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Hugelkultur beds

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Hugelkultur beds

Postby fastback65 » Sat May 24, 2014 8:05 am

This weekend, I had the privilege to attend a 4 day workshop with the Sep Holzer. People, you may feel like storing 1000 cans of beans is the answer but if we are perhaps headed for a world without grocery stores, you might want to re-think your plan.

Traditional agricultural practices developed in the last 75 years or so use big machinery, lots of water, artificial fertilizer and monocropping to achieve pretty produce that is devoid of real nutrition and full of chemical ick. Large corporations are doing their best to squeeze every last penny from the depleted soil. This way of farming isn’t about feeding people, it’s about making money. Everything about it screams unsustainable – are we listening?

Sep Holzer has created gardens that feed people on every continent and in every climate. From Siberia to South Africa, From California to Colombia. Jungle, desert, garbage dump, swamp – we can all grow our own food, no matter where we live.

The idea is to create micro climates and poly cultures that make it easy for food to grow. The systems are mostly self watering and self fertilized and re-generate naturally so that they require little maintenance.

Here is a bit of what I learned….

Earth berms or “high beds” are created from dirt that is removed from an area. The depression that is left becomes ponds and meandering waterways. The topsoil is replaced on the surface of the high beds and is heavily mulched with straw and or a cover crop. The ponds are stocked with fish and the edges are planted with cat-tails and other edible plants. Terraces are carved into the high beds are planted with crops that are suitable for the area. Trees with deep roots can be planted on the north slope and top of the high beds. Fruit trees, nitrogen fixing plants, grains and vegetables are interspersed on the south facing side.

The water in the ponds produces fish, vegetation around the edges cleans the water and is available for irrigation and personal use. The water also acts as a giant heat sink. It moderates the surrounding temperature making the growing season longer and more plant friendly – apparently, you can plant up to 2 zones warmer that you would be able to on flat land!!

The earth berms provide privacy, security and protection from prevailing winds. They also allow snow and rain to fall straight down rather than beating the earth sideways. Accumulated snow from the winter and rain in the summer will re-fill the ponds.

Hugelkultur beds add more vegetable growing space – scrap wood in the form of trees or lumber is arranged in long piles up to 6 feet or more high and as long as is practical. The piles are covered with compost, straw, manure and finally a layer of topsoil. The soil is covered with straw and is held in place by dead tree branches. Plants are grown according to their sun/shade needs. As the wood breaks down, it creates new soil. The irregular surfaces allow oxygen to remain in the soil and the wood also holds ample water to keep the beds moist for the plant roots.

This weekend, we watched the excavators dig and pile. We studied the native plants and soil type of the area. We gave suggestions to the landowner based on our observations and listened intently to what Sep had to say. We thought about our own properties and what we would like to do to create a sustainable growing plan.

Whether you live on a huge monoculture farm, in the back 40, on a mountain top, city apartment or in the suburbs, there are ideas that can help you become more self sufficient and in fact, you might just be able to feed yourself, your neighbors and perhaps your whole community.
"Never, under any circumstances, ever become a refuge... Die if you must, but die on your home turf with your face to the wind, not in some stinking hellhole 2,000 kilometers away, among people you neither know nor care about." - Ragnar Benson
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