HugelKultur Advice

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by RussHealesville, Jun 26, 2012.

  1. RussHealesville

    RussHealesville Junior Member

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    I borrowed a laser level and marked out the contours on my hillside. I've got a small valley that is overly waterlogged. I've done some reading on keylines and am thinking of building my Hugelkutur's along these keylines to take water away from the valley and out to the ridge. Has anyone else tried this method and what success have they had.
     
  2. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    Keyline hugle on contour will increase the amount of water on the property from the 1st swale on downhill. You don't want water to leave, you want it to soak in & help rehabilitate the soil underneath.
     
  3. RussHealesville

    RussHealesville Junior Member

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    Using keylines the water will stay on the property it will just be spread more evenly. My valley is waterlogged and by planting on keylines I hope to take some of this water out to the ridges.
     
  4. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    IMO, your valley is going to become even more water logged this way, swales and diversion ditches help to recharge the ground water. Good luck.
     
  5. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Hugelkultur diversion drains from a valley to a ridge sound like a lot of work. Good luck with it.
     
  6. Earth's Internet

    Earth's Internet Junior Member

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    I know this may be a bit off topic, but can these Hugelkultur designs be used in creating agricultural windbreaks ?

    Has anyone heard of anyone doing this ?

    I just saw some of the designs and lights came on. I write quite a bit on Mesquite Dune construction in the replacement of Tamarisk wind and sand screens used in our deserts of the southwest and wondered about this design technique.


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  7. RussHealesville

    RussHealesville Junior Member

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    No extra work. Having marked out the contours I'm just going to build my Hugelkultur along the keylines to move water to the ridge. Yes the site will hold more water. This will be a problem whilst my soil is predominantly clay but over the years as I add more and more organic matter and the climate dries i should be looking good.
     
  8. KerryF

    KerryF Junior Member

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    Sorry to jump in... I'm just learning, so I can only really tell you about my own experience :)

    My understanding of the Hugelkultur method of creating raised beds is that you use only bulky organic matter as the foundation. This is because it breaks down slowly adding nutrients over time. Using any bark chips, especially if what you have is a pine mulch with needles in it, will mean more nutrients being released quickly. Not a problem if you build your bed high enough, but most of us are hand digging and make our beds pretty low.

    Russ, are you on a red clay subsoil with the red loam over the top, or are you more the grey silty sedimentary top soils? The red clays on this side of the hills (Belgrave) are very free draining, albeit hydrophobic on the surface because of all the organic matter, and the grey silts are frankly no good at holding water and prone to leaching. With the red clays, the water might sit there for a couple of hours on the surface then suddenly - sleuph - it's gone in a minute. As soon as it overcomes that waxy hydrophobic barrier it's gone :)

    I do have areas where the clay subsoil has been dugout for previous excavations and, being low points, these become boggy over the last part of winter. Only because there's a low brick wall on the downward side. This would be the type of site where it would be better to build the raised beds on top like Pakanohida suggests.

    On a slope it's difficult to waterlog an area unless you have an impermeable barrier on the lower side.

    My understanding is that using the keylines and Hugelkulters, you should be able to move the water to the ridge as long as you're working downhill (I'm assuming this is a lower ridge off to the side). You can go uphill, but only if you have enough water coming into the system to fill the whole thing and more (think how canals can go uphill using steps). Otherwise, the lower points on your keylines will collect water and it will stop moving until it overflows. It will then continue to flow until it reaches the next low point etc, so you'll have pockets of water.

    This is not necessarily a bad thing. If the clay is free draining, it will sit there for as long as it rains, then with evaporation and infiltration drain away within a few days (I have purpose built seasonal frog bogs on a slope that do just this).

    Water will infiltrate into your raised beds, but if you plant trees on the downward side for stabilisation, they will also help to keep the water levels down within the beds. Also, if you grade the base of your beds down and out, then the water will drain out through the lower side.

    If the clay is too heavy and water is sitting in any one point for longer than a few days, you could consider using that point as a seasonal pond / humus ditch. Whilst there's water in it you will attract a whole raft of beneficial animals, and in summer when it's completely dried out you can harvest the accumulated humus.

    Oh, and as for the question of agricultural windbreaks. Yes!

    In Australia raised beds are being used to create windbreaks, often into which salt tolerant trees such as Casuarina spp. are planted. They are also used during revegetation projects on sloped sights where erosion from water is an issue.

    The Hugelkulter method specifically is not used as yet, because many of the sites affected by erosion and saline soils are that way due to the trees having been cleared decades ago, so there's very little wood available onsite to use.

    That said, trees tend to grow best in situations where mycorrhizal fungi is present and using Hugelkulter, with decaying wood on the base, is a fantastic way to achieve that.

    Oops... that was a bit long... sorry :blush:
     
  9. Earth's Internet

    Earth's Internet Junior Member

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    I've been working on ideas for creating Mesquite Dune windbreaks. The San Diego State University did a windbreak creation project down in Anza Borrego Stat Park in southern California that I wrote about here - Lessons From a Mesquite Dune Project . They artificially built up a dune by using Hay Straw bales and covering with soil. In nature if a Mesquite tree takes hold in this region, blowing sand building up naturally around the base of the plant. Eventually the dune grows and continues swallowing the trunk of the Mesquite until the Mesquite grows high enough where it can hold it's own and mound up and overwhelming the Dune and stabilizing it. The dune provides all manner of wildlife habitat for this region of Deserts.

