While at the 2019 ATC, I made this hugelkulture near Allerton Abby, facing south in a location chosen by Fred. I've been struggling with my computer, as it is 11 years old now and it's being grumpy until I throw it a birthday party. And by "birthday party" I mean go in and clean it up and make some room. So I decided to go ahead and post this through my phone. Please forgive the picture selection, as all of the pictures are shown super tiny on my phone, and i might pick the wrong ones and then have to post a second time.
I used wood that was taken from piles on the road, and some logs and stumps that were already near the spot. There were also a lot of smaller trees and large branches put in. I don't know what kind of trees they once we're, as they were not recently cut. The excavator was at the lab already, which was lovely, and my instructor was there to keep an eye on me if I was getting myself into trouble. (If you use it too fast it makes big shakey movements!) And to save me if I rolled it down the hill. (Side note: the excavator was really fun!)
What I Did Wrong:
1) So, i made it 7 feet, especially on the deepest side, but this hugel wants to be bigger. Much bigger. Twice as big. And i wanted to make it bigger but didn't for... reasons. But not only could it have supported more dirt, I feel that the top layer of dirt is too thin and may wash or erode away and expose the wood, which is not ideal.
2) Not enough planting. In my head, 7 feet is pretty tall. But in order to be that tall, it's also more than 7 feet thick. And this one ended up being maybe 10 feet long? Longer? (I didn't measure that direction.) The overall surface area is much, much larger than I anticipated. So although i planted alot of seeds, it should have had waaay more and I only did a small amount more than was required for the badge. This is partially because I selfishly was thinking about how many badges I might have time to get while at the ATC, and partially because I hadn't planned ahead, so when I discovered I might have the opportunity to make a hugelkulture, it was during the ATC and I had not brought seeds with me. The seeds and plants I did plant were kind gifts graciously bestowed upon me.
3) Not enough mulching. Mulch should be several inches thick. I made a pile of mulch larger than myself, and put it on the hugel, and it barely made a shadow on the pile. Far and above this is the prep I was least prepared for. I didn't have any more hours to spend at the time- but for a future hugel my current belief is that most of the time I spend making the hugel will be to collect the required amount of mulch to be effective. As it was, the mulch I was able to put down was a sparse, sorry sight.
4) Watering it... For the first 2 years? So... I put water on it. But it was remarkably difficult. First of all water is heavy. The hugel needed a ton of water, as it was pretty dry. I ended up mostly watering the spots I planted, but just once after I planted. What I think it really needed is a good long soak to get the innards wet, and then to be watered again periodically for the first two years. There's nothing set up for this hugel to do that. This is going to slow it down. Also when I poured water on it, it wanted to run the dirt off, so I had to be careful. If I made one of these at my parents house, I would want to install a soaker hose system under the mulch along it, so that I could make sure it gets on its way to rotting those logs. Then after the first year or two I would pull them out.
That's the list of the stuff that I know I did wrong. But it's still a big hugelkulture, and it exists. i hope it ends up being better than nothing. :)
I'm grateful for the chance to have made one, as I learned a lot. I wouldn't do it without the excavator. I definitely don't have that kind of time, or beefy arm muscles. Also, it's way, waay more prep work than I anticipated. Now I can make a better one next time.
Sepp Holtzer grains
Alsike, crimson, and rose clover
Live sunchoke plants
Sugar pea pod
Winter dormant alfalfa
Some other stuff in a bag
Live comfrey splits
Edit: the pictures did not attach to this one, so I'm trying again with an edit.