An experiment in Hugelkulture in containers


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I'm a little (lot) late to this fun party but @Meadowlark you're trying something like what I've done for several seasons now. I use this method to fill my raised beds but they also have an open bottom to native soil where your's are only highly perforated. The key though is they get better with age but you'll also experience soil level drop over the first three or so years. The amount of level drop you experience will be largely based on what you filled the beds with.

I have also moved to adding green stuff and kitchen veg scraps into the mix when building the bed. This makes it some hybrid of lasagna garden and wood core hugel-eske construction.

As I do raised beds I don't rototill but I don't expect it would work well in this style.

I do think I see nitrogen lock up around the second year so watch out for that. And don't bother with carrots for at least the first two years.

Once the wood rots the heavy watering will end. I started my current beds with rotting wood so I don't have the watering problems you're seeing.

On a symantic side I would say this will never be hugelekulture but uses a key feature of the hugele construction. I call these wood core beds. Hugelekulture uses this wood core as a base when originally built but form a serpintine hill where the sides are planted greatly increasing the area. You're building the bulk of the hugel here but lacking the long term kulture portion. One blog I used to read called this "half-assed-hugelkulture".

I don't have a pic from today's garden but I the brown wood framed garden pic is from a few weeks ago. The white framed garden was at my old house. The bulk of each of these beds were ugly sticks, even some 2x4 material, topped with loamy soil for the first year.
 

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So I just harvested my garlic today (Chesnock Red). Like last year (which was my first year planting anything in this HK bed), a lot of the garlic grew small, in fact I got many that were even smaller than last year's smallest ones. There is only one that I consider even close to normal size but many that are acceptable size (my opinion anyway).

I don't know if it has anything to do with it being planted in an HK bed or the fact that, like last year, my onions were attacked by the Allium Leafminer Fly (about 1/3rd of my onion crop was planted in the HK bed next to the garlic) and possibly my garlic was too. I will have research how to tell if the garlic has maggots and what to look for, however the garlic appears healthy/uninfested judging from just looking at the outside of the bulbs. BUt I just now harvested it and haven't really spent much time looking at them closely.

0vWJ0PM.jpg


Worth noting: where I pulled up my infested onions in the HK bed, I planted Genovese basil and an Ajvarski pepper plant. The basil is doing fine (but it's smaller than it should be for mid-July because I started it and transplanted it later than normal). The Pepper plant also looks fine, although it does seem to be possibly oh-so-slightly on the leggy side.

rsx08EL.jpg


The chicken wire fences ar eto prevent squirrels from digging to close to the plants. I have a little bit of a squirrel problem this year, digging in all my beds and pots, but so far no damage to anything.
 

Meadowlark

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Final Update Spring/Summer 2022

Spring/Summer 2022 Final
PlantHugelkultur Pro, gramsGarden Soil Pro, gramsPro Ratio
Celebrity tomato
6625.395​
9123.03​
0.72622747​
Jalapeno pepper
3013.605​
2988.09​
1.008538899​
Green Bell Pepper
1369.305​
1397.655​
0.979716024​
Butter nut squash
1491.21​
2353.05​
0.63373494​
Cucumber
680.4​
822.15​
0.827586207​
BB Egg Plant
3742.2​
3963.33​
0.944206009​
Okra
589.68​
603.855​
0.976525822​
Composite
496459.3883​
602470.386​
0.824039488​

All weights expressed in grams. For reference my average Jalapeno Pepper weighs 28.35 grams or exactly one ounce.

The experiment was a complete success with 100% of the selected veggies exceeding the 50% threshold and with a total of
1, 098,929.8 grams of veggies harvested with a composite production ratio of 82.4%. Feasibility is established.