    For me the problem is the Dune collapsed under natural processes of breakdown so I've been looking for other means. I'm curious, does anyone know if Australian Acacias or Wattles create and form Dunes themselves and what techniques have they used in creating artificial ones ? I'm interested in techniques that will restore plant ecosystems to otherwise moon-surface landscapes in the wild. It seems humans are professional at creating these moon surfaces on Earth and maybe there is a way to reverse this trend and that's what I write about on my blog.

    Thanks in advance!

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  10. John Gros

    John Gros Junior Member

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    Hey Earth's Internet, I have been reading your links and decided to move my oak seedlings from 4" tubes to 13" tubes. I found some interesting root formations on my oaks. Of thirty planted, I have three going. (I lost a lot to something that was eating the acorns over night.) Two are very strong growing and one is weak. When I transplanted them. the weak one had a root that only just hit the bottom of its 4" tube. The two strong growing oaks had a thick tap root that went out the drainage holes and across the ground into the neighbouring tube and up inside it. I kept the root intact for the transplant. It seems lots of trees invest a lot of their energy into the tap root, and do better for it.
    Thanks to you for the pointers that helped me get my oaks into a better situation, I was thinking originally to move them to a 4" pot. I think that the 13" tube will give them a much better start once I plant them.
     
  11. Earth's Internet

    Earth's Internet Junior Member

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    One thing that is imperative with oak seedlings and just plain growth in general is that they be connected to a mycorrhizal fungal network. Think of your whole project not as a random happenstance maybe. Think also in terms of what plants work well together. The fungal network not only facilitates the transport of water and nutrients by 200% or more, but also exchanges various alkaloids and other manufactured chemicals created by one plant to another. Where I lived in the southwest of California an incredible ecto-mycorrhizae called Pisolithus tinctorius is the dominant fungus for oak root establishment. There are others but this one is more pronounced. I've even drilled holes in the ground and dropped a spore mixture into them and cover the holes with soil under the tree's dripline of poorly growing scrub oaks and next years growth was phenomenal. The far better vigorous leaf colour and size were obvious. Back in the 1990s I found this out by accident. I had planted several pines and inoculated them with the spores. They did great, but when summer rains came I noticed large PT Mycorrhizae Truffle near the Scruboaks and the effect their presence had on those oaks. Quite literally you can make connections between differing species of pine, oak, eucalyptus, cottonwoods, willows, alders, pecans etc etc etc. Add to that other beneficial species of fungi and bacteria and the health and growth will be phenomenal.

    The mycorrhizae also create an natural antibiotics of sorts for the oak roots and defense against root pathogens. I'm looking forwards to the Mesquite and Palo Verde seedling experiment with the tubes in Southern California next year. Their taproots are so important to their survival. As you've stated you looked at my blogs. I posted a Youtube piece in one post with Dr Suzanne Simard who views the forest as a cooperating piece of machinery and not a bunch of selfish organism competing in some philosophically inspired by ideology game of "Survival of the Fittest", she said her findings didn't reveal any of that flawed thinking. Here's the link:

    [video]https://blip.tv/the-university-of-british-columbia/do-trees-communicate-5351099[/video]
     
  12. RussHealesville

    RussHealesville Junior Member

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    So I've been mulching for about a year now and have just created my first hugelkultur on a contour line. I'm going to plant some bare rooted fruit trees this weekend. Do I plant them on top or on the down hill slope. My soil is reasonably good turning to silty, boggy clay deeper down. My site its a fairly steep hill facing east. I noticed that Sepp Holzer plants his trees on the downhill side between 2 swales, but his climate is different to Healesville where I live.
     
  13. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    I have come and gone from Hugelkulture for a couple of reasons.:

    1. Growth inhibitors like sap in pine, and chemicals in cedar and redwood.
    2. It takes years for large pieces of wood to break down into nutrients basic enough for microscopic root hairs to benefit from them. (I know this is the point, but we plant into the mounds expecting great results that may be a couple years down the road still.
    3. My hugelkulture mounds were invaded by voles and mice that made condos and air tunnels all through them. It's crucial to keep the wood wet, which means extra water where I am with
    natural drought conditions
    4. It is such hard work to either dig trenches or mound up dirt that if it doesn't work, it's extremely disappointing, exhausting and psychologically discouraging.
    5. The mounds took a lot of extra water.
    6. The trenches take a LOT of extra nitrogen placed into the wood, because that is the main thing that breaks down wood to the point a plant can use it.
    7. It's so darn much work to refurbish/maintain a trench build a mound with new wood, even if it is several years later. It's always fun and interesting the first time. After that, it's just work!

    That said, there are several people here who have used hugelkulture trenches for years, and that may be the way they work best, old and ongoing, and perhaps only certain kinds of wood, or extra steps taken for tricky wood like pine, redwood and cedar. :)
     
  14. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    I think it is important to remember the reasons and advantages of Hugelculture are relevant to the location they were invented for to a great extent. If you have mountains you are clearing of vegetation to make flat areas for growing crops and you have lots of trees (wood) to hide and if you get loads of frosts and snow and raising the beds is a way around this then it is for you. Sepp also has plenty of water.
     
  15. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    also, Sepp is a big fan of using equipment to move large amounts of dirt and wood if needed. his piles are meant to last 10 years or more before needing to be redone (if ever). if you are in a dry climate raising a thin mound would need too much moisture. much better to use the wood as a wind break or pole for building a shade/lattice/arbor... or shredding it and using it as a mulch to help retain moisture.
     

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