Monthly Archives: December 2011

Hugel Pits 2 & 3

Pics w/captions

Pit #2, all those rocks in the foreground came from that one hole. Strange creature in background is what we call our "Mooseknuckle"

Bottom of pit filled with small leaves and twigs that I gathered from around the yard. I like to add material that will quickly break down on the bottom

I used small branches from a recently trimmed oak on the side of my house.

More dirt, leaves, branches followed by more dirt. Almost ready for the 4x4 bed.

Pit #2 in background, pit #3 in foreground. That's about as deep as I can dig before I hit clay.

I dug this to a depth of about 18" and made sure to break up the clay on the bottom to aid drainage

More small to medium sized branches with leaves

More branches on top of everything else

Pit was filled with dirt and then topped with a bunch of leaves

Both hugel pits almost done, just need a bit more soil

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Hugel pit #1

Ok, so here is my first Hugel pit surrounded by a raised bed.

Since DFW has clay soils I could not have ton this without a Mattock pick. I got mine at Lowes for just under $30 and it has been worth every penny. I also snagged a wheelbarrow off of Craigslist for $20 and that combined with the Mattock pick has made this entire process much simpler and faster.

I usually dig down about 3″-6″ with a shovel and set that dirt aside to mix into the raised bed later. I then bust out my Mattock pick and start pickin’ away. When digging clay soils you will pull up large chunks of hardened clay and it does get tiring. The clay gets put into its own pile to be used later while filling the pits back up. Generally the deeper the better but as long as you go to a depth of 12″ you should be fine.

TIP: It is much easier to dig clay after a long soaking rain. Trust me, I tried in July 2011 while it was 107 degrees and no rain for over a month….I don’t recommend it. If you haven’t had any rain in some time you should lay a soaker hose over the area you plan to dig and let the water soak in for a couple of hours.

Diggin mostly done and pit is 18" deep at it's deepest point

I then filled the bottom of the pit with small twigs and branches from a large oak tree I cut down in the backyard. On top of those I placed many medium sized logs interspersed with large logs.

Hugel pit with all the logs

At this point I started filling in the pit with the clay I dug out and added some cow manure for an additional nitrogen source. The first year or so of decomposition will trap some of the nitrogen in the pit but that nitrogen will again become available to plants as decomposition accelerates.

I actually filled this in with leaves and small branches before I filled it with dirt so I had to remove the branches, fill with dirt/clay, then place the branches back on top

All the leaves & small branches back in place. As time passes the wood will settle and more soil will need to be added so stuff it as full as possible

Cover everything with more dirt and add another bag of manure. Tamp down everything as best you can either by walking on it or use a tamper. Then place your raised bed on top, make sure it’s level and secure. Fill in the outside edges of your raised bed with more clay and tamp it down.

Bed in place and one more thin layer of native dirt

Almost done

Not having all the soil I needed I decided to lay down a thin layer of straw to help reduce evaporation. I watered the bed twice a week to help things settle

Currently, the bed has a cover crop mix growing that will be tilled into the soil and then more soil on top. The PVC is 6" lengths of 3/4" PVC pipe that allows 1/2" pipe to be installed for a small hoophouse

Small crop of pole beans with peas behind them. The bush beans were already cut down when I took this photo

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Salad box

One aspect of permaculture I really respect is the reuse of old discarded items. After a quick trip up to the attic to search for a few things I found this old metal table frame. It used to have a thick piece of glass that overlaid it but the glass broke and rather than pay for new glass or throw it away, I thought it might make a good base for a salad box.

Metal frame

Not wanting to spend any money on this little experiment I rummaged through my scrap wood and realized I had enough old boards and what not to complete this project. First thing was to build a base around the top of the table and add some support. Next I stapled some chicken wire to the base for some added support.

Next came building the walls of the salad box. I wanted about a third of it to be taller than the rest of it in case I wanted to plant something with slightly deeper roots.

Lastly, I wanted to cover the box with black sheeting to help absorb heat in the winter and cover up the construction work.

The black plastic was pulled tight, stapled, and the remaining material was trimmed off.
If given the chance to do it again I would probably just make the box a uniform size. Oh well! If you’re not experimenting with your gardening your not doing it right.

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First post

This being my first post I just wanted to say that the main reason for this blogs creation was that it seemed an easy way to document my backyard gardening.
The plan is to slowly transform my backyard into a permaculture food forest. Given the small size of my lot I will not have all 5 zones and no livestock, at least not yet. However, it will consist of multiple fruit trees, various berries, perennial and annual herbs, and of course vegetables. I will also incorporate swales (ditch on contour) and hugelkultur (logs covered in soil) into the sites design.

Explanation of Swales HERE
Explanation of Hugelkultur HERE & HERE

The hugelkultur links show more mound style hugelkultur, which I will be implementing, but it doesn’t really show any hugel pits. A hugel pit is just a 1′-3′ hole that is filled with wood and other organic material up to ground level. Then you can either surround the pit with a raised bed planter, rocks, other logs, or just leave it as is. The design choices are entirely up to you.

The back-half of my yard will be the food forest section. Not sure yet if I want to have footpaths in the back half of the yard or just let it go completely wild.
My raised beds are closer to my back door for easy access. So far I have 4 raised beds in total: 2 4×4 beds, 1 4×6 bed, and 1 4×10. I plan on adding one more 4×10 but after that I will most likely be done with raised beds…my girlfriend thinks I’m crazy as it is and digging more holes to fill with old wood only adds to her argument 🙂

I don’t plan on updating this blog daily but will try to do at least 1-2 updates a week.

Cheers!

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