An experiment in Hugelkulture in containers


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I heard the starfish come when the soil is too rich?
I created 9 raised beds last year. I thought I was smart and whilst I filled most with sticks etc I had the presence of mind to create a couple of beds with fine compost suited to carrots, parsnips etc. I made them lovely and rich with lots of manure.....and yes.....you are right - star fish, three legs, you name it! Most of my wonky carrots ended up being given to the horses that pooped out the manure!!
 
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I heard the starfish come when the soil is too rich?
I thought the forking happened when the tap root hit a stone or stick.

Around here I have a thin layer of black soil over sand. It's only from mixing in leafs and sticks to compost in place that I can build up organic matter in the ground. Which is why I use this wood core technique best known for use in hugelkulture construction.

But yeah, I can lift a 8" straight carrot from the ground by the tops without using a tool or breaking the tops or root. Sand is good for one thing...
 
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I thought the forking happened when the tap root hit a stone or stick.

Around here I have a thin layer of black soil over sand. It's only from mixing in leafs and sticks to compost in place that I can build up organic matter in the ground. Which is why I use this wood core technique best known for use in hugelkulture construction.

But yeah, I can lift a 8" straight carrot from the ground by the tops without using a tool or breaking the tops or root. Sand is good for one thing...
I gathered the idea that the forking comes from the plant following near sources of nutrient rather than growing deep in search of nutrient that has not yet leached away from surface applications. Generally my clay is too dense for carrot although this spring I had the best shape so far after adding char and a bunch of leaves from the fall that normally would have been in my compost pile. No fertilizer at all this year was a theme. It was a test year since the herbicide in the cow compost caused trouble 3 years ago. They were perfectly formed but not large. I recall being amused that they grew well in the remediated soil but disappointed that I had bought a smaller variety seed. My expectations were not high for carrots so it was still a good experience.
 

Meadowlark

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Some pictures of the hk plants w/emphasis on the lettuce varieties which are going great and in general surpassing the in-ground plants.


Buttercrunch/Sylestra
buttercrunch sylestra hk.JPG


Green Ice and carrots:


green ice hk.JPG


Little gem & romaine

little gem romain hk.JPG





Cabbage:

cabbage hk.JPG




Broccoli:

broc.JPG



Bok Choy:


bok choy.JPG


Sweet Potatoes:
sweet potatoes.JPG
 
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From what you've posted here & elsewhere, I'd say your hk trials have been a huge success.
I hope this keeps you & Chuck growing for many years to come!
Congratulations!
 

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Thank you for the comments. I admit I have been surprised by the results this fall...very surprised.

I have several different types of lettuce growing in HK tubs and they are outproducing in-ground plants by up to 5 to 1. Shocking! And I don't understand it?

I have never ever been able to grow lettuce successfully before here in Texas but now have a way. If nothing else, this experiment was worth it just finding that out. HK tubs will be a regular fixture in my garden from now on.

Thank you again for your comments.
 
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Thank you for the comments. I admit I have been surprised by the results this fall...very surprised.

I have several different types of lettuce growing in HK tubs and they are outproducing in-ground plants by up to 5 to 1. Shocking! And I don't understand it?

I have never ever been able to grow lettuce successfully before here in Texas but now have a way. If nothing else, this experiment was worth it just finding that out. HK tubs will be a regular fixture in my garden from now on.

Thank you again for your comments.
Could it be that the wood helps with moisture regulation of lettuces?
 

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Here's a quick status update on the brassicas. The table below shows the height and width of the brassicas in inches comparing the HK plant to the ground plant. For example, broc 1 Hügelkultur (HK) is 15 inches high and 10 inches high in ground.

Consistent, significant outperformance by the Hügelkultur plants thus far.


Brassica typeHeight to fruit, inWidth, in
Broc 1 HK-ground15 -- 1031--21
Broc 2 HK-ground
14--1032--16
Cabbage 1 HK--ground12--825--14
Cabbage 2 HK--ground12--823--15
Cauliflower HK--ground10--725--11
Brussels 1 HK--ground10--819--12
Brussels 2 HK--ground10--919--14

Broccoli HK
broc hk 10-13.JPG


Cabbage HK


cabbage hk 10-13.JPG


Cauliflower HK

cauli HK 10-13.JPG


Brussels sprouts HK
brussel 10-13.JPG
 
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Most of the leafy veggies have finished their initial production cycle, The table below summarizes the results for those that have finished this initial round of production.

The data is presented in ounces and shows a consistently higher production in the HK containers vs the in-ground plants.

