The other day I took a tramp around our property. If you’d have been there, you probably would have thought cabin fever had finally got to me! Truth be told, I’ve had my moments living in the power shed. Spending time outdoors helps maintain my sanity, as does working on the house and planning for future land developments.
On this particular day, I was stumbling around in 16 inches of snow, stopping here to stare at the tree tops, standing there to inspect a fallen log. As I wound my way through our forested area, my antics alerted the neighbor’s dog and he barked the entire way through my exploration.
Just what I wanted! I’m certain the neighbor’s already think we’re crazy, and for good reason. But that’s another topic for another day. I couldn’t be deterred by what my neighbor’s might think! I was on a mission! And so, I refused to be distracted.
My mission was to discover every dead, rotting and decaying tree on our place!
True, genuine delighted ensued every time I discovered another! There were uprooted, fallen pines. Standing, but dangerously decayed poplars. Fallen birches and logs so decomposed, I couldn’t tell what type of tree they had been!
After covering every inch of our place and inspecting every tree, shrub and bush, I returned to our tiny home, full of plans for the future!
I’m determined to have a several gardens here on our farmstead. Because we bought raw land, growing space is something we have to create. I’ve already decided on the locations. I ordered this year’s garden seed before Christmas. We have the equipment we need to upkeep a garden. But there’s just one problem.
Actually… that’s an understatement. There’s one BIG problem.
Our land has about 3-4 inches of decent top soil in some areas…and none in others. But if there’s one thing we do have, it’s an abundance of rocks. Big rock, little rock, brown rock, gray rock, medium rock, tiny gravely bits and pieces. Rock, rock, rock!
Don’t get me wrong. I’m very excited about all this rock! I have big plans! Rock will play an important role in the old-world, farmstead atmosphere I’m planning to create.
Yes, I’m excited about the rock. But there’s just one catch: you can’t grow gardens in rock!
That’s where the dead trees come in. I think I’ve finally found the solution to our soil problem, a solution that won’t break our savings account! Friends, meet the hugelkultar bed!
A hugelkultar is a permaculture garden bed you create in layers. But it’s unique, because the base consists of wood. Yes, water-soaked wood! Tree trunks, branches and leaves all qualify!
The next layer is made up of hot compost (fresh horse or chicken manure, fresh grass clippings, etc). This helps decompose the wood and also counteracts the nitrogen loss that occurs as the wood breaks down.
On top of all this, you add a very thick, hearty layer of topsoil. And then? You plant, mulch, water and hope for success your first year!
This method has me excited! Not only is it far more frugal than hauling in dump-truck loads of dirt, but it also falls in line with my favorite gardening techniques of no tilling and heavy mulching.
What really convinced me to try hugelkultar beds was this article. Because the writer lives in a similar climate, had a similar piece of land and had the same type of trees available… I decided to give it a try!
I’ve Got Plans!
And that, my friend? That is why I was staggering around our property like a crazy woman, staring at dead trees!
As soon as this snow melts, I’m going to begin collecting the debris. I’m going to pile it up beside our garden area. We’re going to rent equipment from the neighbor and dig some holes in our rocky earth for creating ground-level hugelkultar beds. And did you know, we’re going to try something different? Instead of creating a square or rectangular garden, we’re going for a h-h-h-exagon!
Yep. It’s going to be a happening, eventful spring!
What? Doesn’t everyone get excited over decaying trees, animal manure and dirt?
But stay tuned, because I going to share the process with you. If it works, this will be a wonderful solution to growing a full garden on some very rocky soil!