[permaculture] hugelculture depth

Neil Bertrando neilbertrando at gmail.com
Thu May 26 17:39:08 EDT 2011

Great Question John,

Seems like an interesting opportunity for experimentation.  when considering
breakdown of large woody debris, I also think about the timeline for this
relative to climate and other processes.  Probably a few years, so you could
build a couple each year and observe them through time.

Here's some quick thoughts for you.

1. How deep is your native topsoil?
2. What is your climate type?  humid temperate and humid tropics seem like
the most appropriate for hugelkultur and humid temperate seems like the best
option for 6 ft and deeper soils (although I can see potential with
re-humidification of temperate grasslands as well)  I'd love to hear more on
this topic from those with more experience.
3. What about a terracing approach to a hugelkulture bed? this could get you
to 2-4 ft. pretty quickly with reasonable access?
4. What are the mechanisms and systems that develop topsoil at depth?  to my
knowledge they include burrowing animals, plant root growth and decay, and
microbial processing of organic matter (including the liquid carbon
pathway).  How are these processes at work in a hugelkultur bed and
surrounding soils?  I'm guessing the 6 ft depth includes some of this action
as well so the actual bed is not 6 ft deep.

I built one in the high desert and it was ~1.5 feet deep and is settling
now.  It has worked well for us over the past 3 years.  the main reason we
built it was to manage an accumulated resource ('pollutant') of branch
trimmings.  we planted potatoes, beans and summer squash the first year and
had great results, then I seeded a bunch of fruit and nut trees that needed
to stratify, and they came up over the next two years.  the hugelculture bed
allowed easy transplanting (IMO) and we potted up a bunch for our nursery
and planting out and grafting.  This year we planted raspberries,
gooseberries, blackberries, strawberries, daylillies, lovage, onions,
shallots, etc. and they're doing well so far.  we planted them with the idea
of high water holding capacity and good drainage development from the woody
materials over the past few years, and we hope this will be a semi-permanent
planting for both production and propagation.  I've enjoyed the process

I think one great application of hugelkultur is cultivating the forest
meadow edge in humid temperate climates, where thinning for light and growth
in the forest can double as developing a berry-fruit-nut-herb system on the
forest-meadow interface.  Depending on how much area you want to clear for a
meadow, the woody debris could also be incorporated into a mushroom growing
system just inside the forest canopy.  I'm guessing people have done this as
well.  this is definitely a system that is helpful if you don't have a
chipper to deal with branch trimmings and the rate of decay is slow or brach
soil contact is not good.


On Wed, May 18, 2011 at 12:00 PM, John Fritz <johnfritz77 at yahoo.com> wrote:

> In a  video I saw yesterday Paul Wheaton talked about hugelculture (am I
> spelling that correctly?) and how these soils can be made to six feet deep.
> This got me to thinking.  I would love to have topsoil to a depth of six
> feet,
> but seeings how the hugelculture sits atop the native soil (doesn't it?) it
> would seem that having this to a depth of six feet would be quite
> unweildy.
> Just at face value it would seem that, at six feet, one would need very
> narrow
> rows in order to reach the center of each row.  Am I missing something?
> How
> would one cultivate a hugelculture soil that is six feet deep if it sits
> atop
> the native soil?
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