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Which way to run my hugelkultur beds

Michael Davidson


Joined: Nov 19, 2012
Posts: 3
I have about 6.4 acres that slope downward from the southwest corner to the northeast corner. My 2 soil types are both sandy in composition and very well drained. I am clearing out a lot of eastern red cedar trees as I open up a predominantly pine forest with the intention of creating some pine/blueberry/strawberry guilds; and knowing in advance that decay will be slow, I still am going to incorporate them into hugelkultur beds in an effort to retain organic matter and increase water retention. My delimma is how to maximize water runoff retention without impeding air flow which would increase the chance for frost pockets. I am thinking in terms of beds running at an angle less than perpendicular to the terrain slope, but how much of an angle is the question. Does anyone have any experience with this or can anyone present me with any explainable advice?
Morgan Morrigan


Joined: Oct 16, 2011
Posts: 1400
Location: Verde Valley, AZ.
typically you would run offset "eyebrow" slightly curved swales to do that.

lets heavy overflows drift off one side, and fall to nearly the middle of the next.

you may want to change that offset so you can drive a bobcat up at an angle, and leave some wider paths every third course or so, so you can get some stuff in on the horizontal too.

also remember to mix in a couple N/S oriented ones that can get even light on both sides, and keep the bases drier for some stuff that likes dry toes, or is subject to mildew.
maybe every 6-8 swales, mix in some going the other direction, and plan em for vining or very tall plants.


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John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6455
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
It is difficult to give recommendations without seeing the lay of the land, and knowing climate factors.

What is more important to you, retaining water, or NOT retaining wind? Doing both needs careful planning.

Here is one option:

The blue lines represent the contour lines. The brown lines are hugelbeds, and the orange arrows indicate cold wind 'falling' down hill.
There is a gap in the beds at the lowest elevation to allow the cold air to keep 'falling'.
This could create a venturi effect, and suck the cold air out. (put an ice skating rink @ the bottom). lol
The angle you go 'off contour' should be less on steep slopes, more on gentle slopes.

With this plan, the water would also run towards the opening. To slow it and prevent gullies, you could dig a ditch on the uphill side, add dams in the ditch,and keep it filled with brush and compost/mulch. Keyline plowing between the tiers will also help retain water at each elevation.

Plant your hardiest plants near the gaps, as the gaps will be magnets for the cold wind.





[Thumbnail for OFFcontour.jpg]

Josef Theisen


Joined: Oct 12, 2012
Posts: 178
Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
    
    6
What I remember from Sepp Holzer's Permaculture is he stresses that building hugelkultur perpendicular to the prevailing winds is the most important factor, at least in an area that has freezing temps.

As far as water retention, wouldn't building on countour retain the most?

Not trying to disagree with John, just trying to understand the advantage of the design in your drawing.


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John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6455
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
133
Yes, building on contour will retain the most water. I also suggested keylining above the swales so a higher % of the water be absorbed into the soil before it reaches the swale, possibly overloading it.

OP also was concerned about not creating frost pockets. The pattern I showed in the diagram is slightly off contour. The degree of 'off contour' would need to consider the steepness of the slope. The basic principle would be to create a funnel effect that would allow the cold airs an 'escape route', rather than congregating at the center of the berm. The same principal would work with on contour berms, but probably not as effectively for keeping the cold air moving downhill.

As I stated, I do not know the lay of his land, nor his climate conditions. Any design would require knowledge of those factors. The direction of prevailing winds in cold weather would be very important in designing such a system.

It was just an optional idea for OP to consider. Only he knows the lay of the land, climatic conditions, and his priorities.

Josef Theisen


Joined: Oct 12, 2012
Posts: 178
Location: SE Wisconsin, USA zone 5b
    
    6
That makes a lot more sense now, thanks.
Michael Davidson


Joined: Nov 19, 2012
Posts: 3
Regarding the lay of my land; I have a 3% slope with an abrupt change to about 8% about halfway down in the northern direction.I am in central western Arkansas and am in zone 7a. We get around 50 inches of rain on average, and lows usually in the low teens during the worst months.
 
 
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