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Giant Modified Hugelkultur - Need help with planting suggestions.

 
Posts: 97
Location: Long Island, NY
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hugelkultur forest garden food preservation
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Hi folks,

Been a while since I posted, been super busy with life and work and finally last fall started getting back into the garden in a big way. I made a buried wood raised hugel bed which I will post later but my main focus this early spring has been a behemoth Hugelkultur mound.

We had a 130 year old 100 foot tall red oak that died in our side yard. The previous owner had put cinder blocks around it and mounded up dirt to try and level a significant dip in our hollow. I dug out 6 rows from around the tree, going down over six feet but there was even another row that I could not get to. These people even put tennis balls around the tree that were perfectly flat from all the growth. I was so sad to see it go but we had to cut it down.

We got a good deal to cut it down but they wanted another 2 grand to cart it off. The sections were over 2.5 or  3 feet across and ten feet long each. They fell in a kind of V shape with a bunch of large sections in the middle, so I could not dig and roll to bury them or narrow the space. After two years on the ground they were covered in lichen and mycelial growth so I decided I would try and bury it all and build a big bed over it.

I don't have photos of all the stages but I did it all myself, a 5 foot 4 58 year old lady. LOL pretty proud of myself! As the sections were pretty far apart and very tall, I was unable to cover it with soil all the way down to the ground at this point, so I covered the logs themselves with dirt then built up the walls with oak leaf mould and thick branches to make an edge to the bed. Eventually, I will build these edges out in a terrace formation and fill in with soil, but for now I already have a lot on my hands.

I seeded the whole thing with dwarf white clover because the bed is so wide, I wont be able to weed regularly. I have very good compost that I used to mix with our sandy local soil and some clay to make a good topsoil. The soil level on top is at least 3 inches deep all over. Under that is a thick layer of grass and moss cuttings and below that are copious amounts of oak leaves and then small branches, dirt/soil then the big logs. I watered it generously as I built it, making sure to soak it down at each level.

So, my question is this: The bed is over ten feet wide on one end and only 2 feet wide at the other. It is almost 30 feet long (maybe more, I didn't take an accurate measurement) and about 4.5 feet at it's highest point, but it has a lot of hillocks and valleys because of the shape of the logs and brush I used. The bottom faces south west and the top faces north east exactly, measured by a compass. It gets good light even in the summer with full sun on one side in the morning and full sun on the other side in the afternoon.

I want to ask for assistance in a planting chart. I have the following seeds already set with cold weather plants already hardening off. The warmer plants I can plant a bit later, but I need help related to where. It have been VERY cold here in zone 7a with limited rain, but we just had two good days of gentle rain, aka the best kind!

Kale
Broccoli
Mustard Greens
Brussel Sprouts
Beets
Yellow Onions
Gold Potatoes
Peanuts
Red Chard
Giant Green Chard
Bush Beans
Pickling Cukes
Market More Cukes
Red Cabbage
Early Green Cabbage
Kabosh Squash
Butternut Squash
Winter Squash
Pumpkin
Zuccini
Yellow Squash
Watermelon
Cantalope
Dill
Roma Tomatoes
Cherry Tomatoes
Beefsteak Tomatoes
Heirloom Red Corn

I didn't overplant seeds so with the vining plants I only have 2-3 of each kind. I planned on placing posts and trellis on the north side for the tomatoes and cucumbers and then planting things that will be long to develop like cabbages on the next level up with vining plants on the top that can trail down to the south east side as far as they want. The entire piece of land is probably 1/8 acre that hasn't been taken care of since Hurricane Sandy so I covered the whole thing with card board and leaves and will bring in wood chips to make paths and finally beds as well, but right now this is a whole lot of bed!

I do know, based on the building materials that eventually the center will fall in and I will have two more narrow beds covering all the tree trunks. I also know I need to cover the ends of the tree trunks that are sticking out to have more effective decomposition, but at this point I ran out of building materials and used up my entire compost pile and leaf mold pile, so that will have to wait for next year.

Thanks so much for any help you can offer! I really appreciate it and am so excited to get back into the garden!


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pioneer
Posts: 330
Location: So Cal - Inland Empire
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I've got a raised hugel bed that sees lots of sun on its southern flank most of the day and its northern side gets the late hours from perhaps 3 or 4 p.m. til sunset. Mine is arranged with squash at the southeast quadrant,  cucumbers at northeast and tomatoes running the full western section. I've erected some lattice along the southern side of the squash to break up the hottest part of our summer days and give them the break they'll need when it finally arrives.

