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Hey everybody. I hope these questions don’t make me look too ignorant, but everyone has to start somewhere right?  I’m not sure if this is exactly the right spot for my post, but since one of my questions involves hugelkulture I figured it would be okay.

So I plan on building 4, 4’x12’x12”raised beds out of salvaged lumber.  I downed 5 small trees today ( about 6-12 inches in diameter, hackberry and elm), I cut the majority of the logs up into firewood but I want to use the tops in my raised beds.  My plan was just to cut and lop the smaller stuff (up to 1.5” in diameter to twigs) and cover about the first 4 incheswith as many of the branches as I can fit.   So my first question is basically is this as good as idea as I think it is?   I’m a little worried about it settling over time, or something not working because I’m only using small pieces of wood.

My next question has to do with my salvaged lumber.  It is treated deck boards but they are at least ten years old.  Would that be okay to use without a barrier between the wood and the soil, and if not what would you use as a barrier?  Landscaping fabric stapled to the inside is what I’m currently planning.  

Next question: I plan on ordering a mix of manure compost and topsoil from a local garden store.  I have my own compost pile but i don’t have enough finished to fill much of the beds.  I can get two yards delivered for 150 bucks. Does this sound like a decent deal and do you think that the soil will still give me a good harvests this growing season.  

Lastly, any soil admendements you’d suggest?  I plan on putting a small amount of ashes and alfalfa meal in the beds as I’m filling them.

Thanks in advance for any advice, I’m looking forward to this project and any pointers would be sincerely appreciated!
 
pollinator
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um, hugelkulture, or so I thought, is a different approach than raised beds.

Hugelkulture is meant to have a heaping stack, about 15' high, built of dead logs, branches twigs, manure, and other brown material with a layer of soil followed by a layer of mulch. One reason there is so much material is that this material will absorb water so you won't have to water your plants. ever (after the first wetting).
wind and temperature and sunlight are now all differentiated: you can have sun loving and shade loving plants all in the same space -same goes for temperature and wind plants if you build the hugelkulture berms with the correct orientation according to your local seasons.

The advantages of a raised bed are usually as follows:
-keeps the garden up high where you can work on it without bending over (most people's raised beds however, aren't that high);
-the beds have bottoms to keep golfers and moles out of their garden;
-so the exact content of their garden soil is known.

So, as you can see, the two are very different in their goals.  I won't tell you that it is a mistake to put six inch diameter trunks, twigs and branches in the bottom of your raised beds; just be aware that the amount of moisture you'll store and the duration you can go with no irrigation will be puny compared to a hugelkulture berm
 
gardener
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In a raised bed, put the twigs a good 12" below the soil level. Low enough that you won't touch any during normal planting. I have filled in raised beds with twigs and they were so in the way when i started planting that i pulled them out as i came across them.

Compost will settle, not just the twigs. I think topping off each season will be required either way.  I used to obses about getting them full and keeping them full. After i added coldframes, i was glad of the settling cause it gave me more ceiling height. Now i dont obsess about it.

On the bought compost, it seems reasonable. I have 2 sources. Mushroom compost at $12 cu yd and turkey poop compost at $20. Both are $50 yard (delivered) buying 12 yards at a time. Distance is the difference. The mushroom is twice as far away. Shipping is the biggest expense for it. Smaller orders still ship the same distance.
 
Joseph Ekdahl
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Orin, thanks for your response... your probably right.  I was assuming burying any wood under your garden was a sort of hugelkulture. But I can see where it might refer to a more specific technique.  Maybe an admin can move my post somewhere else if it would fit there better?

Wayne, I hadn’t thought about the possibility of running into the twigs and sticks.  That does seem pretty likely, and annoying, though.  I think I’ll try to remove some of the native soil, and mix it with the stuff I’m adding in.  I’ll just add sticks to the original ground level or maybe a just higher so I’ll have about a foot to play with.  It’s quite fertile soil naturally so this makes me feel a little better about sticking a raised bed on top of it, haha.  
 
wayne fajkus
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You are sequestering that carbon which is better than burning or trashing it. I was digging through a bed that had some woodchips mixed in. Not a lot, was probably in the compost. There was mycelium on the buried chips. I'm sure the same will happen with the twigs. That's healthy soil in my opinion.
 
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Joseph Ekdahl wrote:Orin, thanks for your response... your probably right.  I was assuming burying any wood under your garden was a sort of hugelkulture. But I can see where it might refer to a more specific technique.  Maybe an admin can move my post somewhere else if it would fit there better?



You've actually got it in the right place! The hugelkulture forum is for "HUGELKULTUR and raised garden beds" (I copied that straight off the forum page.) So, you're good!
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