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(11 Posts)
gingeroots Sun 22-May-16 21:34:27

How hugelkultur beds work

I thought this looked interesting .

The wood base of the bed acts like a sponge for moisture deep within, which according to fans of this method of planting means you will need little to no irrigation once the bed has been established. After the first year, watering and fertilizing is reported to be unnecessary. Your growing season will be extended as the decomposing matter at the base will warm the soil a few degrees higher than the surrounding soil. This means you may be able to get away with planting earlier and growing plants longer into the fall and winter.

StickTheDMWhereTheSunDontShine Sun 22-May-16 21:38:44

So it's a rockery with wood?

Doesn't it end up full of woodlice and wasps? And stinkhorns? blush Or is that just the old treestump in my garden?

traviata Sun 22-May-16 22:20:18

It appears that the wood is completely covered over. Sounds very interesting. I like the idea that you could make one of these beds on top of a hard surface like old concrete etc.

but as I only have a small soil-based garden to mess around in, I will not be trying it out.

GreenMarkerPen Sun 22-May-16 22:23:39

sounds a bit like the hot frames bob the builder the victorians used for pineapples exotic fruits.

DoreenLethal Sun 22-May-16 22:26:35

I have one. Made it around 6 years ago.

On my allotment. Very heavy clay. I dug out to around 3 ft and buried a load of wood. Then planted strawberries on top. Last winter when i was weeding it, i was totally astonished by the amount of worms under the soil, far more than i have ever seen in soil, let alone clay soil. This winter, i reweeded and shoved in loads of perennial fruits plus garlic, leeks, and stuff such as licorice. The beauty is that you never have to water it, the rotting wood feeds the plants. It really is fantastic. It is really meant to be planted up with perennials, not annuals.

shovetheholly Mon 23-May-16 07:40:37

My friend is moving to Wales to live on hugelkulture and aquaponics! So I have heard a lot about this. It does sound amazing. Do you notice an extended season Doreen?

In an old garden I had, there were rotting woodchips and they were absolutely amazing when incorporated into the soil. So I can see decaying wood would be amazing.

gingeroots Mon 23-May-16 08:47:45

Well this is so interesting .And I feel maybe I could do it on a small scale ,incoporate it into planting .

I've not quite got my head round the science/nitrogen bit though .

Add nitrogen rich stuff and I've lost the link now - something like

at first as the wood rots down it removes nitrogen
so grow plants that don't need much nitrogen
add nitrogen rich stuff like grass cuttings ( leaves ? ) to accelerate rotting of wood

I'don't want to grow vegetables ,do people think I could use this method for flowers/shrubs etc ?

And is it basically the same as lasagne mulching ( or whatever it's called ) ?

shovetheholly Mon 23-May-16 09:07:47

I'm also confused about this idea that fresh manure leaches 'too much nitrogen' into the soil. It sort of sounds wrong, though I say this hesitantly as someone who is by no means an organic chemist!

I wonder if the issue is more that the nitrogen in fresh manure (or kitchen waste, or whatever) isn't in a form usable by plants, so is lost to the soil?

Remembering back to biology, the breakdown is: (urea)--> ammonia/ammonium --> nitrite (via nitrosomonas bacteria) --> nitrate (via nitrobacter). It's nitrate that's the form available to plants. In other words, oxidation needs to happen: electrons need to make the leap from nitrogen to oxygen atoms for plants to be able to take up nitrogen. So I wonder if the issue is that with fresher stuff, it leaches into the soil in an unusable form before these conversions have fully taken place.


shovetheholly Mon 23-May-16 09:14:24

Anyway... practically speaking, I grow nitrogen-fixing plants in fresh waste so that they can provide their own nitrate. So I have been digging trenches at the allotment and dumping my carrot peelings and other veg waste in there for months ready to grow beans. It then breaks down over the course of the season, I guess, ready for the next crop?

I think for most ornamental garden plants, you wouldn't need Hugelkulture because they're comparatively not that hungry. The exception might be things like roses, though - I bet these would do well planted into a slightly rotted down bed.

gingeroots Mon 23-May-16 11:40:32

I'm going to have to have a little think about nitrogen - too wolly headed at moment .
found this ...
"Another thing to keep in mind is that wood is high in carbon and will consume nitrogen to do the compost thing. This could lock up the nitrogen and take it away from your growies. But well rotted wood doesn't do this so much. If the wood is far enough along, it may have already taken in sooooo much nitrogen, that it is now putting it out!"

shovetheholly Mon 23-May-16 13:41:25

Wood is basically a carbon polymer, right? It has different components- cellulose and lignin - but they're mostly ways of rearranging carbon atoms! So it might have 400-500 parts of C to one of N. Whereas veg scraps will have a higher ratio of C to N, maybe 30:1 or something. A lot of the advice about composting insists that you keep up a high ratio of nitrogen to carbon for stuff to break down quickly. Otherwise, the N isn't converted to nitrate but gets lost as ammonia or nitrous oxide, which are volatile and thus will get lost to the environment - though I would have thought this was the atmosphere and not the soil?? (A bit of this happens anyway in composting, as far as I can make out). Also, you get anaerobic pockets where denitrification happens.

So i can see how you can lose nitrogen in the early phases of composting, but I can't quite work out where this line that fresh compost takes nitrogen FROM the soil comes from - this is probably just my ignorance, but I have read it all over the place and it really confuses the hell out of me!

Obviously, Hugelkultur must work very differently from your average compost heap - I wonder if the idea is that it breaks down in layers, over a long time, and thus fosters a really good community of micro-organisms and minibeasts in the soil?

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