The fall/winter line up of veggies is listed below and will be included in the future mid-September Update:

Mini Romaine Blend Lettuce Seeds
Space F1 Organic Spinach Seeds
Bright Lights Swiss Chard Seeds
Red Stem Malabar Spinach Seeds
Sylvestra Lettuce Seed Tape
Little Gem Lettuce Seeds
Buttercrunch Lettuce Seed Tape
Little Finger Carrot Seed Tape
Li Ren Choy Hybrid Pak Choi Seeds
Green Ice Lettuce Seeds
Broccoli Plants
Cauliflower Plants
Brussels Sprouts Plants
Cabbage Plants
Potato cuts

15 varieties of veggies with Hügelkultur container plant compared to garden plant. Harvest weights and production ratio to be reported.

Stay tuned and/or comment if interested.
 
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Final Update Spring/Summer 2022

Spring/Summer 2022 Final
PlantHugelkultur Pro, gramsGarden Soil Pro, gramsPro Ratio
Celebrity tomato
6625.395​
9123.03​
0.72622747​
Jalapeno pepper
3013.605​
2988.09​
1.008538899​
Green Bell Pepper
1369.305​
1397.655​
0.979716024​
Butter nut squash
1491.21​
2353.05​
0.63373494​
Cucumber
680.4​
822.15​
0.827586207​
BB Egg Plant
3742.2​
3963.33​
0.944206009​
Okra
589.68​
603.855​
0.976525822​
Composite
496459.3883​
602470.386​
0.824039488​

All weights expressed in grams. For reference my average Jalapeno Pepper weighs 28.35 grams or exactly one ounce.

The experiment was a complete success with 100% of the selected veggies exceeding the 50% threshold and with a total of
1, 098,929.8 grams of veggies harvested with a composite production ratio of 82.4%. Feasibility is established.

The fall/winter line up of veggies is listed below and will be included in the future mid-September Update:

Mini Romaine Blend Lettuce Seeds
Space F1 Organic Spinach Seeds
Bright Lights Swiss Chard Seeds
Red Stem Malabar Spinach Seeds
Sylvestra Lettuce Seed Tape
Little Gem Lettuce Seeds
Buttercrunch Lettuce Seed Tape
Little Finger Carrot Seed Tape
Li Ren Choy Hybrid Pak Choi Seeds
Green Ice Lettuce Seeds
Broccoli Plants
Cauliflower Plants
Brussels Sprouts Plants
Cabbage Plants
Potato cuts

15 varieties of veggies with Hügelkultur container plant compared to garden plant. Harvest weights and production ratio to be reported.

Stay tuned and/or comment if interested.
Outstanding. And to factor in a most unfavorable growing climate since 1980 I think we can agree the experiment was a complete success.
 
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Sounds like success.

And I see you're going all in with fall and pulling out the little finger carrots.

Just some rabid speculation but I think any soil test results on these will be all but meaningless as you go from one container to the next as each one would be built differently.
 
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Meadowlark

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Outstanding. And to factor in a most unfavorable growing climate since 1980 I think we can agree the experiment was a complete success.
My only regret is the unfortunate poster who started this by asking if he could use Hügelkultur in a container with wood chips to save soil. I said yes....and Marck said no. Unfortunately, bad response from him and the poster seemed to disappear. I hope he did follow this thread and will continue to follow it through completion.
 

Meadowlark

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Sounds like success.

And I see you're going all in with fall and pulling out the little finger carrots.

Just some rabid speculation but I think any soil test results on these will be all but meaningless as you go from one container to the next as each one would be built differently.
I don't feel any need to test the container soil...it came from my garden soil which has had more tests than most.
 
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My only regret is the unfortunate poster who started this by asking if he could use Hügelkultur in a container with wood chips to save soil. I said yes....and Marck said no. Unfortunately, bad response from him and the poster seemed to disappear. I hope he did follow this thread and will continue to follow it through completion.
If this weather ever cools down I will be getting my grow bags ready for brassicas, spinach, chard etc but it seems like it will just continue on and on. How did that okra work out I sent? I ran out of freezer space and let mine go to seed.
 

