How do I make a hugelculture garden bed?

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imafan26
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How do I make a hugelculture garden bed?

Post by imafan26 »

I had to dig out a foot or more of soil from the herb garden because it was infested with nut sedge. I don't have enough fill or the money to fill this bed with good soil.
I want to try to use some hugelculture techniques to fill some of the volume.
It is a long bed about 4 ft wide and around 50 ft long.
We have been slowly filling it with compost made on site. So far it has taken 8 months to fill about 10 ft.
There is a large pile of trunks an branches from trees that have been cut down from other parts of the garden. Some it it has been around for years.
I want to try to use some of the wood to line the beds to provide drainage but also to fill the space so our compost will go farther.
The branches and wood, I will try to take the smaller pieces that are not fresh cut. Termites may be an issue, but I think if the wood that has been there a few years have not been attacked yet, it may fair better.
I can dig out a little more soil but how deep do I have to bury the logs. I plan to berm the top anyway since compost always sinks over time and we have drainage issues so the higher, I can plant the better.

I will layer the wood or should I cross layer longer pieces
What can I cover them with. We do have partially composted compost from the compost bins, mulch is available. Christmas tree mulch will be available soon. The trees have not been chipped yet but will be in the next few weeks. I can also get some green waste, coffee grounds, grass clippings, ti leaves, orchard waste, fruits that need to be buried anyway. kitchen waste and trimmings from the garden, horse manure from the stables, some bags of steer manure and some bagged compost. I can also get newspapers and cardboard.
I will have to make sure I don't take trimmings from anything that can easily grow from cuttings, because they will.

I can mix some of the soil I have to excavate with some peat moss and finished compost and fertilizer on the top maybe 4-6 inches so I can plant. I am going to do this in sections because. I can't do that much by myself and it will take me some time to collect all the parts especially the green layers. Not to mention I have to literally dig through a mountain of logs to find ones I can actually carry.

How high should the log layer be in proportion: 1/3 of the height of the final bed, or does it matter?
How thick should the layers of browns and greens be?
Anything else I should or could put in this bed to move it along. I am planning on adding sulfate of ammonia to boost the nitrogen since I will have probably have high carbon in the newspaper and cardboard. And I don't know if I can scare up enough greens fast enough.
How should I do the layers? ie
how do I stack the logs?
Can I use leaves from palms, like branches (not cut them up, just layer them)
Do I water between the layers like a regular compost pile?
Some of the leaves like the ti leaves are large, but I may not have them chipped so all I could do is chop them with a machete.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

SQWIB
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Re: How do I make a hugelculture garden bed?

Post by SQWIB »

There's a ton of ways to do it.
What I would do is dig out about a foot bury the logs, soak with water, then start layering everything you can get your hands on alternating with the soil you dug out.
Watering layers as you go along helps.
Top of with 6" or so of compost and topsoil, then mulch the top.
I've made a few but in raised beds.
https://sites.google.com/site/sqwibsurbangardeningadventure/hugelkultur-beds
I would also consider adding a swale.

imafan26
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Re: How do I make a hugelculture garden bed?

Post by imafan26 »

Thanks. This will be my first time. A swale can't really help. The garden is located in bowl in a flood zone. It is in one of the low parts of the garden. When it rains heavily, the access road has to be pumped out and the herb garden will be flooded once the grass lawn can't absorb any more water. Another garden we have called the boardwalk is even lower. The board walk becomes a stream bed when it rains. The boardwalk put most of the plants on berms so they would not be under water when it rained.

The herb garden can have standing puddles of water for a week or more and it gets worse at high tide since the garden is only 17 ft above sea level. The beds in the herb garden are only raised about 4 inches high. I paved over a section of the garden that was really low and put large pots there instead with lavender, marjoram, and Jamaican oregano. All of those plants died in the garden after heavy rains. I have ginger and culantro in the wettest sections since they can handle wetter conditions longer. I can't really raise the brick walls of the beds, so I am creating mounds in the center of the beds to try to get the plants a little higher. I don't have enough fill for that, but hugelculture might be able to provide some drainage from below and lift so I won't need so much soil. I wast thinking maybe in some parts I might be able to stack some logs or stones above ground and put media around them to plant the drier herbs. That one I haven't figured out how I am going to do that or even if it is possible since I have to transition it on the ends. +
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Herb garden as it looked in 2008
Herb garden as it looked in 2008
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

imafan26
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Re: How do I make a hugelculture garden bed?

