I'm no stranger to amending poor soil with organic matter to make good garden soil. But hugelkulturs are essentially ALL organic matter aside for the bit of native soil you pile on top. Too much organic matter tends to mean too much phosphorus. And I've never heard of anyone having anything but glorious yields off of a hugel. I've also never heard of anyone soil testing their hugel.
This came about from me worrying for the first time about planting in TOO MUCH organic matter when I start using my hugel bed (that I built last year and let sit until this spring.) So what do you think? How do hugelkulturs work so well despite this theoretical pitfall?
I personally have some issues with their conclusions, and I don't believe any amount of finished compost can "burn" plants. I plant in straight compost all the time. That is, 100% organic matter with no native soil. I've never burned a plant with it.
I also have some issues with the assumptions. Any time I build a hugel, I'm excavating all the topsoil and quite a bit of mineral subsoil. Yes, it goes together to bury a lot of woody content, but I top it in layers that end with a garden on top, and the soil life flourishes and migrates to the organic matter mixed in with the mineral subsoil.
Any compost I am planting in has been run through by worms simply by virtue of the fact that my composter is ground-connected, and the wormies love the rabbit bedding, squash rinds, and coffee grounds I contribute.
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
Matt Todd wrote:This came about from me worrying for the first time about planting in TOO MUCH organic matter when I start using my hugel bed (that I built last year and let sit until this spring.) So what do you think? How do hugelkulturs work so well despite this theoretical pitfall?
The real secret to Hugel lies in the fact that it was developed before we were taught that to farm or garden you had to have a chemistry test done on the soil to reveal its magical NPK values. If your running your thought process off of the NPK way of doing things your getting into an aquaponics type growing situation because your just using the dirt(not soil) to carry the "nutrients" to the plant. By using approaches such as hugel your getting away from the chemistry and getting into the biology of things. By creating a biodiverse environment your letting mother nature take care of things. Your not using salts (fertilizers) and poisons(insecticides and fungicides) to control an environment and bend it to your will. Fungus, bacteria, nematodes, along with the plants and their roots form the entire soil food web and that web doesn't care all that much about your chemistry tests as long as it has food(organic material) and water to sustain it will overcome "shortcomings" we perceive in a lab.
Now with that said the natural way of doing things is gonna make growing things you probably shouldn't be growing a little more challenging than going to the big box store and buying a box of magic and dumping that in your raised bed, but in the end its cheaper to let mother nature do what she has been doing for billions of years and much healthier for you in the end.
Diego Footer on Permaculture Based Homesteads - from the Eat Your Dirt Summit