Meadowlark

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If this weather ever cools down I will be getting my grow bags ready for brassicas, spinach, chard etc but it seems like it will just continue on and on. How did that okra work out I sent? I ran out of freezer space and let mine go to seed.
The Okra was a nice variation on what we normally harvest. The shape was different more compact and larger pods, and my wife commented that it was less "airy" in the fruit pods than our regular jambalaya okra. I did feel it produced maybe a little less volume but not enough to worry about. I kept some seeds for next year. We filled our quota in the freezer and in pickled okra jars.

Thanks again for the starters.

I'm more than ready for temps to cool down some. Rain chances are pretty good tomorrow here and we really need rain badly. The pastures are burned up, the hay fields are brown, and trees showing stress. Reminds me of 2011 summer. I'll never forget the bank sign in town showed temp of 106 deg at 6 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2011...that's hot.
 

Meadowlark

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My only regret is the unfortunate poster who started this by asking if he could use Hügelkultur in a container with wood chips to save soil. I said yes....and Marck said no. Unfortunately, bad response from him and the poster seemed to disappear. I hope he did follow this thread and will continue to follow it through completion.

Thread reference:

 
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Thread reference:

I re-read the whole thing. BOY, how I DON'T miss Marck
 
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@Meadowlark and @Chuck inspired me to read that "Filling containers with wood chips" thread. I had missed it originally as I was traveling for work.

Anyway few ideas struck me that could be worth playing with:
  • Don't limit yourself to wood matter only when building the beds. As I listed above I have been mixing in "green" material similar to compost piles. This is the old lasagna bed idea that was popular in the 90s or so.
  • Before you make a bunch of raised beds figure out how high is a good height. You two guys talk about making raised beds in the next few years for ease of access. I made a few raised beds this year that are at a perfect height to mess with my back either when standing to work on them or sitting on the ground to work on them. They're perfectly at the wrong height.
  • And the real random one - what if the wood chips were inoculated with a wood based fungus and let sit there growing the myco colony before topping with soil? Something like oyster mushrooms are readily available and common. This would break down the wood chips quickly and make something akin to unfinished mushroom compost.
 
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I am in the middle of harvesting season. the containers that I did HK and just soil are producing almost identical. I did lose 1 hk Tomato plant early. Didnt water enough. learned this early on. I did get tomatoes from it but it died of early.

I have ended up watering hk 2 to 1 on regular containers.

as I get older I will probs do HK more. it is so much easier to move a HK container than it is a regular container. and also as I get older I will not travel as much. making the watering deal not as important.
 

Meadowlark

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One never knows what life will bring but I don't anticipate ever going to raised beds as suggested by Mr. Yan, myself. Instead. when the time comes, I'll use these HK containers.

I have an unlimited supply of these containers as well as an unlimited supply of materials suitable for them. They are very easy to move around. Very easy to manage. Also, it's very easy to change out the container soil and replace with my super nutrient enriched rich garden soil at any time.

I would like to perfect the technique and after spending this year on learning what veggies work best and the best management techniques, my intent is to focus on the wood-based materials. What types/sizes of wood work best? Here in East Texas, I can easily think of at least 65 different types of wood available. Hardwoods, semi-hardwoods, softwoods all available. What state of decay works best? How much base is optimal to use?

Many questions to answer to optimize the use of the technique including Mr. Yan's very interesting random thought.

... - what if the wood chips were inoculated with a wood based fungus and let sit there growing the myco colony before topping with soil? Something like oyster mushrooms are readily available and common. This would break down the wood chips quickly and make something akin to unfinished mushroom compost.

Yep, I'm just getting started with this technique and really looking forward to perfecting it.
 

Meadowlark

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I am in the middle of harvesting season. the containers that I did HK and just soil are producing almost identical. I did lose 1 hk Tomato plant early. Didnt water enough. learned this early on. I did get tomatoes from it but it died of early.

I have ended up watering hk 2 to 1 on regular containers.

as I get older I will probs do HK more. it is so much easier to move a HK container than it is a regular container. and also as I get older I will not travel as much. making the watering deal not as important.
Great minds think alike :) ;)
 
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Two identical celebrity tomato plants and two identical jalapeno pepper plants were selected for this trail.
View attachment 88462
View attachment 88463


After adding identical garden soil, all plants were placed in their respective tub/garden.

