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Tall hugels in the PNW? Anyone from the area doing it?

 
pollinator
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Location: Portland, OR
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Anyone in the Pacific NW doing permaculture and have built tall hugelkultur beds, like the ones Sepp recommends, and Paul builds on his place wanna share their experience?


I would like to hear how you did it, and how you maintained them.

Water/no water in the first few years, mulch, what kind, any other tips that would help for this specific climate.

Thank you☺️
 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Here's my tall hugel. It's not in the PNW. We get reasonable rains here so it normally doesn't seem to need extra water. Although I did flood it when it was first built & again early this spring. I haven't done much to maintain it other than toss a few shovelfuls of manure & soil on it after last winter. It gets mulched on any bare spots. I built it according to the minimum footprint required for PEP but that was tricky. Very steep sides but they are still holding up quite well & growing a lot of food. Next time I'll ignore the minimum footprint & just keep piling the material up until it reaches the desired height.

 
pollinator
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We've got two smallish hugels.  One was made in a hurry, the other was an act of desperation to do something permies.  The hurry one is about 4' tall and has done very well - no water added and the perennial kale, artichokes and ... plants (I'm not the plant person around here...) have done very well.  Sunflowers on the top were taller and larger (heads) than ones in the watered garden.

So yeah, it works.

Embarking on a project to pondify the place and use the excavated dirt to make some big hugels.  Not sure if they'll be big enough for Paul, but they should be big enough for our needs.
 
pollinator
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Some friends built a large 5ish foot one several years ago. It is remarkable how fast it has shrunk. It is now probably less than 2  feet above grade. I would guess that you would need to use large  whole logs to get any staying power as our damp forest soil has lots of active wood eating microbes.

I know that they irrigated a good bit, similar to a regular heavily mulched garden, the first summer. I'm not positive about everything since then but I know this year they only watered in things they transplanted after the rains ended
 
steward
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We are building a big tall hugel at the farm!  See here: https://permies.com/t/146711/Building-hugel-Pond
 
gardener
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Mine shrunk quite rapidly as well too. The mild temperatures and moisture speed up breakdown around here. A three or four foot bed shrunk to six inches in three years
 
pollinator
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We are doing just that at the Crescent City Food Forest: https://permies.com/t/99256/Crescent-City-Food-Forest

It may be California, but it feels very much like the Pacific NW climate (I grew up in Seattle).

This seems to me to be the best place possible to do tall hugels. We have abundant woody debris available for virtually free, and the Pacific NW of the US is somewhere nurse logs, which hugels imitate, are integral to ecosystem function. This is largely because we have abundant rain for 40-60% of the year but almost none for the rest, requiring large woody debris for moisture retention (75% of the available water for plants in an old growth NW forest in August is in dead wood). A couple recommendations:
- avoid redwood or cedar
- use wood in as close to the state you find it as plausible (lopping off wonky branches is fine, but burying chips is counter productive)
- use clean wood (watch out for persistent herbicides from adjacent lawns, roads, farms etc, these can last decades in wood that absorbed it while alive and likely died from it)
- make sure all the wood is well buried to avoid wicking of water out of the bed
- should go without saying, but do not make a dam out of a hugel, and this essentially what one would be doing with an ill advised "hugel-swale" perfectly on contour without adequate alternate overflow. Its better to have a gentle meandering slope for edge, drainage, and microclimate benefits.
- dig in if you have sandy soil with exceedingly good drainage (improving water retention, but requiring more work and losing microclimate/windbreak effects)
- just build right upon the sod or weeds if the soil is clay or that spot gets boggy at times (improving drainage)
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