Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

Saw this idea on permaculturenews.org     We didn't have whole trees, but do have a lot of branches which are too big for the mulcher, so put these to use.  It took less than half hour to build this mini vege patch.  I first put down the branches as the base on top of the ground, then filled the gaps with grass clippings, followed by compost and soil (left over from digging in the nearby water tank).  I did buy the vege seedlings yesterday though, so planted them for quicker result. I then put more grass clippings/leaf mulch and watered it in.  I used more branches to help give support and hopefully it may deter the bandicoots from digging. Plus it raises the edging on the lower side of this garden which should act as a swale retaining water run off for the other plants.  Pic below.  If successful this will make gardening very easy with an abundant resource of branches.  The rotting wood holds moisture and adds nutrients (provided carbon is added initially).  

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I've also done a big of research into this.  It looks fantastic - however, I worry about termites over here. 

Sorry - "big" is "bit"

Neat interpretation Susan! There's been some experiments by members on this site but not much follow-up. Tried one myself using Paw Paw trees, but they break down very quickly so not really what the real Hugelkultur people are aiming for. Our trees probably don't lend themselves to this system as easily as the Pine trees of Europe. Still, there's many variations on the theme as we've found just with wicking beds. So many good ideas to try out ...

Termites - we've got active termite nests in the small bush area on our back fence. I reckon so long as the little buggers stay in their house and keep out of ours, that's fine with me.

Good re-use of the branches Susan.

I re-use anything big now by just creating a pile in the garden somewhere out of the way. Creates habitat for insects and small animals too (hopefully no snakes - this is one reason we avoided piles like this around the yard when I was a kid) and provides nutrients to the trees around them. To be honest it's just so darn easy to leave things in a pile to break down naturally.

Yes the danger of termites is there, but hopefully as Elaine said they will take to the decaying wood rather than the house.  Snakes could also be a problem.  So far the only dangerous one we've seen is a red belly, but I have heard that they are very territorial and can deter browns.  It moves away quickly when it sees us, we just have to be cautious and I warn parents of youngsters who visit.  

On www.richsoil.com they said if the bed is 5 foot high you will never need to water - but considering our timber is different to other parts of the world and QLD is warmer and drier it may be very different - if it was successful here there would be more people doing it.   The plants are so dehydrated this season compared to most summers it would be just so great to water less often if it did actually work.

I also leave piles of branches to decay naturally, so I am happy to experiment using them as a vege garden base. We once moved a pile of old branches and the soil was very rich underneath.  At least the materials for this garden didn't cost anything if it fails.  If it is successful it may be just the result of the layer of compost I placed under the plants - just another form of no dig garden.  I've also started a much higher one - almost 3ft so far.

I must read up on wicking beds, thanks.

Very interesting Susan, be interested in how it all continues to grow.

I've buried branches in my garden beds in Hugelkultur fashion but it hasn't worked as I'd hoped in my sandy soil. My beds already existed so I wasn't about to turn them over and embed them end to end  with a forest.

However, In one section I've thrown branches, twigs and  leaves over a major patch --sheet mulch style -- and covered the lot with grass clippings and newspaper throws to better effect. I got better breakdown even though it began life as a woodpile.  (If I was so located it would have become snake  central and a bushfire hazard, I'm sure). Among this I've dug a few holes and thrown wood and paper,  and other stuff in.

It's now my pawpaw orchard.

I think my disadvantage is limited moisture....not much carbon in my soil to begin with.

I've also used rolled up newspaper and junk mail in similar mode...The paper certainly decomposed in quick time and bought termites (in numbers that the wood did not). I suspect that Elaine is right, " Our trees probably don't lend themselves to this system as easily as the Pine trees of Europe." Although I've read about Hugelkultur experiments in the US desert country.

I'm sure you can't do this without termites.... the wood break down has to be termite cuisine dependent.(So melaleucas may be a no no) But I have no problem with that. Termites are everywhere and can colonise very quickly.They are a soil essential. Better there than chewing the house.

In frustration I decided on another approach and gathered cut logs from around the neighborhood and rested them atop the soil, like rocks...and planted around their bases. I'm getting  better effect I think, using big pieces like that.

 'Cooling' rather than 'heating'.

I suspect that the challenge is one of envisaging an ecological pathway: wet forest or dry bush. And there is no way I'm gonna get composting processing ( such as heating) going by burying trees and using materials to hand on my soil.  

Thats' not my style either.

I still mulch  all the branches I cut and can collect -- but here I prefer the sheet mulch protocol. When motivated enough  to cut and trim, I try to  mulch branches vertically as part of my honeyhole experiments. Same principle but given the up and down, there is more water retention in cooler, deeper soils which foster greater critter activity...and less disturbance to the already existing beds.

So if I had a cut log and was keen to bury it Hugelkultur style, I'd bury it vertically rather than horizontally and let the termites and worms and stuff do the rest...while using it as a water sponge.

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