I'm working on my first hugel. The medium and small wood I'm getting out of the burn pile. I just discovered, some of it is oleander. The good thing is it is pretty white, and relatively easy to pick out, but I'm worried. I know oleander is poisonous. If some made it's way into my hugel will I endanger my family by planting veggies in it? It makes me sick to think I have just created a very labor intensive flower garden. If anyone knows please let me know. I was going to add two more feet, but if I can only use it for flowers, I will dump the rest of the dirt on and call it done. Thanks
Found this on a quick search: "The good news is that the toxin in Oleander–a glycosoide called “oleandrin”–will deteriorate within about 50 days in an effective compost pile. Moreover, on tests conducted by UC Davis researchers, the toxin was not taken up by vegetables such as lettuce (which grow quickly) and tomatoes (which take longer to mature). The only possible danger the researchers noted could come from accidentally ingesting some not-fully deteriorated Oleander compost when harvesting leafy vegetables such as lettuce.
The safest solution would be to compost the Oleander leaves and twigs (taking care not to breathe the dust or getting the sap on your skin) and use them only as mulch for ornamental areas of your yard. But if you have a lot of Oleander, and want to use it for your garden, then make sure that you let it fully rot in the compost pile first, and be sure to wash your vegetables of all mulch and dirt before eating (a good practice in any case)."
So it sounds like you can use it, with caution, but not on the surface of the hugel. If you're concerned, leave it to compost until next spring, when it should be entirely broken down.
Thank you very much. Had a bit of a freak-out moment. I feel much better now. I avoided the oleander so if there is any in the hugel, it's small pieces. with the wood. I intend to Finnish the top part of my hugel with 2 year old wood chips, soil and straw so the oleander should compost long before any plant comes in contact with it. My plan is to plant my pumpkins I have started and they take about 90 more day before they are ready. So all should be safe for my family.
Thank you again. I would also like to say I am new to permies, and I'm so thankful for this web sit and all you do. It is so nice to be able to ask questions and get thoughtful and intelligent answers. Not only am I learning a lot, but it's fun to read and see pictures of things and people who share my love of gardening and chickens, and just trying to do what I can to do right by this planet that is being abused and neglected. I don't think I qualify as a "premie", I have a long way to go, but I'm trying to head in the right direction, and enjoy the road as I go, so that's something. Thanks to staff and everyone else who have been lending me a helping hand.
Welcome, Jen. I think you've handled the situation well, and Lauren has offered excellent advice.
I wonder if it wouldn't be a great idea to make up some compost extract and some oyster mushroom or winecap fungal slurry and apply it to the wood in your bed. Better still, if there is some old oleander nearby being decomposed by something, I would take that old oleander and dig it into the wood layer, if it's not too late already. I added a couple of compost tubes to the hugelbeet I made, so such additions, as well as fungal slurries, compost extracts, waste and food scraps were easy to add, especially early in the spring, when their addition fuelled an early awakening of the bed by kickstarting the actions of the thermophilic bacteria.
If you can't dig that stuff down, don't worry. Chances are that there were already spore from fungi that decompose oleander present there on the cut pieces. I would just feed the bed, keeping it hydrated and the soil covered with some sort of mulch, living or dead, or both, ideally; if you're doing pumpkins and woodchips, Jen, you've already got that surrounded.
Let us know how the pumpkins turn out, with pictures, please, and good luck!
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein