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edmolina

Hugelkultur - Anyone try it?

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Given all the recent talk of Permaculture and my own time watching youtube videos on the same, I came across the concept of Huglekultur. It's basically soil/compost/mulch over wood to form a raised bed that will give the benefits of water retention, organic matter, increased biological activity, etc... Has anyone built one of these beds, and if so, what are your experiences?

 

Anyway, here are some videos explaining the concept...

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I've read glowing reports about it.  It seems almost counter-intuitive with all of that buried wood.  I would have thought that it would lead to a shortage of nitrogen but evidently that doesn't happen.

Gary

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I've read glowing reports about it.  It seems almost counter-intuitive with all of that buried wood.  I would have thought that it would lead to a shortage of nitrogen but evidently that doesn't happen.

Gary

 

It most certainly did happen in my case. I believe it happened mainly because the wood I used was pretty green. I experienced terrible growth the first year and had to irrigate. The second year was comparable production (without irrigation) to my irrigated field and the third year was nuts.

 

I had a pumpkin come up as a volunteer and that thing just took off. 1 single vine produced at least 20 carving sized pumpkins and the vines spread to a size of about 50x15 feet solid. Nothing else could get a foothold. My chickens loved it. An entire flock (like 15 hens and a roo) could disappear into it and happily forage all day. You couldn't even see them except for the occasional head popping out to see what was up. Amazing.

 

This will be it's 4th year. I'm thinking about just spreading wildflowers for the bees and forage for the chickens. I just dumped a 50 foot windrow of compost on it. :) 

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Several years ago, we grew pumpkins…..by accident.   We just dumped food scraps for our chickens and it just happened to be down the hill from my aquaculture systems.  We were always dumping water (we had 13,000 litres of rainwater) and it would run down into this patch that grew wild for most of the year.  

 

We harvested the pumpkins (about four trailer loads in total) most of which were hidden in the grass.  We gave pumpkins away to food banks, Meals-on-Wheels, family and workmates to the point where they were heartily sick of them.

 

The other thing that I recall grew like weeds (literally) were cherry tomatoes.

 

All of which has nothing to do with Hugelkultur - but I'm in a reminiscing frame of mind.  Our island is sub-tropical so we don't need hugelkultur but I might have to make one anyway.

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I've read glowing reports about it.  It seems almost counter-intuitive with all of that buried wood.  I would have thought that it would lead to a shortage of nitrogen but evidently that doesn't happen.

Gary

One of the videos that I watched mentioned that first year results may not be spectacular because of the heavy nitrogen demand of the decomposing wood. Other videos suggested adding manures (green or animal) over the wood to offset the nitrogen depletion effect.

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Hi Ed

 

Given all the recent talk of Permaculture and my own time watching youtube videos on the same, I came across the concept of Huglekultur. It's basically soil/compost/mulch over wood to form a raised bed that will give the benefits of water retention, organic matter, increased biological activity, etc... Has anyone built one of these beds, and if so, what are your experiences?

I'w buildt a few hugelculture bed's by now, "allmost" finished 3 last summer.

But no experience with them only time will tell, I have taken some pics but nothing to show yet, if/when all planted, fixed, finished, growing & working well, it might be nice to have the pics to show how the beds where buildt .

 

 

Hi Sam

Thanks, I'v been outside *building* hugel culture beds http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/ not as to drawings mine are more inground,

 

 

cheers

Edited by ande (see edit history)

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Went to visit someone last year who was experimenting with it. More work than I'm interested in.  I'll stick to my wicking beds and rabbit poo compost. At my age, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

I hear ya Sam. I'm still at a point where I like to experiment and don't mind the work. The thought of not having to irrigate, ever, is rather appealing. We get a good amount of rain, but do have some weeks with little rain and a lot of sun. A nice "sponge" reservoir might eliminate the need for any additional watering. I do have two issues with trying this out:

  1. I'm not too keen on disturbing my soil beds - been adding compost, mulch and cover crop for years and the only tilling is the minor disturbance from my chickens cleaning up the beds at the start and end of the seasons.
  2. Getting logs may be a bit of a challenge in my area. I could ask a tree trimmer to save me some cuts, but transporting wood introduces the possibility of introducing pests.

Ande, I look forward to hearing of your progress and seeing pics if they become available. Wish you success!

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Hi,

 

Would there be any benefit to be had from lining the pit with plastic before placing the logs into it?  

 

Can anyone think of problems that would arise?

 

My thinking is that the water would be trapped in the pit and would accelerate the decomposition of the wood.

Gary

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Gary,

 

Part of the reason that this appeals to me is that it doesn't require the introduction of man made materials that sit there forever. I would think that if you put in plastic, you're better off going with a wicking bed. Seems to me that decomposing wood, trapped with water within a plastic envelope would make for a stinky mess. Also, many of the videos that I watched highlighted that having the wood last a long time is preferred. Basically a sponge reservoir that provides a good environment for microbiology and accelerating the process would serve to undermine this.

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I've built arid climate sandy soil versions - wood is buried underground in a pit lined with clay.  in hot dry climates raised beds are the last thing you want - need to keep things cooler and wetter - the concept comes from europe where warming up the soil earlier in the season is of use and things are often too wet and need drainage.

