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Ash's Hand-Dug Hugelkultur for PEP [Log]

 
gardener
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Hi. I'm building a hugelkultur that I wish to meet the PEP requirements (https://permies.com/wiki/98574/Build-Hugelkultur-PEP-BB-gardening)

One of those requirements is that the hugel not create a frost pocket. Thus, my question:

Will this hugel avoid creating a frost pocket?


The area currently slopes mostly west and a little south. I will preserve a path around the hugel to let cold air and water have a downward path out. I'm also counting on some radiant heat from the south and west facing masonry walls (yes, walls, not veneer).

Thanks for the help, and for ignoring my bad phone-picture-drawing.
IMG_20200919_111419-2.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200919_111419-2.jpg]
 
Ash Jackson
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I apparently can't read. Or I have a poor memory. Building a non-frost pocket hugel is not a requirement for the Badge Bit. That's ok. I'm leaving the first post because I'm still curious whether my design will inadvertently create a frost pocket.

This project got started when the neighbor across the street brought a crew to severely trim their maple tree.

No, no, no. This project really got started when, after describing my desire to ask that neighbor if we could have some of the wood for a hugel that they were just throwing away, my six year old son just went over and asked them while I was finishing cooking dinner. Completely unbidden by me.

I came outside to my son standing at the end of the driveway talking across the street to the neighbor, and the neighbor asking, "are you gonna carry it?" To which my son replied, "well yeah, with my Dad."

And he did. I lament having no pictures of any of this.
IMG_20200918_191057.jpg
Logs and brush from the maple, I hope it's enough
Logs and brush from the maple, I hope it's enough
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Snagged some snags
Snagged some snags
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This maple clearly offended someone and needed to be punished
This maple clearly offended someone and needed to be punished
IMG_20200918_185303_1.jpg
Some wood I got free earlier in the summer from about a mile away
Some wood I got free earlier in the summer from about a mile away
IMG_20200509_165725.jpg
That other wood arrived by bike
That other wood arrived by bike
 
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So are you going to do the 7' high hugel or are you going to dig down all around it so that they overall height from the surroundings isn't as high (per Paul's drawing in the BB)?  I'd think the dug down one would be a frost pocket moat all around it unless it could drain somehow.
 
Ash Jackson
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Hey Mike, I'm digging now where the hugel will go, so its top will probably only be about 4' above the undisturbed grade.

If I wind up digging outside the perimeter of the hugel, I plan to maintain the slope down away from the building.

I saw where the hugels at Allerton abbey needed about a 4' opening to not trap frost, so I intend for the sides facing the building to have that much opening.
 
Mike Haasl
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So you're doing this sort of a cross section?

 
gardener & hugelmaster
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Too funny. Saw this post yesterday & thought "when did the no frost pocket requirement get added?" Then read the BB about 4 more times & still didn't see it.

Rather than a moat why not add wood to the 3 foot deep hole in the ground to make it super hugely? I built mine entirely above ground then added a small pond along the uphill side. Worked great for growing some rice but later in the season when tomatoes & such started getting rowdy I thought it could become an ankle breaker so it has gradually been filled with wood & other organic materials. Not much chance of it becoming a frost pocket or someone accidentally hurting themselves now. I think as long as there is sufficient documentation to clearly show that 3 feet of your hugel is underground it could still be certified. Hoping so ... I've already buried the wood for about half of the base for Humphrey v2.0

 
Ash Jackson
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Day 1: site selection, laying out the extents, and start of digging:
IMG_20200919_095002_1.jpg
Six feet north to south
Six feet north to south
IMG_20200919_095008.jpg
tape at six feet
tape at six feet
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Seven feet east to west
Seven feet east to west
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Tape at seven feet
Tape at seven feet
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View from southwest
View from southwest
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End of first day digging
End of first day digging
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Not deep enough yet
Not deep enough yet
IMG_20200919_111419.jpg
View from southeast
View from southeast
IMG_20200919_115048.jpg
View from above
View from above
 
Ash Jackson
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Thanks, guys. The way Mike B describes is how I'm doing it. Dig a hole 3' deep, put wood in, then pile soil and wood so the top is 4' off the original grade, for a total of 7'.

Will try to get pics that show this better.
 
