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Wed Sep 20, 2017, 10:18 PM

Thinking about experimenting with the Hugelkultur method of gardening

The big house is located on 5 lots with one lot wooded and there's brush in the eastern part of the ditch. I already have a couple of brush piles. The garden is located in clay soil and with the runoff from the hills east of the property, the whole back yard can stay wet for weeks when the snow melts which delays planting. I figured raised beds would solve the wetness problem and using the Hugelkultur method would also get rid of the brush piles. Killing two birds with one stone so to speak.

I'm not going big such as building 6 foot high mounds. I'm going to go small such as shown in the linked video below by digging a trench about a foot or more deep and 3 feet wide filled with branches mixed with mulched leaves and cut up cardboard ( I have a lot of that to get rid of too.) for the base with that topped by turned over sod and then that topped by a mixture of compost and the soil I dug out of the trench.

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Has anyone else here tried this or is thinking about trying it? If so, what are your thoughts about Hugelkultur?

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Response to Kaleva (Original post)

Thu Sep 21, 2017, 12:07 AM

1. I love this idea. Hope to hear how it works out for you over time. I'm a flower gardener

on an acre (minus the house) of semi-wooded land on the edge of a tiny forest. All but the top few inches of most of my soil is compacted red clay. In nearly every area I've planted, I've had to dig out and replace or heavily augment the dirt.

For the past 4 years or so I've been digging deep and putting fallen branches & twigs, along with bark, shredded leaves & kitchen waste in the bottom of the smallish excavations. In some cases--in the heaviest, most compacted areas--I've ended up with the dreaded bathtub effect (It will be years before the material breaks down enough of the surrounding soil to improve drainage.)

But in most cases, some immediate improvement is apparent. If nothing else, it allows me to utilize the organic matter.

My efforts at vegetable gardening have thus far been thwarted by an overabundance of hungry critters. But I do expect within the next couple of years to have the resources to fence and net in a veggie patch. I plan to prep the beds using Hugelkultur pretty much as you describe using.

I'm also hoping to build a keyhole garden for veggies.

https://www.niftyhomestead.com/blog/keyhole-garden/

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Response to Dark n Stormy Knight (Reply #1)

Fri Sep 22, 2017, 03:25 AM

3. I know I'll also be digging up enough rocks to make a keyhole garden!

Or at least enough for a good start on one. A keyhole garden may be an interesting feature to add to the garden. It doesn't have to be for vegetables. It could be used as a flower bed with a compost bin incorporated into it.

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Response to Kaleva (Original post)

Thu Sep 21, 2017, 01:13 AM

2. Never heard of it

But it looks a lot like lasagna gardening. I do that.

My first thought when watching the video was---they are BURYING kindling!

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Response to Bayard (Reply #2)

Fri Sep 22, 2017, 03:27 AM

4. I looked into lasagna gardening but with this method, I can use up the brush piles

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Response to Kaleva (Original post)

Thu Sep 28, 2017, 12:31 PM

5. Update

Have dug out a 36' long by 3' wide by 1' deep trench. Still have a foot deper to dig but I'm pleased with the progress I've made so far.

The trench runs north and south with the sod piled on the east side and the first foot of dirt that contains roots is on the west side. The final foot of dirt whic doesn't have roots in it I'll toss on the east side over and past the sod.

When the trench is deep enough, I'll lay down cardboard at the bottom, cover that with branches cut to fit and mulched leaves until I reach ground level. On top of that will be the sod followed by the dirt that has the roots in it of which I'll try as much as possible to remove first. That will be covered with the root free dirt mixed with compost and that will be covered with mulched leaves.

Before I put the sod and dirt back, I'll build a perimeter frame out of old cement blocks of which I can have as many as I need for nothing but the time and labor involved in getting them. As the mound will be at least 2' high, I'll need 3 rows of 8" block. About 224 blocks. Or maybe I'll just dig down another 8 inches cutting the block I need by about 1/3.

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Response to Kaleva (Original post)

Fri Sep 29, 2017, 01:22 PM

6. Looks like a great idea. I'm a bit too decrepit

to do all that digging. I use cardboard and mulch on top. I save my grass clippings and turn the pile a few times a year and then in spring, I have more dirt to put on the beds and places I'm working to create more beds.

I have to admit, I still burn brush.

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Response to Kaleva (Original post)

Wed Oct 11, 2017, 11:34 PM

7. Update 10/12

Finally have the 36' long by 3' wide trench dug down to a desired depth of 2 1/2'. With 8" cement block forming a border on the surface, this will give me a total height of about 3' which I've read in a number of sites is about the minimum for a hugelkulture bed. I've laid down pieces of cardboard at the bottom and soon will be adding the branches from the brush pile.

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Response to Kaleva (Reply #7)

Wed Oct 18, 2017, 12:35 AM

8. I'm intriged by the idea, but not sure I can get a 2.5' deep trench before hitting ledge.

Or just enough stone to blow out my back. Just the effort to terrace the hillside to install my raised beds was a massive effort. The deeper I go the more and more stone (gravel, rocks, etc) I encounter. It's clear the early settlers had the same issue and built stone walls everywhere to get rid of it.

