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Buried Wood Beds

 
Posts: 319
Location: South Central Kansas
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Stefanie Chandler wrote:I was reading the articles about burying wood in sandy soil; would lining the pit with grass like they do in India help?  They take 8 inches of fresh cut grass and pack it around the hole they want to retain water.  As the grass goes to slim it becomes water proof.  Then lay the wood in and cover with compost and mulch.  Would planting a nitro fixer like clover help to start the decomposition prosses?  



How deep can you dig?
How wide?
Perhaps you could get a few loads of clay to line your garden about 4" deep or more?

Some people use pond liners.

About clover  - I planted some and the roots are so strong you can barely budge them.
Seems great for holding soil once they grow.

Yes the grass would retain some water but not like wood would.
Grass will disintegrate pretty quickly but wood takes a while.

Yellow clover flowers about mid year. Crimson (not red) flowers in the fall.
If you are trying to help the homeybees, crimson clover is best for them.
Plenty of flowers in the spring and summer. Hardly any in the fall.

Reason?
How many plants flower and produce pollen and nectar in the fall?

The bees need that last ditch feeding to help them get through the winter.


Edit used coffee grounds can help the decomposition process. Adding plain sugar can really heat things up too!

 
Posts: 5
Location: South Central Oklahoma, North Central Texas
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Thanks to all of you for the information. I was inspired to plant an orchard on our land in Oklahoma.

To get the planting holes ready, I dug pits about 3' x 3' x 3'. Okay, maybe I recruited my husband to help some with this part...I filled the pits with wood scavenged from the property and covered it with the dug soil. (This was before I learned the importance of keeping the soil in the original layers.)

Then, I planted the trees beside the covered mounds. This was in early 2017. After 2 years, the peach trees are 8-10' tall. They started at 3-4'.  It seems impossible to me when I compare to the growth rate of my mom's trees planted in better soil. I did water the first 2 years and she probably didn't.

I tried to attach a picture, but the internet here is spotty...
 
pollinator
Posts: 390
Location: OK High Plains Prairie, 23" rain avg
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Tyler Ludens, William Bronson -
Honor Marie asked:

I'm wondering how long it would take to dig a buried hugel bed by hand. Does anyone have an estimate? Include some info about your soil and the size of the bed, please!

I too would like answers to this question.
 
pollinator
Posts: 11802
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Several hours if the soil is heavy clay and rocks.  Definitely a lot of work, but worth it in my opinion. It took me a year or more to dig out my entire kitchen garden.  But I did not keep track of hours, just worked along as I was able.
 
pollinator
Posts: 282
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As rule of thumb, a worker can dig one cubic meter (or yard) of dirt per day. He/she can easily dig more than that, but won't be working on weekends, holidays or such. It might not seem to much but 7 cubic meters of dirst can be dug in a week and it is roughy 10.5 tons. It is heavy.
If it is not your paid work, you won't be pushing yourself so much and you won't be digging so efortlessly (since you probably don't know tecniques and how to use pickaxe, shovel and crowbar properly). I can easily hit roughly one third of that on average.

If you are going to dig clay, aim for half a cubic meter, if it is silty soil aim for twice.

If you are going to dig weathered rock pieces, don't put yourself under stress by goals. It really depends on the rock type and sizes. So have a cold beer nearby and try to enjoy digging.

Hope it helps.
 
denise ra
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s. ayalp - Thanks for the eartmkving estimates, I find them both a useful place to begin and helpful motivation-wise.
-
 
gardener
Posts: 533
Location: N. California
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I know there is no magic number, but can someone give me a guesstimate on how long it takes a bed like these to establish?  I live in N. California zone 9b.  I made my first 2 last fall(2019).  I finished the 3rd late winter.  I soaked the wood and wood chips, and watered after each layer.  I pushed myself to Finnish the first 2 before winter so it would soak up all the rain water.  So much for that, it hardly rained at all.  One bed is full of garlic and onions.  The other is full of lettuce and peas, but they need to go.  It's too hot for them now.  I still need to water like normal on the newest bed.  No mulch yet, I was waiting for the seedlings to get a bit bigger.
Will I get any benefit this year?  Will it take 2 or 3 years to see any benefit?  I know nun of you have a Cristal ball, just wanted a general idea.  Thank you.
 