Ash Jackson
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Morning day 2: First trench dug to an acceptable depth, then filled a couple steps up.
Subsoil fun.
Second control point dug to 7' depth, we're gonna need a bigger tarp.
IMG_20200920_083058.jpg
Riiiight there, 84 inches
Riiiight there, 84 inches
IMG_20200920_085231.jpg
You've struck brick!
You've struck brick!
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I expected a sprinkler line somewhere in here, I did not expect weedblock
I expected a sprinkler line somewhere in here, I did not expect weedblock
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Chocolate cake anyone?
Chocolate cake anyone?
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Hugel as diverse as possible
Hugel as diverse as possible
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View from southwest
View from southwest
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Bottom center control point
Bottom center control point
IMG_20200920_132636.jpg
We're gonna need a bigger tarp
We're gonna need a bigger tarp
 
Mike Haasl
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So are you building either of the attached?

I think when you're done, you need to be able to stand next to the hugel (maybe down in a trench as in Paul's sketch) and have the hugel be 7' high.  I'm not sure you can fill in the trench.

Here are two crude sketches, is either anything like what you're building?  The light green is backfilled dirt over logs in the two trenches.
My-version-of-Paul-s-drawing.png
My version of Paul's drawing
My version of Paul's drawing
My-version-plus-hugels-down-in-the-trenches-MAY-NOT-BE-ACCEPTABLE-FOR-THIS-BB.png
My version plus hugels down in the trenches - MAY NOT BE ACCEPTABLE FOR THIS BB
My version plus hugels down in the trenches - MAY NOT BE ACCEPTABLE FOR THIS BB
 
Ash Jackson
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Ash Jackson
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Hey Mike, thanks for following along. Here's what my landlord was ok with.
IMG_20200920_170621-2.jpg
Crude sketch of partly buried hugel
Crude sketch of partly buried hugel
 
Ash Jackson
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Day 2 afternoon: tired, careful digging goes slow. Who knew?
IMG_20200920_170126_1.jpg
View from southeast
View from southeast
IMG_20200920_165627_1.jpg
The hole
The hole
 
Ash Jackson
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Day 3, most of the day was working, but I was able to dig the rest of the way down afterwards.

I started to fill it. Mike Barkley was right, these things are hungry. This thing is eating logs and branches like it's goin' out of style.
IMG_20200921_165808_1.jpg
The hole
The hole
IMG_20200921_165950.jpg
View from se
View from se
IMG_20200921_172258_1.jpg
First fill
First fill
IMG_20200921_180425.jpg
Second fill
Second fill
 
Mike Haasl
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What kind of pipe did you dig up?
 
Ash Jackson
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Sprinkler line. I expected it in there somewhere, didn't know the exact location. Digging around it was slow going.
 
pollinator
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Where you are in Denver, I’d probably avoid frost pockets. In other places that would never see killing frosts but need as many chill hours as possible, or to avoid early bud break due to warm winter temps and spring frosts/hail, frost pockets can be useful/acceptable in my opinion. Where I am in NW CA at 1500-1800ft, with low temps around 15-20f most years, 0-10f is probably the 100yr low as my educated guess and many fruit trees would never die in this but benefit from avoiding early bud break on our sporadic but fairly regular “Juneuary” warm winter days. However this is a remote area with widely diverse microclimates.  Like many oft vilified natural phenomena that can be avoided or enhanced with design, frost pockets have their place.
 
Ash Jackson
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Hey Ben, thanks for the advice. That's the plan. I intend to report back during winter.
 
Mike Barkley
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This thing is eating logs and branches like it's goin' out of style.



Very much worth the effort though!!!
 
Ash Jackson
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Day 4, continuing to fill the maw. It's hungry. I'm all out of logs and branches, and now down to large twigs. It's not big enough yet for the BB.

I'm contemplating mulching it once everything's covered with soil, so it stays moist while I locate more wood or potatoes.

The seeds I've ordered are still trickling in, so that end isn't ready yet anyways.
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I wonder, to get the requisite 7 feet tall, maybe just one side could be lower, while the other is level with the ground. That would make  it so he doesn't need to mess with his house's foundation, but still has lots of good growing conditions on the non-house side.
7-foot-hugel.jpg
I made the trench to be smoother, so it doesn't looks as weird from the street side view.
I made the trench to be smoother, so it doesn't looks as weird from the street side view.
 
Ash Jackson
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Hey Nicole, thanks for brainstorming with me.

I dunno! I'll ask.
 
Ash Jackson
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End of day 5: still not enough fill
IMG_20200924_075757_1.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200924_075757_1.jpg]
 
Ash Jackson
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End-ish of Day 6. I found some more branches. Did y'all know those things just grow on trees?!? Radical.
IMG_20200924_172049.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200924_172049.jpg]
 
Ash Jackson
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Day 7-9: this became a hugel demonstration site. Attendance was small [heh], but enthusiastic
IMG_20200927_092115.jpg
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IMG_20200927_092125_1.jpg
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[Thumbnail for IMG_20200928_132409.jpg]
 
Ash Jackson
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Day 12: another neighbor trimmed some maple and quite a bit of fir. It's now tall enough to be hard for me to work the top.
IMG_20200930_185644_1.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200930_185644_1.jpg]
IMG_20200930_190029_1.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20200930_190029_1.jpg]
 
Ash Jackson
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It appears the BB proof requirements changed while I've been working on this. I'll need to baaaaaaack-it-up and remove much of the fir branch mulch I put on yesterday to snag that pic.


