Monday, April 9, 2012

the hugulkultur experiment-part 2

With the success of the hot tub hugulkultur bed we decided to try it out in a normal garden bed. For this experiment, we are using use an already established bed (of weeds) that we double dug when the manthing was laid off and we were on a bed building spree. This bed has not successfully grown anything (except weeds) since we dug it and began throwing amendments on it. It was also convenient because we had some piles of brush nearby, making our job (manthing's job) much easier.

The basic principle of hugulkultur is digging out a hole or spot and then filling it back up with things n stuff that will break down over time into a nice soil while having the benefits of water retention and a raised garden area. Our main reason for doing this is building healthier soil, since we try to maintain a closed homestead and purchase no outside fertilizers, soils, mulches, etc. We get over 70 inches of precipitation a year, so, water retention is not too big of a deal for us most of the time.
The process is pretty easy although it is a good work out if you don't have a mechanized earth moving contraption and live in mountainous terrain. This bed is about 14x5 and was a 2 (half day) job for one person. A young, in shape, person could probably do one in a day and live to tell of the experience. Us older folks have learned not to beat ourselves up when time is not of the essence so we tend to take things a little bit easier when we can.

Our observations thus far...

The dirt that comes out of the hole is very likely not going to be enough to cover it back up, especially if you mound it like most reference sites suggest. Be prepared to have extra dirt somewhere nearby that is accessible and easy to get to the new location.

It is a great way to use downed trees and/or brush and limbs from cutting firewood. But,it takes a whole lotta material to fill that big hole back up. Have plenty (more than you could ever imagine) of filler nearby or in a place that is easily accessible. For those that heat and/or cook with wood or live in an area where wood is sparse, this could be an issue and should be weighed before you decide to do digging massive holes in your lawn.

the hugulkultur experiment-part 1

A few years ago we found ourselves with a hot tub that no longer functioned. Rather than hauling it off to the dump we decided to make a garden out of it. Because we were completely unemployed at the time, an economical way had to be found to use little soil yet fill the tub up so it could grow veggies. After some research, we decided to try an experiment with hugulkultur in a controlled environment. We filled that sucker up with brush, leaves, and dead wood, tossed a layer of compost over the top, then waited and waited and waited, all the while growing veggies in it. Our hope was that the experiment would be successful enough that we could use the hot tub to build soil that was good quality for adding to already established beds or for making new ones since true soil here is nonexistent.

After growing successfully for near two years, in the tub, we decided to see how the soil was coming along. It was still looking a little rough looking and had pieces of twigs and branches throughout so we threw some straw over the top and grew potatoes in it and later a crop of tomatoes.
This spring when we began digging to see how things were going Lo and behold, everything had decomposed and we had three feet of beautiful,wormy, healthy, happy soil.
I am currently in the process of moving the soil to where I need it and only saving enough of it to begin the process again. It worked well enough that we are now working on a couple actual beds using the same methods. It will be interesting to see how they turn out. Though hugulkultur is a great method of building soil it does have a couple of downfalls that I will post about in the next installment of our hugulkultur experiment.