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Response to Kaleva (Original post)

Sat Oct 21, 2017, 02:38 PM

9. i have used this extensively at my farm. planning a new pile this fall.

i started out w very little shitty, sandy soil, and a large hole from the house that had once been on the site.

you will be amazed how quickly it settles and rots. my piles were 4' high, and they have sunk by half in 4 years.
find someone in tree service in your area if you can, and make the base of some big logs. use plenty of woodchips to fill in. they will rot down to great soil in a couple years.

especially if you are using it to divert/soak up water, go as big as you can. i dont know how i would have done it w/o my bobcat. but go as big as you can.

one thing i didnt do that i plan to do this time is to seed the top layer heavily w shrooms. oysters are the go to because they are not that picky about species.
depending on the wood i get i might add others.
a heavy layer of straw on top might let you grow some wine caps.
fungi will help you a great deal. many types came in on the wood i used, so we are pretty lousy w mycelium.
but i plan to try to jump the new one w some good cash crop.

good luck.

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Response to mopinko (Reply #9)

Mon Oct 23, 2017, 03:46 AM

10. I'm going about as big as I can handle

The wife doesn't want large mounds in the back yard so I dug down. By hand with a shovel.

I'm hoping on starting this week on filing in the trench with brush cut, using a hand saw or shears, to a length that fits in the wheelbarrow. I don't have access to wood chips or straw but I I do have lots of leaves which I'll mulch and mix in, along with compost with the soil near the top and also cover the raised bed. I have already tossed in quite a bit of cardboard from which I have removed tape and labels.

Your point about how much the mound settles is interesting. I better not get rid off all the excess soil as I may need some to add to the bed to compensate for settling.

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Response to Kaleva (Reply #10)

Mon Oct 23, 2017, 09:02 AM

11. well

as far as i understand it, if there is no wood, it isnt hugelkultur.
from you description, i would try to get at least a truckload of woodchips.
easier for me in a city full of trees. when i started, i just listened for chainsaws. then they started coming to me.
start calling tree removal contractors. they are usually happy to dump for free.
maybe the nearest municipality would bring you some.
i would try to at least get a layer of log for the bottom.

your materials will be rotted down in a year.

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Response to mopinko (Reply #11)

Mon Oct 23, 2017, 12:41 PM

12. I'm using brush from a couple of brush piles for the wood.

I'll be cutting the brush into short lengths with pruning shears and a handdsaw so it will lay down in the trench much more compactly.

I live right next to the woods and have access to other wooded property but I just don`t have the physical ability to handle logs or blocks of wood anymore. Brush I can handle.

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Response to Kaleva (Original post)

Sat Apr 7, 2018, 09:18 AM

13. I love it!

I started hugelkulture twice. The first time (I garden in a community garden), and I changed plots, and dismantled by hugel pile.
I started one last fall, and it is still in my plot, but I may dismantle it, bec. I need the room.

so I'll be interested to hear how you do with yours...

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Response to ellenrr (Reply #13)

Tue Apr 10, 2018, 07:59 AM

15. Last year at this time, the snow was gone and the lawns green

This year we still have several inches of snow on the ground but I'm really looking forward to being able to work on the garden again!

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Response to Kaleva (Original post)

Mon Apr 9, 2018, 03:33 PM

14. I have some beds that are 4 years old.

I dug pits so that the end result were raised beds and most of the bed is below ground. That means I donít have as much planting space as a traditional hugel but i was going more for the water retention features of hugels.

I like them- I donít have to water much. After a few years, Iíve needed to add more soil as they sunk down.

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Response to MissB (Reply #14)

Tue Apr 10, 2018, 08:01 AM

16. The excess dirt I'll have will be piled in a corner of the wooded lot

Dirt I'll use to compensate for the sinking of the ground as the wood rots.

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Response to Kaleva (Original post)

Thu Aug 9, 2018, 09:40 PM

17. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel on this project.

I got the entire brush pile cut up and put in the trench and back filled with dirt up to ground level this spring. Later, when setting up fence posts for the new, 1800+ sq. ft. garden, I quickly discovered the trench I had dug was off kilter in relation to the house, storage building and north property line. I also didn't want any part of the northern section of the garden to be in a low area of the yard so I shifted the line south which lost me a few feet of the now filled in trench. It was originally 36' long but I had also increased the width of the trench from 3' to 4' and kept the depth to 2 1/2' before filling in with cut brush and dirt.

My youngest stepson was doing some remodeling on his house and had removed an old deck from which I salvaged a number of 2 X 6 boards. With that, I built the frame of a 31 1/2' long, going north and south, by 4' wide by 11" high raised bed. Earlier this summer, I got several garbage cans of grass clippings from a brother's place that I mow for him and dumped that and spread out in the bottom of the raised bed. I fluffed this up every so often as it decomposed and am now filling the raised bed with the dirt I had originally dug out so long ago it now seems. Starting at the southern end, I have 8' of the raised bed filled in so far. A rather slow process as I'm picking out all rock and small stones before tossing the dirt in the raised bed.

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