Alexandra Clark

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since May 11, 2017
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hugelkultur forest garden food preservation
Long time gardener, student of biology, retired traditional foods blogger, wild forager and all around lover of sustainability and permaculture. I am also a web designer and writer focusing on new paradigm communication and the empowered human.
Long Island, NY
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Recent posts by Alexandra Clark


I just put in a huge brush hugel and planted in two pumpkin plants that grew from seeds I pulled out of my parrot's food. My Quaker loves them. Going to follow some of these awesome tips and definitely follow them next year. I already have a bunch of male flowers on them, but going to do the leader pinning as you said Deb so the two plants spread away from each other. We shall see how it goes!
If you have some natural shade from any trees that could help tremendously.  Laying a hugel on contour or slightly downhill on a slope that you have graded so the area is flatter will also help it to hold moisture. Placing it on top of a slope in direct sunlight will mean you will need to water it a ton.  The coconut husks should be rather good mulch to keep in the moisture as well.

You could also run it east west instead and make it wider instead of longer so that some plants got morning sun and some got evening sun. I would plant the more drought tolerant, tough stuff on the evening sun side and the more tender stuff on the morning sun side. Most of my hugels are based on brush and are pretty wide as opposed to being long and straight like a cigar.

Make sure you have plenty of wood at the base to hold in moisture, and if you use brush on top of that--get on top of the pile and stamp it down. The less air pockets in the pile, the more moisture it will hold. Lots of compost and top soil if you have it and then mulch over the top of that. I have a very sunny side yard, though I am in NY so the temperature factors are not the same except in August.

Good luck!
4 years ago
As a student of biology I always have a good giggle at the idea that there is a "lack of scientific research" on a subject.

First, most modern research is ONLY undertaken if there is good funding. Where does that funding generally come from? Who does the research serve.

Second, if there is a commercial product that "contradicts" a free, non-patent applicable option, there will be plenty of research supporting the veracity of the commercial product and very little or no research into the free unpatented option. This is purposeful. No funding will be provided for grants to those who want to look into the opposition of a commercial product.

Why would there be no research into dynamic accumulators? Well, their use would threaten the interests of the modern fertilizer industry.

So, no funding goes to that research.

Grants and scholarships same thing. At our local horticulture school there is plenty of merit money from Scotts for horticulture students--they just have to be majoring in turf management....

Do dynamic accumulators work? Yes they do, because the biome web of soil works. As stated above--if you put a decaying item on the soil--it will be recycled. If your soil is full of life and mycorhrizae it will recycle the nutrients to the plants. Thats how the web of soil and plants works.

Great list--love that most of the weeds in my garden that are chop and dropped are on that list and full of nutrients...but as a wild forager, I already knew they were.
4 years ago
Peanuts are notoriously heavy feeders if you want really good harvests. While using it as a biomass cover crop may be appealing, to get good nuts, it needs a lot of nitrogen. Will be interested to see your end results on this one--after all, there is often a lot of difference between permaculture results and what commercial farmers say.
4 years ago
Definitely Oak Leaf Hydrangea.

It's funny, I have a ton of hydrangeas and they all do well in my Oak based forest soil, except for the Oak leaf hydrangea. I had one and it eventually died. I guess it doesn't like soil that is as acid as mind. They are beautiful though!
4 years ago
No on locust leaves--yes on the flowers as fritters...YUM!
4 years ago
Terrible tasting tincture?


place the tincture drops onto a spoonful of home made jam.

Problem solved

Did this for my kids, their echinachea tincture as kids was called super peach....
4 years ago
First, welcome to Permies!

Second, welcome to gardening!

It is definitely a learn as you go experience with permaculture, and this group is a fountain of knowledge.

Sounds to me like most of the plants you have are what is called a "heavy feeder," and this generally means that folks would fertilize them. Since most permaculture folks want to use what is on-site--aka in their yard, they generally use a top dressing (a shovel full in a ring around) of compost.

IF you do not have compost, but have weeds, clip them down and sprinkle those in a ring around your veggies. If you also have spent coffee grounds or day old coffee, you can pour that over the top of the "chop and drop" weeds and if you have some mulch or old leaves, put those over the top of that to help conserve water. Water all that to keep the mulch in place and you should be good to go. Remember not to use new wood chip mulch directly on soil as it sucks up the nitrogen that annual plants need to grow.

This is my process, and others may have different information for you, so I would sit tight and see if other great folks respond.

All the best! Alex
Giant ragweed is indeed edible and as a wild forager we looked for it in the fall, not for the leaves, but for the seeds, which are indeed useful not only for oil but as a flour/wheat substitute. There is more protein in ragweed and the flour is much more nutritious. Some folks have even experimented with growing fields of it to replace their wheat, but the harvesting is much more difficult I would think.

I can't answer your question about fiber crafts, but it would be interesting to see if it is possible. Good luck!
4 years ago
What a wonderful discussion, not because I have used identifiable biodynamic preparations, but because, as Redhawk shared, I too am connected to our blessed mother Sophia-Gaia deeply and as I tend the garden, I can feel her energy. It has been scientifically measured that the earth emits negative ions, and when we connect with bare feet and hands to the ground, it balances the body, which spends far too much time separated from these ions--think rubber soled shoes.

As a student of biology, it also strikes me when folks "discover" that getting dirty improves the immune system. In fact there is even a healing method that involves eating earth.  Getting our hands in the dirt and in contact with the earth's biome also improves mood. Without micro organisms we couldn't digest most foods!

I also love to tinker in the compost. I create brews from food scraps, coffee filters, dynamic accumulators and compost activators and put them into the big compost pile and dang it spikes the process. Not only that. It spikes the insect activity, which spikes the bird activity. In fact, the other day, I couldn't dig in the pile because a family of wrens was indignant that I would disturb their dinner of crawlies with a compost run!

One thing, being on a plot with 20 mature oaks-very old and over 100 feet tall each, I am very interested in the mychorizha relationship. I had one tree that was struggling and so I bedded its base with oak leaf mulch and sprinkled on some sterile soil that was innoculated with these fungal colonies. It took a few months to establish, but now the tree is thriving! Other trees already have the perfect balance as there are wild flowers like wintergreen and ghost pipe that will ONLY grow where the tree roots are that have the perfect fungal conditions. You can't even transplant these wild flowers or grow them from seed. They will only sprout in exactly the perfect place....and that is such a joy...and a sign that all is in balance in my space of love!

I am considering a round of compost tea to spray in my side yard that I am reclaiming after Hurricane Sandy damage--but I must first rid it of invasives and poison ivy--slow process, but on it goes...
4 years ago