 

I only built mine last year, so time will tell - as above, I think they take a few years for the wood to break down a bit and fully get going - and that is assuming its wet enough down there for microflora to do there thang.  

 

Too early to say for me - they are growing stuff (had a 15kg watermelon out of one bed :) ) .  For me part of it was using carbon I had on site - I had just chopped down a big tree and had wood coming out my cloaca so this was one way of 'disposing' of it in a productive manner.   I would not do it if I didn't have the wood lying around - I'd just go the wicking bed route.

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:)

 

Thats a good approach IMO Gary - Its important with any technique to understand the context from whence it came, and from where it is applied.  If the context is different it may not work.  

 

Herb spirals are a  classic example (often touted in PC circles) - they do not work in hot dry WA as they are just to hot and dry - they may work as a sunken spiral, but would be a bugger to pick!

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Great point Matt. I'm in the NE US with plenty of rainfall and my priority would be to heat up and dry out the beds as early as possible. Spring can be very damp and raised beds, even if not by much can make a significant difference. An arid climate, such as yours, would be a whole different ballgame, and sunken beds would likely be the way to go...

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Gary, the main point of the wood is to absorb water early in the season, to be released later when the plants need it and it's raining less. Adding plastic or a layer to trap water is like trying to help the wood do the job. In my experience, if something does a job well, let it be.

A cool play I've found for this is to create hugel-swales. You bury the wood on contour so that your swale holds a ton of water so you can grow directly down from it. The downside is that because the wood uptakes water you don't hydrate the land far down from the swale as with traditional earthworks. Thus these work better as small, dense earthworks. Very good for a small garden, as vast amounts of water can be diverted into the first or a series of hugel-swales, water harvesting at its finest.

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Hi ed

 

Ande, I look forward to hearing of your progress and seeing pics if they become available. Wish you success!

I scimed thru some unedited pics on the pc, and found some from a hybrid hugel/sand-earth-bed/filter well build

A ongoing project so I have no idea on performance, other than it works nice as a polishing filter for source water, wich is the main goal  (restoring the well in center)

post-968-0-41778400-1423165225_thumb.jpg

you can se the birch logs on the outside of the safty fence, making a inground svale hugelbed

post-968-0-90163300-1423165662_thumb.jpg

The cartyre in the down left corner is a marker for my grey water outlet a inground infiltration system runing paralell between the "road" and the hugel svale

Both have good clay lining and can not overflow to the "well".

 

A pic in the opposite direction logs a temporary buried you can see the same tyre-marker

post-968-0-42451200-1423166901_thumb.jpg

post-968-0-92011200-1423167100_thumb.jpg

 

fine  filtersand around the well

 

corsar sand for faster drainage down to the fine layer

 

 

more to come

Edited by ande (see edit history)

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covering the fine sand with teratex (terain textile) bilboard tarp around the wellhead

post-968-0-43212300-1423168650_thumb.jpg

 

sealing wellhead with a clay layer

post-968-0-32522800-1423169188_thumb.jpg

 

covering the clay layer with bilboard tarp to secure it from drying in drought and wash out during flod and finaly avoid surface water entering directly in to the well

post-968-0-77552500-1423169535_thumb.jpgpost-968-0-45093300-1423169831_thumb.jpg

 

A top cover of well draining soil/peat/sand my " sand-earthan bed" hybrid

 

post-968-0-03874300-1423170410_thumb.jpg

 

 

post-968-0-33995500-1423170765_thumb.jpg

 

the pic was of the muscovy not to document the build hehe

 

more to come

 

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winter pics showing how the under ground water hugel svale drains & heat the soil (snow/ice)

 

post-968-0-75073700-1423171314_thumb.jpg

 

 

 

post-968-0-00268400-1423171450_thumb.jpgpost-968-0-33224000-1423171624_thumb.jpg

 

in this pic you can see the log at the surface

post-968-0-68159300-1423171945_thumb.jpg

 

the project is not near finished still need a truck load of sand to avoid the chesspool

Then the final toping soil/sand/peat mix

the plan is to transfer some blueberrys I have, and maybe a wallnut tree or two ?

 

as I said not much to show yet, but on your request (edmolina) that was what I could coughf up now out of unedited pics in the pc.

If all works out as planed, I will make a better documentation

I have loads of pics & video stored in a separate pic harddisk

 

 

cheers

Edited by ande (see edit history)

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Hi Ande,

 

A good graphic illustration of the effectiveness of such earthworks.

 

You're a brave man showing that photo with the exposed butt crack.   You'll have to beat those big Norwegian amazons off with a stick if they get a hold of that image. :)

 

Gary

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I used a similar approach to our water battery terraces, which are basically retaining walls on contour, with a swale on the uphill side, and back-filled with branches, organic matter and soil against the rock wall.  We got the pigs to do the majority of the leveling, and the chickens to spread the organic matter.  So far, it's been really good.  It is completely green right now, coming out of winter, and it hasn't had a drop of water since October.  I have all sorts of trees, shrubs, plants, and vines planted, everything is doing well.  It produced a good bit of food last year and even through the winter, can't wait to see what it will do this year.  If I had the ability, I'd do my whole property like this!

 

http://velacreations.com/howto/forest-garden-howto/

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