hugelkultur beds, part I

The climate in our area of southern Oregon provides quite a bit of rain in the winter and spring (~30 inches on average), but is bone-dry during the summer and early to mid fall time frame.  This means we need to find a way to keep all of our plants healthy, but we don’t want to have to install an expensive, cumbersome and wasteful irrigation system.

One of our solutions to this will be to rely on hugelkultur beds.  What are hugelkultur beds?

Here is a great article:

http://www.richsoil.com/hugelkultur/

and a link to the discussion thread on the Permies.com site:

http://www.permies.com/permaculture-forums/17_0/permaculture/hugelkultur

Kudos to Paul Wheaton for his great articles and such an informative and pleasant forum!

Basically, a hugelkultur is a raised bed that has a bunch of woody materials like logs, branches and leaves covered up with some soil.  The idea is to use the woody material to soak up water and slowly break down over time, enriching the bed while acting as a sponge.

These beds can be large or small.  In this section, I will describe the single tree beds that I built in January this year.

For our area, it seemed best to dig down a foot or so and use a “berm and basin” approach, if you are familiar with Brad Lancaster’s books.  A trench a few feet wide and about six feet long is dug and the topsoil placed downhill from the trench.  The trench is then filled with rotten logs and other woody material:

The tree (an olive in this case)  is then planted in the berm on the downhill side of the trench :


Then the basin is dug on the uphill side and the topsoil is used to cover the woody material in the trench:


The mound can then be planted with legumes and some manure added to help add a bit of nitrogen to counter-act any nitrogen depletion from all the wood.  Each bed can be ammended differently, depending on the needs of the tree.

This bed was built and planted in January along with another type of olive and 4 kinds of jujubes (Chinese dates).  Both of these types of trees are very drought tolerant once established and the hugelkulture should supply the water for the first growing seasons to get them there!

Longer hugelkultur beds will be the next topic

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