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Giving Hugelkultur a try

I've done some whining on this blog about how difficult keeping things watered here is. Partly it's due to our terribly sandy soil, partly due to the soaker hoses being tempermental, partly I need to get out there and amend things.

I had noodled around with the idea of using an old technique, bandied about a lot by permaculture folks, of hugelkultur. Basically, you're making a sponge of wood and biomass under the growing layer. Since we have both overly permeable soil and a bit of old wood and brush lying about, I got some help from Eric and made an experimental bed.

First, we dug out the soil about 18" and set it aside on a tarp. Then we layered logs and pieces of logs on the bottom.



Over that went branches of the plants we'd cut down a few weeks ago, then a layer of fresh chicken manure and bedding, and then those layers were watered down.


Over those went the totally uncured material from the compost bin. Turns out, if you never ever water it, and it dries out, you're not composting, you're preserving. Amazing things there were. This time, they got watered. Maybe those paper coffee cups will finally break down.

 

Finally, the soil got shoveled back on top. I stopped every time a "layer" was completed, shoveling the soil on in flattish bands, and wetted each one as well as I could. It wasn't 100% effecive, as the soil shed some of the water, but it seemed a good idea.


When it was a large, flat mound, kind of like a stubby mesa, the experimental planting began. I started seeds a while ago, and they have been doing well, but very much needed to be moved from their six-packs.


Half of each six-pack went into the new bed, half into the barely prepared rest of the bed.


During the work, I'd discovered a handful of self-seeded kale or broccoli or something, right where the handle of that hand fork is. That will provide yet another point of data. I'll have to keep hand-watering this bed until it rains, partially because it's not in shape for a new irrigation system, and partially because I apparently shoveled the soaker hose in half while removing it.

I also noticed these.


It seems ages ago since I planted these, but the brussels sprouts are finally sprouting. I doubt that they'll be any good, but some day I'm going to figure out how to grow them in our climate!

So that moved about 1/6 of the broccoli and kale I'd started. I suppose tomorrow I'll get out there and prep and transplant the others, plus the leeks and onions. I can't wait for the easy days of winter gardening to really begin here.

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