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2014-01-04 at 1:09 am #36575
I realize there are many different styles and variations of hugelkulture beds.
I was wondering how long they take to congeal into a single unit on average where one really sees the benefits and beauty.
Also, how long, then, does it last before you’ll want to bolster it up with more fertilizing compost and earth? 5-7 years?
I’m also looking to understand more of the chemical balances of the beds. What if I just compost tea and homa therapy the crap out of pretty infertile soil? Are most of the nutrients truly harvested from the decomposing wood?
Thanks2014-01-04 at 5:48 am #36589
Thanks for posting on this topic–I can’t answer your questions, but I’m just starting to experiement with this myself as I’ve got a Poplar tree down in my yard–and very rocky ‘soil’, I figure I haven’t got a lot to loose. . .but I’d love more info from people who have had these in for several years.2014-01-05 at 8:26 am #36809
About 15 years ago we dumped a huge amount of tree trimmings and wood chips down in our lower meadow. We didn’t add any dirt or cover the pile at all so this wasn’t exactly hugelkuture as described in the course but that pile of wood became incredibly productive. When it was first placed, all the small birds in the area loved it. There were gaps in the brush where they flitted in an out and I suspect a great many nests were established. The birds brought blackberry seeds to the pile. After the first winter blackberry plants began to grow there and eventually took it over completely. It became a summer destination for berry picking and we’ve picked gallons and gallons of berries there for the last 14 years. The pile (which was probably 6 feet high to start) has finally subsided to ground level leaving beautiful, dark, rich soil.
That pile wasn’t managed by us at all other than the initial dump. The decomposition of the wood created all the new soil necessary and it was never fertilized by anything other than the birds, leaf fall, and whatever else fell from the sky. I’ll bet a managed pile could grow anything you wanted without a lot of inputs although I think water would be important. We average about 46 inches a year.2014-01-05 at 2:10 pm #36908
The rotting wood tends to hold nutrients and water like a sponge. It also allows for the growth of beneficial fungi, which can draw nutrients from wide areas and feed them to plant roots.2014-01-05 at 9:52 pm #37006
Good to know–some of the websites out there make it seem quite technical. I suppose you can always make it better, but it’s good to see that it’s a natural process. . .2014-01-10 at 6:09 am #38302
am not an expert but my understanding is that you boost / add all the time by chop and dropping straight onto the soil organic material especially as plants begin to grow materials that came from the bed which hold the nutrients taken from the bed plus sunlight effect and so will return those nutrients back to the bed
Also that larger the wood core – hugel means huge by the way and you can make small wood core beds but a hugel bed seems to be about 6 foot high when started – so high that many enthusiasts incorporate a small path running along the top – have been planning a couple of these for a while now – am hoping the wood will be coming in over next few week please god :L
have heard it said that during the first year there is a nitrogen lock up but that should not be a problem if you have used old manure in the layers to cover the wood core
video discussing 6 foot high beds lasting 25 years!!! I think eventually the beds start to collapse in on themselves but suppose by then you can begin to refill the dips with wood again
i tried a couple of wood core beds last year – but from finding more videos, i realise now that the amount of wood i used was pathetic
still it was all i had at the time
am now cruising for as much as i can get – parks arbours department guy doesn believe me still claims i will get overwhelmed by the amount that will come in but i am still waiting so… maybe they have started to realise there is gold in them thar hills .. fingers crossed – i know they are going to try a few beds themselves
one giant tyres was filled with off cuts of log and beam some of it burnt, maybe 30% wood, 30% leaves, 20% compost, 20 % manure plus some kitchen waste and a wood chip / broken slate mulch on top
the marrow which grew there was amazing, producing giant squash after giant squash after giant squash and the beautiful wee plant was still producing new courgettes way after the first frosts!! and lasted for 20 odd days before needing water during the heat spell (I did add a little more old manure mulch after the first frost because it seemed so valiant and thought it might give a little warming effect)
other tyres were mostly filled with compost, manure and some leaves and a few twigs
they did pretty great with cucumber and sme ornamental gourds (seedlings got mixed up and the ornamentals won :L a well they were interesting)
we even had a small melon until local kids nicked it for a football
other beds were mix of maybe 40% compost 30% leaves and 30$manure
the middle bed didn’t do so well (i personally didn’t fill that one so not sure if the mix was the same as the other beds, or whether something else was going on) but generally courgettes, marrows and cucumbers were great
Maize grew high and got silks but not much fruit – perhaps we did not harvest correctly – think i may have read you should take the first cob quickly to bring on more and these were left to ripen
or perhaps the beds were too dry – even though built early march, they were clearly dry in may and despite a good soaking again in june and eventually had to take a mains hose to them for hours and hours
the tomatoes were blighted as well – always a problem with this project
have been trying to get in some calcium for years but keep being told that this not the organic /permi way – shrug – has always worked for me
so am looking for helpful refs – how do permies get calcium in the soil? and found a vid which said even to chuck in old bags of hardened cement mix so maybe that is what i will try – since we have a number of these on site and may be able to get more plus other cement debris
have asked for pigeon droppings and even considered buying a bag of plaster from the builders (am used to digging in a handful along with couple of forks of manure and any kitchen waste / organic matter available, to the bottom of a trench, as i break up the hard clay pan below, banging on the potatoe seed and filling in with shovellings from next trench – delighted to see that this is not a sin in an urban space cos i actually find it quite therapeutic but use fork not spade to loosen soil then shovel it out so as not to kill any worms that might be at large
