Fruit trees in new hugelkulture bed

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Bob Campbell, Oct 5, 2013.

  1. Bob Campbell

    Bob Campbell Junior Member

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    Is it okay to plant fruit trees in a new hugelkulture bed or should I wait for the wood to decompose first?
     
  2. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Is your hugelkultur bed the best place on your property for fruit trees? Is now the right season for planting fruit trees in your climate regardless of which bed they are going in?
     
  3. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    More questions: What type of wood? Freshly cut or older? Soil? pH? Climate? Ratio of wood to soil?
     
  4. Bob Campbell

    Bob Campbell Junior Member

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    Mulberry, fresh cut in March, 1/3 sand, 1/3 compost, 1/3 garden dirt, pH = 7, Zone 8, 2' wood topped with 1' soil
     
  5. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    Interesting you took the time to add compost, I added compost to three hugelbeds last year and planted it right away with berry bushes. The bushes didn't grow too well this past summer, because I didn't take the time to learn the pH of the local county made compost, which was over 8! I am of the belief it will become more acidic as the wood decomposes, we shall see. I have five of them going here in Planting Zone 5.

    Is it humid? Dry? Is the wood below grade? Are you aware the wood will use up nitrogen as it decomposes?

    My first reaction is you should plant cover crops that fix nitrogen as soon as the bed is finished, and plant trees before the rainy season. I have now started planting Locust trees, that fix nitrogen and produce a bean that could be composted or fed to farm animals. I am going to prune it heavy and add the leaves and branches to the top of the bed for mulch. This action will feed nitrogen to your fruit trees.

    How about trying these plants too?

    https://www.oikostreecrops.com/Blue-Bean------------------------------/p-148-1018/

    This link also has other nitrogen-fixers listed, and may be able to give you some ideas.

    More Zone 8 nitrogen-fixers here:

    https://tcpermaculture.blogspot.com/2011/05/plants-nitrogen-fixers.html
     
  6. Bob Campbell

    Bob Campbell Junior Member

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    I planted a summer garden and now have it planted with leafy greens. Except or corn the new hugelkulture garden did well this summer.
    I think the corn needed more nitrogen and failed due to nitrogen drawdown. If I go ahead with the fruit trees I'll add some more mycorrhiza and supplement nitrogen if it appears to be lacking. I have a good top soil and the hugelkulture should mature within the next two years.

    I have an second area where I could plant the fruit trees but it's a lawn right now. I've been thinking hugelulture could be accelerated by using compost rather than logs as I did before. Do you think that would work? Am I correct to assume hugelkulture is ideal for fruit trees?
     
  7. mouseinthehouse

    mouseinthehouse Junior Member

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    We just dug a hole, dumped about 2000 second hand books in, shovelled on some very aged broken down organic matter from around our old gum trees (which had mycorrhiza in it). soaked it all well, then filled and heaped up the soil and planted two fruit trees on it. :) I am so not into over thinking stuff. It grows or it dies. Either way I learn something. Worst case scenario: I lose $50. :)
     
  8. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    Can't think of any reason why trees won't grow in a hugelkultur right away. But mixing in nitrogen fixers will hurry the process along. Methinks.

    My first two hugelbeds made last year stayed rather dry this summer and needed to be watered regularly to keep the berry bushes alive.

    That typed, if your goal is to establish trees with minimal inputs, then I would plant tough nitrogen-fixers, plants, bushes, and trees, waiting to plant fruit trees after the nitros are established. Then once a year pruning the nitros and feeding them to the fruities.

    But if you love to work this method and care for it regularly, like you would a garden, by adding what the fruit trees need, subtracting what they have too much of - then you can plant whatever your loving heart desires! IMNSHO
     
  9. Mirrabooka

    Mirrabooka Junior Member

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    I built a 20 meter long, 1/2 metre high row of timber covered with wood chips, across the contour, then a cavity about a metre across and 30 cm deep, every 5 metres, then back filled the bare rooted fruit tree with soil, and the resulting trees have never looked back. I did not bother to cover the timber/woodchip row with soil, rather have attempted to replicate nature (which does not cover the forest floor with soil). No irrigation needed, but for us last year during a very wet winter, drainage was great for the heap, where fruit trees were previously threatened with drowning.

    Steve Solomon still suggests a soil test, and I will get around to checking the soil beneath the row for mineral deficiencies in due course.
     