In the meantime, all my seeds/tubers have arrived! Everything to the right of the pencil/eraser divide is a nitrogen fixer, everything to the left is not (that I know of).

Comfrey and Jerusalem Artichokes are in the top left two plastic tubs. Homegrown red clover and dandelions are in the upper right plastic tub. Homegrown sunflowers, yarrow, and presumed harebells are in the smallest plastic tub on the left.

(No, I'm not planting the entire 5lb bag of Ladino clover, it's there to make sure I hit the 75% overall N-fixers requirement). Except for the smaller bags of beans, I'm probably not planting an entire bag of anything.


Plants List. Anything new to this location is marked Gen0. Something that has grown here for one generation is Gen1. Something that has grown here for an unknown number of generations is GenQ.

Nitrogen Fixer Seeds
- Crimson Clover (Trifolium Incarnatum) Gen1
- Crimson Clover (Trifolium Incarnatum) Gen0
- Ladino Clover (Trifolium Repens) Gen0
- Prairie Clover (Dalea ?sp.) Gen0
- Lofthouse Fava Beans (Vicia ?faba) Gen0
- Snap Peas (Pisum Sativum) Gen0
- Garden Beans (?Pisum ?sp.) Gen0

Non-N Fixer Seeds
- Comfrey (Symphytum ?sp.) Gen0
- Sunchoke (Helianthus tuberosus) Gen0
- Sepp Holzer Grain (Secale ?cereale) Gen0
- Dandelion (Taraxacum ?sp.) GenQ
- Purple ?Harebells (??Campanula ?sp.) GenQ
- Sunflowers (Helianthus ?annuus) Gen1
- Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) Gen1
- Yellow Mustard (Sinapis Alba) Gen0
- Stinging Nettle (Urtica Dioica) Gen0
- Camas (Camassia Esculenta) Gen0
- Lofthouse Harmony Corn (Zea ?mays) Gen0
- Lofthouse Cucumbers (Cucumis ?sp.) Gen0
- Lofthouse Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) Gen0
- Black Mulberry (Morus ?nigra) Gen0
- Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) Gen0
- Orach (Atriplex hortensis) Gen0
- Leeks (Allium porrum) Gen0

Mulch List
- Fir branches
- Maple branches
- Sunflower stalks
- ?Thistle stalks
- Grass
IMG_20201001_111300_1.jpg
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Ash Jackson
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The "built but not planted or mulched" picture
IMG_20201001_164349_1.jpg
[Thumbnail for IMG_20201001_164349_1.jpg]
 
Mike Haasl
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Looking great!  I saw that new requirement showed up.  It seems that it's hard to tell the difference as a certifier between 4' of hugel with 4' of mulch and 7' of hugel with 1' of mulch...  Glad it wasn't too late for you!
 
Ash Jackson
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Day 14 (I keep losing track), it's planting time!
IMG_20201002_144004_1.jpg
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Ash Jackson
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Calendar Day 14. I only worked two full days and a dozen quarter-days (damn, the light goes fast in the evening when the smoke is up).

Done!? I hope.
IMG_20201002_175625_1.jpg
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Ash Jackson
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Sprouting clover, in the October North-Face Sun, and new animal habitat.

New sprouts ale sprouting, including clover.

The south-facing witdow is working as intended, reflecting law-angle winter light onto the north face of the hugel.

I'm glad to have created a bit of new spider habitat in the fir mulch, too.
IMG_20201012_132805.jpg
Not clover, but fun anyways
Not clover, but fun anyways
IMG_20201013_124153_1.jpg
this is clover, and also some other sprouts
this is clover, and also some other sprouts
IMG_20201013_124218_1.jpg
Sun shining on a south facing window
Sun shining on a south facing window
IMG_20201014_110036_1.jpg
a spiderweb in fir branches
a spiderweb in fir branches
 
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Looking good Ash!  And while I'm late to this thread let me give you an extra bravo for transporting logs by bike.  I've been doing that a lot myself lately, hauling 3 to 4 foot logs off the side of bike trail each trip I make, slowly gathering firewood while cleaning up the trail at the same time.  I get a few confused looks at times though!  ;)  Bikes can haul a lot more than most people think!
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