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#hugelkultur

I spent the day digging. And digging. And sweating in the rain.

Sometimes when gardening, you hear about these great things. You put them into practice and then find they are a head ache, a heart ache and a nuisance. Such was today. 

When we moved into this place I tried instilling some of the same garden practices that I had in the mountains. There was more than enough room to carve out a niche garden out in the woods.  BUT In an urban setting, the same practices had disastrous results. Not in a Titanic sense; no one died but believing the touted ‘greatness’ was the first step in that ‘sinking ship’ … ladies and gentlemen, may I present the hugel mound. Before you draw your ire at me, let me say good for you if it worked in your setting. 

In my urban setting we had a huge fir that the neighbor offered to take down (disregard he had ulterior motive) and so it came down. With that much wood, we got rid of what we could to people needing/wanting firewood but still needing disposal of the other brush, it was cost prohibitive and what to do? Hugels seem to be the logical solution. Little did I know (being new to the neighborhood) that there were problems just lurking on the other side of the fence and beyond.

  Hugel mounds are the perfect nesting grounds for urban rats. The neighbors never shut their rubbish bins (if they can get it in the bin) or leave it bagged in the gutter. The maze of fence rows become super highways for rodents. Congrats! You have just created a wonderful habitat for vermin.  Look at it as a B&B. And rats aren’t just content with eating garbage scraps but also your vegetables and fruits. Rats also don’t care where they defecate: grow box, fence, pathways. Or what they chew on. Or where they die. Needless to say, in less than one season, I obliterated the mounds.  

Today I was digging in an effort to move the little sickly Asian pear tree and dealing with the underground portion of the hugel. I have very sandy soil so much of it had not rotted away, not to mention the root system of the big fir that was cut down years ago. Hugels are great in the right place and time but what works for another, may be more work, more head ache and a heart ache for you. It is a wild world out there gardening. Knowledge is power. Learn from your mistakes and if you are more fortunate, learn first from another’s mistakes.

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This is large hugelbeet that’s about 30 feet long and 8-10 feet wide. It’s been sitting for about 3-4 years and settling, but it’s still full of plenty of gaps and openings that are hard to fill unless you add enough soil. It’s probably going to take 2-3 cubic yards of soil to get it properly covered and filled in for planting, and since that’s going to cost $75 plus gas for at least 2-3 trips back and forth, we might save up to get 5 cubic yards in a small dump truck delivered at once if the delivery fee isn’t more than the cost of the soil. The pine trees on top are just to cover and hold the naturally fallen leaves in place and will be processed into fencing for the garden soon.

howlmountainfarm
howlmountainfarm
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I wouldn’t try to build a hugelkultur on a playground. Nah, it wouldn’t last; the kids would knock it down or someone’s dog would tear it up. At some point the Public Works folks would see it and they’d be all like “dafuq is that thing?” and they’d get rid of it. Nope, public playground half a block away from an elementary school is no place for a long-term guerilla project.

However.

If I wanted to have some spare wood sitting around to add to the hugelkultur I’m building out behind said elementary school? The public playground would be a perfectly fine place to get some together. 

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I want to do hugelkultur. I really like the idea of building a hill that’s extra-rich, extra-warm and self-watering, and trading CO2 for pretty green things.

I’m fairly sure I can’t do hugelkultur on my own property. The back yard is small and shaded, and the front yard is smaller. I don’t expect to live in this house forever, and when I do sell it, I don’t want the new owners to bulldoze my little hill. Also the housing co-op may have opinions about me altering the topography of the land. So I’m looking at guerilla-gardening some public land.

So then the question is…WHAT public land can I use for this? It’s a long-term project and it’s not portable. I need a place where I can build a little hill and the authorities won’t care. Preferably if they just don’t even notice what I’m doing.

And…I can’t be totally sure about any little plot of land. So right now my strategy is to gather and watch. I’ve found several spots that look good for cultivation, that are legally accessible and with very little foot traffic. And while walking around these spots, I realized there’s no reason why I need to commit to just one hugelkultur. Let’s not put all our eggs in one basket! So for now, at least until I can get in touch with the local gardening group, I’m going to focus on setting up wood piles at each of my guerilla sites and see how much stuff I can stack up before some governing body or other knocks it down. And while I do that, I’ll also learn as much as I can about what’s permitted and what’s likely to attract attention. If I ultimately end up with 6 hills all around town, so much the better. 

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PROGRESS!

My raised bed is coming along.

Digging out the root-filled bed area and laying the brick wall foundation now. Pretty sure it’s not level so I’ll need to back l go back and fix that

It will be a scrap board wall to top since I’m using all salvaged materials I found on the property when we bought it. But I think I can still make it look good.

Don’t know what the concrete foundation on the left side was for, but I’m going to put the workbench (from the barn) there for a potting bench

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FINALLY making progress on my raised blackberry bed out of this weird brick structure that was next to the barn when we moved in.

I’m having borrowing from hugekulture for this, but only using the seasoned wood under soil to retain water, and skipping the compost step since blackberries like poorer soil.

I’m Very excited to have gotten this far!

I’d like to plant mint once the blackberries are established - keep all my leggy, invasive plants in one space - anyone tried this combo???

