hegelkulture was designed for wet forest, to keep dry plants up out of the damp duff, and to keep water trapped for trees and deep rooted perennials.

I would keep your raised beds, while you have access to fertilizer cheap as digester waste, and plan on building a swale on the lower side of them, interplanting trees in between the boxes, and just letting the raised beds slowly decompose, while the trees grow up. put in dwarfs, otherwise you are going to shade out the grapes, and they need sun at end of season. or no trees below the grapes.
This will be mainly water traps, or swales with sinks. Look up "wicking beds" to get an idea. this is the same, but without building a plastic reservoir.

on the downslope side of the boxes, trench down a foot and a half, dump in a bunch of dead wood, some charcoal, and some of that fertilizer, and mound it back up into a swale, capturing water for the contour your line of raised boxes is on.

instead of a full hegel uphill from the grapes, do a set of offset semicircles, distance apart you want the tree canopies. if you are not going for trees, i wouldn't do full hegels up there either. Just do the same eyebrow shaped trenches\swales, with offset spaces, so heavy rains can overflow the sides, and run down to the next set. You should plan on using the EDGES of trees for part shading, a Hegel won't give you enough mid summer (unless a big shrub is up there, and they typically want more water).


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Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1391
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
    9
Ray, you are SO not alone here. I am only a year into it and am trying lots of different stuff. Some have succeded, some have failed miserably, and some I'm still waiting to tell. So welcome to the club.

Edited: Oh, I should add that the elephant garlic that was growing in a very thick mat of crimson clover was spectacular. So that might be an idea for a nitrogen fixer but it sure won't be neat and tidy.


1. my projects
Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Morgan,

Is this what you have in mind? Short 8-9' swales uphill that spill the excess water into the longer 18'- 20' swales below the grapes I like this idea. I also think these smaller ones would be easier to build. Since I live uphill from two storm drains any "loose dirt" has to be contained. They get a little protective of soil and silt washing into the city drains. The way these are set up I could easily put a landscape block or stone mini retaining wall in front of each one to satisfy city hall.

It would be nice to have some kind of water holding device like buried wood on the inside of he the swales so that I could plant high water consumption things like melons in those areas.

I can move my lettuce and such closer to the house where I have more shade during the day. In the spot I'm thinking of the greens would get morning sun from about 7am to almost 1pm then the trees would start shading the area during the hottest part of the day. By moving those plants the shade would not be needed on the swales and I could just plant it with things that thrive on a lot of sun. I could find an even more protected spot for my "cooler crops" if needed.



[Thumbnail for swales.jpg]

John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6440
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
A basic companion planting guide is available here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_companion_plants

Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Thank you John, Very helpful. That is exactly the kind of thing I have been trying to find.

Ray
Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
I have another question about this type of mounded bed when planting it as an annual veggie garden.

How do you control erosion in the off season? If I prep the beds early this fall, could I plant white clover over the whole surface to prevent the surface soil from eroding off the hill over the fall and winter and then when I am ready to plant my seedlings in the spring just yank out a hole in the clover where I am planting? If I am catching on correctly that would also put some of the nitrogen back into the soil that would be pulled out by the first year timber rot.

Ray
Morgan Morrigan


Joined: Oct 16, 2011
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
yup, the clover is great cover.
if you want to keep bugs and surface evap down, you can mix in some thyme too.
NO regular mints tho, it is all you will have there then.

your crescent hugels are perfect.

Would be tempted to move the grapes to the fence now, and use the trellis as a height addition, on the front fence or rear.
Side grapes will add privacy, get lots of sun, and not affect the plantings of other stuff like they do in the middle of the yard. they also are supposed to dry out once fruit is well set, or they will split and not get as sweet.
Can also interplant a drought tolerant tree to espalier in between the grape vines. Grapes should be spaced 20 feet apart out here!

you can usually add plant hedges, espaliers, and vines that grow higher than height restricted fences most everywhere. you might ask if you can train grapes higher than the fence on trellis first tho...
Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
Thanks Morgan

If it will end up being too wet for the grapes between the two sets of beds, I may move them north or up hill of the two hugel crescents. I may just trade the top set of crescents and the grapes places. That back fence is already covered with blackberries and raspberries.

Will it hurt the grapes to transplant them over the summer or should I wait until they go dormant in the fall? I just planted those this spring.

If I mulch up the inside of the crescents do you think the inside of he crescents can retain enough water to grow high water things like melons and cantaloupe?

One more question, If I move all this around how far up hill should I space the two sets of crescents? I'm thinking put the first set 10ft uphill from the second set. Would I need more space than that?


Ray
Morgan Morrigan


Joined: Oct 16, 2011
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
keep the offsets on the hegels/swales, and just keep building em , working your way uphill.

if you bury wood in the bases, they should hold enough water for all but August.


I would do a little less than 10 ft, unless you have a little tractor you are using in there. you want to slow down the runoff water, so it doesnt make creeks at the end of the crescents in heavy rains.
put clover on the outside and downhill outside edges too, will follow the overflow water down, and roots deeper than grass, to hold the dirt.. Onions work too, and the greens are great for compost

I would wait till fall, or even january to move the grapes. everyone here does it when they are dormant. they also do fine in N/s line, dont need an e/w if they are trellised.they actually get less mildew if sun falls on both sides for part of the day.

Would get out there the next time it really pours, and really study the layout. do you want a section of lawn left out there? a hidden circle in the center of trees? maximum fruit? lowest water usage? least labor? grow tea plants? do you spray every bug- or do your neighbors?

do you want to have to use a ladder to get fruit out of the trees, or just have em tall enough to drop fruit in your hammock?

figure out what you want the most, and the folks here can help you aim for it.


Ray Cover


Joined: Apr 11, 2012
Posts: 132
Location: Missouri
I am working on my overall plan.

Today I started mapping out the sun at various parts of the yard so I know how many hours of sun, shade and, mottled sun I get at each spot. That will help with what to plant where based on amount of sun needed.

I also have things that I do need based on family and business needs. For example I have a pair of whippets that need some yard to run in. I also build custom fly rods and I need to keep a lane of yard back there for test casting rods. I have been working on that list needs and wants. As well as trying to map out the lot.

My daughter and I are taking a trip this weekend and I am taking stuff to work on my plan of the evenings in the hotel room so hopefully, I will be able to get a good portion of it done.

Ray
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14845
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Isaac Hill
volunteer

Joined: Feb 28, 2011
Posts: 343
Location: Beaver County, Pennsylvania (~ zone 6)
    
    8
I think berries are one of the best things to plant in a hugelbed. If you look at how nature does it, rotting logs in the forest are often colonized by berries. If you have pine logs, plant blueberries!


"To oppose something is to maintain it" -- Ursula LeGuin
 
 
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