Type
HK Pro​
Gar Pro​
Ratio​
Malabar spinach 8-8
14.1​
2.8​
5.04​
collards 9-2
7.1​
4.9​
1.45​
Swiss Chard 8-20
4.8​
2.5​
1.92​
Turnips 8-21
0.6​
0.4​
1.50​
Bok Choy 8-20
45.3​
0​
#DIV/0!​
ButterCrunch lettuce 8-21
37.4​
15.2​
2.46​
Sylyestra lettuce 8-21
33.4​
13.3​
2.51​
Radish 8-22
13.5​
12.1​
1.12​
Green ice lettuce 8-22
35.2​
15.4​
2.29​
Little gem lettuce 8-22
31.9​
12.8​
2.49​
Romain lettuce 8-22
6.8​
3.2​
2.13​
 
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Most of the leafy veggies have finished their initial production cycle, The table below summarizes the results for those that have finished this initial round of production.

The data is presented in ounces and shows a consistently higher production in the HK containers vs the in-ground plants.

Type
HK Pro​
Gar Pro​
Ratio​
Malabar spinach 8-8
14.1​
2.8​
5.04​
collards 9-2
7.1​
4.9​
1.45​
Swiss Chard 8-20
4.8​
2.5​
1.92​
Turnips 8-21
0.6​
0.4​
1.50​
Bok Choy 8-20
45.3​
0​
#DIV/0!​
ButterCrunch lettuce 8-21
37.4​
15.2​
2.46​
Sylyestra lettuce 8-21
33.4​
13.3​
2.51​
Radish 8-22
13.5​
12.1​
1.12​
Green ice lettuce 8-22
35.2​
15.4​
2.29​
Little gem lettuce 8-22
31.9​
12.8​
2.49​
Romain lettuce 8-22
6.8​
3.2​
2.13​


Man, that is an impressive difference!
 

Meadowlark

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I can see problems with brassicas, in that decomposition tends to be an acidic process, whilst brassicas like neutral/alkaline soil, as they were originally shore plants. ...

As evidenced by the above photos and tabular data, the problems with brassicas you foresaw simply have not manifested themselves...yet.

I figure I'm about two weeks from harvesting cabbage and broc from the HK tubs...so the problems could still crop up. For now, they are the best I have ever raised or ever seen...including pictures of same from Alaska grown in almost 100% continuous sunlight in summer.
 

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First cabbage harvest from HK container. This one weighed in at 9 pounds and 8 ounces with the head 9 + inches across. There is one other head in the same container, about the same size that will be harvested soon also.

cabbage hk.JPG


cabbage 2 hk.JPG


My in-ground comparison cabbage plants are significantly smaller and an estimated 2 weeks from harvest.

One HK tub producing almost twenty pounds of cabbage.... not bad, not bad at all.

Looks like Cauliflower may be the next to harvest.... its forming a beautiful white head now.
 
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First cabbage harvest from HK container. This one weighed in at 9 pounds and 8 ounces with the head 9 + inches across. There is one other head in the same container, about the same size that will be harvested soon also.

View attachment 93413

View attachment 93414

My in-ground comparison cabbage plants are significantly smaller and an estimated 2 weeks from harvest.

One HK tub producing almost twenty pounds of cabbage.... not bad, not bad at all.

Looks like Cauliflower may be the next to harvest.... its forming a beautiful white head now.
Do you have to contend with slugs and cabbage whites in your area?

It's so difficult to grow them in the UK - from what I can tell even the best gardeners don't manage without netting - but even then it's so easy for something to get inside the nets. I love seeing them growing in gardens, but I'm not sure it's possible here - without jumping through hoops and ugly nets and cages everywhere.

I'm thinking of using containers next year. I have a heavy duty portable greenhouse - it's quite big. I'm thinking of putting it on my patio, covering it in net and putting all my brassica containers in there.
 

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Do you have to contend with slugs and cabbage whites in your area?
Prevention is quite effective for me.
  • Rotation, never planting brassicas in the same location for multiple years.
  • Heavy use of legume matter so called green manure turned into the soils green well prior to planting brassicas
  • Removal and disposal of brassica plant matter immediately after harvest
I never have used netting and have never felt it was needed. I did purchase some netting once thinking I would keep birds off tomatoes, but decided it was far easier to plant an extra tomato plant or two and enjoy the birds.
 
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Do you have to contend with slugs and cabbage whites in your area?

It's so difficult to grow them in the UK - from what I can tell even the best gardeners don't manage without netting - but even then it's so easy for something to get inside the nets. I love seeing them growing in gardens, but I'm not sure it's possible here - without jumping through hoops and ugly nets and cages everywhere.

I'm thinking of using containers next year. I have a heavy duty portable greenhouse - it's quite big. I'm thinking of putting it on my patio, covering it in net and putting all my brassica containers in there.
Slugs don't like lime, so if you surround your brassica stems with lime, that'll help.
 
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Meadowlark

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A second head of cabbage from the same HK tub came in at 8 pounds 11 ounces for a total of 18 pounds and 3 ounces from the same tub.

The cauliflower headed at 7 pounds and 1 ounce.

cab 2 cauli HK.JPG
 

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