Post by imafan26 »

The garden has changed since then. The picket fence is gone and it did not have water for a year and became infested with weeds. We dug out the beds with some help from Youth Challenge volunteers and slowly we have been refilling the beds with compost that is being made on sight. We don't have a lot of good soil to refill it so it is taking a long time. There are still a lot of weeds to get out, since the weeds come back with a vengeance after it rains and the garden is only partially irrigated. But we are slowly replanting the parts of the garden we have been able to fill and plumb. It is hard to get this done since there are only a handful of volunteers working on it. The compost hui is trench composting to fill the beds. It took a while (five months) for the first section to mature enough to plant, so it is a work that is still in progress. We planted with filler plants we had left over from our compost experiment and the last two plant sales. Swiss chard, lettuce, okra, roselle, pak choy, kale, gai lan, basil ( already pulled because of downy mildew), papaya, lemon grass, Ka prao thai holy basil was just planted, parsley, cutting celery, borage, garlic chives, a couple of pepper plants, greek oregano, and gynuura nepalensis. The brown turkey fig is still alive although buried in weeds and starved for water. The black sesame was growing wild everywhere and it was recently pulled out. There are still large patches of weeds we have not gotten to yet. I took the plants I could salvage out of the garden and they are in the nursery so I would not lose them. Ginger cannot be planted until March and it does not tolerate nematodes so the soil cannot have that. I am putting in micro sprinklers as I am able to clear and replant the sections. One of my helpers put in a lot of squash and tomato vines in the meantime, but they are past their prime now.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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applestar
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Re: How do I make a hugelculture garden bed?

Post by applestar »

I think a major ingredient/component for hugelkultur bed is good mycos. If using freshly felled logs or freshly chipped wood, you could even pre-inoculate with suitable edible mushroom and see if they could manage to outcompete the mixed fungi in the compost. You could even use those logs uncovered along the edge — in Tropics, you have more choices. (In a new bed, you could choose to grow mushrooms for a while first, then bury/use the substrate for the hugelkultur bed later.) But if not interested in/need to bother with that aspect, you could simply increase the myco-diversity by adding various mushroom scraps — stems, spent media, mushroom compost, etc.

Adding Bokashi would add to the biodiversity and acidify the pile, attract earthworms, etc. and generally increase the digestive microbes. A small amount of lactofermentation products can help (I used old pickle juices and too old and suspect pickles) but watch out for excessive salt.

Choosing aged un-pest infested but fungally breaking down logs helps inoculate the pile. They are usually already punky and can be broken up by hitting with a sledge. If no bad bugs swarm out, they are good to use.
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applestar
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Re: How do I make a hugelculture garden bed?

Post by applestar »

...”the black sesame was growing wild everywhere...” (sigh) so envious.... :o I want to try growing sesame, but am not sure if growing season here is long enough. Maybe another container and garage project....
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

imafan26
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Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: How do I make a hugelculture garden bed?

Post by imafan26 »

aThe logs I am considering has been piled up in the garden for at least a couple of years. Mostly they are from the China doll trees, but other stuff has been added to the pile so the logs are not fresh cut. I won't be able to move the larger pieces so I am hoping to dig through the pile and find smaller pieces. I was going to add some compost and some of the partially decomposed compost to inoculate it. I may be able to get some bokashi going and EM1.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

imafan26
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Posts: 11118
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: How do I make a hugelculture garden bed?

Post by imafan26 »

I figured out how to get pictures from my camera to my computer. Now can someone tell me how to stop email coming to my phone and using up all the battery!

This is what the herb garden looks like now. The areas we have finished renovating with compost are currently planted with vegetables we had from our last plant sale in October, November and from our chard and lettuce vermicast experiment. The chard will be replaced by more lettuce as it gets taken out. Arrowroot, fennel, and Jamaican ginger usually occupy this corner. The arrowroot and Ginger will go in around March. They are dormant now and the soil is too wet to keep the roots in the garden. I have replanted some of the ka prao (basil) near the papaya tree. The staff turned the water off just before Christmas so I don't want to plant anything new until the water is turned on again because I cannot go to the garden everyday to water.

The long bed next to the lawn that has been dug out is where I want to try hugelculture.
Attachments
20180106_093349_resized.jpg
bed  infested with nut sedge
bed infested with nut sedge
20180106_093250_resized.jpg
20180106_093242_resized.jpg
trench composting
trench composting
long dug out bed to try hugelculture
long dug out bed to try hugelculture
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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