View attachment 88464

View attachment 88465


The evaluation factors will be 1) total production of each plant by weight and quality and 2) ease of care including any diseases, insects, or other problems experienced through the end which will be next frost probably early Nov.

I'll be very happy with this if the tubs produce at least 50% of what the garden plants do with no drainage or other problems...but we will see.

The ballyhooed prediction of drainage problems has already had a great test with a fierce storm that dropped 5 inches of toad strangling rain and howling winds....no problem at all for the tubs.
I'll be following this very closely.

We have a big garden (by UK standards!), but we also have a very large patio area so we absolutely NEED to use containers to fill this space. This makes life complicated as I'm not yet confident about making my own potting soil.

I tend to grow Runner Beans, Courgette and Cucumbers in my containers. They do very well but so far it's always been on store bought compost renewed each year.

Last year I put partially composted material at the bottom of my containers (to save money) and it was fine. We have to be wary of creating slug habitat in the UK, but I found this didn't happen in the containers.

EDIT: I posted this before I realized that it was an old, multi page thread. I've now read it through. Great stuff! I'm loving this forum - this is the exactly the kind of thing you miss now that everything is shared on youtube.
 
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Meadowlark

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FALL/WINTER

Having established the feasibility of growing a variety of veggies in Hügelkultur containers in the spring/summer phase of this experiment, the fall/winter phase of the experiment will focus on a wider variety of veggies (emphasizing greens) looking to assess which ones perform the best in the HK containers.

The fall/winter lineup is shown below along with planting dates. (Most varieties started from seed and transplanted). Some of these are already producing and will produce up to first frost. Others are just getting started and will not be harvested until winter is complete.

There are a total of 13 tubs carrying 24 different varieties of veggies. As in spring/summer, production in HK containers will be compared to production of equivalent in ground garden veggies and a ratio computed.

For certain veggie varieties, I’ll be using a length of planting as the measuring stick rather than numbers of individual plants. For example, the turnip production numbers will be based on 12 inches worth of plants compared in HK and garden soil. Likewise, radishes, lettuce, and carrots. Others will be individual plant comparisons.

The next report will likely be in mid-November when our first frost normally takes out the warm weather veggies.

Tub #Fall/WinterHK ProGar ProPro Ratio
Goal
1​
2​
0.50​
1aMalabar spinach 8-8
4.3​
1.2​
3.58​
1bSugar snap peas 8-8
0​
0​
#DIV/0!​
1ccollards 9-2
0.9​
1.5​
0.60​
1dToad pumpkin 8-21
#DIV/0!​
2aSwiss Chard 8-20
1.8​
0.8​
2.25​
2bTurnips 8-21
0.6​
0.4​
1.50​
3aPinkeye Top pick 8-8
0​
0​
#DIV/0!​
3bPak Choy 8-20
0​
0​
#DIV/0!​
4aButterCrunch lettuce 8-21
2.2​
0.4​
5.50​
4bSylyestra lettuce 8-21
1.2​
0.6​
2.00​
4c6b7bRadish 8-22
#DIV/0!​
5aCarrot 8-21
#DIV/0!​
5bGreen ice lettuce 8-22
#DIV/0!​
6aCabbage 8-20
#DIV/0!​
7aBroccoli 8-20
#DIV/0!​
8aCauliflower 8-26
#DIV/0!​
9aBrussels Sprouts 8-26
#DIV/0!​
9bwhite potato
#DIV/0!​
10aLittle gem lettuce 8-22
#DIV/0!​
10bRomain lettuce 8-22
#DIV/0!​
11aSweet potatoes 8- 16
#DIV/0!​
12agarlic
#DIV/0!​
12bleeks
#DIV/0!​
13asunchokes
#DIV/0!​
composite
12​
6.9​
1.74​


hk 9 12.JPG
 
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I'll really be watching the carrots here. If your bed fill is anything like mine you'll get some crazy modern art sculptures the first few years as the roots fork around sticks and the like.
 

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