[singlepic id=60 w=320 h=240 float=right]Finally the sun has been shinning long enough for the ground to dry out and for us to start building another round of hugelbeets. Last year we built 7 45 foot long beds which are now growing different greens, peas and onions. We have plans to do 3 more 45 ft beds and then around 25 23 ft beds. The 45 foot beds run close to north south. We did this to best accommodate the rolling high tunnel we are planning to get up soon. The shorter beds will run east west creating a few different microclimates on each bed. We also are arranging them that way because that is what our tractor can build. If the rows all ran the same way north south we would run out of room to move the tractor around while we are building.
Last week I piled up the horse manure and hay from the horses winter coral into a nice big pile. We use this for our first soil layer of the beds. It was pretty late when I had finished and I left the key in the wrong position. So when I went out yesterday to start up the tractor it was dead as a door knob. I also had parked it in a terrible place so we couldn’t go down and jump it. I had to run around Tinmouth trying to find extension chords and a charger. Then waited. And waited, and still no charge. Luckily we have so much stuff to do on the farm if one thing doesn’t pan out there is always something else to do. Today we finally got it started by dragging it with the other tractor and bump starting it. We lost a day which hopefully wont bite us in the tush. It looks like its going to rain for a week straight so friday we will be trying to harvest and build as many beds as possible.
[singlepic id=61 w=320 h=240 float=left]The area we started with today is already prepped from last fall when we took of the top layer of soil and piled it up ready to be added to our final layer. I ran a few lines last fall to square the beds in the space that will be under the high tunnel. I measured off these lines to make an 18 inch row and a 3 foot bed. The row always end up being smaller once we pile on the soil but there is still a good amount of room to work with. I hammer in sticks to mark the 4 corners of the bend then mark a center line. The center line helps me keep the first layer of big wood in a almost straight line while leaving room on the sides for brush and soil.
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Once the lines are marked I start added wood. For this bed we had smaller lengths of wood that were cut last year. These were small enough to carry while other beds we dragged larger lengths into place with the tractor. With these smaller pieces I like to do two on the bottom and resting on them. I normally shove smaller bits in the space that is formed between them.
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Once that is done we add smaller pieces of woody material. For the smaller logs I go straight to brush size(smaller than 1 inch). When there is only one log in the center I add larger pieces 1-3 inch pieces to fill in the bottom gaps. We are still experimenting with which formula or ratio works best. We will let you know in 10 or so years. Trying to get the brush layer to play nice is a challenge especially with smaller beds. We do some manicuring to the branches before they get piled on. Branches that curve to much or have smaller branches that jut off in weird directions get cut so they play at least a bit nicer.
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I then hop into the tractor and start hauling manuring mixed with hay to start adding to our soil layer. If we run out of the horse poo we have neighbors who can supply us with organic cow manure. We added a bit more of this mix onto the beds this year compared to our last building adventure. Their are some thin spots on the first beds that we wanted to avoid this round.
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Once we shovel the manure mix on the the bed we add a layer of soil that was taken off earlier. Our soil on the garden site is pretty shallow so we don’t have as much as I would like. Every year we plan on adding compost to the top of the beds making the soil deeper and replenishing nutrients.
We only managed to finish one bed and the second one is ready to be covered but I shut off the tractor and it didn’t start back up so we were done with building for the day. I hope tomorrow we can do a quick harvest then be back to building.
There are a few more pics in the gallery