pioneer
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:I know there is no magic number, but can someone give me a guesstimate on how long it takes a bed like these to establish?  I live in N. California zone 9b.  I made my first 2 last fall(2019).  I finished the 3rd late winter.  I soaked the wood and wood chips, and watered after each layer.  I pushed myself to Finnish the first 2 before winter so it would soak up all the rain water.  So much for that, it hardly rained at all.  One bed is full of garlic and onions.  The other is full of lettuce and peas, but they need to go.  It's too hot for them now.  I still need to water like normal on the newest bed.  No mulch yet, I was waiting for the seedlings to get a bit bigger.
Will I get any benefit this year?  Will it take 2 or 3 years to see any benefit?  I know nun of you have a Cristal ball, just wanted a general idea.  Thank you.



I made one last year in zone 5 in Michigan and it did great. I needed some dirt to make a flat tent pad. I filled in the trench with leaves, very rotten logs, hay, dirt, and sod. I finished late, maybe july or August. I got some tomatoes and beans out of it. This probably doesn't help so much because I am colder and from the sounds of it wetter up here.

Did you use green wood chips or were they aged? If they were green I would guess you will get better results next year
 
pollinator
Posts: 406
Location: Vermont, USA
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I built raised beds on “dirt” that followed a construction project, which was so poor that the grass couldn’t compete with the weeds. I couldn’t afford enough good compost to fill them (this was our first year here and the chickens were very tiny - no help from them!), so I hunted up lots of rotten wood from our forest land. Beautiful stuff, much of it crumbling as I carried it out of the woods!

I didn’t plant root crops, as the wood was only a couple inches under the surface. But we had success with tomatoes, brassicas, summer squash, asparagus, lettuce, and herbs. Poor yield on bush beans, for some reason.

We added more beds in the fall and this spring, and with the help of the chickens’ wood chippy aged poop+garden waste, have been able to fill them without any purchased material. I also made good use of last year’s wood chips from the paths, which were breaking down beautifully. I collected so much rotten wood (we have a very wet forested hill with a spring and vernal streams running all over it) that I have much left over.

I have mulberry trees, berry bushes, and a plum tree coming, to be planted in other areas of construction dirt. I was planning to dig big holes, fortify with rotten wood and the lovely mess from the chicken run, and fill with the dirt when I plant them. Other than checking the ph for the blueberries, any other suggestions?

CC2AFB66-9E01-483A-9568-F514EDD834CA.jpeg
Early last summer
Early last summer
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Last fall
Last fall
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Chickens cleaning up last fall
Chickens cleaning up last fall
 
pollinator
Posts: 881
Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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What area do you live in, Anne?  Helps a lot when considering whether your strategies might work for others.
 
Anne Pratt
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Hi Nancy - I live in Vermont, USA. Our neighborhood is up on a hill, and I have very steep hills on my 10 acres. The flat areas were created years ago to build the houses on - first one way up above us and, when that one burned, our present house that sits above the road. Across the street, one continues steeply downhill to the river.

I live in a very small town (pop. 666 in 2010 census) on the edge of the Green Mountains, but close to the Connecticut River Valley.
 
nancy sutton
pollinator
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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Thanks, Anne!  Vermont is valuable for me (in PNW) as per, say, Florida!!
 
Anne Pratt
pollinator
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Location: Vermont, USA
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I expect you have some damp woods in the PNW, too.  I'm very excited by rotten wood (I'm a little weird).  We were stunned at how productive the garden was last year, with little time to prep and no time for the hugel-ish wood amendments to decompose.  It was wonderful to start with rotting wood.  I hope it's decomposed enough for the turnips and carrots I'm going to plant.
 
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Hello. I am building a Hugel garden in my backyard just outside Washington, DC. I am new to it and need some advice. I have a slope in my backyard which I want to fill out with trees and other organic matter from around to make a garden on top.  I am having a couple of trees cut on my property which I am planning to burry. I need advice on what to cover them with. My plan is to first even out the cut trees that I will lay in the space on the picture above with wood chips. I signed up for Chip Drop and am confident that I will have enough to fill out the spaces in between the cut trees and to even out the space on the top. Then I have leaf compost coming. I need soil and was thinking to just get top soil (https://smd.craigslist.org/grd/d/charlotte-hall-asphalt-millings-top/7114271016.html) and turn it into fertile soil good for gardening by mixing my kitchen scraps into it, grass clippings from my neighbors after they mow their lawns and decomposed trees from the woods nearby. Any comments? I also have two questions: 1) is topsoil a good choice for my garden? 2) where is the best place to put the leaf mulch - mix it with topsoil or cover it? Thanks in advance for your help!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Anastasia Elliott wrote: 1) is topsoil a good choice for my garden? 2) where is the best place to put the leaf mulch - mix it with topsoil or cover it? Thanks in advance for your help!