Not sure just how much my planting its first year to alfalfa,  flax and garlic contributes to what I'm seeing it support this year. There is alot going on.
20220430_090439.jpg
Tomatoes at west end
Tomatoes at west end
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Looking over cucumbers to the SE quadrant of squash - lattice beyond for shade
Looking over cucumbers to the SE quadrant of squash - lattice beyond for shade
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Bush cucumber at NE quadrant
Bush cucumber at NE quadrant
 
Alexandra Clark
Posts: 97
Location: Long Island, NY
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That looks absolutely amazing Cindy! Thank you so much for posting photos! I also planned to plant the tomatoes on the western edge. It's almost like planning the layout of a city. Blessing your garden patch and thanks again.
 
pollinator
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Well done! In addition to your list, I’ve found strawberries to benefit from hugels as much as any plant. They can have grapes or other easily trainable plants grown above them as well if the sun angle is considered to allow full sun in the fall-spring, but mitigate mid-summer mid-day heat (like the design of a house’s awning). Insert your preferred groundcover and shrub/vine if desired.
 
master steward
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Alexandra, that is an impressive hugelkultur!

Also, your list of seeds is impressive.

I like Ben's suggestion of strawberries.
 
Alexandra Clark
Posts: 97
Location: Long Island, NY
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Thanks Ann, I have been very motivated. The wood was an eyesore and my husband wanted to get rid of it, but didn't want to pay the price. I finally just said, I'll take care of it. I was too far gone in the process when he realized what I meant.

He loves the benefits of the garden, but not the work. LOL no big deal. I love both!

Thanks Ben, I never thought of strawberries. Do you use a specific variety? Ever blooming perhaps? Would appreciate any information. I have a ton of edge area where they could hang down.
 
Ben Zumeta
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I like a variety and on our mountain homestead I have planted Rainier, Hood, Quinalt, Albion, Tri-star, Seascape, as well as a wild mountain type. The kind I’ve grown most and for nearly a decade are Seascape, which on the NorCal coast produced from April-Thanksgiving on hugels, a month or more longer than non hugels. I think this is due to drainage and warmth from decomposition.
 
pollinator
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Wow, that is super impressive! And especially to do on your own! Smart to not have to move the big pieces of wood. My husband is not at all into the work of gardening either, so whatever I do, I do on my own too. He does build things like chicken coops and goat milk stands when needed, though, so I can't complain too much.

You've inspired me to build my first-ever hugel with some big downed branches we have sitting around, goat litter, and some other odds and ends. The summer heat is already about to hit here in Texas in a few days, so I will get it started now to plant in fall, most likely. Or maybe if I get it done soon I can seed it with some heat-tolerant beans or something for the summer. That would be nice.
 
Alexandra Clark
Posts: 97
Location: Long Island, NY
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Thanks for the input on the strawberries Ben. I have tiny wild strawberries I got from my mother in law's land in New Hampshire. I am on Long Island New York which is probably similar in climate to your NorCal area. Been up to Eureka a few years ago and other than the Red Woods we have a lot of similar flora.

Glad I could inspire you Lila! It feels really good to build in the garden with things people would otherwise throw away. Good luck!
 
Lila Stevens
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Alexandra Clark wrote:Thanks for the input on the strawberries Ben. I have tiny wild strawberries I got from my mother in law's land in New Hampshire. I am on Long Island New York which is probably similar in climate to your NorCal area. Been up to Eureka a few years ago and other than the Red Woods we have a lot of similar flora.

Glad I could inspire you Lila! It feels really good to build in the garden with things people would otherwise throw away. Good luck!



Yes, for sure! Where I live, people in the closest town still bag up leaves in black garbage bag to throw away. I am happy to pick up as much of this "trash" as I can fit in my truck on every trip to town. For some reason I had forgotten about the idea of doing a hugel with those branches until I saw your post. That is going to be one beautiful garden for many years to come.
 
Alexandra Clark
Posts: 97
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I have to laugh Lila. I started picking up leaf bags for the project a few months ago and my daughter was mortified. LOL I said why waste good biomass???
 
Lila Stevens
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Haha, my kids are not old enough to be embarrassed of my trash-picking ways yet, but my 8-year-old daughter is always like "ughh, mom, you have enough leaves already!" My 5-year-old son loves the leaf hunt though and is always making suggestions for how I can fit more in the truck.
 
Alexandra Clark
Posts: 97
Location: Long Island, NY
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Mine is a 25 year old horticulturist. She constantly brings home plants from her job that are injured or the clients don't want them anymore. I say, what's the difference with leaves? LOL i know not to pick up grass clippings because people use chemicals on grass but very few in our area spray their trees as most are over 100 feet tall. I live in a bit of a forest though it's funny, it's called the Maplewood but all the trees are oak!
 
Lila Stevens
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Aw, my daughter is super into "plant rescue" too. Every time we go to a big-box store we have to check out the clearance section and usually rescue a few plants that the workers have for some reason stopped watering. At my old home, when we would pick up mulch, I used to go to where people dropped off green waste at the dump and find all kinds of cool plants that people were throwing away. I got an uprooted gardenia bush there once that I planted in my parents' yard, and it is still there 20 years later; a great massive thing now.
 
Alexandra Clark
Posts: 97
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Awww!!! You two have kind hearts just like we do!
 
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