The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Using hugelkultur to expand a tree mound

Laying out punky wood is the first step of hugelkulturWe're trying out the concept of a Day of Autonomy, and the first thing I wanted to do  with this spare time was to poke around the forest garden.  I've noticed over the past year that the health of our fruit trees is directly proportional to the size of their raised beds, so I've been planning to expand all of the beds by at least a foot or two on each side.  But where would I find enough organic matter to pull that off?

Luckily, I had just removed a lot of punky wood from the wood shed, so I decided to use a modified Hugelkultur technique to expand the first bed.  This time around, I laid down cardboard first to prevent weeds from coming up through the wood, which had been a problem in the old beds, then I set out all of my punky wood in a circle around our Early Transparent Apple.  Rather than backfilling with soil, I filled the gaps between logs with high nitrogen chicken compost to expedite the decomposition process.  Finally, I topped it all off with leaves.

A leaf mulch tops the hugelkultur moundI don't expect the rotting wood to be helpful to the fruit tree right away, but I suspect that by the end of the summer the apple's roots will have found the pockets of compost.  And in the long run, the expanded bed should help the tree keep its roots out of the high groundwater, while the copious organic matter that will result from the decomposing wood will hold moisture during the dry summers.  I figure the apple is big enough to deal with Lucy's rodent-digging without much trouble, which was one major downside of Hugelkultur in our garden.

Now I just need to find enough organic matter to repeat the process for another dozen trees.  Why didn't we cut more punky wood?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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How big are you making you Hugelkultur? While not as elaborate as yours I was planning on 6FT diameter for each tree to take advantage of area for herbs and veggies that 'don't fit' anywhere else. Going back a few months... how big is $10 hole?

Love you blog but it needs to come with an Addictive Warning!

Comment by Tom Thu Jun 28 09:01:44 2012

Tom --- I expand each tree mound by a couple of feet each year. I started with a simple raised bed around three or four feet in diameter, but the annual addition of hugelkultur mounds means they're all six or more feet in diameter now. It seems to really help in the terrible area I've allotted to most of my trees.

"Love your blog but it needs to come with an Addictive Warning!" Aw, thanks! That made my day. :-)

Comment by anna Thu Jun 28 19:13:30 2012

Now, I know that you are a permaculturist, lol. Using hugelkulture is a really cool concept and I have recently tried adapting it to garden bed uses that I have coined as hybrid hugel beds. I actually have a hugel bed video that will be posted tomorrow on how I designed my bed. Keep up the good work. I have been getting some ideas from your site, and try to tailor them for my situation.

"Check out my Survivalist Blog at the Clever Survivalist and read daily Survival Guide content."

Comment by Clever Survivalist Mon Apr 29 21:49:00 2013

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