1. Topsoil isn't needed if you practice no-dig gardening.  You can plant in finished compost, or use small quantities of topsoil just in planting holes.

2. Put it on top of your beds as the final layer. You can plant right in it.


Loads of information about no-dig gardening here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCB1J6siDdmhwah7q0O2WJBg

Food forest steps:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLlig9tRJvQ&t=303s

Legume cover crops (I'm using Black-eyed Peas and Mung Beans from the grocery store) can be tossed on top of disturbed native soil as the initial support layer.  Trees and other plants can be planted before or after this step.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Forgot to mention:  Don't plant trees in buried wood beds.  They will likely blow over in windstorms.  Plant the tree and then bury wood in pits surrounding it so the growing tree can send its roots to the extra moisture and fertility of the pits.  Or simply place the wood on the surface of the soil surrounding the tree.  If you're in a dry climate, don't pile the wood or it will dry out and not decay as fast.  It's best if each piece touches the soil.  Woodpiles and brushpiles can be built here and there as critter habitat and to break down slowly over time.

 
Posts: 618
Location: Northern Maine, USA (zone 3b-4a)
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my raised beds used to dry out quickly so i had to water often. i finally dug out the soil and filled halfway with small logs and large branches and filled in the holes with cow manure then filled back the rest of the bed with soil. that was 5 yrs ago and i still don't have to water regularly. only during really long dry periods. everything grows much better. i also cover the top with 2in. of wood chips. plants easily sprout through that.
 
Anne Pratt
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I think that making your first hugelkultur garden on a slope will be difficult. (Forgive me if I misunderstand your plans - I couldn't quite follow.)  I don't think you should try to even out the slope with the logs, but instead dig into the side of the hill and make a flat surface to lay the logs on.  The sod that you dig out is a good layer after you fill in the gaps in the wood and put in your wood chips.  You put the sod on upside down.  Leaf mold on top of that.  If you need little cups of soil to plant in (depending on the consistency of the leaf mold), you shouldn't need much.

Many people have great luck with Chipdrop.  I did not, but by calling a few arborists in my area I found one (who is a neighbor!) who brings me all the chips I want.    

Either way, sounds good!  I would plant seedlings into the bed if I could, including some spreading ground-cover type plants, to keep it from washing away in a big rainstorm.  If you tried to start the whole thing from seed, the rain might wreck your plans before the seeds get going.  You can easily start seeds in paper cups, old egg cartons, or any number of containers inside.

Best of luck!
 
Anne Pratt
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Rereading, maybe I did misunderstand - the garden will be at the top, not on the slope?  Oops.  Funny how you don't spot these things until after you press "submit!"

I agree with Tyler that you likely won't need to import soil.  A light coating of grass clippings would make a lovely mulch for the new garden, and continue to deliver nitrogen every time you added it.  But take care not to smother the seedlings.  
 
Anastasia Elliott
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I think I spoiled my Hugel Slope. I have 200 cu yards to fill and good dirt costs a lot! So I just had this bad construction type material (with bricks, drywall, cement in it) dumped first to fill in the volume on the bottom (see picture). According to Tyler Ludens' comment above "it's best if each piece touches the soil." So, now I am thinking I need to order top soil (https://denchfieldnursery.com/collections/mulch/products/bulk-topsoil-1-cubic-yard) to put on top of the bad layer, then lay down my trees, fill the gaps with wood chips, add some horse manure (taking the idea from Steve Bossie above), leaf compost, my kitchen scraps, grass clippings and some rotten wood from the forest nearby to bring some life to this Hugelkulture bed. Then, I probably need more top soil in the areas between the logs where there will be two layers of logs, and repeat the above procedure. Good plan? They are coming to cut trees the day after tomorrow, so I need the top soil delivered today-tomorrow. So, I need to decide quick what to do. Thanks for your input! And the second picture is of the place that I am trying to fill - the area around my cherry tree from the left side of the picture to the fence.
Bad-Dirt.jpg
[Thumbnail for Bad-Dirt.jpg]
HugelSlope.jpg
[Thumbnail for HugelSlope.jpg]
 