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I just came back from a work party at a hugelkultur demonstration garden, and I’m PUMPED to try it myself! We spent the day winterizing, propagating from cuttings, and digging up volunteer trees to be given away for city beautification and improvement (including a BIG ASS sapling that had grown up next to a birch snag that took almost an hour to dig out).

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Veg Fort 2020

So as the Veg Fort is winding down for winter I thought I’d share my battle plans for next year:


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This not quite to scale plan is how I’m hoping to set everything out. Going clockwise:


- Once I’ve rebuilt the corner bed I’m going to get a water butt and use it to make a small pond. Got the idea from watching Big Dreams Small Spaces with Monty Don. It’ll be filled with aquatic plants and I’m researching freshwater shellfish like clams and mussels. I like the idea that on the surface it’ll look ornamental and wildlife friendly but underneath it’ll be as busy and productive as the rest of the garden.

- In the same bed as the pond will be either a fruit bush or tree. I’m leaning towards a tree. If that’s the case then I’ll put bee friendly flowers around the base to improve pollination of the tree. Was also considering growing mushrooms if there was enough shade from the tree. But that may be asking too much of the available space.

- Bed 1 will be for onions, leeks, carrots and such.

- Bed 2 will be divided into four blocks. I’m planning to stagger planting so that I will be harvesting everything at different times. This will help maximise the amount I can grow through the year. I *think* I should be able to get two harvests out of each block. And each block will have a stalk of sweetcorn in it. Tasty tasty sweetcorn.

- Bed 3 will have runner beans and spinach plants. Also considering squash plants but not sure.

- Tub 1 and Tub 2 will be for growing po-tay-toes. (Tub 2 would like to clarify that just because they are number 2 does not imply in any way that they’re inferior to Tub 1. You may feel free to call them Tub A if you like. They will also accept Super Tub, Tub King, Kid Dynamite, Chocolate Thun-da or Ben.)

- The cold frame will protect the herbs over the winter and from spring will act as a nice little greenhouse. I’m thinking I may grow some tomatoes in there.


I’m currently working on a plan to rotate soil next winter so I can compost in situ again. It’s easier this year because I’m buying the soil in stages and just layering it onto the beds. It’s like that riddle about the farmer with the fox, chicken and grain crossing the river. But with soil.

Keeping it nerdy I’ve even put together a spreadsheet for tracking sowing and harvesting. It’ll be useful to get the most out out of the garden as well as planning the year after.

I’m also going to look for other local growers and see if I can set up a little network trading veg for veg, maybe even seeds. A friend told me that there are several chicken keepers locally so I might see if I can trade veg for eggs. Mwhaha. FUCK YOU CAPITALISM!


So who else is getting prepped for growing next year? What are you looking forward to doing in your garden?

(“,)

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Here this couple talk about the ease of maintenance over their various permaculture garden. There really is something to working with nature rather than against it.

Their garden is really interesting as they’re using a few different permaculture methods, and how well they do. The hugelkultur is conceptually my favorite for it’s water retention, but it’s a bit of set up work, also natural resource intensive if you live in an urban environment. If I had logs lying around, I would put in the effort for this method, but I don’t.

The Ruth Stout method is my next favorite due to its purely simplistic method of just having a thick mulch. Set it up ahead of time, to allow for the bottom of the mulch to start to break down, and plant in the fresh compost generated by this method.

If starting a garden over a lawn, why not just flip the sod? Continue as Ruth Stout after. Easy raised bed.

That channel has plenty of interesting videos more specific to each permaculture method they employ, it’s been quite enjoyable.

I have a pine tree in the back yard and haven’t done much with cleaning up the needles in a while, definitely using that for mulch to reclaim my yard from the weeds and maybe starting some heat tolerant vegetables (IDGAF about maintaining a lawn).

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There were so many volunteer tomatoes I stuck them in random islands on top of the hugel hoping for ground cover. 

zesterhornenterprises
zesterhornenterprises
zesterhornenterprises
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So ive no idea what the original purpose was for this but I’ve decided to plant blackberries in it. It should owe them from taking over my yard.

My life will periodically get so crazy I can’t touch my garden for weeks at a time which means I need plants which can fend for themselves, largely.

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I’m digging it out so I can add tree branches using hugelkulter . A friend of mine has had great success with this in my garden zone (8).

Im nearly there! Updates to come …

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Haven’t been posting much, pretty busy. Great first rhubarb harvest. They love the hugelmounds. I separated these 8 plants from the original 3 last fall and they’re already monstrous. Got about 7-8 pounds. Keeping a pound or two for cooking and the rest goes to the pantry. Leaves’ll make a good temporary weedblock and moisture trap while I get the last of the mounds planted, and good chopped mulch afterward.

Rhubarb is a very easy perennial (I have them in various soils and sun levels all around the yard and garden), has high levels of calcium, no worries if bugs eat your leaves a bit because they’re discarded anyway. You can divide it and spread it or give it away as it grows. It shades nearby plants, makes good compost, and blocks weeds with its big leaves. Companions well with strawberries and asparagus. And it’s delicious. Good choice for a low-effort crop, great if you want something easy to grow for your local food bank.

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