I have done this every year for 3 years in one garden and the last year the plants smelled heavenly – however i shall try the permi way and just do it once to deepen the soil and try the chop and drop – o it is hard though
invested in a huge bag of gravel last year to use for seedling mulch
am wondering if this might be an alternative to buying in rockdust / calcim
it was quite an expensive resource so reluctant to dole it out willy nilly
perhaps a handful at the base of each plant
Am thinking about digging out a few of the new beds that got so dry and put in a large wood core this year – if the project can get enough wood – so much to do and we are already near end of Jan help ma boab 🙂
dont you just love it 🙂 yaay 🙂2014-09-09 at 1:29 pm #53370
Here in Ramshyttan, Sweden, we built a hugelkultur last year after being shown at the Nordic Permaculture Festival how to construct one. We used a LOT of decaying mycelium-covered timber, a huge amount of twigs and leaves, loads of earthworm-rich broken-down horse manure, plenty of volcanic rockdust, topsoil from the forest edge where the local authority had scraped clean old ditches, and some old bales of rotting hay and ensilage. All this was built up in layers and we topped it all with plenty of straw to suppress grass etcetera. Much rain fell and the whole hugelkulture got pretty well soaked. This spring and summer we were away in Africa for some months and not much planting took place. Amazingly the whole hk shrunk markedly. The few seeds we did plant just exploded. The soil is clearly VERY alive. Now that summer is coming to an end I plan to built the hk up a little with more of the same and to plant it fully next spring. If anyone is interested I have a series of photographs of the whole exercise. Regards Roland. email firstname.lastname@example.org at 8:37 pm #53526
I too put a Hugelculture bed down 2 years ago but made the mistake of placing it under the big oak trees and the logs have not broken down though all the topsoil and mulch has, there is now just a small amount of dirt on the smaller logs and vermin living in the nice tunnels down there…that was one mistake…many more to come I am sure! LOL2014-09-16 at 8:43 pm #53527
Moira maybe if you have a limestone quarry neaby you could get the dust from them. Also marble cutters have lots of dust (stonemason?) free for asking. I have bags of marble dust from a stonecutter that I use sparingly on my compost heaps.2014-09-25 at 8:04 am #53606
Hey, hugelkultur is a great way to start hands on stuff in permaculture. I the last 9 months, I had the chance to build 8 (3 in Morocco, and 5 in France) on very different sites (mediterranean, atlantic, continental, and… Paris !!!).
There are three things I want to share as a feedback form this very limited experience :
One, it is essential to fill all the gaps when you lay your rotten wood at the base of the hugel. If you don’t do it properly, many things can happen that you don’t necessarily want, such as : rich top soil falling in the gaps too soon (when heavy rain comes) in the process, air “rooms” forming or else “inhabitants” deciding to live there… Also, when you feel like composting your kitchen scraps in the hugel, it is probably better to have a dense structure under the spot where you want to bury them and not sticks and holes.
Second, on the 8 hugels, 3 have produced amazing results in terms of health, growth speed, and taste (For the 4 remaining ones, I don’t have news yet) This leads me to think that hugels can become productive from day one, no doubt about it !
Finally, the hugels (3) on which I have set up a very basic electro-culture system (chickenwire north and a copper antenna south) appeared to be clearly more productive than the others. What I mean here is that electro-culture associated with a hugel brings great results : size and health of leaves than of vegetables themselves.
Hope this humble feedback helps in a way or another.
Mo2014-10-24 at 7:44 am #54402
Update–the mini hk we built this spring had a base of about 20-30 cm of wood–rotted and recently felled poplar plus leaves, sticks, manure and finally soil. We should have put even more soil on top at times we ran into ‘hard spots’ as we were planting. Also, the not-rotted poplar began sending off shoots which we had to pull up several times!
Honestly, at first we thought it was going to be a bust because we ran out of time to put enough soil on top before my husband and I ran into health problems–we just planted it and crossed our fingers. For the first few months things seemed to move quite slowly, but now it looks pretty good–a number of plants got bigger than I thought they would this summer and I realized I hadn’t left enough space. I mostly planted perenials as I’m using the bed as a way to trap water on its way downhill near a cherry tree–a variety of nitrogen fixers, herbs, perenial veggies, herbs, insectiaries and a few anuals: California poppy, mustard, swiss chard, green beans, onions. I won’t say the plants were huge–but in our climate and poor soil things are doing very well there–except the currants (black, red and white) none of these seem to thrive anywhere in our garden!!2014-12-11 at 8:27 am #55099
Is it possible to incorporate a huglekultur garden in a swale? I have crumbling mountain face hills (one which is washing out our driveway slowly which can’t be moved). Im not even sure we could dig a swale into my ancient disappearing mountian. Any ideas to help catch the run off would be great!2014-12-12 at 12:20 am #55109
It is technically possible to turn the berms of a swale into hugelkultur berms, however, it is probably not the best thing to do in your case. Crumbling mountain slopes can be dangerous and you don’t want to put stuff (lumber for the hugel bed etc) there that will end up stumbling down in the next rainy episode… “Ancient disappearing mountain” sounds dangerous to me. Are you saying that you live next to a slope that is eroding ? If it is the case, swales or hugelbeds are the last thing to do at the bottom. You may want to work the problem from the top of the “mountain” and slow runoff as high as possible to avoid that it speeds up and turns into an eroding destructive watershed.
Again, I’m very far from being an expert, but a podcast I listened to about hugelkultur on The Permaculture Podcast by Scott Man gives great advice and warns against the tendency to want to hugelkultur everywhere…
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