Anastasia Elliott
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Ok, I thought about it a little more. I am not planning to use this Hugel bed for a couple of years. So, I do not think now that I need top soil. I will just do what I described above, minus the top soil, even out the slope and wait. That should turn into good soil, right? I do not need to add any dirt/soil, as far as I understand after reading your comments. I will be adding my kitchen scraps, grass clippings and leaf mulch to it. It would be nice to cover it with wood chips on top. I guess I'll have to rake the wood chips in order to keep mixing in this additional stuff and then rake the wood chips back? Thanks.
 
Anne Pratt
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Despite your excellent pictures, I'm still having a little trouble following the whole process.  But, you can layer your trees/logs right on top of each other - you don't need to make a full sandwich with all the other ingredients for each layer of logs.  Although you'll still be trying to fill in all the cracks (you can use twigs, small branches, leaves, in addition to the dirt).

I'm going to flag this topic so some more knowledgeable people can come and address the new dilemma.  But no, you haven't ruined it!
 
Tyler Ludens
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Anastasia Elliott wrote:I will be adding my kitchen scraps, grass clippings and leaf mulch to it.



Personally I would just add those things on top.  You could put the grass clippings and leaf mulch over the kitchen scraps if you want to.

 
Jen Fulkerson
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If you're worried about the construction impurities you can put wood chips on the top and add wine cap mushrooms. They will help eliminate toxins, and break down the wood chips to make amazing soil.  Good luck.
 
Anastasia Elliott
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Thank you all very much! All your comments are so helpful, encouraging and inspiring! I am learning a lot!!!
 
steve bossie
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Jen Fulkerson wrote:If you're worried about the construction impurities you can put wood chips on the top and add wine cap mushrooms. They will help eliminate toxins, and break down the wood chips to make amazing soil.  Good luck.

make sure you discard the mushrooms that grow in another spot as the toxins are concentrated in the flesh. ;)
 
Anastasia Elliott
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steve bossie wrote:

Jen Fulkerson wrote:If you're worried about the construction impurities you can put wood chips on the top and add wine cap mushrooms. They will help eliminate toxins, and break down the wood chips to make amazing soil.  Good luck.

make sure you discard the mushrooms that grow in another spot as the toxins are concentrated in the flesh. ;)


So, I would cover the toxic layer with wine cap mushrooms (I already covered it with wood chips), and then discard the new mushrooms that start growing out of that? Or do you mean I discard any mushrooms that grow on my Hugel bed? Where do I get the wine cap mushrooms? EBay sells it for $30 a pound! That's too expensive. As an alternative, I was thinking to get rotten wood and the good dirt that it turns into (by the way, there are some mushrooms growing in the rotten wood) and cover my toxic layer with that. Will that work?
 
master pollinator
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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The suggestion for mushrooms is to grow them.

My kindergarten understanding of mycoremediation: Growing mushrooms on contaminated soil will pull the toxins out of the soil. After a time, the soil will be good for use in food production. The fruiting bodies (mushrooms) will take up the toxins, so consumption is not recommended. Removal of the mushrooms to an area not used for food production has been recommended. In your case, the area will be eventually used for annual vegetables, so presumably, it is a sunny area. While many mushrooms require shade, wine cap mushrooms enjoy growing in the sun.

Feild and Forest is one excellent source for growing mushrooms.

 
pollinator
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I have three small garden beds that are a combination of buried and raised beds: dug down and layered wood/brancehs/twigs, then above ground level in the "raised" part of the bed layered grass clippings, shrub/bush cuttings and compost/garden scraps. Topped with some garden soil and planted!
I've noticed that my plants rarely have problems associated with water-loss, and I don't have to water quite as often. This is great because over-watering is my biggest problem when it comes to gardening! My potted plants still either die from heat and water-loss or I kill them accidentally with overwatering. I just started another bed today and have plans to build 4 more.
Can this be done on a micro-scale for potted plants? It always breaks my heart when my seedlings and sprouts die before I can get them hardened off for transplant.
 
Anastasia Elliott
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Hello everyone,

could any of you recommend someone to come to my place near DC and help me decide what to do with the space around my house. I would like to have a homestead farm. Thanks!
 
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