Thursday, October 1, 2015

How to and how not to make a hugelbeet.

I've finished one hugelbeet and have started on a second. Experience is the best teacher, but if you're like me, you prefer OTHER peoples experience. I'll share some of my eff ups with you so that you can avoid my mistakes.

What I did on the first one was I dug down a single shovel depth, tossed the soil onto the previous section, dropped enough wood to raise it about a foot higher than the surrounding field, then moved to the next section. Rinse and repeat. I realized after I was done that: more or less wood requires just as much soil to cover and therefore more wood is going to have a higher return on invested time and energy, one shovel depth of soil is not nearly enough, one needs to make a point to bury the sod rather than tossing it on top with the soil (upside down or otherwise), it is very necessary to put the largest pieces on the bottom and progressively smaller pieces on top and that some kind of border is necessary to maintain your desired height and width.

Armed with a laundry list of do's and not not's, I dove into building a second, but not even 1/10th of the way through, some "shoulda woulda couldas" have popped up already. First the vindications that I'm doing it right this time: I dug and threw three shovel depths of soil on top of the previous section which is piled up with wood until it is sticking up 3 feet above the surrounding field. The sod goes onto the previous section once the wood is half piled up and the biggest chunks of wood are at the very bottom and the twigs and leaves are on the top, avoiding the problem of big-'ol logs sticking out of the tope periscope-style. However, I'm unimpressed with the performance of my wattle border and heavy leaf mulch in between the beds. I regret the blood sweat and tears poured into the wattle fence which is not nearly strong enough, nor driven far enough into the ground to support the sheer mass of rotting wood pressing against it from within. Next time, I will drive in posts as I am building the hugelbeet so that they get buried as im flinging soil onto the previous section. I don't see any advantage to weaving wattle fencing except for on the very top few inches where the soil is piled. The leaves, though being 6 inches thick at application are already being breached by the quack grass. I wished I had put down cardboard first and then leaves.

The picture is the second hugelbeet in progress. As you can see, the soil on top of any given section comes from the next section, leaving behind a hole in the ground to deposit more wood. This hugelbeet is sunken 2-3 feet in the ground and raised 2-3 feet above the surrounding field, making a hugelbeet that is approximately 5 feet tall.

The second picture is the same concept illustrated by the master stick-figure artist, yours truly, Daniel. I know, I know, sometimes I even impress myself. I try to stay modest but Lord knows it's hard.

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