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Hand-built hugelbeet on city lot

 
Posts: 31
Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
8
hugelkultur forest garden bee
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Well, not quite a city. I’m on the Olympic Peninsula (western washinton, across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Vancouver Island British Columbia), within the city limits of Port Angeles but on a larger lot-about 2/3 acre. I have to keep things tidy-ish. Last winter some freakish winds took down the main reason I fell in love with this property 20 years ago-a magnificent multi-trunked shore pine. After 9 months of mourning, and waiting for the ground to dry, we began the process of converting our old friend into a hugelbeet. I’ll be documenting the process here. I would love any pointers, observations, tips, as this is my first attempt at a tall and large hugelkultur bed. Thanks!
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Our shore pine after about 6 months grounded
 
carla beemer
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Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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That first photo only shows about 1/3 of the tree. The rest extended across 3 yards and into the wild area my neighbors and I leave for the deer. With so many limbs, trunks and branches, we had to lessen the load so we had room to work-and also to make the site more palatable to others. So the first step was to chip a bunch of the branches.
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carla beemer
Posts: 31
Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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We chipped everything in that picture, and are using the chips all over the property. Next, we started cutting the tree into rounds so we could move them into the east side of the yard, beyond the fence in the picture.
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carla beemer
Posts: 31
Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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For the past few years we have been layering ramial wood chips over our very wet clay soil. To clear space for the hugelbeet I relocated some big woody compost piles and dug down about 10 inches on average, to start the bed. It was amazing to see the soil transformed beneath the compost piles. (You can see some of it spread on top of my future espalier beds against the deer fence.)
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just starting to dig
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more dug out and part of the rootball installed on south end of the bed
 
carla beemer
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Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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I laid out a kinda kidney-shaped bed but with a flat back on the north side, about 18’ long and 8’ wide in the fat spots. It curves a bit toward the south and I’m hoping to create a heatsink in the elbow for planting a kumquat or something else that’s ridiculously optimistic for my climate.
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carla beemer
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Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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After reading just about every hugel thread on permies, as well as on other sites, I came up with a technique that makes sense to me. I dug down to capture some of the high water we get in the fall-winter-spring rainy season. The bottom of the wood rounds will be submerged much of that time. The rounds are about 16-18” tall, and I installed them on the perimeter, buried about 8” on average. I figure the soil sliding down will mostly bury them, but they will give me a solid place to stand, and also hold the semi-vertical poles placed every two or three rounds. I’ll be weaving limbs and branches and straw through those uprights, and packing soil in throughout the process. I’m tossing seeds in as well, but it’s pretty late in the game for sprouting...
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carla beemer
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Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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On the left I will be planting a lemon and an avocado in two of the espalier beds that will be most sheltered in winter by the hugelbeet, which my husband said was looking like a t-rex carcass on its back...I started weaving horizontal branches in, and the workpace really bogged down-lots of kneeling and bending. After 20+ years as a trail crew worker and forest ranger, I have some back issues that flare up. I used a refrigerator dolly to move the biggest rounds into position, and I fill 5-gallon buckets half full of soil to dump on top. My husband is the sawyer; I’m the pile-er.
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carla beemer
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Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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The next step will be to start jamming straw and soil into the woven sides, while continuing to break up the limbs and branches and layering them on top. Eventually it will start raining hard, a lot, and if it’s a ‘normal’ year, we’ll get a pile of snow. I’m worried about the soil washing away, but since it’s too late for seeds to sprout I’m having to rely on straw and other mulches. I’ll keep posting pics as I move forward.
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carla beemer
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Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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If you see the red chair in the picture, you are looking through the double gates to our double-deer-fence and you can see the ‘ribs’ of the hugelbeet. We were able to use mostly salvaged materials for rebuilding our fence. When the tree was growing, its huge horizontal spreading arms ran the width of the entire fence, and we hardly noticed the metal. Now, it’s a bit traumatic. I’ll be planting raspberries and elderberries and dogwoods as soon as we move the pallets away. We kept a 6-ft section of the main trunk for making a joinery bench. I miss my tree, but by keeping the wood onsite and allowing it to complete its life cycle where it grew, I feel like we did something positive by not giving in to the dominant practice of tree removal here in town. So far, most of our neighbors think it’s cool! Although many think I’ll be plagued by termites any minute now!
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carla beemer
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Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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RIP. Soon to be returning as spinach!
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As one who is new to hugelkultur, i am reading your story with great interest. I built two raised metal beds for my garden in Oct.
They were built with wood, straw, bags of corn on cob from a farmer, wood chips, compost, and bags and bags of dropped apples.
I am now waiting for spring.
 
carla beemer
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Location: Port Angeles, WA, United States
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Thanks for reading my post, Ron! I'm taking a break on my hugel project right now due to rain, but hope to make progress this weekend and will post more pictures then.
Your raised beds sound great. I have made many raised beds over the years with piles of this and that, and they always compost down into great soil without too much effort from me. One advantage of composting in place like that is it really benefits the development of fungal networks, adding significantly to your soil health.
I have learned so much from all the great gardeners here on permies, I'm sure you'll find many topics of interest.
 
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