Hugelkulture in the subtropics?

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Shell, Dec 17, 2013.

  1. Shell

    Shell Junior Member

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    Hi all, I'm in the process of planning my food forrest on my new property. It's in the Mary Vally, QLD, Australia. The climate is sub-tropic.

    I am hoping to establish a food garden that needs no irrigation. I'm only going to be on the property on weekends and the garden needs to be able to look after itself.

    So I read a lot about hugelkultures and I very much like it. BUT - do I need to worry about the heat that gets generated inside the decomposing hugel? It seems that huegelkultures are a great way to grow in countries that get frost. But what about the sub-tropics? Will the temperatures in my pile start to cook the roots of my plants?
    I'm thinking to plant most of my fruit trees in hugels. Has anyone done it in my climate zone?
     
  2. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I have no experience with them personally. I question whether hugelkultur is a solution for a specific problem you have or just a cool technique that you want to try out. There's nothing wrong with trying out cool new techniques but you need to do it as an experiment (i.e. not do the whole farm!) and be prepared for unmitigated and spectacular failure.

    Planting in between the mounds would be the best way to go for fruit trees as the tops of the mounds will be driest. If the mounds are tall enough and have good plant coverage then the inter mound valley will be shaded and protected from winds that will evaporate soil moisture.

    Do consider going with swales and key line instead as these are established approaches for water retention in the subtropics. Take a look at Tom Kendall's place in Kin Kin - lots of swales as an example of how to make it successful in your climate.
     
  3. Shell

    Shell Junior Member

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    I thought I could dig a trench on contour and then fill it with logs and things and have the planting area flush with the rest of the ground. I guess it's kind of a swale with logs inside.
     
  4. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Do you have excess logs? Is that the issue? Are there other uses that you could put them too?
     
  5. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    You can do that Shell, and I did it for a couple of small garden beds here. If you have heaps of digging to do, is it really worth it then?

    There may be benefits to digging pits and filling with organic matter (there are illustrations as such in the Design Manual), just find a balance between diminishing returns in relation to the amount of digging. Even laying wood on the surface will decompact and soften areas in prep for planting, no digging required.

    Is there a reason why you can't irrigate? You will get the best results with some ancillary watering. If you are there every weekend, can't a drip line be setup for your fruit trees?
     
  6. Shell

    Shell Junior Member

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    I just thought that if I put a bit of effort into this set up in the beginning it will be self-watering and self-fertilising for the next decade. I could put drip irrigation in of course. But I would have to buy it and set a timer to do the watering while I'm not there. I do have plenty of old logs on the property. I thought an underground hugelkulture would be less effort and more return in the long run - but I might be wrong. All the digging might not be worth it. I'll think about it again.
     
  7. Pakanohida

    Pakanohida Junior Member

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    The one thing always overlooked with Hugelkulture is the soil.

    What kind do you have?

    If clay, move on... you really shouldn't do it, except on top of the soil. IE - Deadwood swale on contour, not dug in.

    Sandy, you have other issues 1st.

    Need more information to help you better
     
  8. KiwiInOz

    KiwiInOz Junior Member

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    I am finding this thread interesting. My property is steep at the back and is rough, nothing other than some massive gum trees and some acacia growing. The ground is shale and rocky. All the top soil (if there ever was any) is washed off in heavy rains.
    I have a great area for a little pond at the back/top of the property and swales etc., but that is just not going to be affordable in the near future.
    What I do have is masses of dead and dying wood from 3 felled weeping fig trees, and a big macho son who wants to do just what you mentioned above i.e. Deadwood swale on contour, not dug in. I have told him it is better to wait until I can afford the earthworks, but as mentioned that may be never.
    Would it be worth him lugging the dead trees up the hill and laying on contour, as a start to swaling?
    I would rather do something with the wood as a resource that burn or dump it. And he is wanted to do real work rather than pay to go to the gym :-o
     
  9. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    If you can identify areas where the run off is scouring topsoil, then yes - it would be worth a go!
     
  10. Grasshopper

    Grasshopper Senior Member

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    I just drop lots of wood horizontal to my slope,it breaks down pretty quick in the subtropics.
    If neighbours clear a block I drag it over so its free.
    Ive just filled the bottom of my garden beds with logs, wood and palm fronds and then will bury it with top soil, manure and mulch.
    Knee high with wood, eventually hip high with topsoil.
    It works out way cheaper than all soil and should have lots of goodies to release.
     
  11. KiwiInOz

    KiwiInOz Junior Member

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    Thanks! Do you reckon it would cause an upsurge in the termite population? They are everywhere here and a bit worry, so I don't want to be breeding more. Maybe some form of the E.M. recipes to speed up decomposition? Or is there anything natural that will make decaying wood distasteful to termites?
     
  12. Grasshopper

    Grasshopper Senior Member

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    Ive got heaps of termites they are good if they arent eating your house.
    I set up led garden lights on a timer under my house to attract bugs and cane toads,tree frogs and geckos to deter and eat termites.
    I dont know if its scientific but it seems to be working so far....knock wood.
     
  13. KiwiInOz

    KiwiInOz Junior Member

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    Yes, termites do good when they are not invading your home, and they are a real treat for the chooks, they go crazy for them! I watched a video recently - David Attenborough I think, where someone was even using termite mounds to cook bread for selling.

    I have already had termites chomping on the inside of my house. It's on a concrete slab, with termimesh installed - which obviously didn't work. So I am a tad nervous.
     

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