Burn Piles or Hugelkultur?
It's that time of year when we're all itching to get outside, clean up the perennial landscaping and fantasize about this year's kitchen gardens. But, we all know it's too early to do much messing.
Late last Fall we had a big storm move through the area, and whenever that happens, trees drop on my property. We have lots of dying elms around here, so they're easy targets for 70-mile-an-hour winds. That storm was actually the second of the year which means I had already accumulated a huge pile of branches and junk wood that wasn't about to make its way to the wood pile. Additionally, a couple of years back I lost a cottonwood with a diameter of at least four feet, so chopping that up for firewood would be a huge challenge.
"Little Johnny," as William calls my lawn tractor, and I spent most of the day cleaning up branches and bits that were left behind after he did the big cleanup. I hauled all the junk to the pile and decided to burn this behemoth of a shaggy weedy eyesore. As soon as the flames shot up out of the mess, I thought, What am I doing? With William's digger he could bury this for me and make a great hugelkultur bed" This pile is in the perfect spot for a large patch of "food forest" items like fruit trees and perennial herbs. Yep, I'm talking permaculture again! It's been a long time since I thought much about the what and why of the design of my farm, and I'm excited to get back into some landscaping projects this summer. Note - excited early Spring, exhausted by July!
What is Hugelkultur?
Besides a fun word to say, the basic idea of hugelkulture is making mounds in which to grow. A hugelkultur mound has sticks and logs at its base. Then those sticks and logs are covered in any sort of finer compostable materials like leaves, wood chips, straw, etc. The top layer needs to be good quality garden soil. The premise of this idea is that over time the layers will decompose thereby providing nutrients to the garden planted on top. This system is meant to be used as a permanent bed where perennials like fruit trees, fruiting bushes or herbs would grow.
However, this system works great for smaller raised beds as well. If you have a newly constructed raised bed, you can fill the lower levels with branches, dirt, leaves, small pieces of wood, compost or straw. The very top layer needs to be your good quality soil. Not only will the base of this raised bed provide food as it decomposes, but will help enormously with moisture retention. Remember after you plant in your veggies to cover the bed around the plants with straw to prevent the soil and the plants from drying out. Top dressing with straw also decomposes over time and feeds the soil in the garden beds. Happy garden building!
The trees ran the last couple of days and William is cooking batch two right now despite the gloomy weather. If the weather forecast holds, we might just see batch number three come in this weekend. It has been a really depressing year for us in terms of sap and syrup. Nothing has been what is normal or predictable. The maples took forever to even start running, we had a huge gush of brown sap that we tossed out (and read research papers about because it was something we had never seen), and then now, they are running mad despite overnight lows NOT below freezing. And, of course, the question this time of year is, "Will it be Salad Syrup" and taste funky? In our research we learned some folks call this "Buddy Syrup."
What's in the Store?
The store is stocked chock full of goodness! Here's a link with what you will find on the shelves unless we sell out:)
Sending love from the farm,