Permaculture - Hugelkultur at Quintamar

Hugelkultur is a Permaculture Technique that origionated in Germany and literally means Earth Mound. Its is a fantastic way of managing water and storing it in the earth.

This video explains the technique well:

As part of the permaculture design at Quintamar. We decided to include Hugelkultur beds in a star shaped form. This would counter the challenge of the long hot and dry summers. The thought being that the wood which is buried in earth absorbs rainfall during the wet winter season which last from October to February. During the dry summer months the woody material buried in the earth holds moisture, composts and slowly releases these to the plants up above. The benefit being that plants will not have to be watered but will be able to survive by tapping the resevoir of water held underneath the hugel mound.

Quintamar Hugelkutur Project Phase 1

The hugel beds are going to surround a small pond in a star shape

Here we have prepared the ground by removing old drip feed piping

We raked all the plant biomass material into a compost pile (although you cannot see it here)

Using brush material that had blown down ina recent storm and prunings from the olive trees, we started gathering materials into piles.

The material piles form the other side of the pond

During Phase 2 we will start digging holes for the materials to be buried into. By that time they will have started decomposing and allo moisture to be absorbed. Its possible that the plants may not even need to be watered throughout the dry summer period, but take all their needs from the moisture held in the mounds. Lets see!

Some other advantages of Hugelkultur beds or mounds:

Creates a substantial advantage over flat beds in that it creates microclimates

They soak up rainwater like a sponge

Water is stored in the lower levels, while the raised part dries out far more quickly

Give you both wet and dry areas (remember when planting)

The decomposition of the organic material in the beds, increases the temperature, which improves the conditions for germination and plant growth.

The decomposition releases nutrients, which reduces the need for fertilisers.

The raised part increases the surface area to grow crops It is possible that too much small material like Chipping's could have the effect of releasing nutrients too quickly and the ph value of the soil sinks. Sometimes the soil can also acidity.

When bulkier items are used the air action is much better, and shifts occur as the material breaks down.

As the moisture levels in the soil change the bulkier materials expand and contract, helping the soil to stay loose.

Tree trunks are excellent at maintaining a balanced level of moisture within the system.

Directions

Dig a hole for the bed at least 0.5 to 1.5m deep

Start with your bulkier trees

Add shrubs and branches

Then add humus and compost

The angle of the sides should be at least 45 degrees but preferably 60 deg

If the angle is not large enough the ground becomes compacted, oxygen is decreased and decomposition stops

Covering the bed with mulch will stop plants from drying out as they become established

Some vegetables for the beds are: Peas, beans, salad, tomatoes, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, courgettes, pumpkins, potatoes etc

Some notes taken from Sepp Holzer's book - Permaculture

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© 2015 Somesh De Swardt