Monthly Archives: April 2012

Hugelkultur Fugelkultur

One of the basic pieces of permaculture is a raised bed construction practice known as Hugelkultur, to me that sounds about like that VW commercial from the 90’s but what do I know. Studying up on the practice of hugelkultur a bit I read claims about not having to irrigate your garden all summer, decreased need for fertilizer, and improved soil structure. While I am highly skeptical of growing tomatoes in Las Vegas without watering all summer any gardner here in the Valley should be striving to improve their soil structure. As previously mentioned in this Blog there is considerable open space between the trees in my orchard

So with the goal of putting in a couple of raised beds and the concepts of hugelkultur whirling about in my head I kicked Cammie outta bed, got in the Jeep and headed up to the Fruity Chicken!
Notice the Planks over Cammies Head
We stopped off at the local Lowes and picked up some 5/8″X6″X6′ dog eared cedar fence planks, I had used these same planks a couple weeks ago to make my sunken beds. Why these planks? Well they are cedar, but mostly they are cheap! Less than $2 a piece. I cut them to length and assembled them with gorilla glue and my brad nailer into 4’X4″ boxes, I did reinforce the corners with L-brackets because I had them.
 
The area chosen for my two raised hugelkultur beds is between the Eastern most rows of trees in the Orchard, I chose this location because of access and so that as the Fruit Trees grow they will give the beds some afternoon protection from the sun.
The next step after choosing the site and placing the frames is hugelkulture thingy of this project….filling the frames with rotten wood, wood chips, and coffee grounds. (the coffee grounds thing aint really in any of the Hugelkulture stuff I read but I figured it can’t hurt)
Above are my finished beds awaiting planting. On top of the wood and coffee I put about 6″ of compost. Bullshit you say! Those beds were only 6″ to begin with! Well I filled them with compost, watered them, pulled the frames up, backfilled around them, and repeated until the truckload of compost was gone. Tomatoes are going to be planted on North end of the beds with Peppers in front of them and I’m not sure what in front of the Peppers.
 
Cammie says all of this Gardening and Blogging is exhausting and it’s time for a nap!
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Sunken Beds?






 As can be seen in these 2 pictures there is currently a lot of open space in my Orchard. This space both receives full sun and is irrigated. 
That got me thinking about how I could put that area to use. At first I tried pulling the mulch back from the area above the  dripperlines. That didn’t work out to well because the mulch was so deep that it would migrate back into and cover the cleared area within a day. That was when I thought of raised beds, but in reverse.

I built some 70″x14″ frames from cedar fence planks nailed together then reinforced in the corners with L-brackets. 
I installed these in between the trees and on the upslope side of the drip lines. I chose to put them there so that the majority of the water would still move through the mulch bed while water pulled uphill through capillary action would irrigate the crops in the boxes.

 Above is the first bed set into the mulch, in the foreground my Emerald Beauty Plan can be seen leafing out nicely. Below are the first 4 boxes installed between 2 rows of Plums, Pluots, Apricots, and Apriums.

Sweet Corn, Cow Peas, Pinto Beans, and Buckwheat have been sown in these first beds. The Sweet Corn is for us and the rest is for chicken feed and to help break up and improve the soil texture. I am now thinking that the middle row will be setup similarly to the first row but will be sunflowers mixed in with legumes and cover crop while the final row, where there is room for six boxes, I may fill the boxes and use them as true raised beds. The draw back on that is that I will need to irrigate them, the upside is fresh Tomatoes! 
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