Hugelkultur is an old German concept/word meaning “hill-culture”. Wood is buried under topsoil (either in a hole or right on the ground) and as it breaks down, it holds lots of moisture and provides sustained nutrients for plant growth.
We’ve been wanting to try some Hugelkultur mounds at some point but I have had a bit of an eyesore that has needed dealt with for a while see in May of 2011 we decided that we wanted to get a few paw paw trees. I love paw paws and what a better thing than to have fruit that you love growing in your own front yard? Now, in 2011 I had never heard of Permaculture or Hugelkultur but I had heard of google and so I went to work researching, deciding where I was going to get some paw paw trees. One of the things I read about the largest native american fruit was that it was an under story tree so it would need some protection from the beating summer sun for the first couple years. I also read that they would spend those first few formative years sending a tap root really deep, so much so that they would hardly seem to grow. I quickly found Raintree Nursery was a supplier that had quite a few different varieties. I ordered 5, 2 seedlings and 3 named varieties. I soon decided that these little trees were going to have a hard time getting that root development to any kind of depth so I hatched a plan to give them sort of a head start. I decided to plant them into bottomless half barrels, I would fill those barrels with compost heavy soil and that would give them the head start that they needed to grow big and strong one day.
Ok great, so we got them all potted up and they have survived past the point of needing the shades, this May will be 3 years in and they are growing albeit slowly all and but one has survived. We are happy with those odds but the problem is since I planted those trees we’ve learned a lot. But the bottom line is, those barrels are the ugliest thing in the garden/orchard, we want them gone. What in the world are we going to do about it? Hugelkultur, that’s what. See, if we were to pull the barrels off the soil would mostly likely crumble and that would mean a certain death for our paw paw trees. So we need a way to support the root ball and then slide the barrel away leaving that huge mass of roots and soil in tact.
So the plan I hatched is to dig a trench between the two barrels about a foot or so deep, fill it with old firewood and wood chip mulch up to the point where we will have at least 12 inches of soil over the top if it all in which to plant other things.
Then also we’ll need to surround the barrels with enough soil to support the root ball of our paw paws and keep them in tact. Luckily for use we have lots of dirt and composted goat manure to do the job. One thing that we aren’t short of is shit, it appears a lot of the creatures here on Off Kilter Acres are full of it.
They may end up looking like a dog bone sort of thing but I think they will be fully functional smallish Hugelkultur mounds. We plan to leave them to settle for a while but they already look so much better. Now, we still have to mulch them and plant some green manure to solidify everything with a good root mass but like I said before they already look better so we are well on our way.
We’ve got a lot of other things going here on at OKA namely trees, bushes and support species that need to be planted. We’ve got a lot of it potted up just to ensure they make it until we can get them to their permanent homes in the next couple weeks. What do you all do with you plants that come a bit early and need to wait before going to their forever homes?
This week our we received our 4 y/o blueberries from Raintree Nursery and I was able to get them potted up in their whiskey barrels. I think they will be our main producers for blueberries this year, the canes are massive and covered with buds. We also got a few others from Ison’s Nursery that are already potted up and in their permanent homes. All of those along with the three that I have had for two years will bring us up to a grand total of 12 blueberry bushes and should mean there are plenty for us to take to market this year. I think they will sell really well around here.
Well, that’s about all I got, take it easy.