Hugel Beds in Tropical Asia - Help

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by Diggman, Dec 16, 2016.

  1. Diggman

    Diggman Junior Member

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    Hi, I am currently travelling and have some extra time to show locals some permaculture methods, There are loads of dead Papaya (pawpaw) some banana trunks, loads of green ''waste'' available and some land between houses. I am asking about this because I am actually only really experienced in Temperate UK climate where I have built a few Hugel's in the past on my own and other land. I just remember reading somewhere a person saying that they had issues with Hugel beds, I just cant remember they may have been in a very dry / deserty area of a sub-tropical country.

    The locals here don't seem to understand Soil Building other than using cow dung and Im on a huge mission to prove to them thay they have almost everything that they need right there so they can get the motivation to grow more!

    A banana circle or two are in the planning as well so any tips are very welcome, but Im mainly asking what differences / needs does a Tropical hugel bed have? Right now in mid December it is around 29 Degrees Celcius so summer is quite hot here.

    Another one is: what makes good ground cover? (I can get them to grow loads of sweet potato) the locals are telling me most things wont grow because it's too hot on / along their street (it is not on a busy road at all - just heat from sun and buildings).

    The land in question has loads of a climbing weed very similar to our BindWeed in the uk, they are growing quite a few Banana, Moringa Olifera, Pawpaw (papaya), some Jackfruit and another very broad leaf plant which they say that they use the new shoots and roots for soups (just dont know the name) it will make a very good green source for nitrogen in the hugels plus i can chop a lot of banana leaves etc.

    I've only got a week or so to get back online to see any replies before I can start the project, if unable to help but you may know someone who might then please refer them to take a look, it would be quite sad if I am unable to start these two project for them, I will be back in couple of years and im hoping that by then they would have already emulated the banana circle and maybe hugel into some other locations in the neighbourhood after observing the better yield results.

    thanks in advance, have a great holiday season and new year
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hey Diggman, hope you're enjoying your travels!
    The only downside to tropical hugelkultur I could find was that high rainfalls tended to wash the soil off the mounds exposing the wood. To remedy, they dug out a pit for the woody bits and mounded only soil above grade. Many said that the very active tropical soils very quickly broke down the buried wood. Many also added charcoal/bio-char if available.
    Most tropical hugel info was on permies:
    https://permies.com/t/25286/Hugelkultur-Tropics
    https://permies.com/t/7452/tropical-Hugelkultur
    https://permies.com/t/49971/Hugelkultur-monsoon-tropics
    and
    https://aflorestanova.wordpress.com/2016/04/09/hugelkultur-in-the-tropics/

    Some ground cover ideas (don't know what you might have available locally)
    https://www.lawn-ranger.com.au/blog/ground-covers-for-tropical-climates
    https://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/RES-052.pdf

    Good luck! Let us know how your projects turn out.
     
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  3. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    hau Diggman, Bill put up some really good reference links.

    In tropics hugel trenches or pits work best. All the materials you mentioned will work fine as long as they are not above soil level. https://acateamazon.org/what-we-do/fostering-sustainability/ Acate is doing a lot of great work in the amazon area, working with two tribes to help them relearn the secrets of their ancestors.

    What happens in tropical climates is soil super saturation, this erodes the soil off of above ground wood stacks so after as little as once season, all the work of building a mound is negated because you have to start over. The biggest problem in rain forest areas is the quality of the soil. Topsoil is typically only 1-2 cm thick with clay underneath, once that pitiful topsoil erodes it takes lots of work to get anything to grow. The ancestors there most likely used woven mats laid down to help hold that precious soil in place and to help improve it every growing season. Unfortunately those tricks were lost when the Europeans arrived.

    Many times the same happens when swale and berm structures are tried, they fail because the berm goes away. For tropical situations a better choice seems to be swales with terraces, this way the swale gathers and moves the water but the terrace prevents most of the erosion from occurring. It is pretty much the opposite of what works in temperate or desert climates. Careful observation of how the climate works there usually helps devise the best plan of attack. If the area is near a river, what will work is very different than if you are far away from any flowing water. Most of the trouble comes from the rain fall, which can be as short as an hour or a several day event.

    Ground covers can be grasses, legumes, sweet potato, brassicas or most any plant that puts out enough roots to hold soil in place. even ferns can be a part of the mix.
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016
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  4. Diggman

    Diggman Junior Member

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    Many thanks for the replies, will take a good look later, good points about eroding the soil layer into the wood with all the rain!I probably wouldn't have realised that until after receiving photo's from my contacts here.

    cheers and chat soon :)
     
  5. Erich Sysak

    Erich Sysak New Member

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    I'm in the wet dry tropics. These swales are 3 years old. I dig out about 2 inches every year and top it off. It seems as long as you have a good spillway with the right level(just dig it in the dirt) the water is very calm.

    This pic about 4 weeks after the end of rainy season, not cleaned up yet. Made them originally with dirt and anything else I could find.

    https://s1067.photobucket.com/user/sakonperm/media/20161113_080544_zpsyu2gspfs.jpg.html
     
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