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Palm fronds in hugelkultur

Huck Nawaz


Joined: Oct 08, 2013
Posts: 3
Hi,

Since I didn't find much information on the use of palm fronds on the web I thought I'd post my experience in the interest of sharing knowledge.

I dug up the sod in a 3' x 6' area. I will dig the next one a food wider as a LOT of the material spilled over. By placing the palm fronds on top I expect a lot of settling / shifting so a wider base would prevent possible toppling.



The area was the dug down ~ 10"-12". Not really sure if this was necessary but I'll be building additional beds and then give feedback on how they compare over time.



First 'layer' was about 2' of logs already decaying.



Then stacked on top were palm frond ends that we'd gathered from cleaning up one of the trees on the property.



they were packed down and covered with compost. The next bed will contain these layered flat as to avoid as many air pockets. Though placing compost in between layers did fill some of those spaces.






The palm fronds (a mix of dead and still green ones) were layered on top ~ 2.5 feet high. Again, LOTS of air/space. I had to go back and poke with a shovel which broke down some of the fronds and did cause it to settle some.



They were then buried under more compost. I fully expect for the bed to settle, A LOT! My motivation for placing the fronds on top was that I expect for them to be the first ones to get used up. I'll be building a bed with only palm fronds also to see how quickly those disintegrate.



The result.





Next to do is acquire woodchips to cover the mound with. Often the woodchips here in So. Florida contain Brazilian Pepper (http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/aa219) which, I'm told, can be royal pain to deal with. I'm planning on letting the bed settle for a week or so before planting. Will share updates. Anyone having used palm fronds want to share their experience. What I'd like to learn from this:

How quickly the palm fronds will break down and how much they contribute?
Would palm fronds be better utilized to make leaf mold? (separate project and would take a while to see results)
Is it worth the extra effort to dig down to bury the logs? (will be building the next one the exact same minus digging down)
Is it worth the extra effort to remove the sod (vs. covering with newspaper)? (will be building one the exact same except it'll be on layers of newspaper)
Would it make much of a difference (besides it being more stable) if I layered the palm fronds on the bottom? anyone feed palm fronds to goats... as there's an ENDLESS supply, even fresh ones
lots of other "what if's..." One way to find out... to do it!!

May be I could use this post as a journal of sorts to keep track of what worked and didn't

Cheers,

Huck
Huck Nawaz


Joined: Oct 08, 2013
Posts: 3
The second bed... this one's a foot wider (~4'x6')

Dug down about 4"-5", enough to remove the sod. Unlike the first one, I did not dig down 10"-12". Comparison is not really accurate as I did not place any logs at the bottom of this one.



Palm fronds...



green ones on top..



some smaller branches that were laying around... compost followed by the ends of the palm fronds (these things are a royal pain!!)





Then a layer (4-6") of compost put on top of the 'frond ends'. Unlike the first one, I placed the sod (upside down) on top of the mound.



A thin layer of compost on top and a blanket cover in hopes of killing the grass / weeds. This one is definitely taller (by at least a foot) than the first one as I'm expecting this one to settle even more than the other one.



John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 2038
    
  64
Where are your mushrooms? If you want all that organic matter to decompose, you need to get some add some fungi to start chewing it up. Next time you get a nice, heavy rain, go out on a mushroom hunt and collect any that you can find. Crumble them up on top of your hugel and water them in good. Palm fronds can last a long time, that's why they are used as roofing materials. To get them to break down, you need water (and burying them will keep them wet), but you also need more fungi than just what spores blow in on the wind.
Huck Nawaz


Joined: Oct 08, 2013
Posts: 3
Thanks John... though quite a few of the logs had various fungi growing on them. Your suggestions was implemented today (I found them while building the mound) and I will definitely go pick some of the ones I saw in the woods two days ago.

Any idea what kind of mushroom it is?





I picked these up yesterday in the woods behind a neighbors place...



.. and today on the way back from work saw several logs laying outside someone's place. Turns out he'd placed them there to keep people from parking in front of his house. Upon asking if he had others, he led me up his driveway where he said I could take these...



... couple of mushrooms even attached... thoughts on what this is (oyster mushrooms??)??



This bed at ~6'x8' is quite a bit larger than the previous two... I'd mentioned wanting to try out newspaper, instead of having to remove the sod, or dig down... etc. Well, that's yet to happen as I opted for dethatching the spot. . The thought was to be able to use up what was on the ground (with less effort then removing the sod) and using it in the mound (without adding nearly as much of the sand). "This gray, fine soil, called "myakka," covers the majority of the state, and is in fact the official soil of Florida. However, soil properties can vary widely." (http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/giam/maintenance_and_care/soil_fertilizer_and_nutrients/florida_soils.html)





wood was topped off with the materials collected from dethatching and whatever was left over from the palm fronds (which is what started the whole mound building). Everything was watered down and then covered in the compost.... Had to rush through the last bit as it was already getting dark. I'll try to finish it up tomorrow morning before work.

Cheers,

Huck
John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 2038
    
  64
A puffball? If you give it a squeeze, does it give off a whiff of brown smoke?

The fifth picture looks a little like an oyster mushroom of some type.
 
 
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