  10. Mirrabooka

    Mirrabooka Junior Member

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    Steve Solomon (the Intelligent Gardener) would caution that growing anything in soil needs a soil test to check for the mineral deficiency growth stunting effect, thus poorly growing veggies are mineral deficiency affected till proved otherwise.

    Arborists insist a layer of mulch ON soil does not generate a nitrogen deficiency, but mixing mulch INTO soil will, and risk soil disease, so I doubt soil ON timber/mulch piles will generate nitrogen deficiencies in the soil,.... get a soil test before wasting time and money on supplementing in the dark.
     
  11. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    Ok, so mixing mulch into soil causes nitrogen deficiencies, but the decomposing wood from trees under soil does not? I don't think so. But I do like the bark over wood idea. Matter-of-fact, I built something similar this year to check it out for my self. I also have bark over soil over wood. Bark over compost over wood. Sod over soil over wood. What is planted would also be important considerations.

    And testing soil one knows nothing about is ok. Very good for the testers, anyway. But a program of making and adding compost with adding varied organic materials as mulch to a soil with worms will work out. Course, some plants do better with certain deficiencies too... Lots of variables, and as Bill has said, the soil is always changing.

    I also don't buy the notion that the humus on the forest floor is not considered soil. But thats just me. :)
     
  12. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Yeah but many arborists don't even plant nitrogen fixing bushes under the trees let alone anything else to help the soil.

    Actually, visiting almond, apple & other tree farms tends to make me disgusted with the practices of commercial growers, and of many micro farms, but that is where education comes in for the masses.
     
  13. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    Rick, it is all about how much carbon surface area is in contact with the soil (the nitrogen source). if you mix shredded high carbon materials into the soil then the microbes/fungi/etc will be in a nitrogen deficiency state until the carbon gets broken down somewhat and then the nitrogen is returned. if you just bury a chunk of wood in the soil then the surface area in contact with the soil is much reduced and the critters that break it down will take much longer to get through the outer layers inwards, etc. that is why all methods are not equal for constructing a hugelkulture bed and why some people have troubles with them.

    another reason is how big they are made, if they are made too small then they will dry out quicker and not perform as well over the long term. these are structures meant to last 8-15 years before redoing is needed. one other problem is if the wood is placed incorrectly relative to grade and the prevalent water situation. if the water is plentiful then the wood can be placed above grade, but if water is more scarce the wood should be below grade.


    soil scientist classifications...

    i have done layers and side by side comparisons of mixing wood chips into the soil. here is a picture that shows the difference between mixing and planting into the mix directly vs. putting just a few inches of dirt on top of the mix.

    the pea plants to the left are struggling, the pea plants to the right are doing just fine.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2018
  14. Ian

    Ian New Member

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    Has anyone considered using plain old grass clippings under their trees, especially citrus, if concerned about loss of nitrogen. I am lucky, in that, I have a neighbor who has manicured lawns and he gives us all his grass clippings, weed free, some of which I compost and some I just place under the fruit trees. As for the grass around our place, I compost the whole lot, just because of weeds
     
  15. Ian

    Ian New Member

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    Which is which, are the ones growing well, using the topsoil ? Thanks
     
  16. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    the ones on the right had a layer of topsoil on top of the wood chips.
    i.e. they grew better.at first, but by the time the season was done
    there wasn't much difference between the plantings. i think it just
    shows that peas like many other garden plants are not woodland/
    fungal plants and since we know the species that does nitrogen
    fixation on the roots is a bacteria that makes sense.

    since then i've taken more time to layer my materials (most often i
    have clay, wood ashes, leaves/twigs, partially decayed wood chips).
    i put down leaves on the bottom to give me more elevation so the
    leaves will be more compressed by everything above them and
    then i layer the soil and other things on top along with more leaves.
    in a few years the bottom leaves are leaf mould and nice to have
    if i need them and i know where they are at. the worms then also
    have a place to hide in the heat of the summer or the cold of the
    winter.

    (uh, wow this thread has stuck around :) )
     
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  17. Ian

    Ian New Member

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    Thanks for the reply, and lets hope the world as we know it sticks around aswell :)
     
  18. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    I used to use lawn clippings mainly under my citrus trees because I had been tol that being shallow roooted they appreciated this sort of mulch.
    I made sure that it went from just out from the trunk to just past the drip line. They always did really well.
    Being a lawn mowing contractor at the time was handy. Now I top up withthe wood chip I get from somebody else.

    Looking back, I would have to say that the citrus definitely did well. The apples didnt seem to do as well and the plums didnt seem to care if they got mulched with it or not. They are more mature trees though, which might make a difference.
     
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